How To Make Carnitas On The Stove?

Carnitas, with their savory, tender chunks of slow-cooked pork, are a beloved staple of Mexican cuisine. While traditional recipes often call for hours of braising or roasting, you can achieve the same mouthwatering results on your stovetop. 

In this article, we’ll guide you through the art of making carnitas on the stove, offering step-by-step instructions & expert tips to help you create a flavorful and satisfying dish that captures the essence of authentic Mexican street food.

How To Make Carnitas On The Stove?

Carnitas, a beloved Mexican dish, consists of tender, slow-cooked pork that’s traditionally fried for a crispy exterior. This stovetop carnitas recipe offers a convenient way to enjoy the rich flavors and succulent texture of this dish without the need for a slow cooker or oven.

Time Required

  • Preparation: 15 minutes
  • Cooking: 2.5 to 3 hours
  • Total Time: Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes to 3 hours and 15 minutes


  • 3-4 pounds pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (for frying)


  • Prep the Pork:
    • Cut the pork shoulder or butt into 2-inch chunks. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Sear the Pork:
    • Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and sear the pork chunks until browned on all sides. Work in batches, if necessary, to avoid overcrowding the pot. Remove the seared pork and set it aside.
  • Sauté Onion and Garlic:
    • In the same pot, add the chopped onion & minced garlic. Sauté until the onion becomes translucent and aromatic.
  • Season and Add Liquid:
    • Return the seared pork to the pot. Add the cumin, dried oregano, chili powder, bay leaves, and the juice of the orange and limes. Pour in the chicken broth until the pork is mostly covered.
  • Simmer and Cook:
    • Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, & then simmer the pork for 2 to 2.5 hours. Check and stir occasionally to ensure it’s cooking evenly. The pork should become tender and easily shredded with a fork.
  • Shred and Crisp:
    • Once the pork is tender, remove it from the liquid. Shred the pork using two forks. You can discard excess fat if desired.
    • Heat another large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of oil, and add the shredded pork in batches. Press it down with a spatula to create crispy bits. Fry for a few minutes until the carnitas are crispy and golden brown.
  • Serve:
    • Serve the carnitas in tacos, burritos, or on a plate with your favorite toppings and sides. They’re delicious with chopped onions, cilantro, salsa, guacamole, and lime wedges.

Recipe Tips

  • Choosing the Meat: Pork shoulder or pork butt are ideal cuts for carnitas because they have the right balance of meat and fat for tenderness and flavor.
  • Citrus Juices: The combination of orange and lime juices provides a vibrant, citrusy flavor. Adjust the amount to suit your taste.
  • Use Bay Leaves: Bay leaves add a subtle depth of flavor to the carnitas as they cook.
  • Adjust Spice Level: Customize the spice level by adding more or less chili powder to suit your preference.
  • Storing Carnitas: Leftover carnitas can be refrigerated for up to 3-4 days or frozen for longer storage. Reheat in a skillet or microwave.
  • Versatile Serving: Carnitas can be served in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or as a topping for nachos or salads.
  • Toppings and Sides: Common toppings and sides include chopped onions, cilantro, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and lime wedges.

Leftover Storage

To store leftover carnitas on the stove, start by allowing them to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer them to an airtight container or heavy-duty resealable plastic bag. Make sure the container or bag is sealed tightly to prevent air from entering. 

Place the container or bag on a stove burner set to the lowest heat setting. Warm the carnitas gently, stirring occasionally, until they reach your desired temperature. This method helps maintain their flavor and texture when reheating. Serve and enjoy your reheated carnitas.

Serving Suggestions

Serve carnitas in soft corn or flour tortillas as tacos, topped with diced onions, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice for a classic presentation. Alternatively, use them as a filling for burritos, quesadillas, or nachos. 

Carnitas also pairs well with rice and beans, avocado slices, shredded cheese, and salsa for a flavorful and satisfying meal. Don’t forget to include some pickled jalapeños or hot sauce for an extra kick if desired.


Creating carnitas on your stovetop is a culinary adventure that brings the irresistible flavors of Mexican cuisine right to your kitchen. By following the techniques and recommendations outlined in this article, you’ll master the art of tender, crispy pork carnitas that can be enjoyed in tacos, burritos, or as a standalone delight. 

Whether you’re cooking for a special occasion or simply craving a taste of Mexico, making carnitas on the stove is a delicious and rewarding endeavor that will have your taste buds singing with delight.

Also read: What Kind Of Meat Is Birria Tacos?

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