Impossibly Easy Carnitas Tacos




About: Just me.

Let's have a taco party! 

I'm going to show you how to make pretty much fool-proof carnitas tacos. They're impossibly easy to make, and they're perfect for a casual party, an outdoor picnic, or even while you're out car camping. You'll be the hit of the party, and it's not even hard to do. 

A note for purists: This isn't the definitive way to make carnitas tacos. In fact, it's kind of cheating because I use a crock pot instead of roasting a big piece of pork for many hours in the oven. It's also not as fatty as true, authentic carnitas, which traditionally uses lard. Yep, the hard stuff. I prefer doing it this way. It's no doubt much healthier. 

One more thing: This recipe is perfect for a party in the park. I've set up a camp stove with a cast iron pan on top on a picnic table and cooked carnitas tacos to order for both kids' soccer parties and adult boozefests. 

Wait... one more thing. I STRONGLY recommend using a cast iron pan for this. Otherwise, you won't get crispy carnitas. 

What you'll need to make 15-20 modest-sized tacos

3 pounds of country style pork ribs, blade roast, or pork butt
1 jalapeno pepper
1 anaheim chili or other pepper of your choice (optional)
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 large white onion
1 bunch cilantro
4-5 limes or lemons (I happened to have lemons but prefer limes)
Salsa of your choice 
A big pack of small corn tortillas 
A large cast iron pan

Optional ingredients 
Cumin, oregano, onion powder to season meat before cooking
Radishes for garnish

Step 1: Crack Open Your Crock Pot

First, get out your crock pot and toss your pork into it. Chop up your peppers, taking care to remove the seeds. Peel and roughly chop your garlic and toss it in the pot, too. If you have it, throw in 1/2 Tbsp each of cumin, oregano, and onion powder. The dry ingredients are optional, but if you have them I would recommend using them. 

Turn your crock pot on low and cook for 8-10 hours. I usually cook the meat the day before I actually want to eat carnitas tacos and just put it in the fridge once it has cooled. You'll see that this is not a problem and may even be preferable. 

Step 2: Prep, Shred, and Cook

When you're ready to cook your tacos, get yourself prepared so you can bang them out quickly. You want two things here: 1) a hot cast iron skillet that will retain heat and 2) partially shredded pork.

Carefully break up your pork. It will already be falling aprt from the crock pot cooking, but since it's been sitting in the fridge all night, you can still keep some large pieces intact. Don't shred your pork too finely because you want some chunks of meat. Mmmm. Meat.  

Heat up your cast iron pan while you: 

  • Dice your white onion
  • Chop up your cilantro
  • Stack up some tortillas
The actual cooking is easy. In your hot skillet (gas on high for a few minutes prior) pour 4-6 Tbsp. vegetable oil into your skillet. Using tongs, fill the bottom of your pan with a layer of partially shredded pork. Don't stir. Turn your heat down to medium and let it cook for a few minutes. Then, rearrange the meat so that you can crisp up the parts that aren't crisp. After a few minutes more, you should start heating up your tortillas, preferably in another pan or on an open flame. 

Step 3: Plate and Try Not to Eat Too Many!

The great thing about cooking these in a big cast-iron pan is that you can push crisped up meat to one side and add more meat as you go — serving from one side of the pan while replenishing crock-pot pork from the other. Cast iron holds its heat, so you won't need to worry about adjusting the temperature. Just stick to medium after you get going. 

It's important that you get some decent crispiness, so it's okay if the meat stays in the pan. It may dry out, but you will be adding salsa and citrus when serving, so don't worry too much about that. 

To serve, heat two tortillas per taco and lay them on a plate on top of each other. Place some carnitas on the tortillas, sprinkle with white onions and cilantro, and slap a spoon of top-notch salsa on each taco. Garnish with quartered radishes and lime or lemon slices. 

Repeat until everyone is happy. 



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    12 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I know this recipe/article is a few years old. But I have to say "thank you." The technique is flawless and dramatically easier to execute than any other carnitas recipe I've attempted. I understand purists advocate lard-frying. (Go right ahead; I'll pass.) And I've seen every kind of convoluted, borderline insane recipe you can imagine even things that sound like double-dares like poaching fatty chunks of pork shoulder in milk then roasting them to crisp like anybody with a job has the time or inclination to attempt something so bonkers. I strongly suspect most vendors and eateries use this technique (slow roast THEN pan-crisp, not the other way around). I included chili powder and some garlic salt; add spices gradually to your taste--but the technique needs no adjustment. You want an achievable, solid recipe to start making carnitas at home, this is the one.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    OMG thank you so much! I'm so glad you not only made it but built it into your storehouse of recipes. I love it when you get a new one that you can whip up on demand.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Would you add any lime/liquid into the crockpot when you first put the pork in or will the pork naturally release juices?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    You can if you want, but so much liquid comes out of the pork (and pork fat) that it's not necessary. Sometimes, I've put a can of green chiles in there, but really you don't need any extra liquid.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I LOVE my crock pot ! Thank you for sharing this yummy looking dish


    5 years ago on Introduction

    These were amazing, and looked dead easy. Thanks for the Instructable!


    5 years ago

    Real way to make them is by deep frying them in pig lard sounds gross but they taste the best that way


    5 years ago on Introduction

    These were delicious! I'll have to try making them at home!

    Sam DeRose

    5 years ago on Introduction

    These were so good, great post! I'll have to try the croc pot method next time my family wants pulled pork.

    M.C. Langer

    5 years ago on Introduction

    OH MAN! How could I lose that awesome taco party? (I will explain the reason in my next instructable)

    Your carnitas tacos look amazing and delicious!

    And I love the pictures!