Pork Loin Carnitas

Making Pork Loin Carnitas is a great way to use up a pork loin. The leaner cut of meat gets fall-apart tender in a spicy and savory braising liquid.

Making Pork Loin Carnitas is a great way to use up a pork loin. The leaner cut of meat gets fall-apart tender in a spicy and savory braising liquid.

I love any kind of pulled pork. And carnitas are no exception. Carnitas are a Mexican dish made up of braised and pulled pork with some spices. Traditional carnitas are actually braised in lard, but I use a mixture of oil, broth, citrus and chipotles for an incredible flavor.

Most typically, people use pork shoulder to make carnitas because of the fat content. Pork loin comes from the side of the rib and is much learner than a pork shoulder. I love to roast pork loin, but I really like using it for carnitas because you get a meatier texture.

Because pork loin has less fat than pork shoulder, I make sure to sear the meat well to lock in moisture and add plenty of braising liquid to the pork so that it gets fall-apart tender and has plenty of juice to soak up.

Speaking of braising, this simply means that you sear a piece of meat, add liquid to the searing pot, and the meat finishes cooking in the liquid. With larger cuts of meat, like pork loin, the pot is often covered and placed in a preheated oven to finish the cooking process. This is what I do with the carnitas.

The pork loin is seared in oil and then I add chicken stock, fresh orange juice, fresh lime juice, and a whole can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to the pot. I cover the pot and place it into my oven which has been preheated to 350F. The pork braises in the chipotle flavored liquid for 2-3 hours, or until tender.

After the meat is able to be shredded with two forks, I sometimes stop there. But, if I want more texture, I spread the meat out onto a sheet pan and place it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to get crispy. The carnitas meat is great in tacos, on taco salad, in a burrito, or even in quesadillas.


Pork Loin Carnitas

  • Author: Allie McDonald
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8


Making Pork Loin Carnitas is a great way to use up a pork loin. The leaner cut of meat gets fall-apart tender in a spicy and savory braising liquid.


  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 lb. pork loin
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 7 oz. can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or skillet over a burner turned to medium-high heat.
  3. Sear the pork loin on each side, about 4 minutes per side, until a crust has formed.
  4. Turn the burner off and add the stock, orange juice, lime juice and the can of chipotles to the dutch oven, or transfer the seared loin to a casserole dish and top with the ingredients listed above.
  5. Place the lid on the Dutch oven, or cover the casserole dish with foil, and place in the preheated oven for 2-3 hours. When you can pull apart the pork with a fork, it is done.
  6. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired, but I often find that the canned chipotles add enough seasoning.
  7. If a crispy carnita is desired, spread the pork out on to a sheet pan and turn the oven to high broil.
  8. Broil for 2-3 minutes, until a crust has formed on the meat. Watch carefully so the pork doesn’t burn.
  9. Serve in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or on taco salad.

4 Responses to “Pork Loin Carnitas”

  1. Andrew Scease — July 4, 2020 @ 11:11 am (#)

    Great recipe as is. My wife isn’t a big fan of chipotle, so the 2nd time we made I omitted that at substituted with a half cup of tomato sauce and some paprika, cumin, and coriander. After removing the seared pork from the pan, I sauteed a half onion and a couple garlic cloves in the in the remaining oil and added that to the dutch oven with the rest of the ingredients. 
    I’m making it for a fourth time today. I rubbed the roast in Paprika, Cumin, Coriander, and Adobo before searing. I also deleted the tomato sauce and diced up three small canned tomatoes instead. I’m sure it will be as good as the first three times we made it. It was a big hit at an outdoor potluck we had in our neighborhood a few weeks ago. 

    • Christine Pittman — July 6, 2020 @ 10:42 am (#)

      I’m so glad it’s been such a hit, Andrew! Thanks for sharing your variations with us as well.

  2. Dianne Bentz — May 5, 2020 @ 1:07 pm (#)

    Thank you for the pork loin recipe- have you made pork loin carnitas in an instant pot?

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