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Dutch Oven Carnitas (How to Make Carnitas Tacos)

These delicious dutch oven carnitas make for the best tacos ever PERIOD. At least according to my family that is. But seriously, my kids adore it, and I enjoy making it for them even more. Onion, garlic, Mexican spices and seasonings, and a not-so-secret meat tenderizer combine to create juicy, tangy shredded pork with rich, authentic flavor. The prep is quick, and then you leave it on the stove to slow cook for a few hours before returning to the juiciest, most delicious pork carnitas! If you enjoy this recipe you’ll have to check out my barbacoa recipe next!

Coca Cola carnitas on a black plate.

What are pork carnitas?

Pork carnitas may be a distant but much older cousin of pulled pork. Carnitas, which translates to “small meats,” first appeared in the Mexican southwest state of Michoacan.

However, different regions in the country will have their own take on carnitas.

Carnitas is traditionally made by slow-cooking pork in lard and truly, in our opinion, few things can beat this taste.

Ingredients needed

Only a few ingredients are required to make pork carnitas. They are:

Pork Butt

Pork butt is actually meat from the pig’s shoulders. I like to trim some of the excess fat then I cut the meat into chunks for faster cooking.

Herbs, seasoning and spices

I used salt, black pepper, bay leaf, garlic, onion and dried oregano.

Coca-cola

Now, you would assume that something this delicious would require a secret ingredient. That’s not entirely wrong. A 12 0z. bottle of coca-cola is used to add incredible caramel-like complexity to our carnitas while helping it become tender and more flavorful. 

Many Mexican taquerias tenderize and flavor their meats with Coca-cola. Pork Carnitas is usually marinated in a mixture of Coca-Cola, orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, and spices overnight.

Cola’s high acidity and caramel flavor make it an extremely effective meat tenderizer. Coca-cola, with a pH of about 2.7, is acidic enough to break down some proteins without dissolving your pork carnitas.

Coca-Cola has long been a staple in cooking, particularly in marinades and sauces for meats. This sugary beverage isn’t good for you if you drink it every day, but it’s great to use in pork carnitas. Its pleasant acidity, which can help tenderize meat, makes it an ideal addition to a long, slow brine.

How to make it

Put the pork chunks in a large bowl and season with salt.

Pork chunks in a large glass bowl.

Next heat up 1 tbs of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot add some of the pork chunks and sear on all sides for a few minutes or until they’re nice and browned.

You’ll have to do this in batches so as to not crowd the pan. Once browned remove the pork chunks and repeat with the next batch.

Searing pork chunks in a dutch oven.

Then add a little more olive oil to the dutch oven and add the sliced onion.

Season with salt and let it cook for a few minutes. Then add the garlic cloves and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Sliced onion and garlic cloves cooking in a dutch oven.

Now return the pork chunks back to the dutch oven along with the bay leaf, dried oregano, black pepper, Coca Cola and water.

Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and cook for two hours.

Making Coca Cola carnitas.

After the carnitas have been cooking for two hours, remove the lid.

Continue to cook for another 20 minutes or until all of the liquid has evaporated.

The pork chunks should be fork-tender at this point.

Cooking dutch oven carnitas.

Salt to taste. You can leave the carnitas in chunks or you can shred them using a fork.

If making tacos you need to shred at least some of the meat.

The inside of the carnitas will juicy and tender and some of the outside will have crispy bits.

Carnitas in a dutch oven.

How to make carnitas tacos

This traditional Mexican “street taco” is simple to make at home. It’s even better because you can customize the toppings to suit everyone’s tastes.

We’ll need corn tortillas. Tortillas are a long-standing staple in Mexican cuisine. There are two types – corn and flour.

Corn tortillas are less sturdy and have a different appearance than flour tortillas.

The smaller, yellowish corn tortillas are more likely to fall apart. So, in order to remain strong enough to support a variety of traditional fillings, they must remain compact. Some taquerias will also double up to protect the contents. 

For our simple yet authentic carnitas tacos, we’ll be using corn tortillas. These street style taco tortillas are the best size for handheld tacos. You can save flour tortillas for other things like burritos.

To make the carnitas tacos just warm up some corn tortillas in the microwave until pliable.

Then spoon some of the meat onto the center of the tortillas and fold.

Tacos de carnitas on a black plate.

Top with your favorite toppings. The most traditional are chopped cilantro and diced onion.

Oh and you can’t forget fresh cut limes for squeezing over the tacos.

Dutch oven carnitas tacos on a black plate.

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Dutch oven carnitas with Coca Cola

These dutch oven carnitas are the easiest and most delicious ever! You’ve got to give them a try!

They’re great with a simple side of beans and rice.

I hope you enjoyed today’s recipe and I hope you’ll give it a try.

I’d love to hear what you think of this recipe in the comments below and don’t forget to leave it a rating!

Carnitas in a dutch oven.
Coca Cola carnitas on a black plate.
5 from 2 votes
Print

Dutch Oven Carnitas

Dutch oven carnitas are an easy and delicious Mexican recipe the whole family will enjoy.20

Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword coca cola carnitas, dutch oven carnitas
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings 8
Calories 359 kcal
Author Carissa

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs pork butt cut into chunks
  • 1 white onion sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 oz coca cola
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put the pork chunks in a large bowl and season with salt.

  2. Heat up 1 tbs of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot add some of the pork chunks and sear on all sides for a few minutes or until they're nice and browned. Do this in batches so as to not crowd the dutch oven.

  3. Once the meat is nice and browned remove it and repeat with the next batch.

  4. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the dutch oven. Add the onion and and season with salt. Let it cook for a few minutes. Next add the garlic cloves and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

  5. Return the pork chunks back to the dutch oven along with the bay leaf, dried oregano, black pepper, coca cola and water.

  6. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook for 2 hours.

  7. Remove the lid and continue to cook for another 20 minutes or until all of the liquid has evaporated.

  8. Salt to taste. If making tacos, shred the meat and heat up corn tortillas.

  9. Serve the carnitas as is or on warm corn tortillas with your favorite toppings.

  10. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts
Dutch Oven Carnitas
Amount Per Serving
Calories 359 Calories from Fat 153
% Daily Value*
Fat 17g26%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Cholesterol 136mg45%
Sodium 152mg7%
Potassium 810mg23%
Carbohydrates 7g2%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 43g86%
Vitamin A 4IU0%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 47mg5%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Recipe Rating




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