Carnitas for a crowd are crispy and full of flavor - plus, they make a great meal for a crowd since you can customize things to please anyone!

Carnitas (The Ultimate Crowd-Pleasing, Make-Ahead, Freezer-Friendly Party Meal – Part 1).

  • Author: Bet Denton
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: about 12 servings


  • 3.5 – 4 lb boneless pork shoulder (aka pork butt or Boston butt), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2+ cups of water (enough to barely cover pork)
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice (1 lime)
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 orange, cut in half (you will use the juice and the rind)


  1. Make sure oven rack is in lower-middle position and preheat oven to 300. Place pork in Dutch oven and add water to barely cover. Add onion, garlic, lime juice, vinegar, oregano, cumin, bay leaves, salt, and pepper, juice from orange, and orange rind. Stir to combine and bring contents to a boil over medium.
  2. Cover pot and transfer to oven for 2 hours, stirring once halfway through. Remove and discard onions, bay leaves, and orange rinds. Line a baking sheet with sides with foil and transfer pork to sheet with a slotted spoon.
  3. Boil the liquid in the pot on high heat to reduce – it should be thick, like a glaze, and you will have about 1 cup (this will take anywhere from about 10 to more than 30 minutes, depending how much liquid you started with). Don’t skim the fat off of the glaze – it helps the pork get crispy when you broil it.
  4. Shred pork, removing any excess fat or gristle. To cook immediately, drizzle with glaze. Broil on high 5-8 minutes or until brown and crisp. Flip pork, then broil other side 5-8 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn.
  5. To freeze: Put a portion of unglazed shredded pork in a freezer bag, and include a portion of glaze in a separate container. To cook, thaw meat and glaze and broil as directed above.
  6. To make ahead: Refrigerate unglazed shredded pork and glaze separately. To serve, glaze and broil as directed above.

Serve with your favorite fixings – rice, beans, sautéed onions and peppers, corn, salsa, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, avocado or guacamole, lime, cilantro, tortillas, chips…it doesn’t need all the adornment, but it sure is good!


I have often made the carnitas with a larger piece of pork, since that’s what was available at the store. In the photos, I used a 6 lb roast and used 1.5 times the additional ingredients. I also ended up with about 1.5 cups of glaze.

To make carnitas in the Instant Pot, add all ingredients to the pot BUT use 1/2 cup of water only. Cook on the Manual setting for 60 minutes at high pressure. When it beeps to let you know it’s done, turn it OFF. Allow the pressure to naturally release for 5 minutes, then manually release the pressure. I use a [dedicated] kitchen towel over the valve to absorb the steam. When the pressure is released, transfer the pork to the pan as described above. Use the Saute setting on the Instant Pot to reduce the cooking liquid (let it boil until thick and glaze-y as described above). Then continue with step 4!

I feel certain this could be made in a slow cooker, but I haven’t tried it since that would involve using another pot for the reduction. Please let me know if you try it that way!

Recipe from Our Best Bites, originally from Cook’s Illustrated