This Chipotle carnitas recipe is a remake of the restaurant favorite that features pork roast slow cooked with a variety of spices until tender. An easy dish that works perfectly as a filling for enchiladas, burrito bowls, tacos and more!
I make Mexican food at least once a week because my whole family loves it. I often get requests for dishes such as traditional Mexican rice, flavorful chicken fajitas, and this melt-in-your-mouth tender Chipotle carnitas.
We often grab a quick lunch or dinner at Chipotle, but it can get expensive over time! I decided I needed to learn how to make some of our favorite menu items at home, such as this Chipotle carnitas. The end result is perfectly tender and flavorful pork with minimal effort.
What is in Chipotle carnitas?
The carnitas at Chipotle is pork that is slow cooked with seasonings including juniper berries, thyme and bay leaves. After the meat is cooked, it is shredded then ready to go into any number of Mexican style dishes.
How do you make Chipotle carnitas?
Start by searing a pork roast on all sides until it is golden brown. Place the pork in a slow cooker with chicken broth, juniper berries, bay leaves and thyme. Let the pork cook until it is tender, then shred it with two forks. Serve the meat as-is, or if you prefer crispy carnitas, you can put the shredded meat until the broiler for a few minutes first.
Tips for the perfect dish
- The secret ingredient in this recipe is the juniper berries, which add a unique, herbaceous flavor. Juniper berries can be found in the herbs and spices aisle of most major grocery stores, and can also be ordered online.
- It takes a few extra minutes to brown the meat before it goes into the slow cooker, but I really feel like it’s worth the effort to do this step. If you’re in a huge hurry, you can just put the meat in the slow cooker without browning it first, and that will also be fine.
- This dish will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, and can be frozen for 2 months. I often make a double batch so that I have extra to go into the freezer.
- Traditionally carnitas is served crispy, either from the shredded meat being finished in a hot pan or under the broiler. When I eat at Chipotle I find their meat has a softer consistency, so I’ve made the crisping step optional.
- No slow cooker? This recipe can be made in the same way in an oven. Place the seared pork and the rest of the ingredients in a large covered pot, then bake at 325 degrees F for 4 hours or until the meat is tender.
WHAT CUT OF MEAT IS CARNITAS?
Carnitas is made with a pork roast such as pork shoulder or pork butt, which are similar cuts of meat. This recipe can also be made with boneless pork country ribs with good results. Any type of well-marbled pork should work just fine.
I love this recipe as-is, but you can add other flavors to make it your own.
- Spicy: Turn up the heat by adding 1-2 minced canned chipotle peppers for a smoky and spicy flavor.
- Citrus: Many carnitas recipes contain a citrus component. Feel free to add up to 1/4 cup of orange juice and 1 tablespoon of lime juice instead of some of the broth.
- Protein: Swap out the pork with boneless, skinless chicken thighs for a less traditional, but still fabulous flavor.
- Garnishes: Finish off your carnitas with minced red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, a spoonful of fresh salsa or a sprinkle of cotija cheese.
You simply can’t go wrong with carnitas! Whether you’re making burrito bowls, nachos or any other Mexican creation, this lightly spiced shredded meat is sure to be a hit.
More Mexican inspired recipes to try
Chipotle Carnitas Video
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 pounds pork roast such as pork shoulder or pork butt
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons juniper berries
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
- Season the pork roast with the salt and pepper.
- Place the pork in the pot. Cook on both sides for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown.
- Transfer the pork to a slow cooker. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme and juniper berries.
- Cover and cook for 8 hours on low heat.
- Uncover the slow cooker and discard the juniper berries and bay leaves.
- Shred the pork in the slow cooker with two forks.
- Serve as-is, or place the shredded pork on a sheet pan lined with cooking spray. Spoon 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid over the pork. Broil for 3-4 minutes or until the pork pieces have crispy edges.