Copycat Chipotle Carnitas

bowl of copycat carnitas with lime wedges
The Spruce / Diana Rattray
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 3 hrs 45 mins
Total: 4 hrs
Servings: 10 to 12 servings
Yields: 2 to 3 pounds, shredded
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
511 Calories
36g Fat
0g Carbs
44g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 511
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 36g 46%
Saturated Fat 13g 66%
Cholesterol 163mg 54%
Sodium 437mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 44g
Vitamin C 2mg 8%
Calcium 57mg 4%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 651mg 14%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

These easy copycat carnitas are just like Chipotle's tender, savory pork carnitas. The shredded pork is an excellent choice for a family meal, potluck dinner, or game day gathering, and preparation is a breeze. One of the best things about making pork carnitas at home is the leftovers you'll have for the next few days.

A pork shoulder roast—also known as pork butt—is best cooked low and slow, making it a perfect candidate for the oven or slow cooker. Plan on at least 3 1/2 hours in the oven or up to 8 to 10 hours in the slow cooker. If you need it faster, you can easily adapt it to cook in an Instant Pot or similar pressure cooker.

You can use the carnitas to make a bowl with various toppings, vegetables, and rice or fill taco shells or flour tortillas. The topping possibilities are endless; add black beans or pinto beans, refried beans, shredded lettuce, salsa or diced tomatoes, chopped onions, ripe olives, avocado slices, cilantro, shredded cheese, rice, guacamole, or sour cream. Or use the shredded pork to top a salad, pizza, or mac and cheese.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 to 5 pounds pork butt roast (bone-in or boneless)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste)

  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock (or water)

  • 2 large dried bay leaves

  • 2 teaspoons dried juniper berries

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients for copycat chipotle carnitas
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  2. Season the roast with salt and pepper.

    season the pork butt roast for the carnitas recipe
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  3. Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the pork roast. Brown the pork for about 12 minutes, turning to sear on all sides.

    pork roast in a dutch oven
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  4. Add the water or stock, bay leaves, juniper berries, and thyme. Cover the pan and transfer it to the preheated oven.

    pork roast in the dutch oven with thyme and juniper berries
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  5. Cook for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until tender, turning the roast over about halfway through the cooking time.

    pork butt/shoulder in dutch oven
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  6. Remove the roast from the oven. Remove and discard the bay leaves, juniper berries, and thyme sprigs.

    discard the juniper berries
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  7. When the roast is cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding any bone and fat pieces. 

    shredded pork for carnitas
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  8. Serve warm with your choice of sides or as a taco filling.

    bowl of copycat carnitas like chipotle mexican grill restaurant
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Slow Cooker Recipe Variation

  • Season and brown the pork on the stovetop.
  • Transfer the roast to the slow cooker and add the water or stock, bay leaves, juniper berries, and thyme.
  • Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for about 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours, or on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  • Remove and discard the bay leaves, juniper berries, and thyme sprigs.
  • Shred the meat and serve in bowls or in tacos or tortillas.


How to Store and Freeze

  • Transfer the shredded pork to shallow covered containers and refrigerate within 2 hours. Use the refrigerated leftovers within 4 days.
  • To freeze, transfer the shredded pork to zip-close freezer bags or containers and freeze for up to 4 months (for best quality). Vacuum-sealed frozen shredded pork can maintain quality for 2 to 3 years.

Tips

  • Aromatic juniper berries have a light, piney flavor that is similar to rosemary. If you can't find juniper berries, add a sprig or two of rosemary to the pork along with the thyme.
  • Save the juices to drizzle over the pork and use to add moisture when reheating the leftovers. Put the liquid in a gravy separator or refrigerate and remove the solid fats; store with the leftover shredded meat.