DIVAS ON A DIME: Easy pork carnitas a Cinco de Mayo classic

By Patti Diamond

Serve up restaurant-quality pork carnitas at a fraction of the cost. (www.JasonCoblentz.com)

Melt-in-your-mouth, flavorful and juicy with irresistible caramelized crunchy bits, carnitas means “little meats” in Spanish. If you like carnitas brimming with classic flavors like Mexican oregano, cumin, chili powder and a surprising bright note of citrus, you’re going to love this divine recipe, just in time for Cinco de Mayo.

This recipe yields restaurant-quality pork carnitas at a fraction of restaurant costs. It uses historically inexpensive cuts of heavily marbled pork that are slow cooked for hours until the meat is completely tender. After cooking, it falls apart and practically shreds itself. Before serving, the meat is broiled to make those signature delicious crispy bits.

Carnitas can be the star of your Cinco de Mayo festivities, but don’t wait for a party, they make any day a celebration. Carnitas are equally at home in your nacho platter, a build-your-own taco or burrito bar, or served simply with a fork, corn tortillas, salsa and lots of napkins.

Choosing the right cut of pork is essential for the tender, juicy quality we’re looking for. This recipe doesn’t work with lean meats, so no lean pork loin, and please don’t try this with chicken breast!

You’ll want pork shoulder or pork butt, with or without bone. Incidentally, they’re the exact same cut of meat from the shoulder of the pig. The name “butt” comes from Colonial America, when butchers in the Boston area would pack the pork shoulder in barrels they called “butts.”

Lastly, this recipe calls for Mexican oregano, which is entirely different from regular Mediterranean oregano. Mexican oregano is earthy and grassy with citrus notes and is related to lemon verbena. Mediterranean oregano is subtle and related to the mint family. You can find Mexican oregano in the ethnic spice section of the grocery store, usually for under a dollar.




Yield: 6 to 8 servings  Prep: 10 minutes  Cook: 4 hours


4 pounds pork shoulder (also known as “pork butt”)

1 lime — juice and zest

1/2 orange -– juice and zest

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Cut the pork shoulder into big chunks, about 4-inches cubed, and place in the slow cooker. Add the zest and juice of the lime and half an orange, and stir to coat the meat in the liquid.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the cumin, oregano, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper. Sprinkle the seasoning evenly over the meat, stirring until the meat is well-coated.
  3. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 7-8 hours. Just wait until you can smell this slice of heaven! When it’s cooked, using a slotted spoon, remove the pork to a rimmed baking sheet that’s been covered in foil or with cooking spray.
  4. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a small saucepan and boil to reduce until thickened. Pour this lovely liquid over the pork and shred with two forks, coating the meat with the sauce.
  5. Turn on the broiler and place the pan o’goodness under the broiler until some of the edges are brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. But keep your eye on it, because burning a pan filled with this amazing stuff would be a crime.


This recipe is so easy, but please don’t skip the last step. Caramelizing the meat under the broiler to concentrate the flavors is what takes this dish over the top. Buen Provecho!


Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of the website “Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com


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