Chipotle Pork Carnitas is one of the most-loved meat choices at Chipotle. Did you know you can recreate this recipe at home, their version of pork carnitas slow bake in the oven for effortless cooking!
Everybody loves going to Chipotle for Tex-Mex food, either to sit there and eat or to get takeaway. Depending on where you live, if you are taking a long drive, you can usually find a Chipotle when you get hungry. No matter how many times I have been to Chipotle, I almost always get the same thing – Chipotle Carnitas.
While the Chipotle Pork Carnitas may not be in the traditional style of pork carnitas, traditionally carnitas is slow roasted then fried just before being finished, they are still extremely delicious to make. You can enjoy this savory and tender pork on tacos, burrito bowls, and on top of salads.
What is Carnitas?
Carnitas is literally translated as “little meats.” It’s a dish that originated in the Mexican state of Michoacán. Carnitas are traditionally made by simmering or braising pork in oil (or preferably lard) until tender. Traditional Carnitas are prepared with citrus juice (commonly orange juice).
What’s Special About Chipotle Carnitas?
Chipotle makes Carnitas with an earthy, savory spice mix that includes thyme, bay leaves, salt, and cracked black pepper. However, the one thing that really makes Chipotle Carnitas stand out and special is the addition of juniper berries. Chipotle’s website tells you that they use pork from responsibly-raised animals. The pork is braised and shredded by hand throughout the day, resulting in juicy, tender meat with a wonderfully concentrated flavor – porktastic!
Juniper Berries give a unique flavor to carnitas
A juniper berry is not a true berry. It’s actually the female seed cone produced by the various species of juniper trees. The cone has merged, fleshy scales, which makes it look like a berry. In fact, juniper berries may be the only spice derived from a conifer. The berries impart a distinctive flavor to food and are also used to flavor gin.
Juniper berries have a complex flavor of citrus and pine. Never fear, most grocery stores, spice stores, and Amazon have juniper berries.
What cut of work can you use for Chipotle Pork Carnitas?
It’s best to use either a pork shoulder roast or a pork butt roast. You can read about these cuts of meat. If your roast is in bone, this is not a problem because the pork will be so very tender at the end of the cooking time that it’ll literally just fall off. However, if you really would like boneless but can’t find it, you can get it deboned at the butcher counter. They can also cut you whatever size piece you want. So if you find an 8-pound roast, feel free to ask them to de-bone it and just give you 4 pounds.
How to make pork carnitas like Chipotle
You will want to first pat the meat with some paper towels to remove any excess moisture. Then add some sunflower oil to a pan, and begin to heat up the pan. While the pan is heating up, season the pork with salt and pepper.
You will want to brown the meat on all sides, this locks in flavor, and the mallard (the browned meat) reaction gives the pork a wonderful flavor. Next comes the slow roasting, cook in your slow cooker, or in the oven, it’s up to you. You will simply add in the remaining ingredients and wait patiently until the pork has cooked to perfection.
Make some Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas at home
Chipotle Carnitas are easy to make right in your slow cooker. Your Chipotle Carnitas will be the star every time, and you can have fun keeping people guessing where that unusual but delicious taste is coming from. Make some tacos and a salad to go with your carnitas. They’re also great for enchiladas and nachos. Or, create a lovely burrito bowl with layers of rice, homemade pico de gallo (see recipes above), and your favorite toppings for a delicious meal.
Chipotle Pork Carnitas
- 4 pounds pork roast
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 2 teaspoons juniper berries
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Over medium heat add sunflower oil to a dutch oven. Season roast with salt. When the oil is hot saute roast on all sides for about 3 minutes on each side.
- This will brown the roast a bit. Add water, bay leaves, thyme, juniper berries, and ground black pepper to the Dutch Oven.
- Place lid on the pan and cook for 3 to 4 hours in the oven. Turn roast over in the pot every hour or so. Turning the roast will ensure the flavors go through the roast.
- Remove roast from oven. Allow resting for about 20 minutes. Then pull the meat apart with two folks.
Slow Cooker Directions
- Add sunflower oil to a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season roast with salt. When the oil is hot saute roast on all sides for about 3 minutes on each side.
- Place meat into a slow cooker. Add water, bay leaves, thyme, juniper berries, and ground black pepper to the slow cooker.
- Place lid on the pan and cook for 3 to 4 hours on medium heat. Turn roast over in the slow cooker every hour or so. Turning the roast will ensure the flavors go through the roast.
Recipe Tips for the Cook
- I do not recommend using a pressure cooker for this recipe, the slow roasting gives the meat a better flavor.
- Be sure to pick a cut of pork that has marbling, you can always trim the fat after cooking.
- Juniper berries may be omitted, but the flavor won't be quite the same.