Rachel's Table

Cinco de Mayo Carnitas

I’ve never been to Mexico. I’ve never even been to a state that borders Mexico. I’m so far removed from Mexican culture that people from my area celebrate Cinco de Mayo by sipping on buy-one-get-one-free margaritas at Chili’s.

Drinking tequila and eating tacos at a chain restaurant is a weird way to celebrate Mexico’s underdog victory over the French during the Franco-Mexican War, but in America we need very little reason to throw a party.

I need very little reason to eat (authentic) Mexican food whenever I can get it. No Mexican dish speaks to me more than carnitas, meaning “little meats.” Usually a pork butt or shoulder cooked in lard, carnitas is a dish offering layers of satisfying elements – crispy, yet succulent; greasy, yet clean-flavored; simple, yet rich.

My recipe for carnitas in the crock pot is less than traditional but tastes authentic (and better than anything on the menu at Chili’s). I like mine with corn tortillas, some onion, a squeeze of lime, and good salsa.

Whole foods is like a fairy land

Local pork butt fromWhole Foods

Cinco de Mayo Carnitas in the Crock Pot

1 3-4 pound local pork butt (bone-in)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large white onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cumin

2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (canned), seeds removed and minced

3 tablespoons adobo sauce from the canned chipotle peppers

2 cups chicken stock (or water)

Corn tortillas

Lime wedges

Whatever toppings you like

Salsa, lime, onions, and white cheddar cheese - my favorite toppings

Salsa, lime, onions, and white cheddar cheese – my favorite simple toppings

Generously salt and pepper all sides of the pork butt, then slather with the adobo sauce and the minced garlic. Mix together the cumin, smoked paprika, and chipotle powder. Rub these seasonings into the pork butt. Place the sliced onion, minced chipotle peppers and chicken stock in the bottom of a crock pot. Place the pork butt on top.

Ready to go

Ready to go

Turn the crock pot on low and cook for 6 to 8 hours or until the pork is fall-off-the-bone tender. Remove from the crock pot and shred with a fork.

Ready for shredding

Ready for shredding

Place the shredded meat onto a baking sheet and douse with a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid. Broil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat is crispy and browned on the edges.

Ready for the broiler

Ready for the broiler

Serve with corn tortillas and your favorite toppings. (Oh, and don’t let those onions left in the crock pot go to waste!)

Happy Cinco de Mayo! (Make this instead of going to Chile's)

Happy Cinco de Mayo! (Make this instead of going to Chili’s. Please.)


  1. Ole!!! This looks SPECTACULAR (was it your own recipe or did you find the one you were looking for?) – I love the broiler step, that makes perfect sense, but I never would have thought of doing that.

    I was wondering what you did to the onions in the ‘toppings’ pic, but then you answered my question – they were from the crock pot! Y-u-um. We might have to incorporate this meal into our August Pepper Show-Down!

    • The recipe I lost was my own recipe (typically written on the back of an envelope because I’m so organized). But I found it. And there was much fanfare.

      I thought I was brilliant for thinking of the broiler idea! But google told me the entire recipe world already knows this trick.

      So excited for the Pepper-off!!! August will be here before we know it.

    • This was so good! If you get rid of the seeds and lessen the chipotle powder it won’t be too spicy at all. It’s got a good, smokey flavor.

      The kids would love it too!

    • I never use the oven for pork shoulder/butt. The crock pot does such a nice job.

      Try the broiling method–you won’t be disappointed, especially if you love some crispy pork!

  2. Great recipe. This is right up my alley. Crushed pineapple makes a great topping for chipotle based pork tacos. Pork shoulder is such a tasty cut, these tacos must have been delicious.

  3. Oh man! This looks phenomenal. I so wish I had this recipe before today, and before the hubs went and bought a bunch of Mexican fixings for our own Cinco de Mayo meal. Not sure exactly what he’s making, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve pork butt, and for once, no crock pot! Like I said, it would have been good to have this before. But it won’t stop me from suggesting this for some other Sunday, nosireebob! Yummy.

  4. I love carnitas. YUM. How is it, though, that I’m the only juvenile giggling about the pork bone in butt? Oh, wait. Jules and Pep are with me. Good. Seriously. Why would they print that??? It reminds me of a story about meeting someone at a friend’s party … This guy kept talking about some fabulous chunk-o-meat that he recently BBQ’d known as “Brown Eye.” Yes, he was referring to RIB EYE steaks but he kept saying BROWN EYE. I hope to gawd he wasn’t grilling brown eye. Eeeeew. Anyway, he must have said it 100 times. The Hubs and I went from snickering, to giggling to just plain roaring with laughter (the really rude kind of laugh AT you laughter). This guy’s name turned out to be Chad Brown, and lived around the corner from the party spot. We started, wait, STILL, call him Chad BrownEYE from around the corner. AND, we laugh. I’m sure he hates us. I’m still laughing. p.s. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

  5. Pingback: 20 May, 2012 – Shredded Mexican Style Pork and Avocado Salad, around $5.00 plus | Frugal Hausfrau's Blog

  6. Pingback: Pulled Pork Wrap – with Spicy Slaw | jittery cook

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