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Quick Pork Carnitas Tacos

Juicy pork is seasoned with citrus and spices to create ultra-flavorful Mexican inspired pulled pork, or Pork Carnitas! Make pork carnitas tacos for a quick dinner, or throw it in a burrito bowl for an easy lunch!

side shot of three pork carnitas tacos topped with tomatoes, cilantro, and onions

Pork Tacos Recipe

This Pork Carnitas recipe will absolutely thrill you! This Mexican-inspired pork recipe has a flavor like you would not believe. Pork tenderloin is seasoned with salt and pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, orange juice, lime juice, and more. To summarize, these crispy, juicy pork shreds are sweet, a tad tangy, a little spicy, and 200% delicious. Yes, that’s double delicious.

Most of the time, when I make pork carnitas, I pack the meat into soft flour tortillas to make pork carnitas tacos. They are unbelievable – no words can describe the incredible flavors and textures. And when you pile some sour cream, sliced avocado, and diced tomatoes on top? Flavor. Explosion. Pork carnitas is also great in burrito bowls, regular burritos, salads, etc. It doesn’t matter what you put it in as long as you experience the amazingness! If you’re not into pork, make my Instant Pot Chicken Carnitas!

Overhead close-up shot of three pork carnitas tacos served on a round plate with pico de gallo

What Are Carnitas?

Carnitas is basically shredded or pulled pork. Or, in this case, it’s pork cut up in small pieces because we want it done quickly, and we want it done now! The pork is marinated or braised with seasonings, resulting in tender, juicy, flavorful shreds of – or small chunks – of meat. Typically pork shoulder or pork butt is used to make this dish, but today we’re going to use pork tenderloin because it’s quick.

Ingredients For Pork Carnitas

  • Pork: You’ll need about 1.5 pounds of pork tenderloin, cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • Seasoning: Salt and fresh ground black pepper (to taste), oregano, ancho chili powder, and ground cumin.
  • Cooking Oil: I generally use avocado oil or olive oil.
  • Onion: Grab a small yellow onion, finely diced.
  • Garlic: Minced.
  • Sugar: Round up some light brown sugar before starting.
  • Citrus: You’ll need some orange juice and the juice of a small lime.
  • Optional: Flour tortillas (for tacos), diced avocado, pico de gallo, and cilantro (for garnish).
Cubed raw pork tenderloin in a skillet with seasonings set in the center.

How to Make Quick Pork Carnitas Tacos

It won’t take you more than 30 minutes to put these pork tacos together, and everybody will love them.

  1. Season the Pork: Cut up the pork tenderloin and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  2. Cook the Onion: Heat olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onions to the oil and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 15 seconds, or just until fragrant.
  3. Add Pork to the Skillet: Season with brown sugar, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until pork is cooked through.
  4. Stir in Orange Juice: Continue to stir and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add lime juice and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.
pork carnitas in a skillet with two forks, 3 slices of lime, and a branch of cilantro

Tips for Success

  • What If I Don’t Have Pork Tenderloin? That’s alright. You can use pork shoulder (butt), or really any other cut of pork. Keep in mind, depending on the cut of pork, you may have to adjust the cooking time if using something other than pork tenderloin.
  • Don’t Overcook the Pork: Easy to say, but not always easy to do! You want the pork to be juicy and tender, though, and not tough and dry. The best way to gauge if pork is done is to use a meat thermometer, and make sure the pork reaches 145˚Fahrenheit.
  • Alternative Cooking Method: Season the pork tenderloin with all of the spices before cutting it into bite-size pieces, and then cook until done. Then, shred the pork with two forks, or cut it with a knife, and add it back to the skillet to cook in the orange juice as described.
A single pork carnitas taco topped with tomatoes and onions.

Serving Suggestions

I already touched on how to serve pork carnitas a little bit, but let’s go more in-depth! Here are some of my favorite ways to use up this pork recipe:

  • In Tacos or Burritos: Pork carnitas tacos are really good! Dice up some tomatoes, slice up an avocado, find some corn kernels, and grab some salsa and sour cream. Then, build yourself a delicious pork taco, and dig in! You can do virtually the same thing but in burrito form.
  • Over Rice: If you want to keep things simple, serve your flavorful shredded pork over a bed of white or brown rice. Quinoa will work, too.
  • In Salads: Another way to keep things simple is to add the pork carnitas to an easy cobb salad – or make a bed of lettuce, dice up some extra veggies, add the pork, and voila! Lunch or dinner.
  • In Quesadillas: A pulled pork quesadilla? Yes, please! Cheesy shredded pork is so, so good.
Overhead shot of three pork carnitas tacos served on a round plate with pico de gallo

How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat Leftovers

  • Store any leftover pork carnitas in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days. It may lose some of its juiciness, but it will still taste great.
  • To reheat pork carnitas, put the pork back in the skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Cook until warmed through. You may need to add a little extra liquid – possibly some orange juice or some cooking oil.
  • Freeze your leftover pork carnitas in an airtight container, once it has cooled completely. It will last for 2 to 3 months in the freezer. When you want to make more tacos or dig into some pulled pork, let it thaw in the fridge overnight and then reheat.

More Pork Recipes to Try

side shot of three pork carnitas tacos topped with tomatoes, cilantro, and onions

Quick Pork Carnitas Tacos

Katerina | Diethood
Juicy pork is seasoned with citrus and spices to create ultra-flavorful Mexican inspired Pork Carnitas!
4.68 from 31 votes
Servings : 4 people
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ½ pounds pork tenderloin, cut into small bite-sized pieces
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil, or olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 small lime, juiced
Optional

Instructions
 

  • Cut up the pork tenderloin into small bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add diced onions to the heated oil and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 15 seconds or just until fragrant.
  • Add the pork to the skillet; season with brown sugar, oregano, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until pork is cooked through.
  • Stir in orange juice; continue to stir and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add lime juice and continue to cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.
  • Serve in tacos, burritos, over rice, and/or on salads.

Notes

  • Pork Choice: You don’t have to use pork tenderloin. You can also use pork shoulder or any other cut of boneless pork but remember that depending on the cut of pork, you may have to adjust the cooking time.
  • Don’t Overcook: You want the pork to be juicy and tender, not tough and dry. The best way to gauge if pork is done is to use a meat thermometer – pork is cooked through when its internal temperature reaches 145˚F.
  • Shredded Pork Method: Season the pork tenderloin thoroughly with all the spices before slicing it into pieces. Once cooked thoroughly, shred the pork using two forks or chop it finely with a knife. Afterward, return the pork to the skillet and let it simmer in the orange juice as instructed.

Nutrition

Calories: 309 kcal | Carbohydrates: 11 g | Protein: 36 g | Fat: 13 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7 g | Trans Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 111 mg | Sodium: 100 mg | Potassium: 793 mg | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 6 g | Vitamin A: 204 IU | Vitamin C: 16 mg | Calcium: 44 mg | Iron: 2 mg

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: carnitas recipe, pork carnitas tacos, pork taco recipe
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37 comments on “Quick Pork Carnitas Tacos”

    1. You sure can use pineapple juice. It’s important to note that pineapple juice has a different flavor profile, which could affect the flavor – not a lot, but still, I just want you to keep that in mind.

  1. This recipe was awesome, especially if you’d like a little heat in your tacos. It was absolutely amazing.

    1. Yes, you can add any other liquid – broth, apple juice, grape juice, etc. – but it will not taste as intended.

  2. Had pork shoulder on hand, followed the recipe exactly and was pleasantly surprised! Made a pineapple salsa to go with the tacos and was a home run with the family. Very simple and quick dinner without compromising on the flavor. Keeping this recipe in our rotation!

  3. Made this tonight for dinner. So yummy! I’ve tried other pork carnita recipes in the past that were made in the crockpot and then shredded but we’ve always been disappointed. This one had so much flavor!

  4. The pork was so tender. I might change up the seasonings next time to experiment. I used too much oregano

  5. Avatar photo
    Anajai Summers

    Just made these…..they SLAPPED me deep in my soul😂 Even the 3 year old ate two of them! Thanks for sharing 🤤🤤🤤

  6. Just made this tonight and it is wonderful, very tasty. I kinda cheated and bought pre diced pork to save time but followed the recipe exactly 🙂

  7. I never know what they mean by “orange juice”. Are they talking @ fresh OJ or Frozen OJ concentrate, diluted or solid?

    1. Katerina - Diethood
      Katerina Petrovska

      Hi!
      This is for fresh orange juice. If it’s concentrate, then a recipe would state “from concentrate”.

  8. I put everything into a ziplock bag and marinated for 6 hours. Then I cooked as directed by cooking the onions and garlic then added the bag contents. Quite delicious! Thanks so much for the recipe!

    1. I’m sure it was really good marinating all the flavors together. I was wondering if cooking it in the crockpot will be better and tender

  9. These are so delicious and very tasty! My daughter helped me make these for dinner the other night. They were so tasty and full of flavor! Can’t wait to make these again!

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