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Carnitas Michoacanas

How to Make Carnitas Michoacanas

Carnitas Michoacanas is a traditional Mexican dish, specifically from the Michoacán region, renowned for its flavorful and tender slow-cooked pork. It’s a dish made by braising or simmering pork meat in its own fat until it becomes tender and succulent, usually using cuts like shoulder or butt.

Texture-wise, Carnitas Michoacanas feature tender, juicy, and slightly crispy pork pieces with a combination of textures—some parts are soft and succulent from being cooked in their own fat, while other parts are crispy and caramelized from the cooking process. This contrast in textures is achieved through a slow-cooking method that allows the meat to become tender while crisping up the edges.

The dish is typically seasoned with a variety of spices such as cumin, oregano, bay leaves, and sometimes citrus juices like orange or lime, which infuse the meat with a savory and aromatic flavor profile.

The traditional cooking method involves simmering the pork in a large copper pot or cazuela filled with lard or its rendered fat. The pork is cooked slowly at a low temperature until it reaches the desired tenderness, allowing the meat to absorb the flavors while developing the crispy edges. As the cooking process progresses, the pork is shredded or pulled apart using forks or tongs.

Carnitas Michoacanas are served in various ways, commonly as a filling for tacos or tortas (sandwiches), accompanied by toppings like diced onions, cilantro, salsa, and sometimes slices of avocado or lime.

This beloved Mexican dish is appreciated for its rich and savory taste, its contrast of textures, and the versatility of how it can be served. Carnitas Michoacanas are a staple in Mexican cuisine, celebrated for their flavorful and tender pork prepared using traditional slow-cooking methods.

Key Takeaways

  • Who this dish appeals to: Those seeking the true taste of Michoacán, pork enthusiasts, individuals looking for a savory and satisfying dish.
  • Estimated duration: A savory journey that takes approximately 3-4 hours, including preparation and slow cooking.
  • Nutrition facts: A protein-packed dish featuring the goodness of slow-cooked pork.

About this Recipe

Carnitas Michoacanas are traditionally slow-cooked until the pork is fork-tender, and then crisped to perfection. This recipe captures the essence of this Michoacán specialty, providing a step-by-step guide to achieving mouthwatering results.


For the Carnitas:

  • 4-5 pounds pork shoulder, cut into chunks
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola or Mexican soda
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups water

For Serving:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Chopped white onion
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salsa verde or your favorite salsa
  • Lime wedges


Making Carnitas Michoacanas:

  1. Marinate Pork:
  • In a large bowl, combine pork chunks with orange juice, lime juice, and Coca-Cola.
  • Add quartered onion, smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, dried oregano, ground cumin, salt, and black pepper.
  • Mix well to ensure the pork is evenly coated.
  • Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  1. Slow Cook Carnitas:
  • Transfer the marinated pork and all its ingredients to a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
  • Add 2 cups of water to the pot.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2-3 hours or until the pork is fork-tender.
  1. Crisp the Carnitas:
  • Once the pork is tender, uncover the pot and increase the heat to medium-high.
  • Allow the liquid to evaporate, and the pork to crisp up. Stir occasionally to ensure even crisping.
  • Adjust salt and pepper to taste during this process.

Serving Carnitas Michoacanas:

  1. Prepare Tortillas and Toppings:
  • Warm the corn tortillas.
  • Assemble a serving station with chopped white onion, fresh cilantro, salsa verde, and lime wedges.
  1. Serve Hot:
  • Once the carnitas are crisped to your liking, transfer them to a serving dish.
  • Serve the hot carnitas with warm tortillas and your chosen toppings.

Serving Suggestions

  • Top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice for a burst of citrus flavor.
  • Pair with traditional Mexican rice and beans for a complete meal.
  • Enjoy with a side of guacamole or sliced avocado for creamy goodness.

Storage Options

Carnitas Michoacanas can be refrigerated for up to three days. To reheat, gently warm the pork in a skillet or microwave, adding a bit of water to maintain moisture.

Ingredient Substitutes

  • Mexican Soda: Substitute with a clear, citrus-flavored soda if Mexican soda is not available.
  • Coca-Cola: You can use a dark beer for a slightly different flavor profile.

Alternatives to this Dish

Experiment with different spice blends or incorporate achiote paste for a unique twist on traditional Carnitas Michoacanas.


Carnitas Michoacanas offer a taste of Michoacán’s culinary heritage, showcasing the art of slow-cooked and crisped pork. Whether enjoyed in tacos, burritos, or simply with tortillas and toppings, this dish encapsulates the essence of Mexican comfort food. ¡Buen provecho!