Baked Carnitas Recipe – Carnitas Tacos

mexican shredded pork with tortillas, lime, onion and cilantro garnish

This baked carnitas recipe is full of flavor and feeds a crowd. Slow roasted boneless pork ribs with onion garlic, cumin and Coca-Cola make for a delicious and easy carnitas recipe.

mexican shredded pork with tortillas, lime, onion and cilantro garnish

About This Recipe

Mexican shredded pork in bowl with white corn tortillas

About 10 years ago I spent part of the summer at Trinity University in San Antonio, grading Advanced Placement Spanish Language Exams.  I left the area and left with a serious carnitas addiction. I’ve tested a thousand recipes and landed on this recipe- my signature easy carnitas recipe- I hope you love it as much as I do!

Carnitas are a traditional Mexican pulled pork that can be used to make carnitas tacos. They are generally slow-cooked and finished crispy, and have a bit of a sweet finish. My recipe uses Coca-Cola to achieve that taste, but there are other variations below.

While this isn’t a traditional Costa Rican recipe, (we make this shredded pork recipe) while we lived in Costa Rica last year I made this for every party, and people loved it. Here’s the recipe.

Related post: Big List Of Delicious Recipes Served With White Rice

pork shoulder oven baked with cocal cola and shredded for tacos

“Coca Cola Carnitas” Recipe 

Makes about 12 servings or about 24 tacos

Ingredients

    • 8 medium garlic cloves
    • ½ medium white onion, roughly chopped
    • 1 tbsp dried oregano (Mexican, if you have it)
    • ½ tsp dried thyme
    • 5 tsp kosher salt
    • ½ cup water
    • 5 lb boneless pork shoulder or boneless pork ribs cut into 2-inch chunks
    • 3 dried bay leaves
    • 1 12 ounce can Coca-Cola (not Diet Coke)


Preparation

Preheat oven to 450° F.  Combine garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, salt and ½ cup water in blender and process until fairly smooth. Combine pork and bay leaves in a six-quart (large) Dutch oven or deep baking dish that can hold the pork in no more than two layers.  I make sure to line the pan with aluminum foil because the sauce and the Coca Cola cooking liquid caramelize into sticky goodness – but it’s really hard to get out of the pan.

I use a big old knife to cut the ribs into two inch chunks like this

Pour garlic mixture and Coca Cola over pork. I recently made this recipe 6 times for the big birthday party and used a generic cola instead of Coke, and it was my best batch ever.

Cover pot and cook in the oven until pork is very tender about two hours. At this point you have two options:

  1. Uncover the pot and return to oven.  Continue cooking, tossing well and scraping the bottom of the pot every 10 minutes, until pork is slightly crispy on the outside and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes.  
  2. Keep the pot covered for another 15 minutes.  Turn off oven and uncover pork.  Leave in the oven for about 25 more minutes.

Coarsely shred pork.  I pull all the fat off.  Serve with tortillas, your favorite salsas and cheese! Squeeze lime juice on top of the taco too.  You can season with salt and pepper if you want.

oven baked mexican pulled pork with cheese and salsa garnishes

Substitutions

Note: Many people try to substitute a pork loin for the shoulder.  Don’t do it- the meat doesn’t shred the same and the recipe is different. I often use boneless pork ribs or pork butt in place of the larger piece of meat that is the pork shoulder.

However, the boneless pork country style ribs work really well as a substitution, and you can often get them for about $2.00 a pound wholesalers such as Costco and Sam’s Club.

Here’s a quick picture reference of the meat that I use

Some people substitute Dr. Pepper for Coca-Cola. Others substitute a can of sweetened condensed milk. Or even 1/4 cup of brown sugar would work. 

Variations

You can slow cook or pressure cook (like in the Instant Pot) the meat and then put it in the oven to broil on high heat for 5 minutes before shredding.  The oven just makes them crispy like a true oven-baked Mexican pulled pork carnitas oven recipe.

To make ahead- If I am serving on a different day, I let the pork cool before putting in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

On the day I serve, I put the pork in the slow cooker (Crockpot) with 2/3 cup water and 2/3 cup Coke, on low for about 6 hours before serving.

You can also pan fry it in small batches and make a crispy taco or a quesadilla.

Serving Suggestions

carnitas with garnishes- tortillas, cheese, lime, cilantro and onion

This is the PERFECT party food. We have carnitas at almost all of our parties, and everyone loves it. (I mean, vegans don’t, but pretty much everyone else does!)

I serve this with freshly warmed corn tortillas, finely chopped cilantro and white onion, a variety of salsas, queso fresco and black beans. Black bean dip with tortilla chips are a hit with this too.

Sometimes we make it with black beans, white rice, and a salad like a mini casado. Here are the recipes I make to serve with the carnitas tacos:

carnitas tacos garnished with salsa verde and queso fresco

Printable Recipe

Yield: 12 servings

Easy Baked Carnitas Recipe

Easy Baked Carnitas Recipe

This baked carnitas recipe is full of flavor and feeds a crowd. Slow roasted boneless pork ribs with onion garlic, cumin and Coca-Cola make for a delicious and easy carnitas recipe.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 medium garlic cloves
  • ½ medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (Mexican, if you have it)
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 5 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 5 lb boneless pork shoulder cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 12 ounce can Coca-Cola (not Diet Coke)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F.  Combine garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, salt and ½ cup water in blender and process until fairly smooth.
  2. Combine pork and bay leaves in six-quart Dutch oven or deep baking dish that can hold pork in no more than two layers.
  3.  I make sure to line the pan with aluminum foil, because the sauce and the Coca Cola caramelize into sticky goodness - but it’s really hard to get out of the pan.
  4. Pour garlic mixture and Coca Cola over pork. I recently made this recipe 6 times for the big birthday party, and used a generic cola instead of Coke, and it was my best batch ever.
  5. Cover pot and cook in oven until pork is very tender, about two hours. At this point you have two options:
  6. Uncover pot and return to oven.  Continue cooking, tossing well and scraping bottom of pot every 10 minutes, until pork is slightly crispy on outside and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes.  
  7. Keep pot covered for another 15 minutes.  Turn off oven and uncover pork.  Leave in the oven about 25 more minutes.
  8. Coarsely shred pork.  I pull all the fat off.  

Notes

If I am serving on a different day, I let the pork cool before putting in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  On the day I serve, I put the pork in the crockpot with 2/3 cup water and 2/3 cup Coke, on low for about 6 hours before serving.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 571Total Fat: 41gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 170mgSodium: 1099mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 0gSugar: 3gProtein: 44g
Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Sitzman
    June 9, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Nice recipe! I’ll have to try it. I recently made something pretty similar but in the slow cooker, and I let it cook a LONG time. I also used loin since I hardly ever buy pork and don’t really know much about the names. But I’ll ask about hombro next time I’m at the store.
    Thanks!
    Sitzman

    • Reply
      Christa
      June 9, 2016 at 8:36 pm

      You definitely should – it’s awesome! You can ask for carne de pecho and you will get the perfect cut! Let me know how you like it. (P.S. I actually think it tastes even better when you make it with Big Cola – or “bikola” as the locals like to say.)

  • Reply
    taller cocina parejas madrid
    November 2, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Este sitio web es realmente un paseo a través de toda la información que quería sobre este este tema tan aditivo y no sabía a quién preguntar .

  • Reply
    Jessica Formicola
    February 19, 2020 at 12:14 pm

    We made these carnitas for dinner last night and they were incredible! The whole family loved them, and it will definitely be a recipe added to our regular rotation!

  • Reply
    Sophie Heath
    February 19, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    These truly were the best carnitas ever! I loved this recipe and can’t wait to make them again!