Smoked Pork Carnitas


Juicy smoked pork carnitas slow and slow cooked over pecan wood. This tender pulled pork is served on your choice of tacos or quesadillas, or as a topping for nachos.

Smoked pork carnitas

Smoked Pork Carnitas is a Mexican take on pulled pork, where the meat is simmered in juices and spices for an incredibly tender grilled pork dish. Making the most of the pork’s fat content and marbling, this slowly ground meat is succulent with tangy notes of citrus and spice.

Garnish with rice, beans, tortillas, sour cream and cilantro. Use the carnitas the next day to make tostadas, tacos, burritos, and other Mexican dishes.

From preparing the meat to choosing the right smoking chips, here ‘s how to smoke pork carnitas from scratch.

Carnita's Smoked Pork Loin Recipe

What is carnitas?

Carnitas are a traditional Mexican dish consisting of shredded pork that is slow cooked or braised for hours until completely tender and juicy. It is then quickly cooked over high heat to give it an original crispy finish. Pork carnitas are typically topped with chopped onion, chopped cilantro, and bean sauce before being served in tortillas to make tacos, tostadas, or quesadillas.

The best cut of meat for carnitas is the pork loin, taken off the top of the shoulder. This delicious cut of pork is rich in fat and marbled, giving carnitas their remarkable succulent flavor. Although it’s a fairly tough cut of pork, the slow smoking process on the grill breaks down the collagen in the meat, making it tender enough to separate.

Carnita's Smoked Pork Loin Recipe

Smoking wood

For these grilled carnitas, we recommend a smooth hardwood with a subtle fruit aroma. The key is to complement the pork’s natural flavors without overpowering them. Our top recommended wood for pork tenderloin is pecan or apple, and the same goes for this Carnitas recipe. You can also try maple, orange, or peach wood.

Avoid strong hardwoods like mesquite or hickory. While they’re fine in small amounts, they pose a huge risk of smothering your pulled pork in thick layers of smoke.

Quick tips

  1. Pork is best shredded with grating tongs . Simply dig your claws into the smoked pork loin and flip the slow-moving meat, dividing it into juicy strands. The long smoke time should make this effortless and over in just a few minutes.

Smoked pork carnitas

Juicy smoked pork carnitas slow and slow cooked over pecan wood. This tender pulled pork is served on your choice of tacos or quesadillas, or as a topping for nachos.
Course appetizer, main course
Mexican cuisine
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 9 hours
Total time 9 hours 10 minutes
Serving 8


  • Aluminum pan
  • Lake
  • Cast iron skillet
  • Wood for smoking pecans


  • 3 pounds of pork loin
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard

Dry massage

  • 2 table spoons of kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of coarse black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of peppers
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chilli powder
  • 3 dried guajillo chilies

Raise liquid

  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1 turn coarsely chopped
  • 1 orange juice _
  • 1 lime juice _


  • Turn smoker on to 107°C(225°F). If you are using a charcoal grill, be sure to set it to 2-zone indirect grilling.
  • In a small bowl, combine the dry dressing ingredients. Use a fork to remove or mash any lumps.
  • Apply a thin layer of pork loin with yellow mustard. Apply the dry seasoning to the pork, brushing it on all sides and working it into any creases or cracks in the surface of the meat.
  • Place the pork tenderloin on smoking racks and add wood chips to the coals or wooden tray. Close the lid and roast for about 6 hours until the internal temperature is 74 °C.
  • Mix liquid stew ingredients in a bowl.
  • Place the pork fillet in foil. Pour the raising liquid over the pork and into the pan.
  • Wrap skillet and pork tightly in foil. Return to the smoker and increase the temperature to 180°C(350°F). Smoke until internal temperature is 200°F(94°C), about 3 hours.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet on the grill. Drain pork loin and cut into smaller, shredded pieces. Finish the carnitas in the cast iron skillet until the edges are crisp, about 5 minutes.
  • Served in flour tortillas with your choice of toppings

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