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Tangy and fresh, this easy to make Carnitas Marinade will leave your meat tender, juicy and flavorful. A combination of citrus, warm spices, jalapeño, fresh cilantro and garlic is perfect for using with pork or chicken to make tender and crispy carnitas!
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All about this Carnitas Marinade
This bright and tangy marinade is perfect for using with pork and chicken. The combination of orange, lime, jalapeño and cilantro with the combination of warm and sweet spices will leave your meat tender and flavorful. The perfect flavoring for making pork carnitas or chicken carnitas for all of your favorite Mexican dishes.
- Quick and easy
- Citrusy and fresh
- Great for pork and chicken
What are Carnitas?
Carnitas translated “little meats”, is pork shoulder that is slow cooked over a low temperature in lard and then cooked over high heat. This gives a tender juicy meat that has a nice crispy skin.
There are of course other methods of cooking Carnitas more popular now, like this Slow Cooker Carnitas recipe, that results in incredibly tender meat that is shredded and then briefly broiled or fried in lard in a skillet to replicate the crispiness of the traditional version.
- Oil: avocado oil is a great neutral oil to use for this recipe, using oil helps keep moisture in the meat during the cooking.
- Salt: this is a flavor enhancer and helps the flavors to penetrate into the meat.
- Orange & Lime: these add a bright, citrus flavoring to the meat that carnitas are known for! The acid in the citrus juice also helps tenderize the meat during the marinating time.
- Cilantro: a fresh, herbaceous flavoring.
- Garlic: use fresh garlic cloves.
- Jalapeño: remove the seeds and membranes for just a slight mild heat to the flavoring of the meat.
- Cumin & Coriander: common spices used in Mexican cooking that add warmth, sweetness and a hint of citrus.
- Mexican Oregano: using mexican oregano instead of Italian oregano adds an extra pop of citrus flavoring.
How to Marinate Carnitas
- Combine the ingredients needed to make the marinade.
- Add the meat to a large sealable bag or to a container that has a lid, pour the marinade over the top, ensuring all of the meat is coated.
- Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to overnight. If needed, turn the meat so that all sides get equally marinated during this time.
- Sweet: add a bit of honey to add a sweetness to the carnitas marinade.
- Spicy: leave the seeds and membranes in the jalapeño, add more jalapeño, or substitute with Serrano peppers for more heat.
- Citrusy: increase the amount of orange and lime juice in the marinade and add the zest from the fruits also.
This homemade marinade will last 2-3 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator before being added to meat.
A general guide is to use 1/2 cup of marinade per pound of meat. If you are using a large cut of meat and unable to make this much marinade, then you will need to turn the meat occasionally during the marinade time.
Marinade is not able to be reused, it is only for single use.
An easy way to prepare freezer meals would be to freeze meat with the marinade for 2-3 months.
Suggestions for Serving Carnitas
- Tacos: the most common way to serve carnitas is in street tacos, place the meat in soft, warm corn tortillas and top with a combination of white onion, cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Top with cotija or queso fresco and a drizzle of crema for a soothing creaminess.
- Enchiladas: fill corn tortillas with the carnitas meat, lay in a baking tray and top with a classic Tex Mex Chili Gravy Enchilada Sauce for the ultimate Tex Mex enchiladas.
- Burritos: load up large flour tortillas with the citrusy carnitas meat, some cilantro lime rice, or arroz verde (green rice), some sour cream, avocado or salsa and enjoy!
- Quesadilla: grill a flour tortilla loaded up with melty cheese, crispy carnitas, and serve with your favorite dipping sauces like this cilantro Lime Crema, avocado salsa, or avocado ranch.
- Combine the ingredients for the marinade together in a jar or a cup.
- Place the meat marinating into a large resealable bag or large container.
- Pour the marinade over the top and coat the meat.
- Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours up to overnight.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Photography by KJandCompany.co