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posted April 07, 2020

Smoked Pork Carnitas

These Smoked Pork Carnitas are a delicious, non-traditional way to enjoy carnitas. The slow smoke makes for a rich, melt in your mouth pork with crispy edges. Hop on this pork train and enjoy some great Mexican inspired flavors in the rub with a kiss of heat and a kiss of sweetness.

Shredded smoked pork carnitas on a flour tortilla in a wooden serving bowl next to a cast iron skillet full of shredded pork carnitas.

Can You Make Carnitas from Smoked Pork?

Heck yes you can! While smoking carnitas is NOT authentic, I still wanted to take those traditional flavors and add a kiss of wood smoke for something unique and delicious.

Traditional carnitas are braised in oil, low and slow, until the pork is fall-apart tender. We get the same results for this recipe by smoking low and slow and then doing a foiled braise. The seasoning blend includes a lot of traditional seasonings mixed in so we still get that classic carnitas flavor.

Finally, crisping the pork in fat is a super crucial last step. It gives you the coveted crispy edges and caramelized flavor that makes carnitas so darn craveable. Don’t leave this step out! It’s worth the extra time and effort to get the pork juuuuuust right.

Pork shoulder in a zip top bag filled with lime wedges and oranges.

Smoked Pork Carnitas

Ever since I posted my recipe and video for Smoked Chile Verde, Todd has been on my case to smoke up some pork carnitas. A couple weeks ago I finally gave in to the pressure and created this recipe for smoked pork carnitas. 

This meal has Mexican-inspired flavors in the rub with a kiss of heat and a kiss of sweetness. It’s the perfect balance of flavors, and you’ll find it extremely family-friendly. We ate it for dinner that first night and shredded the meat for tacos. The next day we pulled it out and tossed leftovers on some homemade nachos. Everyone in the family loved this, and you’ll get a good amount of food for your buck.

Seasoned pork shoulder on a metal baking tray.

Smoked Pork Carnitas Marinade

The magic to these carnitas comes from the marinade. And luck for you, it only calls for 4 ingredients! Here’s what you’ll need for the marinade:

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoons coarse kosher salt
  • 2 limes, sliced in half and juiced
  • 1 orange, sliced in half and juiced

Simply place the pork in a gallon-sized zip top bag, add the remaining ingredients, and allow the pork to marinate in the refrigerator overnight (around 12 hours).

Smoked Pork shoulder in a disposable aluminum tray.

Tips for Making Pork Carnitas

So you’re ready to make your own delicious pork carnitas, eh? Well then, take a quick peek at these tips to ensure your meat comes out tasting completely divine.

  • Crisp in batches. If you have more pork than you need, do the last crisping step in batches. Save the rest of the shredded pork and liquid/fat and crisp up right before serving. This is a great way to reheat it and the crisp edges are fresh and hot every time you want to eat.
  • Keep dishes to a minimum. Braise in either a 12″ cast iron skillet or aluminum foil pans. I used foil pans because that’s what I had, but cast iron works great as well.
  • Reserve the cooking liquid. You’ll use the oil on top to crisp the meat and the juices underneath to keep it moist and flavorful.

Shredded smoked pork in a cast iron skillet.

More Smoked Pork Recipes

Oh baby, I love me some smoked pork. If you find yourself looking for some tasty smoked pork to make this week, look no further than these other popular recipes from Hey Grill Hey:

Smoked Pork Carnitas Recipe

Shredded smoked pork carnitas in a cast iron skillet garnished with lime wedges.

Smoked Pork Carnitas

Susie Bulloch (
These Smoked Pork Carnitas are a delicious, non-traditional way to enjoy carnitas. The slow smoke makes for a rich, melt in your mouth pork with crispy edges. Hop on this pork train and enjoy some great Mexican inspired flavors in the rub with a kiss of heat and a kiss of sweetness.
5 from 24 votes
Prep Time : 10 mins
Cook Time : 12 hrs
Marinating Time : 12 hrs
Total Time : 1 d 10 mins
Servings : 16
Calories : 290kcal



  • 1 7-9 pound bone-in pork shoulder


  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 limes (sliced in half and juiced)
  • 1 orange (sliced in half and juiced)


  • 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon


  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup vegetable oil


  • Marinate the pork. Place the pork shoulder in a large zip top bag or other food-safe container. Sprinkle the shoulder on all sides with kosher salt and pour over the orange and lime juice. Place the orange and lime rinds in the container with the pork and refrigerate for 12 hours (typically overnight).
  • Preheat the smoker. Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F with your favorite hardwood. I recommend pecan or oak for this recipe.
  • Season the pork shoulder. Remove your pork from the marinade and pat dry. Combine all of the ingredients for the pork seasoning in a small bowl. Drizzle the pork shoulder with the 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil and spread all around. Season the pork on all sides with the dry rub.
  • Smoke! Place the pork shoulder on the smoker and close the lid. Smoke for approximately 5-6 hours, or until the internal temperature of the shoulder reads about 165 degrees F.
  • Prep to braise. Transfer the pork shoulder to an aluminum pan and pour the ½ cup of vegetable oil over the top. Place the bay leaves on top and cover tightly with foil.
  • Braise the pork. Increase the heat on your smoker to 350 degrees F (this step can also be completed in the oven) and put the covered pan inside and close the lid. Allow to cook for an additional 3-4 hours or until the pork shoulder reaches an internal temperature of 203 degrees, or your thermometer probe slides into the meat like it is sliding into softened butter.
  • Rest and shred. Rest the meat at room temperature for at least an hour before shredding. Shred the meat and remove the large bone and any fat or gristle and discard the bay leaves. There will likely be a lot of liquid in the aluminum pan, do not discard this liquid! It is delicious and you’ll need it in the next step.
  • Crisp the pork. Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Use a spoon (or fat separator) to separate the oil and fat from the pan drippings. Drizzle the skillet with 1-2 Tablespoons of the cooking fats. Place the shredded pork into the hot oil and cook for 2-3 minutes, flipping pieces occasionally to ensure even browning.
  • Enjoy! Serve immediately in tacos or burritos, on nachos, or plain! I recommend having the reserved cooking liquid on the side to drizzle on, as desired.


Calories: 290kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 109mg | Potassium: 503mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 87IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 2mg
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