Smoked carnitas

3 mins read

This non-traditional Smoked Pork Carnitas is a flavorful Tex Mex BBQ mash up recipe. Thanks to using a citrus marinade, and a homemade seasoning mix of Mexican spices, the pork comes out smoky, tender, flavorful and melt in your mouth rich with crispy edges.


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All about these Smoked Carnitas

Slow smoked pork carnitas are the best of Tex Mex BBQ. This flavorful, marinated pork butt has all the flavors that you know and love in traditional Carnitas, but with the smokiness of Texas BBQ. Making this a fun, flavorful twist on a Texas Smoked Pulled Pork. The resulting meat is perfect for serving in all of your favorite Tex Mex dishes. Some of the reasons we love this recipe:

  • Easy to prepare: an easy to make marinade and homemade dry rub are all that’s needed.
  • Versatile: the meat can be used in so many ways including: tacos, enchiladas, burritos, nachos and more.
  • Smoker: using an electric pellet grill keeps the cooking process easy and fairly hands off.

Ingredients Needed

  • Pork Butt/ Pork Shoulder: the best cut for Mexican pulled pork is the pork shoulder, which is labeled as pork butt at the markets. A whole pork shoulder can be divided into two sections: the top is the Boston butt, labeled as pork butt at the market. The lower part is called the picnic roast. 
  • Carnitas Marinade: made with avocado oil, orange juice, lime juice, chopped jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, cumin, coriander, and mexican oregano.
  • Carnitas Seasoning: used as a dry rub after marinating. This is made of salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, chili powder, coriander, and cumin.

Meat Cut

Pork butt/Boston Butt is going to be the most common cut you will find pre-packaged at the market. It’s perfect for pulled pork, it has more connective tissue and less bone. Which means after cooking this cut low and slow all day, you end up with a lot of tender meat. 

How to Make

  1. Marinate the meat, prepare the marinade and add the pork to a large sealable bag or container with a lid. Pour the marinade so that it coats the meat. Seal and place container or bag into the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
  2. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry. Drizzle a small amount of oil over the meat and rub with your hands to evenly coat the roast. Mix together the dry rub and sprinkle it evenly over the entire pork roast.
  3. Smoke at 225 degrees F for approximately 5-6 hours or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
  4. Prepare to braise the pork. At 160 degrees F, remove the pork from the smoker and place in a disposable baking tin, or cast iron skillet with the juice of 1 orange and 1 lime, plus the 2 bay leaves, cover with foil.
  5. Continue cooking the pork, braising it in the liquid. This can be done in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the smoker set to 350 degrees. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 203 degrees F.
  6. Shred the pork and spread out on a large baking sheet. Broil in the oven for 4-5 minutes until the ends begin to crisp and caramelize.


Pork butt will need approximately 2 hours of cook time per pound if cooking at 225 degrees F. 

Wood Choices

Pork tastes best when smoked with a mild to medium flavored smoke. The best options include:

  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Oak

You can use any of these on their own, or do a pairing. Using either Hickory or Oak and pairing with a sweet fruity wood gives great options.

Think Hickory & Cherry, or Oak & Apple. Hickory and oak will provide a nice, rich, dark bark to the outside of the pork, while the sweeter wood gives a hint of sweetness to the smokey flavor the meat takes on.


How to Serve Smoked Carnitas

Wondering how to serve and enjoy this smoked mexican pork? Or maybe you have leftovers and would like to enjoy the meat in different ways throughout the week? There are so many options available!

  • Smoked Pulled Pork Tacos: these pulled pork tacos will have a smoky citrus flavoring. Layer the smoked pork on warm corn tortillas and top with fresh diced onion and cilantro with your favorite salsa or crumbled cotija or queso fresco.
  • Enchiladas: soft corn tortillas filled with meat, cheese and smothered in a classic Tex Mex Chili Gravy Enchilada Sauce.
  • Burritos: Fill up a large flour tortilla with the meat, rice, cheese, sour cream, avocado and your favorite salsa.
  • Salads: Make a taco salad using the leftover smoked carnitas meat.
  • Gorditas: use as filling inside puffy homemade Gorditas, add shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and cotija cheese.
  • Nachos: layer crispy tortilla chips with meat, cheese, and all your favorite toppings.

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