Easy Pork Carnitas (Paleo, Whole30, Keto)

5 minute read

Savory and tender, this Easy Pork Carnitas with are perfect for tacos, nachos, carnitas bowls, and more! This carnitas recipe is Paleo and Whole30 friendly and can be made in the crock pot or Dutch oven for an easy and delicious meal! If you’re having a large gathering or looking for something besides pizza for the Super Bowl, try these tasty carnitas and level up your party food game!

The cook(s) of the house typically wear many hats, and having simple and tasty meals during busy weeks is a must. I love to make a batch of these pork carnitas to enjoy as tacos one night and nachos or carnitas bowls the next. I love to prepare meals that my family can enjoy twice: it means less cooking for me, and I know that my family is eating nutrient-dense meals every night.

Why Pasture Raised vs. Conventional Pork

What does it mean to source humanely raised animal products verses conventional ones?   Humanely raised animals such as pigs, chickens, and cows, are raised on pastures where they are able to forage and eat a diet that is natural and healthy for them.  Healthy animals yield healthy products, increasing the nutrients themselves and the nutrient density of what you are eating.  Conventional sources of animal products are from animals that are raised in harsh conditions, often in warehouses where the animals are locked in, confined without sunlight, and unable to eat their natural diets yielding products that are less nutritious and potentially inflammatory.

Pasture raised pork is higher in nutrients and is better for the environment.  Let’s talk about nutrition first. 

  • Antioxidants:  Pasture raised pork is higher in antioxidants, specifically vitamin E.  This essential fat-soluble vitamin is a powerful antioxidant that plays a role in reducing oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals that may result in illness or disease.  Vitamin E is essential in vision health, skin health, and reproductive health [1].
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Pasture raised pork is higher in vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in bone health, calcium absorption, immune function, and more.  A majority of Americans are deficient in vitamin D and the most bioavailable form is not from supplements, but from real food like pasture raised pork.  Selenium is a mineral that is essential in thyroid health, detoxification and helps to make DNA [2] and pasture raised pork has higher levels than conventional.
  • Omega-3s: With the Standard American Diet (SAD) being full of omega-6 fatty acids, most Americans are consuming an unbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.  Due to the way the food industry raises animals, most of the animal proteins that we consume no longer have the omega-3s like pasture raised animals do, the way nature intended. Omega-3s are essential in reducing inflammation, cellular health, and vessel health.

Essential Amino Acids

The nine essential amino acids found in pork and their roles are [3]:

  • Histidine: necessary for the production of histamine and also plays a role in nervous system health
  • Valine: necessary in energy production as well as muscle growth and repair
  • Phenylalanine: building block for neurotransmitters like dopamine and epinephrine (adrenaline), and in the production of other amino acids.
  • Leucine: necessary in stimulating wound healing, muscle repair, and blood sugar regulation.
  • Isoleucine:  necessary in immune function and energy regulation.
  • Tryptophan: necessary building block for serotonin.
  • Methionine: necessary in detoxification, metabolism, and in your body’s ability to absorb selenium (supports thyroid health) and zinc (necessary in production of HCl in your stomach).
  • Threonine: necessary in skin and connective tissue health.
  • Lysine: necessary in hormone production and your body’s ability to absorb calcium (bone, heart, muscle and nerve health.)

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Vitamins: Pasture raised pork is rich in B vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), B6, and B12.
  • Minerals: Pasture raised pork is rich in iron, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.

So grab some pasture raised pork and bacon and let’s get cooking!

Crispy Crock Pot Carnitas Ingredients

Serves 6-10

4-6lb Bone in Pork Shoulder/Boston Butt

1 Orange, juiced

2 Limes, juiced

1 Onion, diced

3-4 cloves Garlic, minced

2 Tbsp Ground Chili Powder

1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika

1 Tbsp Ground Cumin

1 tsp Ground Black Pepper

1 Tbsp Coarse Real Salt

Topping Suggestions:

Diced white Onion

Pickled Jalapeños

Chopped Cilantro

Lime Wedges

Pickled Red Onion

Fresh Diced Pineapple

Pico de Gallo

Tomatillo Salsa

Habanero Hot Sauce

How to Make Crispy Carnitas

1. If baking in the oven, preheat to 325 degrees.

2. In a Dutch oven or crock pot bowl, mix all of the juices, orange rinds, onion, garlic and spices together, set aside.

3. Trim and cut pork into 2” chunks and transfer to the Dutch oven or crock pot, mix well to coat all the pork. Don’t forget to add the bone!

4. Dutch Oven: Cover and bake for 4-6 hours until the pork is tender and easily falls apart.

Crock Pot: Cover and cook low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours until the pork is tender and easily falls apart.

5. Now this is where the magic happens…Preheat the oven to broil.

6. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

7. Shred the pork and spread out into a thin layer and broil, stirring every few minutes until approximately 75% of it has browned and crisped up. 

8. While the pork is broiling, pour the leftover juices from the crockpot into a small saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat to reduce by half. If you used your Dutch oven, just heat the pot to reduce the juices.

9. Remove the pork from oven and pour over the reduced juices, stirring to coat. 


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Q: Can you prepare Paleo pork carnitas ahead of time?

A: Yes! I will often prep mine the night before so the next morning/day all I have to do is grab it from the fridge and cook!

Q: Is it necessary to broil pork carnitas to crisp them?

A: Typically during the summer I’ll smoke my pork carnitas on the smoker and this yields a nice crispy crust without the use of the broiler. However, when making crock pot carnitas, I find that the texture is more enjoyable when they are broiled, plus it adds a little smokiness to it!

Q: Why do you add the bone to cook with the pork carnitas?

A: Adding the bone not only enhances the flavor, but it adds nutrients like vitamins, minerals and collagen!

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links to the products and kitchen gear I love. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting Almond Milk and Cookies!


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Welcome to Almond Milk and Cookies where good food, health and lots of flavor go hand-in-hand!

I am a holistic nutritionist with an auto-immune disorder, a love of cooking, and a passion for holistic health.

Sharing what I make and eat with all of you…in hopes that you find inspiration here to fuel your body and feel your best with nutrient dense whole foods and clean eating.

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