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Leftover Pulled Pork Carnitas: A Quick and Easy Mexican-Inspired Meal

There’s nothing quite like being able to whip up a delicious meal in just minutes after a long day, and that’s exactly what you’ll have with these leftover pork carnitas.

Leftover pulled pork carnitas

If you make a big batch of slow cooker pulled pork, you’re going to have lots of leftovers. Luckily for you, there’s no shortage of delicious recipes you can transform that leftover pulled pork into.

These crispy carnitas are my absolute favorite way to use up my leftover pulled pork. With a few simple ingredients, all of them pantry staples, you’ll have some easy pork carnitas in a matter of minutes for some super easy and delicious weeknight dinners.

 

What Are Carnitas?

Pulled pork carnitas

Carnitas is a traditional Mexican dish made of slow-cooked, shredded pork that is served crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

The term “carnitas” literally translates to “little meats” in Spanish, which refers to the small pieces of shredded pork that make up carnitas.

Carnitas is typically made using a pork shoulder or pork butt, which is slow-cooked with Mexican spices until the meat is super tender and juicy. The slow cooked pork is then shredded up and served in countless meals like burritos, pulled pork tacos, pork enchiladas, and more.

For this recipe, we’re going to make crispy pork carnitas from leftover slow cooker pulled pork, but with a bit of a healthy spin. In my pulled pork recipe, I use pork loin, which creates an extremely tasty recipe with fewer calories than traditional pulled pork.

By using leftover pulled pork, these carnitas are quick and easy to make, and it’s a great way to use up your leftovers.

 

Ingredients Needed for Leftover Pulled Pork Carnitas

The main ingredient in this recipe is, of course, the leftover pulled pork.

Leftover pulled pork

You can make pulled pork in a number of ways, such as slow-cooking a pork butt or shoulder in the oven, using an Instant Pot, pressure cooker, or even smoking it on a grill. I like to keep things simple by using a Crock Pot to make my own slow cooker pulled pork, but you can’t go wrong using any method of cooking.

The other ingredients in this recipe are all pantry staples. Lime juice, chicken broth, chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt, black pepper, and minced garlic are all you need to add to the leftover pork roast to transform it into carnitas. All of these flavors combine to make an insanely flavorful and juicy pork dish.

Carnitas will typically contain orange juice and olive oil for additional flavor and crispiness, but don’t worry, there is so much flavor in this recipe that you won’t miss them at all.

 

How to Make Crispy Carnitas

To start, you’ll need a large bowl to whisk together the lime juice, chicken broth, and all of your seasonings.

This mixture will act as the marinade for the pork, giving it all of the delicious flavors that make carnitas so incredible.

Carnitas marinade

Mix everything together to fully coat the pork in the mixture so every single bite is packed with flavor.

Carnitas in marinade

Next, you’ll heat up a large skillet over high heat, adding the pulled pork mixture to the hot skillet. Let the pork sear for a few minutes on each side, allowing it to get crispy and browned. We want to use a high heat on the stove to get a crisp on the pork without overcooking it, that way the meat stays nice and tender.

Carnitas crisped in hot pan

Once the pork is ready, remove it from the pan and either serve it up in tacos or burritos, or store it in an airtight container to enjoy carnitas throughout the week.

 

The Best Ways to Serve Crispy Mexican Carnitas

Carnitas in tortilla

One of the great things about leftover pulled pork carnitas is that there are so many ways to enjoy them. Whether you prefer crispy tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, or lettuce wraps, the options are pretty much endless. Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy carnitas:

  • Crunchy Tacos: You can make your own crunchy tacos with corn tortillas, or buy a box of crunchy shells to then fill with your carnitas. Top with your favorite toppings, such as pico de gallo, red onions, and sour cream.
  • Street Tacos: If you prefer a softer taco (which I personally do), then a soft flour tortilla is the way to go. Fill each taco with the carnitas and add your favorite toppings, like guacamole, white onions, and shredded lettuce.

Carnitas Tacos

  • Burritos: If you want a filling meal that’s absolutely packed with flavor, making yourself a big ol’ burrito is a great choice.

Plated pulled pork burrito

  • Burrito Bowls: If you want a meal with a bit more volume, then a burrito bowl is a great option. Simply add the carnitas to a bowl, along with some rice, black beans, and fresh toppings like diced tomatoes and shredded cheese.
  • Lettuce Wraps: For a lower calorie option, try serving your carnitas in lettuce wraps. Add the carnitas to a large leaf of lettuce, and top with diced tomatoes, red onions, and some Greek yogurt for a low-calorie, protein-packed meal.

These are just suggestions, and there are plenty of other great options out there to use up your carnitas. But no matter which route you choose, the fact that you can whip up a quick meal in just minutes makes this a great recipe for absolutely any diet.

Even better, if you don’t think you’re going to use up your carnitas right away, you can add some to a freezer bag, place the leftover meat in the freezer, and thaw it out at a later date to throw together some tacos or a burrito at a later date.

 

Leftover Pulled Pork Carnitas

Leftover Pulled Pork Carnitas in Minutes

Yield: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes

If you have leftover pulled pork in the fridge, you can easily turn it into delicious, crispy carnitas. With a few simple ingredients, you'll transform that pulled pork to be a completely different dish.

Ingredients

  • 12oz Leftover Pulled Pork
  • 2 Tbsp Lime Juice
  • 1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Minced Garlic Clove

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, chicken broth, and all of your seasonings.
  2. Add the leftover pulled pork to the bowl and mix everything up until the pork is fully coated in the mixture.
  3. Heat a large skillet over high heat, then add the pulled pork to the skillet.
  4. Let the pulled pork sear for a few minutes, then flip the pork over to sear the other side as well.
  5. Remove the crispy carnitas from the pan and assemble tacos or burritos, then enjoy!

Notes

  • This recipe uses about 12oz of leftover pulled pork, which is about 1 pound of raw pork (since meat cooks down to weight slightly less). You can adjust the ratios as needed based on how much leftover pulled pork you have, but the amount of liquid in this recipe was perfect for 12 ounces of meat.
  • The nutrition listed below is an approximation based on using lean pork loin from my healthy pulled pork recipe.
Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 3oz of Carnitas
Amount Per Serving Calories 120Total Fat 4gCarbohydrates 1gProtein 23g

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Share The Love

Jen

Saturday 18th of November 2023

Holy heck, this cheat is AMAZING! I had a bunch of leftover pulled pork, and have been using it all weekend for carnitas bowls. 🤤 In fact, I have the last of it marinating right now for Chilaquiles in the morning (if they survive overnight). Thank you for this! I'll be using it over and over again.

Matt

Monday 20th of November 2023

Ahh that makes me so happy to hear, I'm glad you're enjoying it Jen :)

About Matt Rosenman

With over 15 years of experience in health and fitness, Matt Rosenman is the expert voice behind Cheatdaydesign.com. Matt’s philosophy is simple: no foods are off-limits, and a healthy lifestyle shouldn't be complicated or restrictive. As a former certified personal trainer with a bachelor’s degree in Health Behavioral Sciences, Matt brings well-rounded expertise to his blog. From revamping classic recipes with a nutritious twist to breaking down fast food menus, his goal is make healthy living less confusing for everyone. Featured in major publications and with a strong following on social media, Matt is committed to making “healthy” uncomplicated—no matter where you are in your health journey. Join Matt on his mission to simplify health without sacrificing flavor. Learn More

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