Chipotle Carnitas (Copycat)
Learn the secret ingredient that makes Chipotle Carnitas stand out above all others! Then make them yourself, right in your slow cooker.
A few weeks ago, my friend Nagi from RecipeTin Eats was in town. We basically spent 4 days eating at all of my favorite restaurants, one after another.
I’m not going to lie; it was as good as it sounds. Or better.
It was part pleasure, part research. It’s my job to take her around to the grocery stores and restaurants and show her how Americans eat and cook, and then nod sympathetically when she exclaims that Australia doesn’t HAVE 30-pound pork shoulders for sale at Costco.
Naturally, we had to eat at Chipotle. I always order their chicken because I’m completely obsessed with it. On this occasion, though, I was ordering a wide variety of items for us to share, and so we ordered a few Crunchy Pork Tacos as well.
The question is: Will I ever order Chipotle Chicken again? Because that pork is pretty hard to beat. I resolved to create a Chipotle Carnitas recipe immediately.
The Secret is Juniper Berries.
The one ingredient that makes Chipotle Carnitas a cut above the rest is Juniper Berries.
It’s not actually a secret if you read Chipotle’s ingredient statement, by the way. The answer is right there.
The tricky part is actually locating the berries. I checked all my local grocery stores and didn’t find the a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e, so I resorted to buying them on Amazon.
Beyond that, it’s just a bit of fresh thyme, some bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Throw it all in a slow cooker and let it do its thing.
If you want crispy edges, you can broil the pork in the oven before serving it (just toss it with the juices and broil for 5 to 10 minutes). Or, throw everything in a pan and pan-fry it.
Picking Your Pork
You can use either a boneless or bone-in pork butt roast. Sometimes these are called Boston shoulder pork butt or Boston butt roast. The bone isn’t really a problem because the meat will be so tender by the time you’re done, it’ll literally just fall off.
If you prefer boneless but cannot find it, take your bone-in piece to the butcher counter and ask them to de-bone it. They should be able to do that for free and with a smile. They can also cut you whatever size piece you want. So if you find an 8-pound roast, feel free to ask them to de-bone it and just give you 4 pounds.
And that’s it! Make some tacos, a salad, or a lovely burrito bowl. Devour. Repeat.
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Chipotle Carnitas (Copycat Recipe)
Yield: 12 to 16 servings
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 min
Total Time: 2 hours 50 min
- 1 (3 ½ to 4 pound) pork butt roast, fat cap trimmed to 1/8-inch
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large sprig fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons whole juniper berries
- Season all sides of pork liberally with salt and pepper and place in slow cooker. To the bottom of the slow cooker, add water, bay leaves, thyme, and juniper berries.
- Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 to 6 hours, or low for 8 to 10 hours. The meat should fall apart easily.
- Transfer pork to a large bowl and shred with two forks. Skim fat off liquid in slow cooker. Discard juniper berries and any thyme sprig stems.
- Return pork to slow cooker. Taste for seasonings, add more salt and pepper until it tastes just right, and serve.
- Or, for crispy edges, transfer shredded pork and juices to a baking sheet or large skillet. Broil or pan-fry until pork has crispy edges, 5 to 10 minutes.
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