Learn the secret ingredient that makes Chipotle Carnitas stand out above all others! Then make them yourself, right in your slow cooker.
Carnitas are always a good idea. Slow-roasted, meltingly tender shredded pork belongs on everything from taco shells and buns to rice and salads.
Unlike traditional Carnitas, which are made with citrus juice (usually orange juice), Chipotle makes Carnitas with a savory, earthier spice: Juniper Berries.
It's not even 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 (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link).
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.
Chipotle Carnitas (Copycat Recipe)
- 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 if desired. Discard juniper berries and any thyme sprig stems.
- For crispy edges, in a large skillet over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until shimmering. Add pork in batches (3 to 4 batches), along with about 2 tablespoons juice from slow cooker, and cook without moving until browned on one side.
- Toss the pork to flip and brown the other side briefly (you want both crispy and soft pieces), until all the juice has evaporated. Return to slow cooker and repeat with remaining pork. Season to taste with salt and pepper.