Carnitas with Poblano and Orange Salsa

A slow-roasted pork shoulder makes a delicious meal of carnitas for a large group during cold winter months. While this dish requires 11 hours to make, most of that time passes with slow roasting in the oven. The amazing and inviting aroma of pork, cumin, and garlic in your home will greet your guests at the front door.

I prepped most of my ingredients the night before dinner. The next morning, I preheated the oven, seared the pork shoulder and placed it the oven before leaving for work.

I used my prized pink oval-shaped Le Creuset Dutch oven to braise the pork shoulder. Enameled cast iron of any kind is ideal for roasting and braising, but any ceramic dishes with a lid will suffice.

The roasted poblanos and garlic cloves strained from the braising stock and blended with fresh orange wedges make a delicious salsa for tacos. If you like more heat than poblanos offer, add some cayenne pepper to your taste. I served carnitas with warm soft flour tortillas, the salsa, marinated red onion, sour cream and fresh cilantro.

That our guests returned to the carving board for another pinch of pork after dinner and dessert proved a useful measure of success for this recipe. After making and eating this dish, I immediately began thinking of recipe variations I might try. I’d love to hear about the ingredients that work for you when making carnitas.

Carnitas with Poblano and Orange Salsa

  • Servings: 10-20
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp cracked black pepper
  • ~10 lb. pork shoulder
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • Juice of 2 small oranges (Tangelos, Mandarins or Clementines)
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Poblano pepper, chopped roughly, seeds reserved
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 small oranges, peeled and separated into wedges
  • 20 soft flour tortillas
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 20 sprigs of cilantro


  1. Preheat oven to 225F.
  2. Combine first four ingredients in a bowl for the rub. Pat dry pork shoulder. Use a sharp knife to cut a quarter-inch deep cross-hatched pattern on the fatty side of the shoulder. Cover the meat in the rub on all sides.
  3. Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet or other heavy skillet until a drop of water sizzles. Sear pork shoulder for a few minutes on all sides. Remove shoulder and place it in a large, but close fitting Dutch oven or pot with a lid (cross-hatched side up).
  4. Pour chicken stock and orange juice into Dutch oven. The broth mix should rise to about halfway up the sides of the pork shoulder. Place garlic cloves in the broth along the sides the shoulder. Sprinkle chopped poblanos and seeds over the top of the shoulder.
  5. Cover shoulder with lid and place in oven for 8-10 hours.
  6. Before removing shoulder from oven, mix red opinion, vinegar and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  7. Remove Dutch oven from the oven. Brush seeds and peppers off the top of the of the shoulder into stock. Remove shoulder and place on a carving board. Cover tightly with aluminum foil to allow meat to rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
  8. Remove poblano pepper and garlic cloves from stock with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Remove any bits of bone, meat or fat.
  9. Place orange wedges and roasted poblanos and garlic cloves in a blender and pulse until mixed to make a salsa and place into a small serving bowl.
  10. Use two forks to break apart pork shoulder on the carving board. Serve with warm tortillas, red onions, Poblano and orange salsa, sour cream and sprigs of cilantro.

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