Carnitas are one of the most delicious ways to serve pork shoulder, with their bright, citrusy flavor, fatty cuts of pork, and crispy edges. Sous vide is a great, hands off way to make sure they’re super tender and allows you to batch and freeze plenty of servings all at once. In order to make sure the meat is as tender as possible, these sous vide carnitas get a long cook time: 12-16 hours.
This recipe is from my cookbook Sous Vide Meal Prep. Here, you’ll find a delicious marinade, sous vide times and temperatures, a finishing method to make these carnitas crispy, and tips and tricks for the most flavorful carnitas you’ve ever had.
One of the things that I love most about it is it makes an excellent freezer meal. Get plenty of pork shoulder when it’s on sale, double or triple the marinade recipe, portion it all out and vacuum seal, then pop in your freezer. You can even go straight from the freezer to the water bath, no defrosting required!
This cookbook outlines my entire method for keeping your freezer stocked with ready to sous vide meals (and some great recipes to boot!).
Once you’ve cooked this recipe and loved it, make sure to check out all my other sous vide recipes – I’ve even got some additional sous vide pork recipes like sous vide pork shoulder, sous vide pork chops, and more.
Why use sous vide with carnitas?
Sous vide may not seem like the optimal way to cook carnitas, but let me tell you why it works so well.
- You can cook the carnitas low and slow without babysitting something on the stovetop or in the oven. Yes, this method does take longer than traditional methods, but it also is completely hands off!
- You can batch several meals at once and then freeze. These carnitas can go straight from the freezer to the water bath.
- Don’t worry, you’re not sacrificing crispiness! Once they’re done sous viding, the carnitas are transferred to a cast iron skillet and quick seared for plenty crispy carnitas.
Looking to learn more about sous vide cooking? Make sure to check out my Beginner’s Guide to Sous Vide Cooking.
How to Make Sous Vide Carnitas
The hardest part of making sous vide carnitas is preparing the marinade, which isn’t all that hard! To make the marinade, you’ll whisk together:
- dried oregano
- kosher salt
- garlic powder
- ground cumin
- onion powder
- crushed red pepper flakes
- freshly cracked black pepper
- freshly squeezed orange juice
- freshly squeezed lime juice
- olive oil
On to the pork shoulder! Start by trimming the fat and then cube the pork shoulder into large, 2-inch chunks.
Then add the pork shoulder to a large vacuum seal bag and pour the marinade over the cubed pork shoulder. Toss the marinade to completely coat the pork shoulder.
You might be wondering: how do I vacuum seal with liquid in the bag? I’ve got you! Position the bag so that the contents are hanging off the side of the counter, supported by your hand. Then vacuum seal as normal. Once liquid starts creeping up towards the seal line, hit “seal.” Using gravity to your advantage + hitting that seal button early make this totally doable!
After vacuum sealing, add to a water bath preheated to 165 degrees F with an immersion circulator. This is on the hot side and it’s a long cook, so use a trivet and cover the bath once you’ve added the pork. The bag may want to float, so I recommend securing it with sous vide magnets or placing a small ceramic plate on top.
Cook for 12-16 hours. It’s a long cook, I know! But it’s worth it.
When the carnitas are done in the sous vide bath, preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Use tongs to remove the carnitas from the bag and add them to the skillet. Save the bag and juices! Sear, tossing with tongs every minute or so, until the outside of the pork is browned and crispy.
Once browned, pour in the juice from the bag and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
That’s it! Serve with plenty of rice or tortillas and chopped onion and cilantro. These will be some of the tastiest carnitas you’ve ever had!
Carnitas should be cook at 165 degrees F for 12-16 hours.
Carnitas are best with a fatty cut like pork shoulder. You can also use the cut marked “country style ribs”. Just don’t use something lean, like tenderloin.
Yes! In fact, I recommend batch preparing several servings of these carnitas and freezing.
Yes! Unlike other recipes where you have to discard the marinade, with sous vide, the contents of the bag are safe to eat since you’ve cooked them, too. I recommend adding them to the skillet after searing the pork to reduce a little bit.
I recommend serving over rice or with corn tortillas with lots of diced avocado, salsa, diced onion, and chopped cilantro.
You can also view this recipe as a step-by-step web story here.
Get the Recipe:
Sous Vide Crispy Carnitas
- 3-4 lb pork shoulder, fat trimmed, diced into 2 inch cubes
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, about 2 oranges
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, about 2 limes
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- Corn tortillas or cooked white rice
- Lime wedges
- 1/4 cup finely diced white onion
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade. Add the cubed pork shoulder to a large vacuum seal bag and pour the marinade over the pork shoulder. Toss to coat. Vacuum seal or use another air removal method. To keep the liquid from being sucked into the machine during sealing, hang the bottom of the bag off the edge of your counter and support with your hands. Vacuum seal as normal, but hit the "Seal" button when you start to see liquid near the seal line.
- Add the bag to the water bath and cook for 12-16 hours. You may need to secure the bag with sous vide magnets or place a ceramic plate on top of the bag to keep it from floating. Since this is a long cook, cover the water bath with a lid or plastic wrap to prevent evaporation.
- After sous viding, preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the pork from the bag using tongs and add to the skillet. Save the bag and juices. Sear, tossing every minute or so, until browned and crispy on the outside. Pour the contents of the bag over the pork and cook for another minute or two, until liquid has reduced by half.
- Serve carnitas with rice or corn tortillas and lime wedges, cilantro, and diced onion.