Carnitas Seasoning

(1 vote)
5 minutes
February 20, 2024
Carole JonesJump to Recipe

In the realm of Mexican cuisine, few dishes evoke the same level of excitement and flavor explosion as pork carnitas. These succulent, tender chunks of pork are a staple of street food culture and home kitchens alike, offering a tantalizing blend of savory spices and melt-in-your-mouth texture. But what’s the secret behind perfecting this dish? It all starts with the right carnitas seasoning.

Carnitas Seasoning

Why I Love This Carnitas Seasoning Recipe

If you’ve been a long-time reader here at MKE, you are well aware that Pork Carnitas is one of my most popular recipes. And has been for a very long time for a very good reason! They are absolutely amazing and completely crave-able.

But sometimes when time is short, I make a faster version with this amazing carnitas seasoning recipe! When it comes to crafting the perfect pork carnitas seasoning, balance is key. You want a blend of spices that enhances the natural flavors of the pork while adding depth and complexity to each bite. This tried-and-true recipe strikes this balance flawlessly, resulting in carnitas that are sure to impress even the most discerning palate.

Carnitas Seasoning Ingredients

1. Salt and Pepper

These foundational ingredients provide the basic seasoning for the pork shoulder, enhancing its natural flavors and creating a savory base for the other spices to shine. Be sure to use kosher salt instead of iodized for the best flavor.

2. Cumin

Known for its warm, earthy flavor, cumin adds depth and complexity to the carnitas seasoning. It complements the richness of the pork and helps to create a well-rounded flavor profile.

3. Dried Mexican Oregano

With its robust taste, dried Mexican oregano lends a hint of flair to the carnitas seasoning. Its herbaceous notes marry beautifully with the other spices, adding a layer of complexity to the dish. If you can’t find Mexican oregano, the standard Italian version can be used as a substitute.

4. Smoked Paprika

Smoked paprika brings a touch of, you guessed it, smokiness to the carnitas seasoning. It helps imitate the traditional cooking methods that involve slow-roasting or braising the pork over fire. It adds depth of flavor and a subtle hint of sweetness.

5. Garlic Powder and Onion Powder

These two pantry staples contribute to the savory flavor profile of the carnitas seasoning, providing a punch of flavor to round out the pork. You can use either powder or granulated but be sure not to use garlic salt since that would over-salt the whole recipe.

6. Citrus Zest:

For a burst of freshness and brightness, consider adding citrus zest to your carnitas seasoning. Orange zest, in particular, pairs beautifully with the rich, savory flavors of the pork, adding a zesty kick to each bite. You can use fresh zest or dried.

Pork carnitas covered in homemade seasoning mix

A Brief Dive into Carnitas History

Carnitas, which translates to “little meats,” originated in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. Traditionally, this dish is made by braising pork in lard until tender, then shredding and crisping it up for maximum flavor. It’s a beloved staple of Mexican cuisine, often enjoyed in tacos, burritos, or simply on its own with a side of rice and beans.

Carnitas Seasoning FAQs

What kind of seasoning is in carnitas?

The seasoning in carnitas typically includes a blend of spices such as cumin, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. These spices are combined with citrus juices like orange and lime to enhance the flavor of the pork.

How do you spice up bland carnitas?

To spice up bland carnitas, try adding extra seasoning such as chili powder, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, or diced jalapeños for a kick of heat. You can also experiment with different herbs and spices to tailor the flavor to your liking.

Pork carnitas

What is the flavor profile of carnitas?

Carnitas boast a rich and savory flavor profile with hints of smokiness, tanginess from the citrus juices, and aromatic spices like cumin and oregano. The pork is tender and juicy on the inside, with crispy caramelized edges that add a delightful textural contrast.

How much carnitas seasoning to use

For optimal flavor, it’s recommended to use approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons of the carnitas seasoning blend per pound of pork shoulder. However, the exact amount can vary depending on your personal taste preferences and the intensity of flavor you desire in your carnitas.

Start with a conservative amount, such as 1 tablespoon of seasoning per pound of pork, and adjust according to taste. If you prefer a more robust flavor, feel free to increase the amount of seasoning used. Just be mindful not to over-season the meat, as it can overpower the natural flavors of the pork.

As you become more familiar with using the seasoning blend and how it affects the flavor of your carnitas, you can adjust the quantity to suit your individual taste preferences. Remember, it’s always easier to add more seasoning later on than to try to remove excess seasoning once it’s been added to the meat.

Carnitas Seasoning

More Great Mexican Recipes

If you loved this recipe for Carnitas Seasoning, check out these other amazing Mexican recipes!

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Carnitas Seasoning

Carnitas Seasoning

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5 from 1 review

Elevate your pork carnitas with this expertly crafted seasoning blend, using just six essential ingredients to create a flavor explosion in every bite.

  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1/3 cup 1x



2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons grated orange zest


  1. Combine Spices: In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, black pepper, ground cumin, dried oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder until well blended.
  2. Mix Thoroughly: Use a spoon or spatula to mix the spices thoroughly, ensuring that they are evenly distributed throughout the seasoning blend.
  3. Taste and Adjust: Give the seasoning blend a quick taste test and adjust the quantities of individual spices as needed to suit your personal preference. You may prefer a bit more cumin for added warmth, or extra garlic powder for a bolder flavor.
  4. Store Properly: Transfer the carnitas seasoning blend to an airtight container, such as a glass jar or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, where it will stay fresh for up to six months
  5. Use Liberally: When you’re ready to make pork carnitas, generously season the meat with the prepared seasoning blend before cooking. Rub the seasoning into the pork to ensure that it’s evenly coated, then proceed with your favorite carnitas recipe. Ideally, you should use about 1-2 tablespoons of carnitas seasoning per pound of pork.


If you desire something with a bit of kick, feel free to add some red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.

  • Author: Carole Jones
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Fresh
  • Cuisine: Mexican


  • Serving Size: 1 Tb
  • Calories: 55
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Sodium: 2464 mg
  • Fat: 1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 7 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 g

With our expertly crafted carnitas seasoning blend and insider tips, you’ll be well-equipped to take your pork carnitas to the next level. Say goodbye to bland carnitas and hello to a flavor-packed fiesta that will have everyone coming back for seconds!

Carole Jones

Carole Jones is an Arizona-based cookbook author & food blogger. She's authored The 30 Minute Cooking From Frozen Cookbook and the self-published Take 5: Chicken e-cookbook. For the past 15 years, Carole has shared her culinary adventures cooking and baking for her six brutally honest children here on My Kitchen Escapades. Hot, crusty bread is Carole's love language, but her two adorable grandchildren are a close second. Yes, second. Don't judge.


2 months ago

Made this for some carnitas over the weekend and they turned out perfect. Thanks

Carole Jones
2 months ago

Love hearing it Juanita! Thanks for leaving a review because they help so much 🙂

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