Torn Between Two Delicious Meats? Find Out Which Is Better: Carnitas Or Pulled Pork!

carnitas vs pulled pork

Carnitas and pulled pork are two of the most popular dishes you can make in an Instant Pot, but they’re also two of the most confusing dishes around.

So, we’ll break them down for you!

What is Carnitas?

Del Real Carnitas Prepared Entree, 15 oz

Check Current Price

Carnitas is a Mexican dish made from braised or roasted pork.

It is made by braising or roasting pork in oil or fat, then shredding the meat and frying it in the cooking oil.

Carnitas are usually served with corn tortillas fried with onions and other ingredients such as salsa, guacamole, and cilantro.

They can be served as an appetizer or main course.

The word carnitas is derived from the Latin word “carnem”, which means flesh.

The dish is also known as carne de puerco, which translates to pork meat.

Carnitas are usually made from pork, but can also be made from beef or chicken.

The meat is cut into small pieces and braised in lard or oil until tender.

The fat from the cooking process is then used to fry the shredded meat until crispy.

What kind of meat are carnitas?

Carnitas is a Mexican dish made from pork shoulder.

The meat is braised in lard or oil and seasoned with chiles, orange zest and other spices.

It’s then shredded before being fried in its own fat until crisp.

Carnitas are popular all over Mexico, but especially so in Michoacán where they’re served with salsas and guacamole (the avocado is also native to the region).

In California where I live now, carnitas are often served in tacos or burritos with rice and beans on the side—toppings vary by region as well as chef preference!

Why is pork called carnitas?

As any Mexican can tell you, carnitas is a dish that’s made from braised or roasted pork that’s tender enough to be shredded.

This makes it easy to eat with tortillas and salsa.

A traditional recipe usually calls for pork butt or shoulder, but you can use other types of meat as well like chicken thighs or beef chuck roast.

The carnitas recipe below will give you tender and flavorful meat that’s perfect for tacos, burritos or salads.

It only takes a few hours to make and requires very little active time on your part.

Most of its calories come from protein (59%) and fat (39%).

What is pulled pork?

NIMAN RANCH Pulled Pork in BBQ Sauce, 14 OZ

Check Current Price

Pulled pork is a popular dish in the southern United States.

It is made from pork shoulder that has been cooked slowly with dry heat, which means no liquid needs to be added to the pot during cooking (the water content of the meat will simply evaporate as it cooks).

The name “pulled pork” comes from how it’s prepared: once cooked, you shred or pull apart the meat into smaller pieces.

Pulled pork is usually served as a sandwich on bread rolls, with barbecue sauce and other toppings like coleslaw or pickles.

Pulled pork is most commonly made with a whole pork shoulder, which is the top portion of the animal’s front leg.

It has lots of connective tissue and fat, which makes it ideal for slow cooking because these two components melt and break down as they cook.

Calorie breakdown: 51% fat, 9% carbs, 39% protein.

What cut of pork is best for pulled?

Pulled pork is a delicacy, and it’s best to have the perfect cut of pork for your recipe.

The most popular choice for pulled pork is the pork shoulder.

The second-best option is the pork loin, but this meat will not be as tender or juicy as pulled from the shoulder because it has more connective tissue.

While some people opt for using other cuts of meat like ribs or belly bacon, these options are less popular and may not be available at all grocery stores and butcher shops.[1]

If you want to get the most out of your pork shoulder, there are some things you can do to ensure that it is cooked properly.

First, make sure that your meat is fresh.

You should also season it with a rub or marinade before cooking and add plenty of liquid when braising or slow-cooking.

What are the similarities between Carnitas vs pulled pork?

Carnitas and pulled pork are both made from pork shoulder, a cut of meat that in Spanish means “little fleshy butt.” This isn’t as naughty as it sounds, but it does make for a great punny name for your future BBQ restaurant.

Both meats are slow cooked to tenderness and then shredded before serving with the meat or on top of tacos, burritos, salads and so forth.

Lamb Ribs: Lamb ribs are a delicious alternative to pork ribs, and they can be cooked the same way.

They do have a different taste than pork ribs, though, so if you’re going for authenticity, it’s best to stick with what your audience is used to.

If you want to take it a step further, try cooking lamb ribs in a smoker and then finishing them off on the grill for that added charbroiled flavor.

Chicken Wings: Chicken wings are another crowd favorite at BBQ joints.

They’re easy to cook and present well on a plate, with or without sauce.

Is pulled pork the same as carnitas?

Carnitas is a pork dish.

Pulled pork, on the other hand, is usually made with pork loin or butt and can be cooked in one of three ways: slow-cooked in a smoker; roasted or baked at high heat until it shreds into tender pieces; or braised in liquid like beer or cider.

Carnitas is traditionally made by simmering meat (usually pork shoulder) in lard until it’s tender enough to pull apart with two forks.

This method also produces crispy skin which adds an extra layer of flavor and texture to the dish.

Pulled pork barbecue is typically served as sandwiches topped with coleslaw and tangy barbecue sauce—much like pulled chicken BBQ sandwiches you’ll find at Mexican restaurants—but sometimes it’s served over rice or potatoes instead of bread as well!

What are the differences between Carnitas vs pulled pork?

Carnitas and pulled pork are both made from pork, but they’re cooked differently.

Carnitas is a Mexican dish that’s braised in lard.

Pulled pork is smoked and served without lard.

Carnitas are made from the shoulder or butt of a pig, while pulled pork typically comes from the loin or shoulder of a hog.

Additionally, carnitas usually have some sort of citrus juice added to them for flavoring—lemon, lime or orange juice are common options—whereas pulled pork does not typically contain any citrus fruit juices or additions at all (but if you want to add some flavor to it yourself, feel free).

Type of cut used

First, you’ll want to know which cut of pork is used for each dish.

Carnitas are made from the shoulder roast, while pulled pork is made from the loin roast.

Even though these two cuts come from different parts of the animal and have very different textures, they’re still both considered “pork.”

The next thing you need to know is what kind of pork you’re using.

Pork can be either fresh or cured, and the difference between the two is pretty simple.

Fresh pork has not been preserved with salt or sugar, while cured pork has been treated with either one or both ingredients.

The most common form of cured pork is ham, which is made from the hind leg or butt of the pig.

Ham can be dry-cured with just salt or sugar, or it can be wet-cured by using a brine solution that includes salt, sugar and various other spices.

Texture and color

Carnitas is the Spanish word for “little meats” and refers to the meat that’s left over after roasting a pork shoulder in its own fat.

Pulled pork, on the other hand, comes from a whole pig that’s been slow roasted until tender and pulled apart by hand into chunks of meat and fat.

Carnitas has more moisture than pulled pork because it retains all of its liquid as it cooks—this makes it more tender than pulled pork (though not necessarily better).

Carnitas also tends to have a more uniform color than pulled pork because there isn’t any skin left on the roast when you make carnitas; this means that all of your tasty browned bits are gone too! Because there isn’t much connective tissue in a whole pig compared with just one part of one animal, carnitas will be crumblier than pulled pork when cooked properly.

Both dishes use similar spices to achieve their signature flavors: chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder (or fresh onions), salt, pepper, and paprika are common ingredients in both recipes.

The main ingredients in carnitas are:

  • Pork shoulder (a cut of meat from the upper part of the pig)
  • Lime juice or vinegar
  • Garlic, onion, and salt (for seasoning)

The main ingredients in pulled pork are:

  • Pork shoulder (a cut of meat from the upper part of the pig)
  • Spices (like cumin, paprika, chili powder)

However, there are some key differences between how these two dishes are prepared: Carnitas are traditionally cooked by roasting them in an oven or over an open flame; This method allows for more surface area exposure so that all sides of the meat cook evenly at once without drying out too much before it’s ready to eat).

Pulled pork doesn’t require this kind of high-heat cooking method because its main objective is tenderness rather than browning or caramelizing any part of the meat (which means the meat can be cooked at a lower temperature in the oven or on a smoker).

Cooking liquid

Carnitas and pulled pork are both delicious and incredibly easy to make, but they still have some key differences.

One of the most important is the cooking liquid used to tenderize the meat.

Carnitas uses lard, while pulled pork uses a vinegar-based liquid.

Lard is a traditional Mexican cooking fat that gives carnitas their signature flavor and texture—it’s a little greasy, which gives them an almost creamy mouthfeel.

It also adds a richness that makes them feel more filling, so you can eat less without leaving hungry.

Vinegar-based liquids are popular in American Southern cuisine because they help tenderize tough cuts of meat like brisket or shoulder roast more quickly than just water alone.

The vinegar adds flavor to the meat, making it taste tangy and delicious even though it’s been cooked for hours at low temperatures (which is why we recommend doing so overnight).


The difference in taste between carnitas and pulled pork is pretty simple, but it’s also pretty important.

Carnitas are made from the same cut of meat as pulled pork, but with a few key differences.

The first being that carnitas have a much more complex flavor than pulled pork.

In fact, they can sometimes have an almost smoky flavor without any smoke added to them at all! This is because they’re braised in citrus juice and other spices like chiles and garlic (which gives them their signature orange color), which really add some extra layers of complexity to the flavor profile that you just don’t get with other types of barbecue recipes.

They’re also tenderer than most types of smoked meats because they aren’t dried out by being smoked or roasted over high heat for hours on end; instead they’re slowly cooked in fat until tender enough to pull apart easily using forks/hands/fingers (whichever works best for each person).

And if none of these things sound appealing? You could always use tortillas instead!

Cooking method

First of all, both are cooked in a pan. They’re made by braising meat in fat and adding seasonings. 

The difference is that carnitas are braised in lard or other types of pork fat, while pulled pork is braised in water.

Carnitas also have a crispy outside layer that’s created by frying the meat before adding it to the pot for braising. 

Pulled pork doesn’t have this crispy layer—it’s more tender and juicy inside, with a smooth texture.

Carnitas can also bebe cooked in a pressure cooker, which allows you to cook it fast and retain all of that delicious flavor and moisture.

This recipe calls for 1½ pounds of pork shoulder or butt cut into cubes.

The result: beautifully browned tender meat that’s just about falling apart at the seams.

Pulled pork is a little bit different—it requires cooking at high heat for longer periods of time.

You’ll want to use boneless pork shoulder (also called Boston butt) with bone removed, trimmed of excess fat and diced into 1-inch pieces.

You can also use country-style ribs if you’d like; they’re cut from closer to the shoulder than regular ribs so they have more marbling and tenderness but still plenty of flavor!

The slow cooker method calls for 4 hours on low heat with liquid added halfway through—the result is well-cooked meat that shreds easily when pulled apart with two forks (or tongs).


Carnitas can be served in tacos, burritos, and quesadillas.

Pulled pork is more commonly served in sandwiches or on buns with barbecue sauce. Pulled pork can also be served in tacos, burritos and quesadillas.

Side dish

For a side dish, you can either choose refried beans or tortillas.

The former are made up of fried and mashed pinto beans, while the latter is made by softening corn masa flour in hot water.

Refried beans are typically eaten with carnitas and tortillas are often served with pulled pork.

Both types of meat can be served with a variety of other side dishes including coleslaw (a salad made from shredded cabbage), macaroni cheese (a dish that combines pasta with cheese) or rice.

Can I use pork loin instead of pork shoulder for carnitas?

If you’re on a budget and can only afford one or the other, our advice is to go for pork shoulder.

You can also use pork loin if you want a leaner cut of meat, but it will be more expensive than the shoulder, and since it’s more tender than the shoulder, your carnitas won’t be as flavorful.

If you can afford it, go for pork belly.

It’s a very fatty cut of meat, which means that it will be more flavorful than other cuts and better able to stand up to the long cooking time.

However, if you’re on a budget or just want a leaner alternative, pork shoulder is still a good choice.


If you’re looking for something to fill your tortillas, we hope we’ve made it clear that pulled pork is not the same as carnitas.

Carnitas are a traditional Mexican pork dish with roots in Jalisco, where they were made by cooking meat over low heat for a long time until it falls apart easily when pulled apart with two forks.

While pulled pork can be prepared with the same method (and sometimes using similar ingredients), its primary difference lies in cut of meat and seasoning.

Similar Posts