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Did someone say carnitas party? This carnitas seasoning is the key ingredient to making the best pork carnitas the whole family will love. It incorporates some of the most robust seasonings that blend together for the authentic Mexican flavor.

Need another homemade seasoning? Try elote seasoning, blackening seasoning, or steak seasoning!

carnitas seasoning mixed in a bowl
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And although it’s got carnitas in the name, you can use it on any protein of your choice. 

We love any Mexican dish around here, but this crispy instant pot carnitas recipe is one of our favorites. Its seasoning is the inspiration for this recipe.

But don’t limit yourself to carnitas! Try it on these carne asada tacosshredded beef enchiladashealthy chicken enchiladas, or ground pork tacos.

If you find you enjoy making your own seasoning at home, check out our post on the basics of chicken marinade. It includes six flavorful marinades for easy dinners any night of the week. 

jars of onion and garlic powder, paprika, salt, oregano, paprika and chili powder on a counter

What is Carnitas?

Carnitas is a traditional Mexican dish that consists of slow-cooked pork — usually pork shoulder or “pork butt.” The word “carnitas” translates to “little meats” in Spanish, referring to the small chunks or shreds of tender, flavorful pork.

To prepare carnitas, cook pork for several hours in a combination of seasonings and a citric acid component. Usually orange peel or citrus juices like orange or lime.

The cooking process often involves braising or simmering the pork in its own fat or lard, like this Mexican shredded beef. You can also cook it in a slow cooker or pressure cooker until it becomes tender and succulent.

This makes moist, fork-tender pork that’s nice and crispy on the outside, with caramelized edges.

Need a recipe for your carnitas seasoning? Try these Instant Pot Carnitas or make a Chipotle carnitas burrito at home.

carnitas on a sheet pan

Why You’ll Love This Seasoning for Carnitas

  • So quick and simple: We’re talking two steps and a handful of ingredients. If you’ve never made your own seasonings, hopefully, this recipe helps you realize just how easy (and economical) it is.
  • Full of flavor: It’s a colorful, subtly sweet, and slightly smoky blend that will kick even the best carnitas recipe up a notch. We’re positive this will become your signature carnitas seasoning.
  • Versatile: Prepare it to your liking by adjusting the amounts of each spice, whether you like it spicier, smokier, or more aromatic. It can be used as a dry rub or marinade on your protein of choice. Our post on how to marinate chicken provides a little help with the best way to season your meats.
  • Healthy:  This seasoning for carnitas is Whole30-approved, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and low carb. Plus, nothing feels better than knowing exactly what goes into your meals — even the seasonings.

Grab These Ingredients

Here are the simple ingredients for this carnitas seasoning. Most are pantry staples and easy to find in grocery stores. Jump down to the recipe card for exact measurements.

carnita seasoning ingredients on a countertop
  • Ground cumin: Adds a warm and slightly nutty taste.
  • Dried oregano: Slightly bitter and slightly sweet.
  • Salt: We used Kosher salt for this recipe.
  • Smoked paprika: Made from dried and smoked red bell peppers or chili peppers, it’s smoky and has a little heat.
  • Garlic powder: Very pungent, but is milder than fresh garlic.
  • Onion powder: Has a slightly sweet flavor that’s similar to cooked or caramelized onions.
  • Chili powder: Popular in Southwestern dishes, it has an earthy and smoky profile.
  • Black pepper: Gives a slight spice and adds depth to the blend of spices.

How to Make Carnitas Seasoning

The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through the steps with some photos and a video so you have a clear idea of what to expect. This carnitas seasoning is really easy and these step-by-step instructions will make sure it turns out every time.

Measure out all of the ingredients into a small bowl.

Stir well to combine all of the spices. Use immediately or store in an airtight jar or plastic bag. Use as needed.

carnitas seasoning with a spoon

Carnitas Seasoning FAQs

What does carnitas seasoning taste like?

The flavor of carnitas seasoning is savory, aromatic, and usually has a hint of smokiness. The combination of spices and herbs creates a complex and well-rounded taste. 

What do you put on top of carnitas?

Carnitas are commonly served as a tortilla filling in tacos or burritos or as a main dish alongside rice and beans.

They are often garnished with cilantro, red onions, salsa, sour cream, and a squeeze of lime or orange juice to enhance the flavors.

We suggest topping your pork carnitas with avocado cremahealthy guacamolevegan cashew queso, Mexican pickled onions, or creamy jalapeño ranch dressing.

Does carnitas have flavor?

The combination of tender meat, bold seasonings, and caramelization makes it extra mouthwatering.

The seasonings in carnitas enhance the natural flavors of the pork, creating a delicious blend of savory, herbaceous, and slightly tangy notes.

Carnitas also often have caramelized edges and crispy bits, which add texture and additional layers of flavor to the dish.  Slow cooking allows the pork to become tender and juicy while developing depth and complexity.

Storing Tips

Feel free to make this recipe ahead and use it the next time you get a taste for carnitas. We like to make a double or triple batch of it just to keep it on hand. Store in an airtight container like a mason jar in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

pork shoulder covered in carnitas seasoning

If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. You can also tag me on Instagram so I can see it!

Mexican-Inspired Recipes to Try this Seasoning With

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5 from 1 vote

Carnitas Seasoning

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
This carnitas seasoning is the key ingredient to making the best pork carnitas the whole family will love. It incorporates some of the most robust seasonings that blend together for the most authentic Mexican flavor.

Save this Recipe!

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Servings: 1 batch (for 2-3 lbs of pork shoulder)


  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper


  • Add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and stir well.
  • Use immediately or store in an airtight jar or plastic bag. Use as needed.
Last step! If you make this, please leave a review letting us know how it was!


  • Small bowl


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 64kcal | Carbohydrates: 11.6g | Protein: 2.9g | Fat: 2.3g | Sodium: 2573mg | Fiber: 4.2g | Sugar: 0.9g | Vitamin A: 102.7IU | Vitamin C: 1.2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Ron says:

    How much meat would the seasoning cover?

    1. Molly Thompson says:

      Hey Ron! This covers a 3lb pork shoulder. Thanks!