Spit Roasted Pork Carnitas

Pork shoulder roasting for carnitas

Pork carnitas is one of the world’s great culinary treasures, tender roasted pork shoulder cooked on a rotisserie beautifully crisped up and served with tortillas.

What makes this recipe work is using a combination of lemon, lime, and orange juice to marinate the pork adding bright citrus flavors and moisture along with a spice rub that includes ground Ancho and Chipotle Chilies to highlight the carnitas smokey south of the border flavors.

We like to serve them with the traditional mixture of diced onion, cilantro and lime juice on corn tortillas with the addition of some crumbled cojita cheese.  The cheese has just the right balance of flavor and texture to balance out the pork.

Rotisserie Pork Shoulder

The problem with the traditional cooking method for carnitas is it calls for roasting the pork shoulder for hours in pork fat, which makes the dish very heavy. This version avoids the extra fat by using a rotisserie to spit roast the pork shoulder turning out a crisp exterior while developing a soft juicy texture on the inside.

Cooking a pork roast on a rotisserie is surprisingly easy once you’ve got the grill setup. All it takes is sliding the skewer through the pork and making sure that the forks are inserted deep into the roast and tightened, so the whole shoulder turns with the spit.

Pork Carnitas tacos close up
Carnitas are one of the world’s great culinary treasures

Setting up and using a rotisserie at home is easy to do. Most gas grills have mounting brackets on the side that means you only have to do the setup once and anytime you want to spit roast something all you have to do is skewer whatever you’re cooking, slide the spit into the brackets, and you’re good to go.

Besides pork and beef roasts, one of our favorite things to spit roast is a leg of lamb. There are a variety of rotisserie setups designed to fit a range of grills in the Outdoor Cooking section of Umami’s Market.

A few things we like to serve with this carnitas recipe are Pinto Beans with Chilies, Pico De Gallo and Instant Pot Mexican Rice.

Pork shoulder roasting for carnitas

Spit Roasted Pork Carnitas

4.1 from 36 votes
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Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 4 hours
Servings: 10 servings


  • 4 1/2 lbs pork shoulder, (can also use a pork loin roast)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground chipotle
  • 1 tsp Ancho chili
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin


  • 2 large bunches of cilantro
  • 1 1/2 cups white onion, , minced
  • 1/4 cup lime juice


  • Start by making a rub out of the ancho chili, chipotle, smoked paprika, onion, garlic, cumin, pepper, and 1 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix the lemon, lime, and orange juices together.
  • Place the pork in a large pan and pour the juices over the pork shoulder. Spread the rub on the shoulder, making sure to get as much as you can into all the nooks and crannies. Let the pork shoulder marinate for at least an hour.
  • The ideal way to do this is to get everything ready a day ahead to the let the juices and spices infiltrate the shoulder.
  • When you’re ready to start cooking take the spit and insert in through the pork shoulder. Spit roasting works best when you skewer the meat lengthwise as close to the center as possible, to keep the weight balanced. It’s very important to secure the meat using the large forks that come with your rotisserie.
  • Roast the pork shoulder over low heat until it reaches an internal temperature of 165℉. A 4 1/2 pound shoulder will usually takes around 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  • While the pork is cooking mince the onion and cilantro. Once they’re minced combine them with the lime juice and set aside.
  • When the pork shoulder has finished cooking take it off the spit, wrap it up in foil, and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. When it’s finished resting take it out and chop it up into bite-sized pieces. Mix in the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt with chopped up pork.
  • Serve with warm tortillas, the cilantro mixture, and crumbled cojita cheese.
Making this RecipeTag us on Instagram at @umami.site and hashtag it #umami_site
Calories: 207kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 565mg | Potassium: 515mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 315IU | Vitamin C: 12.1mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1.8mg

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  1. Debra

    What is considered low temp when spit toasting a leg of lamb?

    1. Low depends a bit on each grill, when we’re using a rotisserie we generally set the burners so the heat is about a third of the total power for the grill. The main thing is to make sure the flames aren’t too close to the meat being cooked.