Mexican-Spiced Venison Carnitas Recipe

This venison carnitas recipe is made from braised venison shoulder. (Robert Sweeney photo)

From the street carts of Mexico City to your hands – you're going to love every bite of this venison carnitas recipe!

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 6-7 hours

Braised Venison Shoulder Ingredients:

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dry oregano leaf
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaf
  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 (3-4 pound) bone-in venison shoulder roasts
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into eighths
  • 2 serrano chili peppers
  • 1 fresh lime, skin removed and cut into quarters
  • Zest of one fresh orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 fresh garlic cloves
  • 3 bacon slices
  • 4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Garnish Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cups Queso fresco, grated on a box grater
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, washed and de-stemmed
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups medium diced Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh lettuce or cabbage, finely shredded
  • 12 corn or flour tortillas, warmed
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges


  1. Preheat a large sauté pan to medium heat. Meanwhile, combine the cloves, cumin, oregano, thyme, coriander, salt and pepper into a small bowl and mix.

  2. Season the venison roast with the seasoning blend; coating the entire roast evenly. Add vegetable oil a hot pan and heat until the oil is shimmering. Once ready, place the venison roast into the hot pan and brown on all sides. This should take about 3-4 minutes per side. Once the roast is fully browned, remove it and place it into the slow cooker.

  3. mexican spiced venison carnitas recipe
    Brown the venison shoulder on all sides before adding it to the slow cooker. (Robert Sweeney photo)

  4. Place the serrano peppers and onion into the hot pan and cook until the serrano peppers start to blister and the onions start to soften. Add the serrano peppers and onions to the slow cooker along with orange zest, lime pieces and garlic.

  5. Lay the 3 slices of bacon over top of the venison roast. Cover the slow cooker and set it to medium heat. Cook the venison roast for 6-7 hours or until a fork inserted into the roast twists and easily shreds the meat.

  6. mexican spiced venison carnitas recipe bacon
    Lay a few slices of bacon on top of the venison roast prior to slow cooking. (Robert Sweeney photo)

  7. Remove the venison roast from the slow cooker and set aside to rest. Discard the lime pieces.

  8. Remove the bacon and serrano peppers from the slow cooker. Chop the bacon and serrano peppers into a fine dice and add them back into the slow cooker. Using two large forks, shred the venison roast, removing any large pieces of fat. Add the shredded venison back into the slow cooker and season to taste with salt and pepper and any of the remaining seasoning blend. The venison will hold in the slow cooker on a warm setting for 4 hours.

  9. Assemble the carnitas by placing a forkful of venison meat into the tortilla and top it with lettuce/cabbage, onion, tomato, cilantro, sour cream, queso fresco and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

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