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8 Restaurant Chains That Serve the Best Carnitas

Here's where to find the best versions of the slow-cooked pork dish at top Mexican spots around the U.S.
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If you've been to a Mexican restaurant, you may be familiar with pork carnitas. The delicious meat, which typically appears on menus next to other protein options, including pollo asado and carne asada, is one you shouldn't sleep on. Both versatile and filling, carnitas, which means "little meats" in Spanish, can take any taco, burrito, fajita, nacho, or quesadilla order to a whole other flavor dimension.

As with many dishes, the history of carnitas isn't clear. According to Texas Monthly, many believe that carnitas originated in Michoacán, while others claim that the tasty pork dish hails from Jalisco or Mexico State. No matter its exact origins, one thing is certain—it's delicious. And how could it not be? Although the recipe varies from chef to chef, carnitas are typically made by slow-cooking seasoned pork in lard or oil for hours, resulting in a tender, moist dish packed with flavor and texture.

Luckily for restaurant-goers, plenty of Mexican restaurant chains offer this delicious option on their menus. From one old-school spot that whips up specialty carnitas tacos to another chain that uses non-processed farm-fresh ingredients, here are eight Mexican chains that serve the best carnitas.


taco time pork carnitas burrito
Taco Time
Green Chile Pork Carnitas Burrito (Per Serving):
Calories: 540
Fat: 18 g (Saturated Fat: 8 g)
Sodium: 1,130 mg
Carbs: 58 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 5 g)
Protein: 33 g

TacoTime knows what it's doing when it comes to delicious quick-serve Mexican food, which makes perfect sense as the chain has been around for more than 60 years. Started in Eugene, Ore., in 1960, the popular spot is known for its freshly made, home-style Mexican dishes, including pork carnitas, available in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and nachos. The juicy, savory filling pairs wonderfully with salsa fresca, beans, and melted cheese. Even better? TacoTime has more than 300 locations throughout the United States, making it easy to find one nearby.

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Baja Fresh Mexican Grill

Pork Carnitas quesadilla at Baja Fresh
Baja Fresh/Facebook
Quesadilla With Carnitas, Guac & Sour Cream (Per Order):
1,180 calories
73 g fat (36 g saturated fat)
2,400 mg sodium
62 g carbs (5 g fiber, 4 g sugar)
66 g protein

Baja Fresh Mexican Grill only uses non-processed, farm-fresh ingredients, so it's no wonder that its carnitas are top-tier. The chain offers savory pork carnitas as a protein option that can be added to dishes, including burritos, crunchy tacos, quesadillas, rice bowls, fajitas, and nachos.

Introduced to the menu nearly 20 years ago, the carnitas at Baja Fresh are made with high-quality pork marinated in a zingy blend of chipotle, pasilla, and New Mexico chilies, plus garlic and onion. The meat is then slow-cooked for more than five hours, resulting in a tender, flavorful dish you'll want to order again and again.

Taco Del Mar

Pork carnitas burrito at Taco Del Mar
Taco Del Mar/Facebook
Pork Carnitas Burrito (Per Serving):
Calories: 900
Fat: 31 g (Saturated Fat: 14 g)
Sodium: 2,300 mg
Carbs: 115 g (Fiber: 9 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 39 g

Between its gigantic Mission-style burritos and endless menu options, Taco Del Mar is the spot to visit when you're in the mood for coastal-style Mexican food crafted using flavorful, nutritious ingredients. A menu must-have is the highly customizable burrito, which you can stuff with delicious protein filling options such as pulled pork carnitas. Top it off with roasted chipotle salsa, roasted corn salsa, pico de gallo, queso, guacamole, and other options.

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Chevys Fresh Mex

Carnitas tacos at Chevy's Fresh Mex
Chevy's Fresh Mix/Facebook
Mesquite-Grilled Carnitas Tacos (Per Serving):
Calories: 970
Fat: 71 g (Saturated Fat: 22 g)
Sodium: 2,080 mg
Carbs: 84 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 7 g)
Protein: 23 g

Founded in California in the 1980s, Chevys Fresh Mex is the lovable restaurant chain lauded for its flavorful mesquite-fired dishes and high-quality, farm-fresh ingredients. One menu item you can't overlook is the pork carnitas, which can be enjoyed in soft tacos, crispy tacos, burritos, or fajitas. Order something with carnitas, the restaurant's Tex-Mex appetizer sampler, a cheddar cheese-covered tater tot appetizer, and a watermelon margarita for a shareable meal that hits the spot.

Fuzzy's Taco Shop

Carnitas tacos at Fuzzy Taco Shop
Fuzzy's Taco Shop/Facebook
Carnitas Taco (Per Order):
Calories: 280 calories
Fat: 14 g (Saturated Fat: 6 g)
280 mg
Carbs: 13 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: <1 g)
Protein: 13 g

With nearly 150 locations throughout the U.S., Fuzzy's Taco Shop checks off all the boxes—it boasts a jam-packed menu, has eye-catching branding, and offers gluten-free and vegetarian options. Here, you can pick carnitas as your protein in the chain's tasty tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and burrito bowls.

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La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill

La Salsa's carnitas tacos
La Salsa/Facebook
Carnitas Guadalajara Tacos (Per Serving):
Calories: 300
Fat: 150 g (Saturated Fat: 17 g)
Sodium: 460 mg
Carbs: 22 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 17 g

La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill, started in 1979 in Los Angeles, serves a specialty carnitas recipe that's in a league of its own. Listed on the menu as "carnitas Guadalajara tacos," this flavorful dish is made with corn tortillas packed with crispy pork carnitas, fire-roasted fajita vegetables, mild ancho chile sauce, plus Jack and cheddar cheeses.

The Mexico City tacos pack a one-two protein punch. These incorporate grilled chicken, cheese, your choice of carne asada or carnitas, fresh cilantro, and onion and are served with rice, beans, and chips.


Carnitas at Pancheros Mexican Grill
Pancheros Mexican Grill/Facebook
Carnitas (Per 4 oz. Serving):
Calories: 170
Fat: 8 g fat (Saturated Fat: 2.5 g)
480 mg
Carbs: 3 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 24 g

If you want juicy, flavor-filled, perfectly made carnitas, Pancheros is the spot for you. The fast-casual Tex-Mex restaurant chain, which began in Iowa more than 30 years ago, offers carnitas as one of its protein options, along with other choices such as chicken, steak, tofu, and limited edition shrimp. Enjoy carnitas in Pancheros burritos, bowls, tacos, quesadillas, salads, and more. Panchero's has more than 70 locations throughout the country and continues to make food from scratch, including its hand-pressed tortillas and housemade queso.

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On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina

Pork carnitas fajitas at On the Border
On The Border/Facebook
Pork Carnitas Fajitas (Per Serving):
Calories: 710
Fat: 51 g (Saturated Fat: 10 g)
Sodium: 2,140 mg
Carbs: 27 g carbs (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 16 g)
Protein: 44 g

Started in the 1980s in Dallas, On the Border is the exciting Mexican restaurant chain known for its tasty fajitas, mesquite-grilled dishes, Tex-Mex options, tableside guacamole prep, and intriguing margarita flavor options. It's also a pretty good place to order carnitas, which can be ordered in a fajitas platter, served with hand-pressed flour tortillas, pico de gallo, cheese, rice, and your choice of beans.

Brittany Natale
Brittany Natale is a food and lifestyle writer. Read more about Brittany