5 Best Carnitas In San Antonio

It’s hard to find a taco restaurant in San Antonio that doesn’t have carnitas on its menu. Slow-cooked, drippy, decadent pork meat is, quite frankly, absolutely delicious, so it makes sense that every restaurant wants to have it on its menu. But with so many restaurants out there serving less-than-awesome options, like dry meat, or pork butt that’s cooked too quickly so it lacks the depth of flavor, or “meh” tortillas, or lackluster toppings…I decided it was time to get out there and look for the best carnitas in San Antonio. 

Best Carnitas in San Antonio

It wasn’t hard to find them. Narrowing it down? That was much more challenging.

As I mentioned, most taco places will have a carnitas option on the menu. Luckily for us, there are some carnitas-only restaurants and food trucks in San Antonio that serve authentic Michocoán-style carnitas.

We went and tried all of the heavy hitters in town so we can provide you with photos, reviews, and a guide to the best carnitas in San Antonio. 

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What Kind Of Meat Is Carnitas?

Carnitas (which translates to “little meats”) is made from heavily-marbled pork meat. It’s traditionally made from a pretty inexpensive cut of the pig (pork butt or shoulder), so it’s a good way to cook meat in bulk and feed a crowd. 

Best Carnitas in San Antonio

Where Did Carnitas Originate?

Carnitas is originally from Michoacán, Mexico. It’s one of the 31 states of Mexico and it’s on the Pacific Ocean side of the coastline. 

Of course, pigs aren’t native to Mexico. The story is that carnitas originated in the 1500s when Spanish explorer Cortés brought pigs to Mexico from his Caribbean island. 

And while carnitas are consumed and enjoyed all over Mexico (and the world!), Michocoán is known as THE place for carnitas.

(It probably doesn’t hurt that Michocoán is where copper is mined, and the traditional way to make carnitas is with two copper pots.) 

Carnitas is a celebratory meal! They're pretty time-consuming to make, so this meal was traditionally reserved for large gatherings, parties, and celebrations.

And now we’re lucky to get to enjoy it pretty much any day of the week and some of these amazing San Antonio restaurants. 

Best Carnitas In San Antonio-05

How Are Carnitas Made?

In this day and age? Any way you want. Pressure cooker, slow cooker, with lard, without lard… 

But traditionally, carnitas are made by putting pork meat in a large copper pot. This is important because copper is an excellent heat conductor. The meat is covered with a thick seal of lard (flavor!!) and it’s simmered for hours on a very low heat until the meat is tender and falls off the bone. 

Then the heat is turned up so the pork gets those crispy, crackly pieces on it that make it taste SO good. This is an important part of carnitas, and it really adds variety and texture to the meat. 

Best Carnitas in San Antonio

If you’re in San Antonio and looking for some excellent carnitas, here are 5 places that have our stamp of approval.

But, of course, don’t take our word for it. 😉 Get out there and try them yourself!

Tacos are one of the easiest foods to try because they’re pretty cheap, they’re fun to eat either solo or with a group, and they’re great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

There are so many more carnitas places in San Antonio, but to get you started, here’s what we believe are the 5 best carnitas in SA.

The 5 Best Carnitas In San Antonio

1. Carnitas Lonja

Carnitas Lonja

Carnitas Lonja, in my opinion, serves the best carnitas in San Antonio. Chef Alejandro Paredes, a James Beard semifinalist, opened this San Antonio carnitas restaurant in 2017. He grew up in Morelia, Mexico, which is the birthplace of carnitas….so he knows a thing or two about carnitas. 

The location on the southwest side of San Antonio isn’t trendy. In fact, there aren’t a lot of other excellent restaurants near Carnitas Lonja. But even if you have to drive a long way to get here, a visit to Carnitas Lonja is a must.

Carnitas Lonja

Seriously…these tacos are so, so good. It’s a small restaurant with a walk-up window and outdoor picnic tables, so don’t dress up. This is a casual, quick place to grab a bite to eat. And the tacos are absolutely legendary.

Of course, I say “tacos” but the carnitas meat is sold in the traditional way: by the libra, or pound. Food is ordered at the walk-up window.

Sure, you can get a single carnitas taco, which includes a decent amount of pork meat nestled inside a warm corn tortilla. But honestly, the best way to do it at Carnitas Lonja is to show up with a friend/significant other (or show up very hungry) and order a carnitas half libra, which includes a ½ pound of carnitas, 4 tortillas, pico de gallo, some scrumptious and bright pink pickled onions, and salsa.

And yes, if you’re very hungry, you might be able to eat all four tortillas + ½ pound of carnitas by yourself. But really, a ½ pound is a great amount for a couple. 

The deep, rich flavor of the slow-cooked pork is accentuated by the soft, handmade corn tortillas. Don’t skimp on those toppings! Carnitas meat is incredibly rich and succulent, and it needs the acidity and brightness of the pickled onions and salsa to cut through the flavor. 

I don’t like to list one place as the “single best” very often, because there are so many factors that go into choosing a restaurant: location, service, price point, ambiance, and (obviously) quality and consistency of the food. 

But I’ll say this: I’ve tried all of the major places to get carnitas in San Antonio, and if someone asks me for a good carnitas nearby, I will 10/10 direct them to Carnitas Lonja as my top pick, every single time.

WEBSITE | 1107 Roosevelt Ave STE B, San Antonio, TX 78210

2. Carnitas Don Raul - USA

Carnitas Don Raul

Read the paragraph above, and then you can appreciate this: Carnitas Don Raul is a close second place for the best carnitas in San Antonio. And if you’ve been to Carnitas Lonja and you know how fantastic that carnitas restaurant is, you’ll understand that second place is really, really good. 

Carnitas Don Raul is originally from Michoacan Mexico. A lot of Netflix viewers around the world learned about this spot from the hit show Taco Chronicles, but it’s been a popular restaurant since back in 1991 when it opened on a small street corner in Mexico.

So when USA viewers started paying attention to it, Carnitas Don Raul decided they needed to open a location in the United States…and they picked right here in San Antonio! (How lucky are we?!)

Carnitas Don Raul does one thing, and they do it well: CARNITAS. You can order a carnitas taco, carnitas meat by the pound, carnitas tortas, or even a delicious carnitas quesadilla. No part of the animal is wasted in the making of carnitas, and you can select the type of meat you want to order. Or just get a mix of everything. Or just order “lean” or “fatty” if you don’t really know what you want.

The traditional way to do it in Mexico is just to order a full pound of carnitas, and that’s definitely your best option at Carnitas Don Raul. It’s served warm, steaming, and incredibly rich with flavors. They include corn tortillas, onions and cilantro, and fresh salsa for serving. 

5 Best Carnitas in San Antonio

You can also order individual tacos (this is what I did since I was stopping by solo.) They’re served on double tortillas, which is necessary for the hefty amount of carnitas that they include. Choose lean or fatty meat (I picked a combo) and add your own cilantro and onion. I appreciated that they add these on the side since some people are averse to the taste of cilantro and raw onion. That being said…I really feel like the tacos needed to bite off the raw onions to cut through the rich flavor of the meat. There’s nothing else on the taco! 

Carnitas Don Raul is located in a small food truck park on Broadway. It’s a fun spot to stop by, eat a few tacos with your group, and maybe get some coffee at Mila Coffee, one of the best coffee spots in San Antonio. 

WEBSITE | 2202 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78215

3. Ro-Ho Pork & Bread

Ro-Ho Pork and Bread

It’s all in the name of Ro-ho Pork and Bread. Back in 2015, chef and owner Jorge Rojo decided to open up a restaurant near San Antonio’s international airport that would feature the most famous street food from his hometown in Guadalajara, Jalisco, the torta ahogada. 

This pork carnitas and birote bread sandwich was an immediate win and SA residents have flocked to Ro-ho ever since for their pork and bread hit.

The restaurant itself is in a quirky space with funky paintings and luchador action figures lining the walls. And there is a nice outdoor covered patio with a bright red awning for outdoor dining. But it isn’t the aesthetic at Ro-ho that you come for, it’s the carnitas, all the way.

Ro-ho’s menu is on the smaller side, with only six options on tap – a torta ahogada, a taco dorado, a taco chilango, chilaquiles, nachos, and a salad bowl. But if you’re going to have a limited menu, it’s what you do with it that counts. And the carnitas here count! 

For each menu item, guests are given a choice of carnitas (pork butt, pork stomach, mixed, or vegetarian) and bread (birote, corn tortillas, or corn chips), and then the whole thing is smothered in tomato salsa and avocado salsa until it is an absolutely dripping mess (which, I am told, is the only correct way to eat it).

While at Ro-ho, I tried the taco chilango with tender and flavorful carnitas, chopped onion, cilantro, pork cracklings, and of course, All. The. Sauces. It was a wonderfully messy taco with great flavors and colors and, at only $4.50, very satisfying, for very little.

WEBSITE | 8617 N New Braunfels Ave, San Antonio, TX 78217

4. Casa Tarasca Carnitas

5 Best Carnitas In San Antonio

Three words: birria carnitas quesatacos. 

I mean, Casa Tarasca Carnitas food truck does ALL their carnitas menu items really well. This carnitas meat is juicy, soft, and soooo flavorful. It has that perfect mixture of soft, fall-of-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth pork texture, as well as the crackly little bits. 

And you could definitely order a few carnitas tacos here. Or a pound of carnitas. 

But what I suggest is that you get the quesatacos…made with carnitas! If you’ve ever had beef birria tacos (stewed beef meat served between a folded and griddled tortilla, oozing with melty cheese and dipped in a decadent broth), it’s like that but better

These birria carnitas 

Keep in mind: everything they sell here is very, very rich. So show up hungry! And keep in mind that after eating those drippy, delicious birria carnitas quesatacos, you’ll probably want to take a well-deserved nap. {Photo: Casa Tarasca Facebook}

WEBSITE | 1805 Guadalupe St, San Antonio, TX 78207

5. Taqueria Datapoint

Taqueria Datapoint

If you’re craving excellent carnitas tacos in San Antonio at any time of day, in any part of town, you need to visit Taqueria Datapoint. It’s an authentic Mexican restaurant with a variety of entrees and tacos available, but their carnitas taco is absolutely delicious. And with three locations in San Antonio, it’s one of the most convenient places to get your carnitas tacos to fix. 

These aren’t the massive, meat-filled, mega tacos you might find at Carnitas Don Raul. Instead, Taqueria Datapoint serves tiny street tacos on a plate with onions and cilantro. You might want to order 4 or 5 of them to make a full meal. Also, full disclosure: I love the other tacos here just as much as the carnitas, so I’m going to advocate for a platter of 5 tacos in a variety of fillings. But you do you. 

The carnitas here is soft and delicate, cooked slowly until it’s rich and drippy. I went heavy on the salsa, as I typically do with carnitas (so much meat! It needs more acidity and spice, in my opinion) and I also layered on the onion and cilantro. 

But you could absolutely enjoy the flavor of the carnitas solo. Taqueria Datapoint does offer a carnitas plate, which includes a large portion of carnitas, corn tortillas, and toppings. And if you’re ordering for a group, go for the full pound of carnitas. It comes with 10 tortillas, rice, and charro beans. 

WEBSITE | 4063 Medical Dr, San Antonio, TX 78229

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