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How long does Pork Carnitas last in fridge?

Pork carnitas are a delicious Mexican dish made of slowly braised or roasted pork that is shredded and served. Carnitas are often served as tacos, burritos, nachos, or on their own. When stored properly in the refrigerator, carnitas can last 3-4 days. Here is a detailed guide on how long pork carnitas will last in the fridge and how to tell if they’ve gone bad.

How Long Do Pork Carnitas Last in the Fridge?

Freshly made pork carnitas will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator when stored properly in an airtight container. The crispy outer edges may soften over time, but the pork itself will remain fresh for 3-4 days. After that time, carnitas should be discarded to prevent foodborne illness.

Here are more specific guidelines for how long pork carnitas last in the fridge:

  • Freshly cooked carnitas: 3-4 days
  • Cooked carnitas leftovers: 3-4 days
  • Pre-made or store-bought carnitas: 3-4 days
  • Carnitas made with already cooked pork: 3-4 days

These timelines are for carnitas stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator at 40°F or below. Proper storage helps prevent bacteria growth and keeps carnitas fresher for longer.

Does Refrigeration Extend the Shelf Life?

Yes, refrigeration helps extend the shelf life of pork carnitas. At room temperature, bacteria grows rapidly causing carnitas to spoil within 2 hours. However, by refrigerating carnitas, you slow bacteria growth allowing the meat to last 3-4 days.

Refrigeration keeps carnitas fresh by:

  • Slowing bacteria growth that causes spoilage
  • Preventing pathogens like salmonella or E. coli from multiplying
  • Minimizing oxidation that leads to color and texture changes

For maximum freshness and food safety, pork carnitas should always be refrigerated and kept at 40°F or below.

How to Tell If Pork Carnitas Have Gone Bad

Although refrigeration extends the shelf life of carnitas, it’s still important to watch for signs of spoilage. Here are some ways to tell if pork carnitas have gone bad:

  • Appearance changes: The pork turns grey, brown or has a greenish tint.
  • Texture changes: The meat becomes slimy.
  • Smell: An unpleasant, sour or sulfurous odor.
  • Mold growth: Any fuzzy or slimy mold forming.

Discard carnitas immediately if you notice any of these changes. Do not taste or eat carnitas once they’ve spoiled.

Appearance and Texture

Fresh pork carnitas are moist with a slightly crispy outer layer. The pork itself should be light pink to white in color. As carnitas start to spoil, the pork will turn grey, brown or greenish. The texture will also become unpleasantly slimy.


Carnitas that have gone bad will develop an unpleasant sour, sulfurous or ammonia-like smell. This is caused by bacteria growth breaking down the proteins and fats. A foul odor is a telltale sign carnitas have spoiled.

Mold Growth

You may notice fuzzy mold growing on the surface of spoiled carnitas. This is often green, black or white in color. Any mold growth means the pork has developed harmful toxins and should be thrown out.

How to Store Pork Carnitas

To help carnitas last as long as possible, proper storage is key. Here are some tips for storing pork carnitas in the fridge:

  • Refrigerate carnitas within 2 hours of cooking.
  • Store in airtight containers or resealable plastic bags.
  • Ensure containers have no leaks, holes or openings.
  • Wrap or cover the container fully to prevent freezer burn.
  • Place carnitas on lower shelves nearer to the back where temperature is coldest.
  • Avoid overcrowding the fridge which reduces air circulation.
  • Clean spills immediately to prevent cross-contamination.

Use Airtight Containers

Storing carnitas in airtight containers or bags creates a barrier against oxygen, moisture loss and contamination. This preserves freshness and prevents the pork’s oils from leaking and spoiling.

Keep at 40°F or Below

The colder carnitas are kept, the longer they will last. Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust as needed.

Separate Into Small Portions

Divide carnitas into smaller containers rather than one large one. This allows you to only reheat what you need each time. It also prevents repeated temperature changes from continually opening the container which shortens shelf life.

Can You Freeze Pork Carnitas?

Yes, freezing is an excellent way to extend the shelf life of pork carnitas. Properly frozen carnitas can last 4-6 months in the freezer. To freeze:

  1. Let carnitas cool completely first.
  2. Portion into freezer bags, leaving 1⁄2 inch headspace.
  3. Remove as much air as possible and seal the bags.
  4. Label bags with contents and freeze-by date.
  5. Freeze carnitas immediately at 0°F or below.

For best quality, use frozen carnitas within 4-6 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before reheating.

Freezing Tips

  • Double wrap bags or use freezer-safe containers.
  • Avoid overflowing freezer which reduces air flow.
  • Freeze in single layers on trays first, then pack together.
  • Prevent freezer burn by minimizing exposure to air.

With proper freezing techniques, carnitas can be preserved for long-term storage while retaining moistness and flavor.

How to Reheat Pork Carnitas

To revive refrigerated pork carnitas safely, use these reheating methods:


Preheat oven to 350°F. Place carnitas in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake 15-20 minutes until heated through 165°F.


Heat carnitas over medium heat in a skillet with a bit of oil, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, about 8-10 minutes.


Microwave carnitas on High in 30 second intervals until heated to 165°F, stirring between cooking times.

Always reheat carnitas to an internal temperature of at least 165°F as measured by a food thermometer to kill any bacteria that may have grown during storage.

How Many Times Can You Reheat Carnitas?

It’s best to only reheat cooked pork carnitas once for food safety. Reheating more than once allows more opportunities for bacteria to grow as the carnitas cool again. Here are some reheating guidelines:

  • Refrigerated carnitas – Reheat once
  • Frozen carnitas – Can reheat directly from frozen state
  • Thawed carnitas – Reheat once after thawing

Only reheat the portion you plan to immediately eat. Do not reheat the entire batch multiple times. Discard any carnitas that have been reheated.

How Long Do Leftover Carnitas Last?

Leftover pork carnitas that have been refrigerated can safely be eaten for up to 4 days. Follow these tips for storing leftovers:

  • Refrigerate within 2 hours in shallow airtight containers.
  • Use leftovers within 3-4 days.
  • Reheat only once to 165°F until steaming hot.
  • Do not re-freeze previously frozen carnitas.
  • When reheating, check for signs of spoilage.

Discard any leftovers that are older than 4 days or show signs of spoilage like changes in smell, texture or appearance.

Other Common Questions

How long do carnitas last at room temperature?

Pork carnitas should not be left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. After this point, bacteria can multiply quickly causing foodborne illness. Refrigerate or freeze carnitas within 2 hours of cooking.

Can you eat carnitas that were left out overnight?

No, carnitas that were improperly stored overnight at room temperature could be unsafe to eat. Foodborne pathogens can multiply rapidly if carnitas are left in the temperature danger zone between 40-140°F for more than 2 hours. Carnitas left out more than 2 hours should be discarded.

Do carnitas freeze well?

Yes, carnitas can be frozen successfully for 4-6 months while preserving flavor and texture. Allow them to fully cool before freezing in an airtight container with as little air as possible. Defrost in the refrigerator before reheating.

Can you refreeze thawed carnitas?

It is not recommended to refreeze carnitas once they have been thawed. Thawed meats should only be refrigerated for use within 3-4 days. Refreezing can lead to further moisture loss and textural changes.

How long is cooked pork good for?

Cooked pork lasts 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Fresh cut pork should be cooked or frozen within 3-5 days while ground pork lasts just 1-2 days. Follow safe refrigerator temperatures and look for signs of spoilage.


By properly refrigerating and freezing pork carnitas, you can extend the shelf life to enjoy this flavorful Mexican pork dish for up to 4 days after cooking. Sealing carnitas in airtight containers, keeping your fridge below 40°F, freezing for long-term storage and reheating only once can help maximize freshness and safety. Discard any carnitas that have spoiled based on changes in appearance, smell, texture or mold growth.