Keto Carnitas Salad: A Delicious and Nourishing Meal

Introduction

Looking for a way to enjoy pulled pork without the bread? Look no further than our healthy and flavorful pulled pork bowls! These gluten-free and low-carb carnitas salads are perfect for those following a keto diet. With a crockpot doing all the work, you can have mouthwatering pork shoulder carnitas ready for dinner after a long day at work. Plus, any leftover shredded pork can be used in tacos, burritos, or even mixed with BBQ sauce!

Indulgent Flavor and Nourishing Ingredients

Prepare to be amazed by these pulled pork salad bowls. Slow-cooked to perfection, our tender carnitas mix and mingle with creamy avocado, flavorful cheese, and fresh lettuce. The result is a delicious, nourishing, and satisfying meal that captures the essence of a taco salad. And the best part? These pork shoulder salads are surprisingly low in net carbs and calories, making them an excellent choice for those looking for a lighter pork roast option.

Easy Preparation for Any Occasion

You can easily make these carnitas salad bowls ahead of time as a meal prep option, as long as you don’t mind the avocado getting slightly brown. Alternatively, they make a fantastic family dinner that even those who aren’t fans of “health food” will enjoy. The process of making pork salad is as simple as cooking the pulled pork and assembling everything in a bowl. It’s a nutrient-rich, easy, and, most importantly, delicious meal that will leave you satisfied.

Calories, Net Carbs, Protein

Each serving of our pulled pork bowls contains approximately 559 calories, 15.5 grams of net carbs, and 41.1 grams of protein. For those following a keto diet and skipping the corn, the dish provides 514 calories, 7 grams of net carbs, and 39.6 grams of protein. These values ensure a filling and satisfying meal that can easily fit into your dietary goals.

Benefits of Pulled Pork Salads

Why choose pulled pork salads? Well, you don’t have to sacrifice delicious foods like carnitas in the name of a healthy diet! Here are some nutrition benefits and advantages of our recipe:

  • High-quality protein: Each serving offers over 40 grams of filling protein, providing a meal with staying power.
  • Essential vitamins and minerals: Pulled pork is rich in various B vitamins, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and iron. Additionally, the veggies bring in some vitamin C, provitamin A, and the cheese adds calcium to the mix.
  • Gluten-free and low carb: These carnitas salad bowls are naturally gluten-free and low in carbs. They are also soy-free and can be made keto-friendly by skipping the corn.
  • Fast prep: After slow cooking the pork butt all day, assembling the meal is all that’s left. You can even use leftover shredded pork for a quick and easy no-cook dinner idea.
  • Delicious: Eating healthful food shouldn’t be unpleasant, and our pulled pork bowls prove just that. The richness of the pork, cheese, and avocado creates a dish that tastes wonderful. Believe it or not, many people prefer these pulled pork bowls over a traditional pulled pork sandwich!
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Ingredients You’ll Need

To make our pulled pork bowls, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Skinless, boneless pork shoulder or Boston butt
  • Sliced onion
  • Salad mix or your favorite lettuce blend
  • Shredded pepper jack cheese
  • Pickled jalapenos
  • Frozen roasted corn (optional for those on a keto diet)
  • Chopped avocado
  • Fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Salsa
  • Cilantro

You can use pork shoulder or pork butt interchangeably for this recipe. Both cuts come from the foreleg of the pig, with pork shoulder coming from a slightly lower position. Avoid substituting leaner meats, such as pork sirloin, for these fatty cuts as they won’t yield the same succulent results. If you have a larger piece of pork shoulder, you can cook it all in the crockpot and freeze the leftovers for future meals.

For a time-saving option, you can use pre-cooked carnitas from Trader Joe’s instead of slow-cooking raw pork shoulder. Trader Joe’s carnitas can be microwaved for 2-3 minutes, providing a convenient shortcut.

Pulled Pork vs. Carnitas

You may be wondering about the difference between carnitas and pulled pork. Carnitas is essentially Mexican-style pulled pork made from pork shoulder or pork butt. The meat is seasoned and slowly braised or simmered in fat or oil for several hours. It is then heated at a higher temperature to achieve crispy edges.

Pulled pork, on the other hand, is often associated with Southeastern U.S. cuisine. It involves applying a BBQ rub to the meat before smoking or slow cooking it. The cooked meat is then shredded and mixed with BBQ sauce.

Throughout this article, we use “pulled pork” and “carnitas” interchangeably. You can add seasonings to the shredded pork to make it more like carnitas or mix in BBQ sauce for a southern-style pulled pork. The choice is yours!

Seasonings to Enhance the Flavor

While our pulled pork bowls are already bursting with flavor, you can add extra spices and herbs to the pork while it cooks to take it up a notch. Consider incorporating some of the following seasonings:

  • Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
  • Crushed garlic cloves or garlic powder
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Marjoram
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaves
  • Smoked paprika
  • Salt and black pepper

Equipment Needed

To make your pulled pork bowls, you’ll need a crockpot or Instant Pot. You’ll also want some forks for shredding the pork and a good knife for preparation. For meal prep purposes, we highly recommend using spacious salad containers with dressing cups to keep everything fresh.

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Cooking Time and Temperature

Pulled pork requires approximately 8 hours of slow cooking in a crockpot set to low. Don’t let the cooking time deter you; your crockpot will be doing most of the work!

Start by slicing the onion and placing it at the bottom of the crockpot. Lay the raw pork butt or pork shoulder on top and add any desired seasonings. Cover the pot and cook on low for 8 hours. If you have an Instant Pot, you can use the “slow cooker” function for this step.

Once the cooking time is up, remove the pork from the pot and shred it with two forks. The meat should easily fall apart. Mix the shredded pork with the onions. For crispy pork carnitas, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil from the crockpot in a cast-iron skillet. Add the cooked and shredded pork to the skillet and let it crisp for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Delicious!

Assembling Your Pulled Pork Bowls

Making pulled pork bowls is a breeze once the pork is slow-cooked. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Chop the avocado and sprinkle it with fresh lime juice to prevent browning.
  2. Divide the lettuce between four bowls.
  3. Top the bowls with equal amounts of cheese, avocado, pickled jalapeno, and carnitas.
  4. If desired, add the frozen roasted corn to the bowls. Skip the corn if you’re following a keto diet.
  5. Finish off your pulled pork bowls with a generous dollop or two of salsa and garnish with cilantro.
  6. The combination of pork, cheese, and avocado adds moisture and a delightful fatty mouthfeel to the bowl, eliminating the need for dressing. Just give the salad a good stir before eating to ensure each bite is full of different ingredients.

For meal prep purposes, we recommend storing the salsa separately in dressing cups to prevent the lettuce from becoming soggy.

Leftovers and Side Dish Ideas

If you happen to have leftovers from your pulled pork, there are plenty of tasty options to explore. Consider making pulled pork burritos, tacos, BBQ sandwiches, burrito bowls with rice or cauliflower rice, taco bowls with crumbled corn tortilla chips, Vietnamese pulled pork salad, or pulled pork nachos. Refrigerate any leftover carnitas in a sealed container for 3-4 days, or freeze it for future use. When reheating, add a little extra fat in a skillet and let the pork crisp up for a truly delicious meal.

As for side dishes, our pulled pork bowls are already quite filling on their own. However, you can pair them with pickled onions, red onions, scallions, guacamole, coleslaw mix, broccoli slaw, chopped tomatoes, black beans, pinto beans, roasted red peppers, poblano peppers, pico de gallo, or even sweet potatoes. This recipe is highly versatile, allowing you to customize it to your liking.

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Expert Tips for Your Journey

As a level 2 recipe suitable for transitioning or weight maintenance, our pulled pork bowls provide ample protein and a substantial volume of food with controlled calories and net carbs. If you’re aiming for weight loss, this recipe is an excellent choice. The combination of protein, fiber, and fluid volume will help keep you full and satisfied. To make the meal under 500 calories, omit the corn and use light shredded cheese. Removing the corn also reduces the carb content, making it a lower-carb or keto-friendly option.

If you prefer lean protein and low-fat dairy as part of your weight loss journey, consider trying our Air Fryer Taco Meat recipe for a taco salad variation. The lean beef replaces the fattier pork shoulder, allowing for a lighter meal without sacrificing flavor. Opting for lean protein aligns with current dietary recommendations and can significantly reduce calorie intake.

However, it’s important to note that lean proteins and low-fat dairy may not be as filling for everyone. For some individuals, strictly choosing lean proteins might lead to increased hunger between meals and ultimately higher calorie consumption. When aiming for weight loss, it’s essential to identify nutrient-dense foods that personally satisfy you. This will make it easier to create a balanced and enjoyable diet that supports your goals. Increasing protein, fiber, and fluid volume in your meals is a great starting point.

FAQs and More One Bowl Recipes

If you’re looking for additional bowl recipes, consider trying our Keto Big Mac Salad Bowl, Nourish Bowls (with dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan options), Vegan Burrito Bowl, Shrimp Fajita Bowl, or Deconstructed Sushi Bowl. These recipes are all designed to save you time in the kitchen while providing delicious and satisfying meals.

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The Disclaimer

Please note that all recipes on this website may or may not be suitable for everyone, depending on their medical needs and personal preferences. We recommend consulting a registered dietitian or physician to determine the dietary pattern that best suits you.

Also, keep in mind that “keto” recipes found on the web may not always align with medical nutrition therapy guidelines for ketogenic diets. The information provided here is an estimate and may vary depending on the specific brands and ingredients used. Calorie information on food labels can be inaccurate, so it’s best not to focus too heavily on the numbers.

For more information on how our recipe levels can assist with weight management goals, refer to our overnight oats no sugar post. Now let’s get cooking!


For a delightful and satisfying meal, try our updated recipe for Pulled Pork Bowls. With mouthwatering flavors and nourishing ingredients, these low-carb, gluten-free carnitas salads will quickly become a favorite. Don’t forget to visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill for more delicious recipes and dining options.