Pork Carnitas Recipe (Slow Cooker)


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Crispy Pork Carnitas are slow cooked with spices and a bit of citrus zest until the pork shoulder becomes tender and succulent. The pork is pulled and crisped on the outside for the perfect filler for tortillas or topper for burrito bowls!

Serve this easy dish alongside Mexican Rice or on top of Cilantro Lime Rice with a side of Mexican Grilled Corn. Add in a spoonful of Homemade Guacamole and you’ve got the perfect tableside fiesta!

Overhead shot of Pork Carnitas on a baking sheet surrounded by tortillas, limes and avocado

Easy Pork Tacos

When it comes to indescribably delicious comfort food, nothing surpasses this carnitas recipe. Succulent and meaty, this dish is inexpensive, yet sensational!

The first time I ever tasted pork carnitas was when my friend Mary from Barefeet in the Kitchen made these amazing carnitas! I think we stood at the stove and ate 3/4 of the recipe right off the pan. So good!

What is Carnitas?

Pork carnitas is Mexican pulled pork the word actually means “little meat,” (but there’s nothing small about the huge flavor you’ll get from this recipe)!

Pork for Carnitas: Carnitas meat is best when made from a pork shoulder roast. Tough and flavorful, this economical cut of meat takes especially well to braising on low heat in the slow cooker. After several hours, the fat has dissolved and the pork becomes fall apart tender. It is shredded, spread out on a cookie sheet and popped under the broiler for a few minutes. The resulting crispy brown edges make the meat incredibly scrumptious.

Traditionally, Mexican pork carnitas are braised in oil or lard but we prefer to cook meat in broth, citrus juices, herbs and spices.

Slow cooker Pork Carnitas

Pork for Carnitas

I use a pork shoulder for this recipe. Just like Slow Cooker Pulled Pork or Crock Pot Pork Chops, this recipe needs a nicely marbled fattier cut of pork. As it cooks low and slow it becomes melt in your mouth tender.

A pork tenderloin is great for making roasted or grilled pork tenderloin but it’s not ideal for slow cooking in this recipe as it’ll dry out.

How to Make Carnitas

This is an easy meal to make, but takes planning, like most slow cooker meals. But I promise, carnitas are well worth the wait! Here’s how to make the best ever slow cooker carnita recipe:

  • CITRUS: Use a vegetable peeler to peel strips off the oranges/lime. We add this to the slow cooker in place of the whole rind for great flavor without the bitter pith (the white part of the orange peel). Juice the oranges and limes.
  • PORK: Brown the pork (again, this just adds more flavor) and add to the slow cooker with all of the other ingredients.

Overhead shot of pork carnitas ingredients in a slow cooker

  • SHRED: When the meat is fork tender, pull into small chunks (we prefer this over finely shredded).
  • .CRISP:
    • Broil: Spread the shredded meat on a cookie sheet broil until the edges are deep brown and crispy.
    • Stove Top: Add a bit of olive oil to a hot pan and add pork. Do not stir until browned and crisp on one side.
    • Air Fryer: If you have an airfryer, 4-6 minutes at a high temperature (425°F) will produce the perfect crisp.

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

Proceed as directed in the recipe increasing the broth by 1/2 cup. If browning the pork in the Instant Pot, be certain to deglaze very well before pressure cooking. If you have little brown bits left on the bottom of the IP, you risk getting the dreaded burn notice.

Cook the pork chunks on high pressure for 30 minutes. Allow for natural release 15 minutes. Broil/crisp as directed.

Overhead shot of Pork Carnitas tacos on a cutting board

To Serve Carnitas

Ladle on some more of the pot juices and serve with tortillas, a variety of toppings. Pork carnitas are best served rolled in soft corn tortillas topped with veggies or condiments.

A fun way to serve crispy carnitas tacos is to place a variety of toppings on the table and let everyone pick and choose at will. Include bowls of shredded lettuce, chopped cilantro, sour cream, pico de gallo and shredded cheese.

Pork carnitas are savory and filling, so look for side dishes that are fresh, light, and somewhat acidic or sweet. Try serving it with cucumber salad, or a fresh mango salsa for a heavenly and scrumptious repast. Don’t forget the margaritas!

More Mexican Favorites

Slow cooker Pork Carnitas
4.91 from 44 votes
Review Recipe

Pork Carnitas

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Holly Nilsson
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
When it comes to indescribably delicious comfort food, nothing surpasses pork carnitas. Succulent and meaty, this dish is inexpensive, yet sensational!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 large onion quartered, or two small
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 large navel oranges
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 bay leaf

Follow Spend with Pennies on Pinterest

Instructions

  • Cut the pork shoulder into large chunks (about 3"). Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large pan and add olive oil. Brown the pork in small batches.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, peel 4-5 strips of rind off the oranges and 3 strips off the lime. Juice the oranges and lime.
  • Place pork, citrus juices, peels and spices in the slow cooker with chicken broth and onion.
  • Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8 hours until the pork is fork tender. Discard bay leaf.
  • Turn the oven on to broil. Pull the pork into large chunks and place in a single layer on a large pan. Spoon a little bit of juice on top.  Broil 4-5 minutes or until crisp. Stir and add a ladle a little bit more broth. Broil an additional 5 minutes.
  • Spoon juices from the slow cooker over the pork.
  • Serve in tortillas with your favorite toppings.

Recipe Notes

Once slow cooked, the pork can be crisped on broil as directed above or seared in olive oil in a hot pan (without stirring). If you have an airfryer, 4-6 minutes at a high temperature will also produce the perfect crisp.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 438, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 42g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 139mg, Sodium: 409mg, Potassium: 999mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 765IU, Vitamin C: 55.5mg, Calcium: 100mg, Iron: 3.8mg
Keyword carnitas, pork carnitas

 

Pork Carnitas on a baking tray, with tortillas and guacamole on the side
Slow cooker pork carnitas with a title
Overhead shot of Slow cooker pork carnitas with a title

More Recipes You'll Love

About the author

Holly

pinterest facebook twitter instagram

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

More Posts by Holly

Latest & Greatest Dishes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. Made this for my family and it was delicious. The only thing I did different was coat the roast with olive oil before applying the rub. I served it with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, fresh guacamole and a sweet salsa. It is definitely a keeper & extremely easy to make.5 stars

  2. So delicious! This turned out perfectly with the browned tips from the broiled. Do not skip that step! My only issue was not using a bigger piece of meat.5 stars

  3. This recipe has great flavors!! The only thing to keep in mind is it’s time consuming. Other then that it was a great recipe!!

  4. First timer of carnitas, making it today, i don’t have a lime but I have lime juice, how much to use or I have lemons to use?? Hoping this isn’t spicy since stomach won’t take it!!

    1. Hi Carla, you could reduce the chili powder if you want it less spicy. And for the limes, you could replace the juice with approximately 2 tablespoons of lime juice.

    1. This recipe suggests the pork is cut into large cubes before placing it in the slow cooker so you can cut the bone off.

  5. This was absolutely delicious! The lime and orange flavor really topped it off. So easy to make and had enough for leftovers.5 stars

  6. This was INcredible. Made it in the Instant Pot and followed your IP directions….came out perfect. This will definitely be a recipe I will make again and again!5 stars

  7. The pork shoulder I purchased was really quite fatty and and a thick layer of fat on one side. Should I trim it at all or is it best to cook with all the fat?

    1. If it’s really thick you can cut some of it but the fat does melt into the meat which makes it tender so be sure to leave some.

  8. A lot more work than it seems. Plus, it falls apart and can’t be easily cut into ‘cute’ pieces like she shows. Wish I had found a better recipe.2 stars

    1. Yes, that’s correct Pork carnitas are not cut into pieces, they’re basically pulled pork. Once cooked, they’re pulled into chunks and broiled to crisp.

  9. This was soo good. It was too hot to turn our oven/ broiler on. I was still able to get the crispness of the meat by using our cast iron skillet. Tree have made this as tacos and on top of cream of corn casserole with cheese and salsa verde. So good!5 stars

    1. Hi Hayley, the completed pork carnitas portion divided into four servings is where the nutritional information comes from. This does not include the tortillas or toppings.

  10. I love carnitas but I’ve never been brave enough to try making it, this looks so easy and delicious though!5 stars

  11. You had me at orange zest. And then at that photo of the guacamole. And then those crispy-edged tortillas! What a decadently delicious looking meal!!

  12. Delicious and packed full of flavour – I love this recipe so much! This will be on regular rotation with my family! :)5 stars

    1. Hi Cheryl, pork tenderloin is a lean cut of pork so it may turn out dryer than if you use a pork shoulder. It should still turn out delicious, let us know how you like it!

        1. It does add great flavor but you can use a little bit of coriander or chili powder in place. It may change the flavor slightly but will still be delicious!