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 cilantro tomato 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!
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.
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.
- SHRED: When the meat is fork tender, pull into small chunks (we prefer this over finely shredded).
- 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.
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
- Easy Ground Beef Tacos – so easy
- Shrimp Tacos – so fresh
- Easy Fish Tacos – perfect for summer
- Creamy Chicken Enchiladas – easy and flavorful
- Chicken Tortilla Soup – family favorite
Pork Carnitas Recipe (Slow Cooker)
- 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
- 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.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
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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!!
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.
Bought a pork shoulder with a bone should I cut it off or place the entire thing in the crockpot?
This recipe suggests the pork is cut into large cubes before placing it in the slow cooker so you can cut the bone off.
I have a shoulder with a bone in. I dont like to waste food that doesnt need to be wasted. Can it still cook in the crockpot with the bone?
Sure you can (and the bone will add great flavor). You may need to add a little bit of extra time.
Can this recipe be frozen after cooking?
Yes, this recipe can be frozen.
Made this for the Suoer Bowl. Turned out great!
This was absolutely delicious! The lime and orange flavor really topped it off. So easy to make and had enough for leftovers.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
So glad you enjoyed the carnitas recipes Amy!
This turned out so good. It took me a little extra time to get everything prepped and into the crockpot.
So happy you loved it Amy!
Can I ask how you got your nutritional info for 4 servings? I’m assuming it serves much more than that?
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.
I made this last night and everyone just loved it! It will likely be a weekly meal from now on. THANK YOU
You’re so welcome Lynn! It’s one of our favorites!!
This Carnitas look so delicious! They are loaded with flavor!
Thanks Shanika! We think so too! Hope you enjoy!
Looks so delicious! Perfect for dinner, I love carnitas!
We second that Natalie! Carnitas are delicious!
I love carnitas but I’ve never been brave enough to try making it, this looks so easy and delicious though!
You got this Mikayla!! They are delicious…you won’t regret it!
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!!
Thanks Luci! Guacamole and crispy-edged tortilla get us too!
Delicious and packed full of flavour – I love this recipe so much! This will be on regular rotation with my family! :)
Taco Tuesday here we come! Glad you loved it Alexandra!
I am so happy that you love carnitas now every bit as much as we do!
What can we say Mary! They are irresistible!
Can you use pork tenderloin?
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!
Oh no’ don’t have cumin – Will that make a huge difference? Or should I run out and get some
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!