A quick and easy dinner using your slow cooker! These Crock Pot Carnitas are perfectly crispy, yet tender and juicy with so much flavor from the blend of spices. Pile seasoned pork in a soft tortilla with your favorite toppings for an easy weeknight dinner recipe.
Taco night will get a big upgrade when you try crock pot carnitas! Tender, falling-apart pork simmered in flavorful citrus and spices is a recipe that is destined to be a new favorite at your house.
What is Carnitas?
Carnitas is a Mexican dish made with pork shoulder and spices. It’s similar to pulled pork but with Mexican flavors. Carnitas translates to “little meats” since the pork is shredded into bite-sized pieces.
Traditional carnitas is usually cooked on the stove or in the oven resulting in really tender meat that has some crispy edges. You can create this same result using your slow cooker and broiler. It’s really easy.
First, the meat simmers for hours in your crock pot and then you shred it and stick under the broiler to crisp it up. It works really well!
The best part is that once it’s in the crock pot you can leave it all day and let it do its thing. You don’ have to fuss over it and can treat yourself to a margarita while it cooks!
The best way to use the shredded pork is in tacos. It’s so tender and delicious. I can’t wait for you to try it!
The Best Cut of Pork to Use
The key to the best carnitas is using the right cut of pork. Pork shoulder is a tougher cut of meat that has a high-fat content. When it’s cooked low and slow for hours, all of that fat melts into the meat making it super tender and delicious. You can use boneless or bone-in for this recipe.
You can also use pork butt which is a similar cut. Whichever you use, you will need one that is three to five pounds.
Other Ingredients You’ll Need
The meat is coated in a spice rub and is cooked in a combination of citrus juices, garlic, and green chiles. So much flavor!
For the spice rub: Cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. If you don’t have smoked paprika, you can use regular.
For the cooking liquid: Orange juice and lime juice. I prefer fresh-squeezed juice for this recipe. Prepared orange juice has too much sugar – you definitely want the tartness from the juice.
The rest of the ingredients: You will also need sliced onions, diced green chiles or jalapenos, and minced garlic.
How to Make It
Mix the spices for the rub in a small bowl. Rub the mixture all over the pork and then place the pork fat-side-up in the crock pot.
Top the pork with the onions, garlic, and green chiles. Pour the citrus juice over the top.
Place the lid on the crock pot and cook the carnitas for 10 hours on low or 7 hours on low.
Once cooked, transfer the pork to a large cutting board and shred it using two forks. Place it back in the crock pot and simmer it for 30 minutes.
Spread the shredded meat on a lined sheet pan. If needed, use two pans so the meat isn’t crowded onto one. In order to get it crispy, it needs to be in a mostly even layer.
Place the pan under the broiler for a few minutes or until parts of the meat crispy up and turn brown. Take it out of the oven and it’s ready to serve!
How to Make Carnitas Tacos
Our favorite way to serve this delicious, shredded meat is as a filling for tacos!
Warm up flour tortillas or corn tortillas and add some carnitas. Top them with your favorite toppings – here are some we love:
- Classic Salsa, creamy avocado salsa, or pico de gallo.
- Homemade guacamole or sliced avocados.
- Shredded cheese like cheddar or Monterey Jack. Or try cotjita which is a Mexican crumbling cheese.
- Sprinkle some chopped cilantro and lime juice over the top!
The secret for the best slow cooker carnitas is the cooking time. The meat needs a long time to cook so the fat breaks down and tenderizes the meat. So, you can’t rush it! You know when it’s done when you can easily shred the meat with a fork.
After you cook it, there will be liquid in the slow cooker. You definitely want that juice, but if there is a lot of liquid you can discard some of it. You just need enough to simmer the shredded meat.
This is a great recipe for meal prep! It makes a big batch, and you can keep it in the refrigerator for three to four days. Or, you can freeze the carnitas for three months to have on hand for easy dinners.
You don’t have to stick to tacos – use this delicious shredded pork to make quesadillas, nachos, taco bowls, burritos, or enchiladas. I also use in salads, too!
I know you’re going to love making homemade carnitas! The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for that delicious meat to simmer and tenderize. I hope you love it!
More Mexican-Inspired Crock Pot Recipes
I LOVE my crock pot! Here are more ways to make life easy in the kitchen. Or browse all of my crock pot recipes for even more ideas!
- You only need three ingredients to make the best Chicken Tacos in your slow cooker. We make this easy dinner on repeat!
- Fiesta Chicken is an easy recipe with rice, chicken, and pico de gallo that is light and delicious.
- Make Steak Fajitas in your crock pot for the best taco Tuesday dinner!
- Mexican Quinoa Bake cooks in the slow cooker for a hearty and filling meal. It’s great for weeknights!
Try it and love it? Rate it, please! Seriously though a five-star rating below will make my day!
If you snap a photo, please be sure tag me on Instagram at @julieseatsandtreats or #julieseatsandtreats so I can see your amazing dish!
- 3.5 – 5 lb pork shoulder can also use pork butt. either bone-in or boneless
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 4 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 4 oz can diced green chilis or jalapenos for heat
- 2 yellow onions sliced
- 2 oranges juiced
- 2 limes juiced
- toppings i.e. softs shells, salsa, guacamole, diced avocado, salsa, cilantro, onions
- Mix cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper, together in a small bowl. Rub over all sides of the pork making sure to completely cover it.
- Place the pork in the crock pot, fat side up.
- Spread the minced garlic, green chilis, and onions over the top of the pork. Pour in the juice from the oranges and limes.
- Cover crock pot and cook on low 10 hours or high 7 hours.
- Remove the meat from the crock pot to a cutting board and shred with two forks.
- Return the meat to the crock pot and let it simmer on low for 30 minutes. (If there seems to be a lot of juices, you can remove some of it first).
- After simmering the meat, using tongs, transfer the meat to a large rimmed sheet pan. You may need more than one, make sure not to crowd it.
- Place it under the broiler for 1-3 minutes. Watch it closely! You want some of the meat to brown up and become crispy, but not all of it.
- Serve with soft shells, cilantro, diced avocado, guacamole, pico de gall, salsa etc.
- This needs a longer cooking time than your usual crockpot meal for maximum flavor and tenderness.
- If there is an abundance of liquid in the crockpot after cooking, it’s okay to remove some, but you still want plenty of juices for it to simmer in.
- Anywhere from 3-5 pounds of meat works great without changing anything else.
- You can use boneless or bone in pork shoulder
- After you cook it, there will be liquid in the slow cooker. You definitely want that juice, but if there is a lot of liquid you can discard some of it. You just need enough to simmer the shredded meat.
- This is a great recipe for meal prep! It makes a big batch, and you can keep it in the refrigerator for three to four days. Or, you can freeze the carnitas for three months to have on hand for easy dinners.
- You don’t have to stick to tacos – use this delicious shredded pork to make quesadillas, nachos, taco bowls, burritos, or enchiladas. I also use in salads, too!