These Mexican Pork Carnitas are slow cooked until the meat is tender and easily falls apart. Then cooked under a hot broiler to get crisp caramelized bits. This recipe is so easy to make with the use of a slow cooker. Although it can be modified to be made on the stovetop as well. This recipe is great for tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, or burrito bowls and pairs with Mexican Rice, Homemade Refried Beans and some Guacamole.

Carnitas Tacos lined up and topped with fresh cilantro, and diced red onion, lime wedges on the side.

Why You Need to Make THIS Carnitas Recipe: 

  • Quick Prep work: using our slow cooker for this recipe allows us to get things together in minutes and let the meat cook all day which gives us tender, flavorful meat. 
  • Easy to find Ingredients: No complicated ingredients are needed for this recipe. 
  • Crispy, Caramelized bites: thanks to doing a quick broil at the end of the cooking gives us those crisp, caramelized bites of pork that make carnitas famous. 
  • Great for Large Groups: This is a perfect meal to make for a large group or gathering, or for meal prep for a week. 

What is carnitas? 

Carnitas is basically Mexican pulled pork. It’s traditionally made by braising, or simmering pork in lard until it’s tender. Then once the meat is tender, the heat is increased to crisp up the outside of the pork. It’s used in tacos, burritos, tamales, or on tostadas. Or of course, you can add it to a salad, or just eat it by itself also. 

Ingredients Needed:

Ingredients needed for making Slow Cooker Carnitas.

Notes on Some Ingredients:

  • Pork Shoulder: This cut is also referred to as a “pork butt”. There is no need to have a bone in for this recipe. If needed this recipe can be made with other cuts of pork such as pork loin, 
  • Oranges: grab organic or clean the oranges well since we will be using the juice and also tossing the entire orange into our slow cooker for flavoring. 
  • Jalapeno: the recipe calls for the seeds and membranes to be removed, if you would prefer to have a little heat to the meat, you can leave those in or you could grab a hotter Chile such as a Serrano if you would prefer. 

How to Make (Step by Step):

Step by step how to make carnitas showing a dry rub being made in a small bowl and then the ingredients being added to a slow cooker.
  • Step 1: Make the rub. In a small bowl combine the cumin, chipotle powder, salt, oregano, and black pepper, stir to combine. Chop the meat into large pieces to help with cooking, then rub down the pork roast with the seasoning.
  • Step 2: Place the roast into the slow cooker. Add the quartered onion, minced garlic, sliced jalapenos, and orange juice. Cook over low heat for 6-8 hours (depends on size, more information is included in the recipe card).
Up close view of shredded pork that has been crisped under a broiler.
  • Step 3: Remove the roast from the slow cooker and shred. Save the juices from cooking the meat. (I like to save the juices in a sealed plastic container, I use it when crisping the meat, and also save it for helping to reheat any leftovers).
  • Step 4: Preheat broiler, spread the shredded meat in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Spoon excess juices from cooking the meat, over the meat. Broil until bits of the meat begin to crisp and caramelize, about 2-3 minutes. Then remove from the heat.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What kind of meat is carnitas? 

Carnitas is made out of pork, the best cut is to use a Pork Shoulder Roast, AKA “Pork Butt”. You can use bone in, but it’s not necessary for this recipe. The best cut is going to be a well marbled Boston butt, or picnic roast cut of pork. 

Is Carnitas the same as Pulled Pork? 

Carnitas is a Mexican version of pulled pork. It is not the same as a BBQ style Pulled Pork recipe. 

What goes with pork carnitas? 

Serve these carnitas on tacos, or inside burritos, or enchiladas. As always some great side options would be Mexican Rice and Refried Beans with some Homemade Salsa

Can I make this in an Instant Pot: 

Yes! This recipe can be easily adapted to be made in an instant pot instead. Add all the ingredients into the instant pot, plus add in 1 cup of chicken broth. Close the lid, set vent to seal and cook on high for 40 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes, then manually release the rest. Shred and broil the meat to crisp it. 

Up close view of carnitas tacos showing crispy pieces of pork in soft corn tortillas with cilantro and diced onion.

Ways to Enjoy Your Carnitas:

Tried this recipe? Please leave a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section. Thanks!

Carnitas Tacos lined up and topped with fresh cilantro, and diced red onion, lime wedges on the side.

Slow Cooker Mexican Pork Carnitas Tacos

This crispy Pork Carnitas recipe is easy to make in a slow cooker, and delivers perfect flavorful, tender pulled pork. Perfect for using in tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, tostadas and more!
5 from 4 votes

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder roast
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp chipotle powder
  • tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper 
  • 1 white onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 1 jalapeno, membranes and seeds removed

Equipment

Instructions

  • Prepare Dry Rub: In a small bowl combine the cumin, chipotle powder, salt, oregano, and black pepper, stir to combine.
  • Prepare Meat: Cut the roast into 2-3 inch chunks.
  • Rub down the pork roast with the seasoning. Place the roast into the slow cooker.
  • Add Ingredients to Slow Cooker: Add the quartered onion, minced garlic, sliced jalapenos, and orange juice.
  • Cook: LOW heat for 6-8 hours.
  • Shred: Remove the roast from the slow cooker and shred. Save the juices from cooking the meat. (I like to save the juices in a sealed plastic container, I use it when crisping the meat, and also save it for helping to reheat any leftovers)
  • Broil: Preheat the broiler in the oven for 5 minutes.
  • Spread the shredded meat onto a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the leftover juices from cooking the meat.
  • Broil until bits of the meat begin to crisp and caramelize, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the broiler.

Video

Notes

  • Pork Shoulder: This cut is also referred to as a “pork butt”. There is no need to have a bone in for this recipe. If needed this recipe can be made with other cuts of pork such as pork loin, 
  • Oranges: grab organic or clean the oranges well since we will be using the juice and also tossing the entire orange into our slow cooker for flavoring. 
  • Jalapeno: the recipe calls for the seeds and membranes to be removed, if you would prefer to have a little heat to the meat, you can leave those in or you could grab a hotter Chile such as a Serrano if you would prefer. 
  • How Many Pounds of Pork Do I Need?– The general rule is to use 1/3-1/2 pound of pork per person when shredding the pork.
  • Cook Times Per Size: 1-3 pounds follow the recipe as stated 6-8 hours on low. 3-6 pounds 10 hours on low or 6 hours on high. 6-8 pounds 12 hours on low.  Pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 190-195. BUT it will shred and fall apart perfectly once it reaches 200.
  • There is no need to remove the fat from the pork before cooking, most of the fat will cook off, and if there is excess amounts of fat it can be removed later.
  • How to make this recipe on the stovetop: follow the recipe, except place all of the ingredients, PLUS 2 cups of chicken broth,  in a large dutch oven with the lid on, cook over medium heat for about 2-3 hours, checking to stir/move the meat around periodically and to ensure the liquid hasn’t cooked out. Once the meat is easily shredded, remove it to shred and then place on a large baking sheet to crisp up. 
  • How to store this meat: leftovers of this recipe hold up very well. My favorite way to keep them is to keep the meat in a sealed container in the fridge, and then I keep the liquid from cooking in another container. That way when I reheat the meat I can add more juice as needed to keep the meat juicy.
  • When storing the liquids there is no need to skim the fat out unless you want to. After chilling in the fridge it will separate and you can use it or discard it and just use the juice.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 261kcal, Carbohydrates: 8g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 93mg, Sodium: 710mg, Potassium: 609mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 527IU, Vitamin C: 28mg, Calcium: 52mg, Iron: 2mg
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Photography done by the talented @KJandCompany.co