This Slow Cooker Carnitas are easy to make, flavorful, juicy and tender with well browned crispy edges. As delicious as authentic Mexican Carnitas minus the lard! Cooked in the crock pot with spices, garlic, onions and citrus juice resulting in a dish everyone will love. Perfect for tacos, burritos, salads and tortas.
What are Carnitas?
Think of carnitas as Mexican pulled pork. Traditional carnitas are usually seasoned with spices, orange juice, onions and then cooked slowly in lard – yes, lots and lots of full fat lard! When the pork is tender, it is crisped up in more lard! Mmmm Lard!!!! [Homer Simpson voice]
What Kind of Meat is Used to Make Carnitas
Carnitas are made from pork. You can use bone-in or boneless pork shoulder/pork butt (also known as Boston butt). If you are thinking pork butt comes from the animal’s rear end (I did), it does not! It is actually part of the shoulder. Say what?? Here is a great article about everything you want to know about this particular cut of meat.
The pork shoulder should be skinless, but keep most of the fat cap to keep the meat moist.
How To Make Carnitas in the Crock Pot
- Rinse and dry your pork. You want the spice mix to stick to the meat.
- Place the pork in the slow cooker.
- Top with the chopped onions, garlic and jalapenos.
- Add the liquid mix (freshly squeezed orange juice, lime juice and a little bit of liquid smoke).
- Cover and cook the pork on low for 8 – 10 hours or on high for 5 – 6 hours.
- Shred the pork and crisp it up!
- This pork carnitas recipe gives you 2 ways to crisp up the meat. Neither of which uses lard!!
Slow Cooker Carnitas Serving Suggestions
- All you need is some chopped onions, a squeeze of lime juice and you are set! Serve them with these Mexican inspired side dishes:
Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad
Mexican Green Chile Rice Casserole
- Carnita Tacos anyone? Place some slow cooker carnitas into a warm corn tortilla and top it with pico de gallo (tomato/onion/cilantro concoction).
- Serve it with some Spanish rice and beans!
- Make a Torta! (Mexican Sandwich) All you need is a bolillo roll or a hoagie roll. Spread the bottom half of the bread with guacamole. Top it with the pork carnitas, tomato slices, chopped onions and a dollop of sour cream. Yum!!
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Slow Cooker Carnitas (Pork Carnitas)
- 4 – 5 pounds bone-in pork butt or shoulder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
- Juice of 2 oranges
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, black pepper and salt.
- Mix the orange juice, lime juice and liquid smoke in a small bowl.
- Rinse and dry the pork and rub it with the spice mixture. Place the pork in a slow cooker, fat cap up. Top with the chopped onions, jalapenos and garlic. Add the juice/liquid smoke mixture.
- Cook on low for 8 – 10 hours or on high for 5 – 6 hours or until the pork is tender and falling off the bone.
- Remove the pork from the slow cooker and let it cool slightly. Shred it using two forks.
- Skim off some of the fat from the juices in the slow cooker. Place the shredded pork back in the slow cooker and toss to combine.
To Crisp the Pork in the Oven (see note 1)
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Preheat the broiler to high and place the oven rack about 12 inches from the heat source.
- Place the shredded pork in an even layer on the baking sheets – drizzle the pork with some of the juices – you want to have some moisture – about 3 tablespoons is good. Broil for about 5 – 8 minutes or until desired crispiness. Keep an eye on it! You want the meat golden brown with some crispy edges without burning.
To Crisp the Pork on the Stove Top
- Heat up 1 tablespoon of oil in a non stick skillet or in a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the shredded pork into the pan and add about 1/4 cup of the cooking juices. Let the juices evaporate. Toss and remove from the heat. You want to have crispy bits on one side of the meat only.
- You can drizzle the crispy pork with extra cooking juices if desired. It can be served with tortillas and/or rice.
- Note 1: Crisp up the pork in batches without over crowding the pan. I usually have 2 sheet pans going – one after the other – and repeat the process until all the pork is crispy (usually takes me 4 rounds total).