This Slow Cooker Carnitas recipe delivers the most tender shredded pork carnitas with golden brown crispy edges. Seasoned with citrus juices and a simple spice mixture, slow cooker pork carnitas are easy to make and deliciously irresistible.
Best Slow Cooker Carnitas
Claiming these are the best carnitas may be a bold statement but, I stand by it! Similar to our popular and highly rated Instant Pot Carnitas recipe, these crock pot carnitas are juicy, have crispy bits and are unbelievable delicious.
Seasoned with warm Mexican spices and fresh lime juice and orange juice pork butt slow cooks until melt-in-your-mouth tender. The juicy pork is shredded and quickly broiled to deliver the best, most flavorful crispy carnitas. Whether stuffed in a warm tortilla with fresh cilantro or pile high in burrito bowls with pico de gallo, crockpot carnitas
Why you’ll love this pork carnitas recipe?
- Easy: Simple ingredients, 10 minutes of prep and effortless cooking makes this Mexican restaurant favorite a must make recipe.
- Crowd Pleasing: This is my go-to recipe for feeding a crowd. At a party, taco night, while tailgating, for game night, cinco de Mayo or if you have a big family.
- Meal Prep: Make a batch of carnitas and have lunch ready for the week.
- Versatile: Delicious carnitas can be served in many different ways. Tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, quesadillas or simply with rice and warm corn tortillas or flour tortillas.This Mexican dish is incredibly versatile.
What are Carnitas?
Think of carnitas as the Mexican version of pulled pork. Carnitas is made with pork shoulder or pork but slow cooked until fall apart tender and then shred and crisp up to golden brown perfection. Traditionally, authentic carnitas are cooked slowly in lard until crispy. We like to skip the giant pot of lard to keep this recipe a bit healthier without sacrificing on taste. Carnitas in Spanish means little meats.
Carnitas Ingredients and Substitutions
Be sure to check the printable recipe card below for the complete list of ingredients and their exact quantities.
- Pork: The best pork cut for carnitas is boneless pork shoulder roast or pork butt aka Boston butt, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 3-inch chunks.
- Orange and Lime Juice: The combination of orange and lime juices resemble sour orange which is an ingredient commonly used in Mexican cuisine. Fresh orange juice is preferred as bottled orange juice has a very high sugar content. If bottled juice is all you have, go for it! The flavor of freshly squeezed lime juice cannot be beat!
- Spices: Ground cumin, chili pepper, dried oregano, onion powder, black pepper.
How to make pork carnitas?
- Place ingredients in the slow cooker: Add the pork pieces into the slow cooker. Combine the rest of the ingredients except the cilantro in a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl. Pour the mixture over the pork.
- Slow cook: Cook the pork in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours or until the pork is tender enough to be shredded.
- Shred: Shred the pork with two forks or shredding claws.
- Prep: Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and turn on the oven broiler. The oven rack should be at about 6 inches from the heat source.
- Get ready to broil: With a slotted spoon, transfer the shredded pork to the lined baking sheets, leaving the cooking liquid behind. Spoon about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid over the shredded pork.
- Broil: One baking sheet at a time, broil the meat until the edges of the pork begin browning, flip the meat over and broil the other side. Remove from the oven and repeat with the other baking sheet.
- Serve: If you wish, you can skim the fat from the cooking juices then, serve the carnitas pouring a bit of additional cooking liquid over the meat if desired. Garnish with chopped cilantro (optional). Serve.
What cut of pork is best for pulled pork carnitas?
Pork shoulder or pork butt aka Boston butt, which have the perfect amount of fat to make pulled pork are the best cuts to use when making Mexican carnitas.
Lean cuts of meat like pork tenderloin are not suitable for this recipe.
Pulled pork vs carnitas
The main difference between pulled pork and authentic Mexican carnitas (besides the seasonings) is that although both dishes are slow cooked, carnitas have an extra step which crisp up the meat. To make things easier, we broil the meat in the oven. Some recipes pan-fry the meat in a heavily oiled skillet.
Can you overcook carnitas in the slow cooker?
Although difficult to do, you can overcook pork carnitas (or any other meat) in the slow cooker if you cook the meat for an extended amount of time. Because of the citrus in the cooking liquid, the wrong cut of meat can become mushy after certain amount of time.
Ways to serve Mexican pork carnitas
- Carnitas Plate: Carnitas are great served with warm tortillas, Mexican rice and refried beans.
- Carnitas Tacos: Flavorful carnitas make a delicious taco filling! All you need is some corn tortillas, diced onions or pico de gallo.
- Burritos: Top a flour tortilla with rice, beans, slow cooker carnitas, shredded cheese, sour cream, the best ever authentic guacamole and salsa. Roll it up and be ready to lose your mind over how delicious this carnitas burrito is!
- Quesadillas: Pulled pork carnitas and lots of melted cheese in crispy flour tortillas is always a good idea! Pass the Mexican salsa, lime crema and pickled jalapeños please!
Storing, Freezing and Reheating
- Storing: Store carnitas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freezing: Store the pork carnitas in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- Reheating: For best results, place the meat in a baking dish with a couple of tablespoons of broth, cover and reheat in a preheated 325ºF oven until warm through, uncovering the meat for the last 3-4 minutes. This method prevents the meat from drying out. You can also reheat the meat in the microwave.
Tips for the best crockpot carnitas
- Make sure you use cuts of pork that are suitable for slow cooking. Pork shoulder and pork butt or Boston butt are the best options.
- Do no use pork tenderloin to make carnitas.
- Although authentic carnitas are tender and crispy, broiling the meat to get crispy bits is not necessary to enjoy this dish.
- You can use a pork roast that weights between 3.5 and 5 pounds to make this recipe.
- To make this recipe use a 6 – 8 qt. slow cooker.
Follow me on social media for more recipe ideas & inspiration!
Slow Cooker Carnitas
- 1 4-pounds boneless pork shoulder roast, excess fat trimmed, cut into 3-inch chunks.
- 1 cup Mexican beer (Pilsner or lager beer)
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 5 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Chopped cilantro to garnish optional
Suggestions for Serving
- Rice, warm corn tortillas, pico de gallo, chopped onions. chopped cilantro, salsa, crumbled Queso Fresco, lime wedges.
- Place the pork pieces into the slow cooker. Combine the rest of ingredients except the cilantro in a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl. Pour the mixture over the pork.
- Cook the pork in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours or until the pork is tender enough to be shredded.
- Shred the pork with two forks.
- Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and turn on the oven broiler. The oven rack should be at about 6 inches from the heat source.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer the shredded pork to the lined baking sheets, leaving the cooking liquid behind. Spread the meat on the baking sheets into an even layer. Spoon about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid over the shredded pork.
- One baking sheet at a time, broil the meat until the edges of the pork begin browning, about 2-4 minutes then, with a spatula, flip the meat over so you can broil the other side. Broil until crispy and golden brown or until your desired doneness. Time will depend on your broiler so keep an eye on the meat. Remove from the oven. Repeat with the other baking sheet.
- You can skim the fat from the cooking juices then, serve the carnitas pouring a bit of additional cooking liquid over the meat if desired. Garnish with chopped cilantro (optional).
- Serve with rice, tortillas, pico de Gallo and any other suggested toppings or make into tacos or burritos.
- 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).