These are the easiest Carnitas you will ever make! Cooked low and slow in the Crockpot with delicious spices for the most tender meat and ultimate flavor!
A quick crisp under the broiler gives it restaurant quality texture. But, in my opinion-- better than your local place!
It's the perfect authentic Mexican dish for Cinco De Mayo, but you don't have to wait, make it anytime.
And, there are so many different ways to use this flavorful pulled pork-- tacos, burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, and my favorite: Leftover Carnitas Casserole.
The meat by itself is low-carb and keto compliant.
I know, it's easy for all the food blogs to use hyperboles when describing their food, but for realz, this is the best Carnitas recipe I've ever had!! 😋
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- Easy to make, 10 minutes prep time.
- Superb flavor! Everyone will devour this.
- Cook once, eat twice (or more). This meal stretches into multiples.
- Made with all-natural ingredients.
Pulled pork is meat from a pig, usually, 'shoulder' or 'butt' that has been cooked low and slow to it shreds easily. Carnitas is a version of pulled pork, that has been seasoned with Mexican spices.
Additionally, Carnitas are crisped up in the oven after the cooking time for more texture.
🍽 Equipment needed
- Crockpot or other Slow cooker
- Chef's Knife- a good sharp knife is your best friend in the kitchen!
- Cutting board- I love the composite wood ones, but whatever you have works! Obviously for cutting, but a great prep space as well so you don't dirty the kitchen counter.
📖Notes about ingredients
- Pork shoulder- also known as pork butt. You definitely want some fat on this wonderfully marbled meat. It keeps it tender and juicy. Boneless is easier to work with, but bone-in works too.
- Smoked paprika- This is different than regular paprika and adds a hint of smokiness to the meat.
- Salt, pepper, cumin, oregano- these are pretty staple in Mexican cooking. Salt not only adds flavor but also tenderizes. Feel free to adjust these to your preferences.
- Garlic- is so good for you! I prefer to use freshly pressed in this recipe over garlic powder. A garlic press makes it easy.
- Diced green chilis- I use mild and add heat with sauce or jalapenos for garnish, but you can use medium or hot if you like it spicy.
- Onions- I prefer sweet, and slice in half moons.
- Fresh orange juice and lime juice- use 2 oranges and 2 limes and squeeze it yourself. A citrus press works great!
1. Combine the cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika in a small bowl.
2. Rub the spice mixture all over the outside of the pork roast.
3. Place the meat in the bowl of a slow cooker with the fat side up.
4. Top with fresh garlic, green chilis, and onions. Pour the orange and lime juice over the top, then place the lid on top of your slow cooker.
Cook on low for 10 hours, or high for 7 hours.
This recipe cooks longer than your average slow cooker recipe. This is what gives it ultimate flavor and tenderness. I highly recommend cooking on low if you have the time.
5. When the pork is cooked through, remove it from the crockpot and shred it with two forks.
AFMT PRO-TIP: Alternatively, put the pork in the bowl of a stand mixer, use a paddle attachment and turn on the low setting. Magic! The mixer will shred it for you!
6. Return the meat to the slow cooker and stir to combine it with the juices. Allow the carnitas to simmer on low for 30 minutes.
7. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the meat from the slow cooker to two rimmed sheet pans. You don't want to crowd it. I use the half-size pans.
8. Place the sheet pan (you will probably need to do one at a time) under the broiler in the oven. Cook the meat for five minutes. Make sure to watch the meat closely to prevent it from burning. Not all ovens are created equal.
📖 Notes about the recipe
- This recipe 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 (and before shredding), 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 any of the measurements.
- You can use boneless or bone-in pork shoulder
🍽 Serving Suggestions
Carnitas are typically served with Mexican rice, refried beans, and toppings like salsa, sour cream, cilantro, and jalapenos, alongside corn tortillas.
I subbed out the refried beans for black beans for a change of pace. Here are some other ways to use Carnitas:
- Mexican casserole
- Low Carb/Keto- Skip the starchy carbs and eat it on a salad, cole slaw, broccoli slaw, or in a low carb tortilla. Personally, I love just a big pile of meat.
🍲Storing & Make ahead
Leftover pork can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
You can also freeze it for up to six months.
To reheat the meat, bake it in the oven, covered, at 350° or cook it in a skillet over medium-low heat until warm. If you need to crisp it, place it on a sheet pan, under the broiler for a few minutes.
To make ahead and freeze:
- Combine the spices and rub it all over the pork.
- Place the meat in a gallon size freezer storage bag
- Add the garlic, chilis, onions, and juice to the bag.
- Seal tightly, double bag, label it and freeze.
- Thaw completely before cooking.
🥗 Side dish suggestions
This delicious dish can be served with a variety of side dishes, here are some of my favorites.
- Mexican rice- I love making rice in the instant pot
- Refried beans or black beans- If you've never prepared dry beans, here's a video showing you 3 ways to cook them.
- Black bean salsa
- Mexican street corn
- Mojitos- This crisp refreshing mojito mocktail can be enjoyed by the whole family at your fiesta! Or try a strawberry mocktail.
⭐ More Mexican Favorites
- Leftover Carnitas Casserole
- Carne Asada
- Steak Fajitas
- Chicken Fajitas
- Chicken Tinga
- Mexican Meatloaf
- White Chicken Chili
- Taco Soup
Don't forget these Awesome Slow Cooker Recipes!
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Slow Cooker Carnitas
- chef's knife
- cutting board
- garlic press (optional)
- citrus press (optional)
- 4 pounds pork shoulder also known as pork butt (anywhere from 3-5 pounds works)
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 1 4 ounce can diced green chilis
- 2 onions sliced into half moons
- Juice from 2 oranges
- Juice from 2 limes
- 1 jalapeno optional garnish
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped, optional garnish
- Mix cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper, together in a small bowl. Rub over all sides of the pork.
- Place the pork in the slow cooker, fat side up.
- Spread the minced garlic, green chilis, and onions over the top of the pork. Add the juice from the oranges and limes.
- Cover and cook on low 10 hours or high 7 hours.
- Remove the meat from the crock pot and shred with two forks.
- Return the meat to the crock pot and let it simmer on low for 30 minutes.
- After simmering the meat, using tongs, transfer the meat to a large rimmed sheet pan. You may need more than one, don’t 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 on tortillas, or alone with rice and beans and garnishes of your choice.
- 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 any other measurement.
- You can use boneless or bone-in pork shoulder, but boneless is easiest to work with.
- Can be made ahead and frozen. Follow instructions 1-2, then place in a gallon size freezer bag. Add the garlic, chilis, onions, and juice. Seal and freeze. Thaw completely in the refrigerator before cooking.