Carnitas


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Carnitas! This Mexican pulled pork is tender and juicy with the most irresistible crispy edges. This carnitas recipe is made in the slow cooker so it’s easy and perfect for making ahead to feed a crowd. The best crispy pork carnitas to make pork tacos, quesadillas, nachos and more!

four pork carnitas tacos on a plate

Given my love of both Mexican cuisine and my slow cooker, it’s easy to see why carnitas is one of my favorite easy slow cooker recipes. When we’re craving pulled pork sandwiches, this Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork recipe is our go-to meal. But for taco night or Cinco de Mayo, this carnitas recipe can’t be beat!

These pork carnitas are extremely versatile. They make the best pork tacos, they’re the most delicious enchilada filling, and they take quesadillas to a whole new level. You can also add these crispy pork carnitas to burrito bowls, nachos and more!

Make a big batch and enjoy a variety of delicious meals throughout the week. Or, put the leftovers in your freezer for a quick meal later on.

tongs grabbing carnitas above a sheet pan

What is Carnitas

Carnitas is Mexican pulled pork, typically made with pork butt or pork shoulder that’s slow cooked until it’s fall apart tender and juicy. Authentic carnitas are typically cooked in lard, but instead this recipe calls for slow cooking the seasoned pork with onion, garlic, orange juice and lime juice. While this recipe may not be 100% traditional, I assure you it is incredibly delicious.

The best parts are the crispy bits that you get by placing the shredded pork under the broiler. The edges caramelize, giving you the best combination of tender juicy pork and crispy edges!

shredded pork tacos on a plate with bowl of carnitas in background

Pork Carnitas Recipe Ingredients

ingredients for carnitas recipe

  • Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt: These are the best types of pork for making carnitas because their higher fat content makes for extra tender and juicy pulled pork.
  • Seasonings: Dried oregano, ground cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper make the pork so flavorful.
  • Orange Juice and Lime Juice: These help to tenderize and flavor the meat as it cooks. The pork won’t have a strong orange or lime flavor, though.
  • Onion and Garlic: For more flavor!

How to Make Carnitas

Here is a quick overview of the steps to making this recipe. Find the full recipe with ingredient amounts and instructions below.

  1. Put the pork in the slow cooker. Rub it with the seasoning mixture.
  2. Add the orange juice, lime juice, onion and garlic to the slow cooker. pork butt with seasonings in slow cooker with onion, garlic, orange juice and lime juice
  3. Cover and cook until the pork shreds easily. This will take about 8 to 10 hours on low, or 5 to 6 hours on high.
  4. Remove the pork from the slow cooker. Shred the pork using two forks.
  5. To get crispy edges on the pork (the best part!) place the shredded carnitas on a baking sheet and place it under the broiler for a few minutes until the edges begin to crisp and caramelize. I like to add a little of the juices from the slow cooker for flavor, but not so much that the pork becomes soggy. shredded pork carnitas on a foil lined sheet pan
  6. The carnitas is so good, you’ll want to eat it straight from the pan! Our favorite way to serve it is wrapped in warm tortillas, topped with chopped onion, avocado and fresh cilantro. A squeeze of fresh lime juice is delicious here too.

shredded Mexican pulled pork in a bowl, garnished with cilantro

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use pork tenderloin or pork loin? These cuts of pork do not work well for carnitas because they don’t become as tender or as flavorful. The higher fat content in pork shoulder/pork butt makes for fall apart tender shredded pork with mouthwatering flavor.
  • Can I use bone in pork butt/shoulder? Yes, but it may take longer to cook due to the bone.
  • Can I freeze carnitas? Yes, carnitas freeze well. Store the shredded pork and some of the juices in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. It’s best to freeze before crisping it under the broiler. This way, you can reheat in the oven on a baking sheet and crisp it at the same time. 
  • Can I make carnitas in the Instant Pot? Yes! You’ll love my Instant Pot Carnitas recipe!

Serving Suggestions

Carnitas can be used to make shredded pork tacos, enchiladas, or quesadillas. Try carnitas as a topping for nachos, or serve them in a burrito bowl or salad. Or keep it simple and serve carnitas alongside rice, beans and guacamole for a quick meal. 

Try these with your carnitas:

close up of pork carnitas tacos with onion and cilantro

Carnitas (Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe)

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5 from 1 vote
Carnitas: this Mexican pulled pork is tender and juicy with the most irresistible crispy edges. This slow cooker carnitas recipe is so quick and easy to prep. The best crispy pork carnitas to make pork tacos, quesadillas, nachos, enchiladas and more!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword carnitas, carnitas recipe, pork carnitas, pork tacos
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time6 hrs
Total Time6 hrs 15 mins
Servings 8 servings
Calories 309kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 pound boneless pork butt or pork shoulder*
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup orange juice (from two small or one large orange)
  • ¼ cup lime juice (from 2 limes)
  • 1 yellow onion (chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • tortillas, chopped onion, chopped fresh cilantro, avocado, limes, etc. (for serving, as desired)

Instructions 

  • Place pork butt/shoulder in slow cooker.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the dried oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Rub the spice mixture on all sides of the pork. Arrange the pork so that it is fat side up in the slow cooker.
  • Pour the orange juice and lime juice around the sides of the pork in the slow cooker, so as not to rinse off the spice rub on top of the pork. Add the onion and garlic to the slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours, until pork shreds easily.
  • Remove the pork from the liquid in the slow cooker. Use two forks to shred the pork, discarding excess fat.
  • You can serve the pork now, or (the best way!) crisp it under the broiler. To crisp the pork, spread it out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (if desired, you can line the baking sheet with foil for easy clean up). Add a little of the juices from the slow cooker to the pork, but not too much. Put pork under the broiler in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until the edges start to crisp.
  • Serve in tortillas with toppings as desired, or in a burrito bowl, on a salad, etc.

Notes

  • You can use a 3 to 5 pound pork butt/pork shoulder in this recipe.
  • You will need a 5 quart or larger slow cooker for this recipe.
  • The pork should be fully thawed before cooking.
  • Leftover carnitas can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Add some of the juices to the carnitas before freezing. It is best to freeze the shredded pork before crisping it under the broiler. This way, you can reheat and crisp the pork in the oven at the same time. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 cooked carnitas | Calories: 309kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 710mg | Potassium: 948mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 128IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 3mg
Nutrition information is an estimate.
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