Pork Carnitas (Slow Cooker)

Pork Carnitas (Slow Cooker) are tender Mexican pulled pork slow cooked in orange juice, chicken broth, chili powder, cumin, and more spices.

We’ve already made Crockpot Chicken Carnitas, and now you can make the authentic pork dish. This Mexican Slow Cooked Pulled Pork recipe is the perfect Weeknight Meal that the whole family is sure to love.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas four tacos with cheese and cilantro hand holding middle taco

Slow cooking this carnitas recipe in the crockpot is a great method to get tender and flavorful meat without using your stove all day. After minimal prep work, the pork shoulder is cooked low and slow in the crockpot. As it cooks the meat absorbs the flavorful liquid and spices surrounding it for the juiciest pork ever.

After the time in the slow cooker, the shredded pork is transferred to a baking sheet to finish roasting in the oven. The combination of the slow cooker and oven roasting makes deliciously crispy carnitas that are still packed with juicy flavors.

This Mexican Pulled Pork recipe can be served over a bed of lime rice for burrito bowls or in corn tortillas for delicious tacos. To make the pork carnitas recipe into healthy burrito bowls, scoop up some Brown Rice, Black Beans, and top with shredded pork. Finish with any of your favorite Mexican toppings like salsa verde, sour cream, or Guacamole and enjoy.

The same basic idea goes for serving the meat in tortillas. Add the shredded pork to warm tortillas. Then top that off with your choice of beans, Mexican Rice, cheese, veggies, salsa, and any other toppings you’d like for an amazing dinner.

What are Carnitas?

Carnitas is a pork preparation that translates to little meats, and originated in the Mexican state of Michoacán. The traditional way of making Pork Carnitas is to slowly braise chunks of pork butt in lard or oil, much like a confit method. Once the pork is nice and tender, the Carnitas are shredded and crisped up with high heat to achieve a wonderful texture and delicious flavors. This recipe uses chicken broth and orange juice to braise the meat to tender perfection, keeping it from being greasy or oily but still preserving lots of juicy tenderness.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas shredded cooked meat on baking sheet after broiling

How to Make Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

  • Sear: Add oil to a large dutch oven and put the pot over medium-high heat. Slice the pork shoulder into large pieces, and season the meat with salt. Add the pork shoulder to the dutch oven and brown the meat on all sides. It takes about 6-8 minutes of cook time on each side.
  • Crockpot: For the next step, transfer pork to the slow cooker. In a large bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, orange juice, and orange zest. Then whisk in the spices. Pour the liquid ingredients over the roast in the crockpot. Add in the onions and cloves garlic, and mix them in. Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 8-9 hours, until the pork is fork-tender.
  • Cooking time: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil. Transfer the slow cooked pork from the crockpot. Use a fork to shred pork, and pour ½ cup of cooking liquid over the top. Roast for 15 minutes. Add another ¼ cup of cooking liquid and give the meat another 15 minutes of roasting time. Serve with yellow onion and cilantro, and enjoy!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of meat is Carnitas?

Pork Carnitas are made with pork shoulder, also known as bork butt. Both cuts of meat come from the shoulder of the pic, which are well marbled and higher in fat. This keeps the Carnitas tender during the slow cooking process, and the rendered fat combines with the cooking liquid for a juicy pork flavor.

Why do I cook Carnitas twice?

After the Pork Carnitas are slow cooked, you’ll shred them and spread onto a baking dish to roast in the oven. This keeps the Carnitas from being too soggy achieves crispy brown edges. If you don’t want to turn on your oven, you can also use a skillet or flat top griddle to brown the shredded carnitas until crispy.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas three tacos on plate with cheese and cilantro

Key Ingredients in Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

  • Pork Shoulder: Pork shoulder or pork butt make the perfect meat for braising this delicious Slow Cooker Carnitas recipe. Look for a boneless cut that is pink in color with a nice fat cap and some marbling throughout. Starting with boneless will make it easier to cut into chunks and sear before adding to the slow cooker.
  • Seasonings: In addition to seasoning the pork itself with salt and pepper, you will season the slow cooker juices with orange zest, chili powder, coriander, oregano, and cumin to give your Carnitas a savory rich flavor. The citrus and spices work together beautifully in this authentic Carnitas seasoning.
  • Aromatics: Don’t forget the magic of onions and garlic to enhance the flavors of savory meat. The aromatics help to make the Pork Carnitas flavorful and tender.
  • Liquid: Chicken broth and orange juice combine for a sweet and savory base that is enhanced by the flavors of the seasonings to permeate the meat. The pork will simmer in this flavorful braising liquid, giving you tender meat that is super flavorful.

Oven Baked Pork Carnitas

  • To make Oven Baked Pork Carnitas, season chunks of pork shoulder with salt and pepper and sear on all sides in a dutch oven on medium-high heat.
  • Whisk together chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, chili powder, coarse ground black pepper, oregano, and cumin, and pour over the meat.
  • Add in onions and garlic and stir. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours until fork tender. 
  • Shred pork and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet, then pour ½ cup of the cooking liquid onto it. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. 
  • Add ¼ cup more of cooking liquid and roast an additional 15 minutes before serving.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas shredded cooked meat on baking sheet after broiling with tongs

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

  • Season chunks of pork shoulder with salt and pepper and sear on all sides in an Instant Pot on sauté setting.
  • Deglaze pot with 1 cup of the chicken broth. Add remaining ingredients to Instant pot and seal lid.
  • Set to manual high pressure and cook for 45 minutes, then natural release for 15 minutes.
  • Shred pork and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet, then pour ½ cup of the cooking liquid onto it. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Add ¼ cup more of cooking liquid and roast an additional 15 minutes before serving.

Variations on Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

  • Flavorful Spices: You can add a variety of different flavors to the recipe with a few add-ins to the spice mixture. Try whisking in some onion powder, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, or paprika.
  • Spicy Carnitas: To make this carnitas recipe more spicy, you can add in some Chipotle peppers in adobo, fresh jalapeño peppers, or a dash of hot sauce.
  • Lime Carnitas: For some tart and citrusy taste in the carnitas recipe, try adding in some fresh lime juice. Just whisk a few tablespoons of lime juice in with the cooking liquid, it will go great with the orange juice and zest already in the recipe. You can also serve the Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas with lime wedges as a garnish.

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How to Store Pork Carnitas

  • Serve: Cooked meat should not be at room temperature for more than 2 hours. You can also leave in the slow cooker, on low or warm setting, for up to 4 hours. Cool completely before storing.
  • Store: If you have leftovers, cover the dish in aluminum foil or plastic wrap or transfer pork to an airtight container to store in the fridge for 3-5 days.
  • Freeze: You can also put the meat in a freezer bag or another airtight container to store in the freezer. Frozen pork can stay good for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat in the oven or large pot over medium heat until hot all the way through.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas four tacos on plate with cheese and cilantro

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Pork Carnitas (Slow Cooker)

Pork Carnitas (Slow Cooker) are tender Mexican pulled pork slow cooked in orange juice, chicken broth, chili powder, cumin, and more spices.
Yield 8 Servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 8 hours 45 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Mexican
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 pounds pork shoulder , cut into several large pieces
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 yellow onion , chopped
  • 5 clove garlic , minced

Instructions

  • Add oil to a large dutch oven on medium-high heat.
  • Season pork with salt and sear on all sides until browned well, about 6-8 minutes on each side.
  • Add pork to a slow cooker.
  • Whisk together chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, chili powder, coriander, coarse ground black pepper, oregano, and cumin together.
  • Pour over the roast.
  • Add in the onions and garlic and stir.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 8-9 hours or until pork is fork-tender.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.
  • Remove pork from slow cooker, shred apart in small chunks.
  • Put pork onto a baking sheet, pour about ½ cup of cooking liquid evenly over the pork, and roast for 15 minutes.
  • Add ¼ cup of cooking liquid and roast 15 minutes.
  • Serve with fresh yellow onion and cilantro.

Nutrition

Calories: 286kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 1425mg | Potassium: 641mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 334IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 2mg
Keyword: Pork Carnitas (Slow Cooker)
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas three tacos on plate with cheese and cilantro and preparation collage

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the upcoming cookbook: Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients which is being published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

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