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This Slow Cooker Carnitas recipe feels like magic in your kitchen! Just toss in the seasoned pork, let the slow cooker do its thing, and boom—you’re left with juicy, fall-apart tender meat full of delicious flavor. Enjoy pork carnitas in tacos or on a bun with your favorite toppings!
After a long day, nothing is better than coming home to the mouthwatering aroma of crock pot carnitas that have been slow cooking in the kitchen for the past 8 hours. That’s the magic of this easy weeknight Carnitas recipe!
There’s no need to cook anything beforehand. Simply toss everything right in the slow cooker, give it a good mix, and let the magic happen! After 8 hours you’ll have delicious slow cooker carnitas ready to enjoy with no extra fuss.
Can anything beat the amazing taste and texture of slow cooked pork with Carnitas seasoning? It’s juicy and fork-tender, then crisped to golden perfection. The only way it could get any better is by stuffing it into a taco or burrito, or using it as a base for pork chili!
Better yet, you can make it ahead of time and freeze it in portions for when you need a quick and easy lunch or Sunday supper. Enjoy!
What are Carnitas?
Carnitas refers to a Mexican pulled pork dish featuring pork (typically shoulder or butt), jalapenos, onions, a delectable sauce of broth and orange juice, and a seasoning mix featuring Mexican oregano and cumin. The pork is slow cooked until it’s fall-apart tender, and is served with its juices!
Slow Cooker Carnitas Ingredients
- Pork shoulder roast
- Jalapeno peppers
- Yellow onion
- Orange juice
- Olive oil
Carnitas Seasoning Ingredients
- Chili powder
- Dried oregano
- Garlic powder
Check out my step-by-step on how to make the perfect carnitas seasoning.
Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe
- Start by washing and drying your jalapeño pepper. Carefully dice the onion. Add the diced onion and whole jalapeño pepper to the bottom of your slow cooker.
- Pat your pork shoulder dry with a paper towel, then carefully cut it into even cubes about 1 to 2 inches in size. Mix carnitas seasoning separately in a bowl, then toss the pork with the seasoning mixture until all pieces are well-coated.
- Place the cubed pork in the slow cooker over the onions and jalapeño peppers. Squeeze juice from one large orange over the pork, then drizzle in olive oil.
- Set the crockpot to LOW and cook for 8 hours, or until the meat is fall-apart tender. Don’t cook on HIGH- it will get tough! When cooked, remove the pork to shred on a cutting board using a fork.
- Optional: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spread the shredded pork out on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the top is browned and crisp. Alternatively, you can also broil your carnitas on high for 3-5 minutes.
- Strain the juices from the slow cooker and discard the solids. Pour the juices over the pork when served. Enjoy!
Carnitas Recipes Tips
- Baking not required: You don’t need to bake the meat! If you prefer your carnitas less crispy, skip baking it entirely.
- How to skip straining: If you’d like, you can chop up and de-seed the jalapenos and blend them up with the rest of the solids in the juice instead of straining.
- Choosing the right cut: Look for a pork shoulder or boneless pork butt, both of these cuts have a good amount of meat and fat, ensuring juicy and flavorful carnitas every single time.
- Use other meats: You can use other cuts of meat such as beef chuck roast for beef carnitas, or pork tenderloin. Cooked low and slow, they’ll both shred beautifully.
- Trimming: Trim any excess fat from the pork while you’re cutting it into smaller chunks. Cutting your pork into chunks helps create an even cooking inside of the slow cooker.
- For extra flavor, try this: If you have a little extra time, try searing the pork in a cast-iron pan before adding it to the crockpot!
- Monitor liquid: Check your crock pot periodically to make sure there is enough liquid to keep the pork moist. Add more citrus juice or chicken broth, if needed.
- Adjust seasonings: Taste the carnitas before serving, and adjust the spices and flavors if necessary. Add salt, pepper, bay leaves, or more carnitas seasoning – whatever you like best!
Do you love pulled meats? Try out my super-easy and versatile Pulled Chicken Recipe next for even more incredible meal options!
Carnitas vs. Barbacoa
The difference between carnitas and Barbacoa is all in the seasoning. While a Carnitas recipe is simply seasoned with mostly oregano and an orange juice and broth-based sauce, Barbacoa features a long list of spices and seasonings to make for a more heavily spiced dish. Try my Barbacoa Recipe next!
Slow Cooked Carnitas FAQs
Carnitas, once cooked, will taste most like the seasoned pork itself. This simply seasoned dish is designed to truly make the flavor of pork shine, with side notes of orange, cumin, onion, and just a hint of jalapeno spice. This dish will not have the heavily earthy flavor of other pulled pork recipes that rely on strongly flavored sauces.
I prefer to brown my carnitas in the oven for a few minutes after they’ve been slow-cooking for 8 hours. It gives them an extra crispness that really adds to the flavor of the dish. You can also try browning your carnitas in a skillet if you prefer, or searing the pork before slow cooking!
Instant Pot Carnitas
If you prefer, you can make this easy carnitas recipe using your Instant Pot, too. Here’s how:
- Start by washing and drying your jalapeño pepper. Carefully dice an onion. Add the diced onion and whole jalapeño pepper to the bottom of your instant pot.
- Pat your pork shoulder dry with a paper towel, and carefully cut it into cubes. Once your pork is cubed, toss it with carnitas seasoning, ensuring all pieces are coated.
- Place the cubed pork in the instant pot over the onions and jalapeño peppers. Squeeze juice from one large orange over the pork, and drizzle in olive oil.
- Close the lid and set the instant pot to HIGH pressure for 45 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally for about 10 minutes. Remove the pork from the instant pot and shred it with a fork on a cutting board.
- Optional: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spread the shredded pork out on a baking sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes or until browned and crisp on top. You can also broil your carnitas on high for 3-5 minutes.
- Strain the juices from the instant pot, discarding any solids. Pour the juices over the pork when served, and enjoy!
What to make with Pork Carnitas?
Deciding how to eat the carnitas is the most fun part! There’s no limit to the delicious ways to serve carnitas. Here are some of my favorites!
- Carnita Tacos: Fill soft flour or corn tortillas with shredded pork carnitas! Garnish with diced onions, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, guacamole, and a squeeze of lime juice.
- Pulled Pork Burritos: Wrap carnitas in large flour tortillas with beans, rice, shredded cheese, and your favorite toppings!
- Pulled Pork Nachos: Stack tortilla chips with melted cheese, shredded carnitas, jalapeños, sour cream, and salsa.
- Pulled Pork Quesadilla: Whip up cheesy quesadillas, stuffing them with pork carnitas, diced tomatoes, green onions, and a dollop of sour cream. This makes the perfect pork quesadillas!
- Carnitas Rice Bowls: Use up leftover rice or make up a big batch of Mexican rice to serve with carnitas! I like serving carnitas this way paired with avocado, pickled onions, and a drizzle of chipotle sauce or Avocado Crema.
- Sandwiches: Pile carnitas on a crunchy roll or bun, creating a mouthwatering sandwich. Add coleslaw, pickles, and your favorite condiments!
- Loaded Fries: Prepare loaded carnitas fries by pilling crispy French fries with shredded carnitas, melted cheese, guacamole, and sour cream.
- Carnitas Salad Bowls: One of my favorite ways to serve carnitas! Top off a big bowl of lettuce and veggies with carnitas and a quick dressing of olive oil, honey, chili powder and apple cider vinegar for a salad nobody will pass on!
- Carnitas Chili: Spruce up your favorite chili recipe by adding in carnitas! The tender, silky meat will practically melt into chili for an ultra-tasty experience.
Storing Slow Cooked Carnitas
- Refrigerator: Store carnitas in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- Freezing: Freeze carnitas in a freezer-safe airtight container for up to 3 months. Don’t forget to add a freeze date! Allow your carnitas to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
- Reheating: Reheat any carnitas leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350°F until heated through, about 5-10 minutes. You can also reheat them in a pan on the stovetop over medium-low heat, or in the microwave in short intervals until heated through.
Easy Pork Recipes
- Grilled Pork Steaks
- French Onion Pork Chops
- Pork Belly Burnt Ends
- Smoked Pork Butt
- Pork Tenderloin in the Oven
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Slow Cooker Carnitas
See our Cooking Conversions Chart for help converting measurements!
- Dice the onion, and cut the pork shoulder into 1"-2" cubes. Add the diced onions and whole jalapenos to the slow cooker.1 Yellow onion, 2 Jalapenos, 3 lbs Pork shoulder
- Combine all of the seasonings in a small bowl and mix, then add in the pork cubes and toss until well coated.2 teaspoons Cumin, 2 teaspoons Chili powder, 3 teaspoons Oregano, 2 teaspoons Garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Pepper, 2 teaspoons Salt
- Place the pork in the slow cooker on top of the peppers and onions. Squeeze the juice of a large orange over the pork, and pour in the olive oil.½ cup Orange juice, 2 Tablespoons Olive oil
- Set the crockpot to LOW and cook for 8 hours, or until the meat is fall-apart tender. Don't cook on HIGH- it will get tough! When cooked, remove pork to shred on a cutting board.
- Optional: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spread the shredded pork out on a baking sheet, then bake for 8-10 minutes, or until browned and crispy.
- Pour the liquid from the slow cooker through a strainer, then serve poured over the carnitas and enjoy!
- Optional Baking: Baking the meat is optional. Skip it if you prefer softer carnitas.
- Straining Alternative: Instead of straining, you can blend the jalapeños with the cooking juice after de-seeding and chopping them.
- Meat Selection: Choose pork shoulder or boneless pork butt for juicy, flavorful carnitas. These cuts have the ideal balance of meat and fat.
- Variety of Meats: You can also use beef chuck roast for beef carnitas or pork tenderloin. Slow cooking makes them tender and easy to shred.
- Trimming Fat: Cut off any extra fat from the pork as you cut it into chunks. This ensures even cooking in the slow cooker.
- Extra Flavor Tip: If you have time, sear the pork in a cast-iron pan before slow cooking for added flavor.
- Liquid Level: Periodically check the liquid level in the crockpot to keep the pork moist. Add more citrus juice or chicken broth if it looks dry.
- Season to Taste: Adjust the seasoning of the carnitas before serving. Taste and add more salt, pepper, bay leaves, or carnitas seasoning as needed.