Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

Story by Miranda
Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas
Tap any image to pin it.

Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas (Mexican-Style Pulled Pork)

Time is the secret to perfect, crispy, juicy carnitas, which is why carnitas and Crock-Pots are a match made in heaven.

Consider carnitas (Mexican-style pulled pork) banished from the list of “things I only order at a restaurant because surely it’s too hard to make at home”, thanks to this beautifully easy, slow cooker carnitas recipe. We’ve whittled it down to the basics: a great hunk of meat, cooked low and slow until it’s so tender that it’s falling apart, with irresistibly golden, crispy edges.

Are you drooling yet? Hearty, aromatic and deeply flavorful, carnitas are the BEST. And our slow cooker carnitas are the very, very best—and the easiest too. Your tortillas (or quesadillas, or nachos) never had it so good.

Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

What Cut of Pork is Used for Carnitas?

Carnitas are made from pork shoulder, a somewhat tough, but usually-inexpensive cut of pork. Pork shoulder is also rather fatty, and that’s a good thing in this case! Because it’s a tough cut, pork shoulder needs a long, slow cook in order to tenderize. All that lovely pork fat helps keep everything moist and juicy as it cooks. Occasionally, you’ll see pork shoulder labeled ‘pork butt’ or ‘Boston butt’—if you’re standing there staring confusedly at the meat counter, always feel free to ask the butcher.

Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

How Do You Serve Pork Carnitas?

However you gosh darn want! Seriously, Mexican-style pulled pork is as versatile as it is mouth-watering. Here are a few ways we love to serve carnitas:

  1. Tacos: a warm corn tortilla, shredded carnitas, maybe some cilantro and a squeeze of lime—perfect. So easy, so good.
  2. Nachos: chips, cheese, chopped onion, salsa, beans, and most of all, carnitas on every. Last. Chip.
  3. For breakfast! As part of this carnitas & sweet potato hash, or as an over-the-top addition to these huevos rancheros.  
  4. In a quesadilla. A perpetual favorite with the tiny people in our house, and something that they can easily help make (or, if they’re old enough, make themselves!). A big, soft, flour tortilla, shredded jack cheese, and carnitas—just warm until the cheese is molten, and gobble at will.

How to Make These Simple-As-Can-Be Carnitas:

As much as we crave long lazy days in the kitchen, stirring and chopping, surrounded by friends and family, the reality is that life can get really busy. Some weeks, we just need things to be easy. We need dinner to happen without a lot of effort. And in those moments, all things “set it and forget it” and “leftovers for days” are our BFFs. Helloooo slow cooker carnitas! They’re as easy as:

  1. Purchase a pork shoulder.
  2. Nestle it into your slow cooker with aromatics, spices and some citrus juice.
  3. Turn the slow cooker on.
  4. Walk away for a few hours. Put your feet up! (or, more likely, get a whole bunch of other things done.)
  5. Realize it’s 5:15 and nothing is on the stove. Panic because you forget that you already made dinner. Feel extremely relieved when you remember that dinner is magically done, and that it’s something everyone will love.
  6. Feast! For days! One pork shoulder makes a LOT of carnitas.
Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

Don’t Authentic Carnitas Recipes Use Lard?

Technically, yes! Authentic carnitas would be slowly cooked in a vat of lard. We have opted for chicken stock, but we do suggest leaving the fat on the pork shoulder to get plenty of that juicy, pork fat flavor. Any excess fat can easily be removed when you’re shredding that pork after cooking.

Other Mexican-Inspired Dinner Time Favorites

  • Is there anything more refreshing than a margarita? YES. This rhubarb-mint margarita is quite possibly the most refreshing thing ever, and would be the perfect foil for a rich and spicy carnitas-laden meal.
  • Mole chicken enchiladas are always a favorite. Make these when you’re need a break from carnitas. (But not a break from Mexican food. Because seriously, who needs a break from Mexican food?)
  • Can we call this The Tortilla Soup, yet? Has it achieved that level of cultish devotion? Because instagram tells us that you guys really love it. And we’re so glad!

If you make our slow cooker carnitas, we want to hear about it! Snap a photo, add it to your Instagram feed or stories and tag us @themodernproper and #themodernproper if you do. Also, feel free to leave a comment on the post and tell your friends where you discovered the recipe.

Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

Serves 10

Ingredients

3 lbs pork shoulder cut into 3-5 inch pieces
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 onion, quartered
1 large orange, juiced and rind reserved
1 lime, juiced
2 cups chicken stock

Method

  1. In a large slow cooker combine all ingredients.
  2. Cook the pork for 8 hours on high until pork pulls apart with a fork. Reserve liquid.
  3. Using a slotted spoon move all the pork to a large sheet pan.
  4. Use two forks to pull the pork apart into 1 inch pieces. Discard any large fatty pieces. Using a pastry brush coat the meat with reserved liquid.
  5. With your oven broiler set to hi, set the meat in the oven on a middle rack and cook until the ends are crispy. This should take about 5-8 minutes. Remove from oven and turn the meat over using a spatula, broil for five more minutes.
  6. The meat can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator and used for just about anything! It also freezes very well.