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Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

  • Serves: 10
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 8 hrs
  • Calories: 255
Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas on a pan with a serving spoon

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

Slow Cooker Carnitas (Mexican-Style Pulled Pork)

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 on a spoon

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.

Sweet Potato Carnitas Hash with two fried eggs in a pan.

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.
ingredients for carnitas in a crockpot pork, spices onion, and orange
ingredients for carnitas cooked in a crockpot pork, spices onion, and orange
hands shredding carnitas on a sheet pan with two forks
crispy carnitas on a sheet pan with a basting brush

How to Make These Easy 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 on a sheet pan

Do 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.

Tools You will Need:

Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas on a sheet pan with a serving spoon
close up of Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas garnished with cilantro

Other Mexican-Inspired Dinner Time Favorites

  • Is there anything more refreshing than a margarita? YES. This Rhubarb Mint Margarita with Jalapeño Tequila is quite possibly the most refreshing thing ever, and would be the perfect foil for a rich and spicy carnitas-laden meal.
  • Simple 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!

Carnitas For Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner?

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
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 8 hrs
  • Calories: 255

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
  • 1 Lime, juiced
  • 2 cups Chicken stock

Method

  1. In a large slow cooker combine all ingredients, including the orange rind (for flavor).
  2. Cook the pork for 8 hours on high until pork pulls apart with a fork. Strain and 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.

For Pressure Cooker

  1. In a pressure cooker cooker combine all ingredients except chicken stock, including the orange rind (for flavor).
  2. Seal to pressure cooker, being sure to close the vent valve. Cook on manual high pressure for 40 minutes. Once time is up, allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, followed by a quick release.
  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.

Make them in a Dutch oven:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the center position.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, combine the stock, onion, orange juice and rind, lime juice, oregano, chili powder, salt, cumin, pepper, cayenne and bay leaves. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.
  3. Nestle in the meat, cover and roast for 2.5 to 3 hours, until the pork is tender and can be pulled apart easily with a fork.
  4. Using a slotted spoon move all the pork to a large sheet pan.
  5. 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.
  6. With your oven broiler set to high, 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.

Note: When using the pressure cooker, the meat could use a little more salt. Add 1 tsp more for extra flavor.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories 255
  • Protein 24 g
  • Carbohydrates 2 g
  • Total Fat 17 g
  • Dietary Fiber 0 g
  • Cholesterol 67 mg
  • sodium 263 mg

Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

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  • Leah

    Can I replace the onions with shallots? Also is it possible to replace the citrus with white vinegar, or perhaps some lemongrass or lime leaves?? I can't have citrus!

    Yes on the onion swap. You can just skip the citrus if you'd like! Maybe a splash of apple cider vinegar.

  • milo1717

    I have a bone-in pork shoulder and of course over 10 pounds. The last time I had a similar cut, I roasted min convection oven for 8 hours. I would like to try your method. any suggested changes?

    I would honestly cut it away from the bone and measure out 3 lbs. Maybe you can even freeze the other half for another time!

  • Laura Howard

    If I cook this in a dutch oven, do you think 2-3 hours is long enough?

    Yes! We've actually added instructions for making this in a Dutch oven to the recipe. Thanks for asking!

  • Stacie Greer

    Hi, I have a girls weekend coming up and was thinking of making this ahead for a taco bar. What is your recommendation for reheating and how many days in advance can I cook the pork? Thanks!

    I LOVE making this ahead of time. You can make it a few weeks ahead if you can store it in your freezer or a few days ahead and store in the fridge! I would thaw it out completely and follow the instructions for making it crispy in the oven! Enjoy!

  • Brittany

    So delicious!! It was a hit with my 3 & 5-yr olds too.

    Thanks Brittany! A win for the kids is a BIG win in our book!

  • Jenn

    I've made several The Modern Proper recipes over the last few months, all of which were fantastic. This recipe was no exception. It was super easy to make and tasted delicious right out of the slower cooker, but the crispiness from the broiling is what really made it a showstopper. I ate it with the Sweet Potato Hash recipe, hubby ate it over rice, and the kids enjoyed it in quesadillas. Definitely a recipe we will make again and again!

    We also love making a big batch of these at our house and adding it to different recipes. They seem to work with every meal! So glad you loved them!

  • Raini Fighera

    this is my all time favorite modern proper recipe. it’s what got me hooked on their tasty recipes!

    Awe, thank you so so much!

  • Mary Collins Tarrant

    I made this yesterday and boy was it fantastic. We're a little gun-shy about things being too spicy so I only used 1 tbsp of the chili powder and didn't have any cayene so eliminated that altogether. I added 5-6 garlic cloves smashed. Once it was done, I put it on sheet pans, broiled for 5 minutes, added 1/4 cup of the cooking juice, broiled again for 5 minutes, added another 1/4 cup of juice and broiled it again for 1-2 minutes. Crispy and juicy!! Yum!

    Yay. Yeah the chili powder is more smoky than spicy. We love this recipe so much! Glad you did too!

  • Anival Soriano

    I made this recipe for the family, turned out great! I was worried about the quantity of meat which made me confused on where the 10 servings came from. The chef in the house made me realize the recipe isn't necessarily for tacos but more as a plate in ounces. I'm sure it does serve 10 when you serve it as plate with rice and other sides. We did tacos and it was approximately 2 tacos per family member (5 total). We also served it with the Mexican rice and salsa verde recipe also on this website.