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Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

  • Serves: 10
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  8 hrs
  • Calories: 293
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 thisThe 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:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  8 hrs
  • Calories: 293

Ingredients

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 large orange, juiced, rind reserved
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 4-inch pieces

Method

  1. In a large slow cooker combine the bay leaves, oregano, chili powder, salt, cumin, pepper, cayenne, onion, orange juice and rind, lime juice, and chicken stock.

  2. Nestle in the meat, cover, and cook on HIGH for 7-8 hours or LOW for 10 hours, or until the pork is very tender and can be pulled apart easily with a fork. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a large baking dish or rimmed sheet pan, discarding any large pieces of fat.

  3. Use two forks to shred the pork into 1-inch pieces. Generously brush the meat with reserved liquid.

  4. Turn on the broiler. Broil the shredded meat until the edges are crispy and caramelized, 5-8 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and using a spatula, flip the meat over. Broil for 5 more minutes, or until crispy on top.

  5. Use the carnitas as desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.


To make the carnitas in the Instant Pot:

In an Instant Pot combine the bay leaves, oregano, chili powder, 3 teaspoons salt, cumin, pepper, cayenne, onion, orange juice and rind, lime juice, and 1 cup chicken stock. Add the meat and secure the lid with the valve set to seal. Using the manual pressure cook setting, cook for 40 minutes. Allow the steam to release naturally for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a large baking dish or rimmed sheet pan, discarding any large pieces of fat. Use two forks to shred the pork into 1-inch pieces. Generously brush the meat with reserved liquid. Turn on the broiler. Broil the shredded meat until the edges are crispy and caramelized, 5-8 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and using a spatula, flip the meat over. Broil for 5 more minutes, or until crispy on top.


To make the carnitas in a Dutch oven:

Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack fitted in the center position. In a large Dutch oven, combine the bay leaves, oregano, chili powder, salt, cumin, pepper, cayenne, onion, orange juice and rind, lime juice, and 1 cup chicken stock. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Nestle the pork into the liquid, cover the pot and place in the oven. Roast until the pork is tender and can be easily pulled apart with a fork, about 3 hours. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a rimmed baking sheet, discarding any large pieces of fat. Use two forks to shred the pork into bite-size pieces. Generously brush the meat with reserved liquid. Turn on the broiler. Broil the shredded meat until the edges are crispy and caramelized, 5-8 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and using a spatula, flip the meat over. Broil for 5 more minutes, or until crispy on top.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories293
  • Protein27 g
  • Carbohydrates4 g
  • Total Fat19 g
  • Dietary Fiber0 g
  • Cholesterol84 mg
  • sodium433 mg
  • Total Sugars2 g

Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

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  • Ashleigh

    I’m going to make this for a church potluck, but that means I can’t broil it before the lunch because it will sit upstairs for a while in the crockpot. Do you think it will still be okay without the crispiness?

    yes!

  • Lauren F

    Can you do anything with the reserved liquid for later??

    We have never saved it.

  • Anna

    Can we use a pressure cooker? If yes, what should the setting be and for how long?

    Hi Anna, if you scroll down in the method section there are instructions for an instant pot. Hope you enjoy!

  • Amy

    Curious about the orange as it says "juiced" - is it juiced and then added? Or because it also says rind, should I just cut up whole orange and add?

    HI Amy, you will squeeze the juice out of the orange to use that then peel off the rind. You will use the juice and the rind but not the flesh of the orange. Hope this clears it up.

  • Amber Chapman

    Can you cook on high in the slow cooker for 4hours? Or is it better at low for 8hrs?

    Hi Amber, this recipe actually calls for cooking it on HIGH for 8 hours so low is not an option here. Hope you enjoy!

  • Katherine

    This was incredible! My husband said it was probably the best thing I’ve ever made.

    WOW! That is high praise! Thanks Katherine, we are so happy you loved it!

  • Toni Kim

    It was a great recipe. My pork butt was over 9 lbs. I had to 3x the ingredients, except broth. It wouldn’t fit. My daughter who is a picky meat eater, ate it for 2 days. It was so enjoyed that my husband asked me to take some on vacation with us.

    Wow! Love to hear this, so happy the whole family enjoyed it. Thank you Toni!

  • N

    I definitely will cook these on the low setting next time, as I do all other pork recipes I've done in the slow cooker. The flavor was great, but after cooking the 3lbs of carnitas on high for 8 hours, it had definitely toughened.

    Glad you enjoyed this! The slow setting usually does create more tender meat.

  • Joanne

    This was absolutely delicious! I can’t believe how easy this was to feed a crowd! Although my roast was about 5 1/2 lbs it fed 10 people (yeah, we eat a lot). I set up basically a make your own taco bar and my guests chose whatever they wanted to make their taco. The meat was so juicy, flavorful and tender. We absolutely enjoyed it and I will be making this again and again for parties because it was so easy and made such impact. I used the crock pot/slow cooker method. Thanks for the recipe!

    Wonderful news! Thanks so much for letting us know you loved it!

  • Angela W Broyles

    This is so delish! Appreciate the recipe!

    Thank you Angela, so happy you loved it!