Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas are tender, packed with flavor, and perfect for serving in tacos/burritos! Jalapeños, citrus, and a medley of spices give the most mouthwatering flavor to this insanely tender meat. My secret to success here is caramelizing the meat after it’s been slow cooked… it’s downright delicious.
Sorry, Chipotle… I think I like my carnitas better than yours. I know that may sound sacrilegious to some Chipotle purists out there, but this recipe really yields the most incredible results! Thanks to the slow cooker, the meat always turns out oh-so-tender and infused with the boldest medley of flavors.
The ingredients that lend bold flavor to the pork include both orange and lime, a jalapeño, and a bouquet of spices that’ll excite your taste buds. The real key to success with this pork carnitas recipe is the extra little step we take right at the end that sends it right over the edge – the caramelization process. It’s simple, but so worth that small added effort! If you love crispy, slightly burnt edges, this last step is key!
Why You’ll Love This
- So many ways to serve. Toss this shredded meat on a burrito bowl, in a taco or burrito, or just with your favorite side dishes. There’s not really a bad way to enjoy carnitas this good!
- Easier than you may think! Carnitas are made in the slow cooker not just to make them tender and flavor, but also to simplify the cooking process. They come together with incredibly easy to follow steps.
- Well-balanced flavors. The zesty citrus, spicy jalapeño and medley of seasonings all balance each other masterfully in this easy slow cooker recipe.
What is pork carnita?
Pork carnitas is essentially Mexico’s version of pulled pork. Both pulled pork and carnitas are slowly cooked for several hours in a variety of spices and seasonings, but the main difference is that carnitas are finished off by roasting in the oven or on the stovetop to get crispy and browned.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Here’s what you’ll need to make crockpot pork carnitas. Make sure to scroll down to view the full recipe for exact measurements.
- Pork butt
- Brown sugar
- Ground cumin
- Dried oregano
- Salt and pepper
- Garlic powder
- Olive oil
How To Make Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
Here is a general overview of the steps involved to make pork carnitas. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for the full recipe.
Prepare the pork. Pat the meat dry. In a bowl, mix together all of the seasonings, then stir in 2 TBSP of olive oil. Rub this mixture all over the pork, then place it in the slow cooker.
Slow cook the meat. De-seed the jalapeño, dice the onion and slice the citrus. Place the jalapeño and onion in the slow cooker. Squeeze the orange and lime juices all over the meat, then toss them into the Crockpot as well. Cook on high for 8 hours.
Cool, then shred. Let the roast rest and cool for 10 minutes on a cutting board. Then, shred it with 2 forks.
Caramelize the pork. Place some olive oil in a skillet and heat over high heat. Fry the pork in batches until all meat has been seared.
Tips, Substitutions, and Variations
Here are a few easy ways you can customize your carnitas and also tips for success!
- Add some spice. If you’re craving some added heat, don’t de-seed your jalapeño pepper. The seeds contain a lot of heat. You can also sprinkle in some crushed red pepper flakes and/or cayenne powder to your spice mix.
- Broil the meat. If you don’t feel like working in batches to pan fry the meat, you can easily spread it on a baking sheet and broil until it’s nice and caramelized. Just make sure you keep a close eye on it – broiling can lead to burning if you’re not careful.
- Don’t overcrowd your pan. When caramelizing the meat, it’s important to do so in batches. If you try to toss it all into one skillet, you’ll end up with a mess and unevenly seared meat.
- Don’t open the lid. I know it’s hard to not take a peak, but it’s so important to leave that slow cooker lid closed! If you open it, you release heat and the pork will need additional time to warm back up and continue cooking.
- Let it rest. When you let the pork sit for about 10 minutes prior to shredding, you’re doing two important things. 1 – you’re giving it time to cool so you don’t burn yourself. 2 – you’re letting the juices in the meat settle. If you shred it too early, you’ll end up with dry meat.
- Prefer the oven? I have these oven-roasted Pork Carnitas if you prefer to use the oven instead of a slow cooker.
Storage and Reheating Instructions
Place the meat into your serving container and the meat drippings/remaining juices from the slow cooker in another container. Once they’ve both cooled to room temperature, store in the fridge for 2-3 days. Feel free to reheat in the microwave. When serving, heat up the meat and juices and drizzle on top.
This is a wonderful meal prep option as well. If you have divided meal prep containers, you could put these carnitas in as protein for the week and then other sides for it.
What to Serve with Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
This meat is meant to be served up in a tortilla or in a burrito bowl, but feel free to get creative! Here are some fresh ideas:
- Main protein. Use carnitas in place of chicken in these Burrito Bowls or make street tacos with them.
- Side dishes. Serve these alongside the pork carnitas for a well-rounded fare! Corn and Avocado Salsa, Our Favorite Guacamole Recipe, Polenta Fries, and Instant Pot Jasmine Rice.
- Salads. Put a heaping amount of carnitas on top of a salad and make it into a main dish! These salads would be perfect: Mexican Street Corn Kale Salad, Quick Basic Chopped Salad, or Nutty Spinach and Quinoa Salad.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
- 4 pound (1814 g) pork butt
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- 1 onion
- 1 orange
- 1 lime
- Pat dry the roast and set it aside.
- In a medium size bowl, mix together brown sugar, ground cumin, oregano, salt, garlic powder, peper, and paprika. Stir in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
- Rub this mixture all over the pork butt. Place the seasoned pork into the slow cooker, fat on top.
- Remove seeds from the jalapeno pepper, slice it up and place it on and around the roast.
- Dice the onion and place it on and around the roast.
- Halve the orange and squeeze the juice over the roast, add the orange halves to the slow cooker.
- Halve the lime and squeeze the juice over the roast, add the lime halves to the slow cooker.
- Cook the roast on high for 8 hours.
- Once done, remove the roast from the slow cooker and place it onto a cutting board. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Shred the meat using 2 forks.
- Place the remaining 1 Tablespoon of olive oil into a large skillet. Heat the skillet to high heat.
- Next, we will caramelize the pork by frying it (in batches- we don’t want to crowd it). Place about ¼ of the shredded pork and about ¼ cup of the juices from the crock pot in the skillet. Press the meat onto the bottom and allow it to sear. Continue this until all of the meat has been seared.Alternatively, you may put the shredded pork on a large baking sheet (or two) in an even layer and place it under the broiler to get the same effect. Just be sure to keep an eye on it!
- Place the seared meat into your serving container and the meat drippings/remaining juices from the slow cooker in another container. When serving, heat up the meat and juices and drizzle on top.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
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