Carnitas Tacos

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These juicy and tender carnitas tacos are the secret to the best Taco Tuesday dinner. Plus, it’s super easy to make the carnitas in a slow cooker, giving you plenty of time to prep your favorite taco toppings!

Carnitas tacos on a plate.
Photo: Gayle McLeod

The Best Carnitas Tacos

If you love tasty Mexican food, carnitas is probably no stranger to you. And what’s the best thing to make with carnitas? Carnitas tacos! Just take that juicy shredded pork, wrap it in a warm tortilla, and then top it with freshly diced onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. But here’s why you’ll come back to this homemade version every time: 

  • You can make a big batch of the meat. This is perfect for feeding lots of people! Just toss all the ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning, let it cook during the day, and crisp it in the broiler for a few minutes before taco night begins. 
  • You can get creative with toppings. Onion and cilantro are the essentials, but this recipe will give you ample time to make things like guacamole, pico de gallo, and more to complete a full dinner spread.
  • You’ll love the authentic flavor. You can achieve the same flavors and textures of carnitas tacos ordered from your local Mexican restaurant or taco truck right at home! 
Ingredients for carnitas tacos.

Carnitas Tacos Ingredients

  • Carnitas: You’ll need a pork shoulder (also called a pork butt). That is then seasoned with chili powder, dried oregano, and ground cumin. To finish it off, toss fresh garlic, yellow onion, orange juice, and a jalapeno pepper into the slow cooker. That’s it — so easy!
  • Tortillas: I love my homemade cassava flour tortillas for a gluten-free option. But choose your favorite tortilla to use.
  • Taco Toppings: Diced red onion, fresh cilantro, and limes are a staple. But if you want to add more layers, I’ve got ideas below!

Find the printable recipe with measurements below.

How To Make Carnitas Tacos

Season and cook the carnitas in the morning. Rub the spice mixture all over the entire pork shoulder and place in the crockpot. Then add the onion, minced garlic, jalapeno, and orange juice. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. The meat should be fall-apart tender by the end!

Cooking carnitas in a slow cooker.

Shred and crisp the pork right before dinner time. Take the pork shoulder out of the crockpot and shred it with two forks. Then, broil it in the oven for those deliciously crispy edges (this is optional, but highly recommended!). 

A sheet pan of carnitas.

Taco assembly time. Warm up your tortilla, add a pile of juicy carnitas, and top it with your favorites. You could even do large butter lettuce leaves for a low-carb option. 

Taco Topping Ideas

  • Fresh dips: Put a spoonful of homemade guacamole, pico de gallo, red salsa, salsa verde, or creamy lime crema
  • Cheeses: My favorite is cotija cheese, but you can also sprinkle on queso fresco for an authentic Mexican flair. 
A plate of carnitas tacos.

More Taco Recipes

I can’t wait for you to try these carnitas tacos! If you make them, I’d love to know how they turned out in the comment box below. Your review will help other readers in the community.

A plate of carnitas tacos with limes.

Super Tasty Carnitas Tacos

4.87 from 22 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 8 hours
Total: 8 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 8 tacos
Author: Lisa Bryan

Description

These slow cooker carnitas tacos are the secret to the best Taco Tuesday dinner. And for visual reference, watch how I make these carnitas tacos in my kitchen in the video below!

Video

Equipment

Ingredients 
 

Carnitas Recipe

  • 4 pounds skinless, boneless pork shoulder or butt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Carnitas Tacos

  • ½ cup red onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 6 tortillas
  • limes, for garnish

Instructions 

Carnitas

  • Mix and season the pork. In a small bowl place oregano, cumin, black pepper, salt, and chili powder, then stir together. Trim any excess fat from the pork shoulder (but remember that some fat is good), then rub the spice mixture generously around the entire pork shoulder and place in the slow cooker.
    Adding seasoning on pork shoulder.
  • Add ingredients. Add the onion, minced garlic, jalapeno and orange juice in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or high for 5 to 6 hours (until the meat falls apart)
    Carnitas in a slow cooker.
  • Shred the pork. Remove the pork from the slow cooker to a large cutting board and use two forks to shred the meat. If the meat doesn't shred easily, just place it back in the slow cooker for another 30 minutes, or until it does shred easily. Don't get rid of the liquid as you will be using it later.
    shredding carnitas on a wooden board.
  • Crisp the pork. Place the shredded pork on a baking sheet. Pour 1 cup of the reserved slow cooker liquid over the pork to keep it moist and tender. Then broil for 5 to 10 minutes or until the meat becomes golden browned and crispy on the edges.
    A sheet pan of crispy carnitas.

Carnitas Tacos

  • Make the tacos. Serve immediately with tortillas, freshly diced onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. Note: you'll likely have have leftover carnitas. You can make more tacos or enjoy the carnitas in burritos or on salads. You can also store it in the fridge and then reheat to enjoy later.
    A plate of carnitas tacos with cilantro.

Lisa’s Tips

  • To store leftover carnitas in the fridge: Place the shredded pork in a sealed container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
  • To freeze and enjoy carnitas in the future: Store the pork in a freezer-safe container and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy, thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in the oven. 

Nutrition

Calories: 382kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 53g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 567mg | Potassium: 970mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 293IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: carnitas tacos, carnitas tacos recipe
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

Recipe originally posted April 2020, but update to include new photos and information for your benefit!

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating




53 Comments

  1. Thank goodness for your emails! This popped up in my inbox and reminded me to go back and make this again. Maybe I somehow forgot how good it was when I made it in the past but this is truly amazing and so versatile! Thanks again Lisa (and Emily!)5 stars

    1. You’re more than welcome, Brittany! So happy you love the carnitas recipe… and these tacos!

  2. Looks great! Can make this without a slow cooker? Can you suggested the temp and time in the oven? Thank you!

  3. These are fantastic! I followed the directions, but I did spice it up a little bit with extra seasoning and more fresh orange. So so so good! And crisping them up in the oven Makes them even better!5 stars

    1. So happy you love this carnitas recipe, Kristen! And I agree on crisping them up, I think it’s a game-changer. ;) Enjoy!

  4. Is the nutrition info based on one fully assembled taco? Husband is counting calories and I’m trying to make something he can eat with the family. Do you have the serving size and calorie count for just the meat?

    1. Hi Leann – You can find the nutritional information for the carnitas in its stand-alone post :)

  5. Mine came out bland. I followed the instructions but there wasn’t a ton of flavor.  Wondering if I should have used more salt / seasoning after shredding.3 stars

  6. I was craving carnitas from an authentic taco food truck in CA and this was soooo delicious!  I used corn tortillas, fresh cilantro, lime juice, sliced radishes, grilled yellow onions in garlic infused oil and topped it with green taco sauce! This is my new favorite taco recipe! Thank you so much! 5 stars

  7. Super easy! and delicious!
    I fed a huge crowd for a margarita-themed party on the weekend.
    It was the perfect food for the event.
    Thank you!5 stars

  8. These look fantastic!! I’d love to make these but my fiancé and I are on a diet and need to track our calories. Do you know if the nutritional info provided is based on 1 taco or the whole lot?

  9. So delicious! And make great leftovers, first night is tacos then I meal prep the leftovers as quinoa w/brown rice bowls…talk about yummy! I will definitely be trying your other recipes! 5 stars

  10. I’m trying this in the slow cooker tomorrow, but has anyone tried it in the IP? Thinking easy beach night meal.

    1. I believe you can make it in the slow cooker for about 4 hours or so. But I would double check another recipe in terms of cooking time!

  11. This was excellent! I also made your pico de Gallo as a topping and it was perfect. Most of our family meals this past week have been from you: cilantro lime chicken, Mexican rice, one pan chicken and rice, apple sausage stuffed butternut squash, and shepherd pie – – all keepers for our weekly rotation! Tomorrow I will use the leftover carnitas in your pulled pork cabbage and arugula salad!
    Is there anything I can do with the leftover slow cooker liquid? I poured some over my leftovers before putting them in the fridge to keep the pork moist.5 stars

    1. Oh wow, it sounds like you’re on a roll with the recipes, Ace! I’m thrilled you’re loving all of those, and these carnitas tacos as well. :) For the leftover liquid, I do as you’ve done, just pour some over the meat to keep it moist, then I usually toss the rest.

    1. Absolutely! Just cook this in your slow cooker the night before and broil it the day of so it’s perfectly crisp :)

    1. Hi Elizabeth – a boneless pork shoulder can take a bit longer to cook than a bone-in version. I’d cook according to the directions, then check the pork and see if it still needs more time.

  12. So delicious! I made this in a Dutch oven in the oven and then crisped it under the broiler. We’ve made tacos and salads. Absolutely yummy!5 stars

    1. Hi Theresa- So glad you’ve made so much use out of these carnitas! The broiler really does the trick for crisping it up :)

    1. Hi Serena – I believe it can! But, I’m not sure what the cooking time will be as a slow cooker is different.

  13. Made these last weekend. Doubled the seasoning rub and made tacos the first night and nachos the next!! Looking forward to making for a neighborhood get together when things are a little more normal. As always Lisa wonderful healthy recipes that are easy to make!! 5 stars

    1. Hi Elizabeth- Great to hear you’ve made so many recipes from the carnitas already! This will definitely be the perfect recipe to whip up for a neighborhood get together to celebrate. Can’t wait for everyone to try this!

  14. Made this today and it was incredible! Didn’t have to change a single thing about the recipe the meat was juicy and fell apart after 10 hours in the slow cooker. Adding the extra liquid and broiling gave it just the right amount of crispiness while still leaving it juicy. 5 stars

    1. Hi Danielle- Looks like you’ve found a winning carnitas recipe! Glad you enjoyed the flavors and textures :)

  15. Mouth melting and delicious and flavorful. So easy and I love your recipe. Cant wait to make these for family.5 stars

  16. I love tacos and these look so delicious. Will be trying the recipe when I can get all the ingredients. :)