Feb 26, 2024
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Carnitas is Mexican shredded pork that’s juicy, full of flavor, and fall-apart tender. It’s also super easy to make in a slower cooker — just toss all the ingredients in! To finish it off, pop it under the broiler to get those deliciously crispy, caramelized edges.
Why You’ll Love This Carnitas
Whenever I visit Mexico (which is quite often) I always order carnitas. Many of you know my love affair with Mexican food, from carne asada to barbacoa and chicken fajitas, but carnitas will forever be my number one choice when it comes to meaty proteins. And it’s so darn easy to make at home. Here’s why you’ll love it:
- It’s a foolproof slow cooker meal. All you have to do is season the pork and toss it into a crockpot along with some aromatics. The slow cooker works its magic to give you the best meal by dinner time.
- It’s such a tasty way to enjoy pork. I’m a huge lover of pulled pork, but the flavor profile of carnitas is simply irresistible. The combination of Mexican spices, chopped jalapeño pepper, onions, garlic, and orange juice adds incredible flavor to the meat.
- It’s perfect for dinner parties. I make this often for weekly meal prep. But it always gets rave reviews when served at a party. Plus, you can make it a day in advance — I’ve got all the tips on how to prep it below.
- Pork shoulder: Traditionally, carnitas is made with pork shoulder (also known as pork butt) because of its higher fat content. The fat helps to keep the meat extremely juicy and tender while cooking.
- Spices: A simple blend of oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper adds incredible flavor.
- Aromatics: Chopped onion, minced garlic, and finely chopped jalapeño pepper season the meat while it slowly cooks. And don’t worry, the jalapeño pepper isn’t overly hot or spicy in the finished meat.
- Fresh Orange: The juice from one freshly squeezed orange adds natural sweetness to balance the other flavors perfectly.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
How To Make Carnitas
- Rub the seasoning on the pork. Mix the spices together and generously rub the blend on the entire pork shoulder. Then, place it in the slow cooker.
- Add the aromatics. Toss in the onions, minced garlic, jalapeño, and orange juice into the slow cooker. And if you’re wondering why there are no additional liquids such as chicken broth – well, you don’t need it. The pork shoulder will release enough liquid from steaming in the slow cooker.
- Slow cook it. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or high for 5 to 6 hours (until the meat falls apart).
- Shred the pork. Remove the pork from the slow cooker to a large cutting board and use two forks to shred the meat. Also, don’t toss out the remaining liquid! You’ll be using this in the crisping process.
How To Make Your Carnitas Crispy
Do you need to crisp the carnitas? No, it’s completely optional and you can enjoy it straight from the slow cooker. But if you prefer crispy golden edges (as I do), here are two ways to do it:
- In the oven: Spread the pork into an even layer on a baking sheet. Pour one cup of the reserved liquid from the slow cooker on top. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it becomes golden brown and crispy on the edges.
- On the stovetop: Add a tablespoon or two of oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Transfer the shredded pork (you may need to work in batches), and let it cook for about 5 minutes until the bottom is browned. Continue tossing for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the edges are crispy.
Yes, you can adapt this recipe to the oven. First, preheat your oven to 325°F (160°C). Rub the spice mix all over your pork and toss all the ingredients into a Dutch oven or oven-safe pot and cover. Cook for about 3 to 4 hours, or until the pork becomes meltingly tender. Then continue to shred and broil it.
I would recommend doubling the other ingredients. And for the cooking time, you may just need an hour or two more. Continue cooking until it shreds easily with a fork.
Make and shred the carnitas, let it cool, then store it in a covered bowl in the fridge (with the reserved liquid in a separate bowl). When you’d like to serve it up, warm up the liquid so it’s pourable again, then pour about a cup over the carnitas, and follow the instructions below for crisping under the broiler.
Ways To Serve Carnitas
Carnitas is great for taco night, and a necessity for Cinco De Mayo. But there are so many other ways to enjoy it throughout the week. Here are a few tasty ideas:
- Tacos: Serve up carnitas tacos with homemade tortillas and various fresh toppings such as avocado slices, chopped cilantro, and a drizzle of lime crema.
- Plate: Whip up some Mexican rice and black beans to pair with the carnitas on a classic lunch plate.
- Bowl: Turn it into a burrito bowl with rice, beans, avocado, pico de gallo, and guacamole.
- Stuff It: Pile the carnitas into poblano peppers with black beans and corn.
- Omelette: Serve it up for breakfast as a carnitas omelette with fajita veggies and tasty toppings.
More Mexican Recipes
I’m confident you’re going to love this carnitas recipe as much as I do! Once you make it, let me know your thoughts in the comment box below. Your review will help other readers in the community.
Best Carnitas (Slow Cooker Pulled Pork)
- Crockpot (Slow Cooker) It has a ceramic insert and is perfect for transporting!
How to Make Carnitas
- Mix the seasoning. In a small bowl stir together the oregano, cumin, black pepper, salt, and chili powder.
- Season the pork. 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.
- Add ingredients. Add the onion, minced garlic, jalapeno pepper, and orange juice to 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).
- 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.
To Crisp In The Oven (Optional)
- Pour liquid on top. 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.
- Crisp it up. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes or until the meat becomes golden browned and crispy on the edges.
- Getting the pork shoulder out of the slow cooker after it’s cooked can be a little difficult, given that it’s so tender and will likely fall apart. I recommend using a spatula underneath to support it when removing.
- To store leftovers in the fridge: Place the shredded pork in a sealed container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
- To freeze and enjoy 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.
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Recipe originally posted April 2020, but updated to include new photos and information for your benefit!