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Carnitas is juicy and tender shredded pork with crispy, flavorful edges. It’s a staple in Mexican cuisine and easy to make at home. Just toss all the ingredients in your slow-cooker, let it do its magic, then pop the shredded pork under the broiler to get those crispy, caramelized edges.

Carnitas in a pile on a plate.

I have a serious love affair with carnitas. It’s one of the easiest recipes imaginable, and transforms a simple pork shoulder into tender and juicy meat with just a handful of ingredients. Thank you Mexican cuisine, for creating one of the best ever pork recipes with carnitas!

Whenever I visit Mexico I always order carnitas. I’m a huge lover of pulled pork, but carnitas hits a bit differently – in the best way possible. The simple combination of Mexican spices, chopped jalapeno pepper, onions, garlic, and orange juice add incredible flavor to the meat. Plus, I can’t get enough of those crispy edges!

So today, I’ll show you how to make foolproof carnitas with a simple tool – your slow-cooker! Just toss everything in, shred it when it’s done, then pop it in the oven to crisp it up.

Carnitas ingredients on a table.

Carnitas Ingredients

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 – and that’s a good thing!

  • Pork shoulder: Grab a pork shoulder that’s about 4 to 5 pounds. You could always go a little bigger, if your slow-cooker can accomodate it. You may just need to increase the time a bit.
  • Spices: A simple blend of oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper adds incredible flavor.
  • Aromatics: Chopped onion, minced garlic, and finely chopped jalapeno pepper season the meat while it slowly cooks. And don’t worry, the jalapeno pepper isn’t overly hot or spicy in the finished meat.
  • Orange: The juice from one freshly squeezed orange adds naturally sweetness to perfectly balance the other flavors.
Carnitas in a slow cooker before cooking.

How To Make Pork Carnitas

Generously season your pork then toss everything into the slow-cooker. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. And if you’re wondering why there’s no additional liquids such as chicken broth – you don’t need it. The pork shoulder will release enough liquid from steaming in the slow cooker.

  • Mix: In a small bowl, mix together the oregano, cumin, black pepper, salt, and chili powder.
  • Rub: Generously rub the spice blend on the entire pork shoulder and place it in the slow-cooker.
  • Add: Toss in the onions, minced garlic, jalapeno, and orange juice into the slow-cooker.
  • Cook: Cover and cook on the low setting for 8 to 10 hours, or on high heat for 5 to 6 hours (until the meat falls apart).
  • Shred: 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 next steps below.
Carnitas on a sheet pan with tongs.

How To Make your Carnitas Crispy

To get those crispy golden edges, there’s two ways you can do this: oven or stovetop. In this recipe, I’ve chosen to broil it in the oven. But, I’ll tell you how to do it on the stovetop as well.

  • In The Oven: spread the pork into an even layer on a baking sheet. Pour 1 cup of the reserved liquid from the 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 avocado 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.

Do you need to crisp the carnitas? No, it’s completely optional. You can enjoy it straight from the slow cooker as well!

Tongs lifting a portion of carnitas.

Can You Make This In The Oven?

If you don’t have a slow cooker – don’t worry. Carnitas can also be made right in the oven. First, preheat your oven to 325°F (162°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 it becomes meltingly tender. Then continue to shred and broil it.

What To Serve With Carnitas

Let’s be clear – carnitas tastes insanely delicious it’s own. But it’s also extremely versatile, so have fun with it. Leftovers can be used as a base for tasty meals throughout the week!

A pile of carnitas on a serving plate.

Storage Tips

  • Storing for the week: Leftover carnitas is great for meal prep! Just place it in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
  • Freezing it for later: If you’re planning on freezing leftovers, don’t get it crispy under the broiler or skillet just yet. Instead, set aside a batch you want to freeze, then plan on making it crispy before serving. It’ll stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • For reheating: Just thaw it in the fridge the night before (if frozen). Then microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, until warmed through.

Want to prep the carnitas in advance for a party? Here’s how you can prep it three days in advance. Just make and shred the carnitas, toss it in the cooking liquid, let it cool, then store it in a covered bowl in the fridge. When you’re ready to prepare, simply crisp it up and serve!

More Easy Mexican Recipes

Whether you’re prepping for a taco Tuesday night or Cinco De Mayo, these recipes make for very happy guests!

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.

Carnitas on a serving plate.

Best Carnitas (Slow Cooker Pulled Pork)

5 from 80 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 8 hours
Total: 8 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan


Create the most juicy and tender carnitas right in your slow cooker. Then broil it in the oven for the perfect crispy, golden edges. Watch the video below to see how I make it in my kitchen!



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


How to Make Carnitas

  • In a small bowl place oregano, cumin, black pepper, salt, and chili powder, then stir together.
    Mixing the spice rub ingredients in a bowl.
  • 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 the onion, minced garlic, jalapeno and orange juice in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on the low setting for 8-10 hours, or high heat for 5-6 hours (until the meat falls apart).
    Carnitas in a slow cooker with other ingredients.
  • Remove the pork from the slow cooker to a large cutting board and use two forks to shred the meat. Don't get rid of the liquid as you will be using it later.
    Shredding the cooked pork shoulder.

To Crisp In The Oven

  • 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.
    Pouring liquid on top of shredded carnitas on a sheet pan.
  • Broil for 5 to 10 minutes or until the meat becomes golden browned and crispy on the edges.

Lisa’s Tips

  • This is a great slow cooker with a ceramic insert and it’s perfect for transporting!
  • 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.


Calories: 227kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 406mg | Potassium: 559mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 232IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: carnitas, carnitas recipe, slow cooker carnitas
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

Recipe originally posted April 2020, but updated to include new information.

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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


  1. Something I do with pulled pork after I smoke it is add half a can of Goya nectar. I tried with this recipe (used mango) and it brings it to another level5 stars

  2. So easy and delicious – wonderful with the juice and the kick from the jalapeno! Been eating leftovers all week on nachos, in rice bowls, and tacos. Fantastic recipe!5 stars

  3. I love this recipe but have never tried with the jalapeño, any feedback if with the jalapeño is too much if kids are eating?

      1. Thank you! My pork butt is 12 pounds, would that increase the time in slow cooker? Any idea how much?

  4. Love your recipes. Would substituting lemon in place of OJ ruin the recipe. I have all ingredients except OJ 😬

    1. Lemon juice would definitely change the flavor profile, as orange juice is sweet and lemon juice is acidic.

  5. The best meat I’ve ever cooked! It’s every bit as tender, juicy, and flavorful as described. And so easy to make! It will be a regular in my menu planning.5 stars

  6. Fantastic, flavorful and easy recipe!! I made these overnight last night and broiled the carnitas as well as some bell peppers, onion and spices (used in your carnitas recipe) on a sheet pan. I couldn’t believe how wonderful they were! This was the first time I’ve made carnitas but it won’t be my last! 

    Thank you Lisa!!!5 stars

  7. I love the simplicity & versatility of this recipe. And so yummy. I am cooking for myself so I end up freezing a lot. It freezes well. Tonight I made tacos with this meat and included the Cilantro Rice for my grandson’s (11 & 7). We all loved it!!

  8. Made this in pressure cooker after cubing my pork, rubbing on dry seasoning, browning in pressure cooker with olive oil, adding the onion, garlic, jalapeños, and orange juice. After 35 minutes it pulled apart and I placed the meat and softened veggies with juice under the broiler. It was fantastic! 

  9. We make this as meal prep.  Divide it up into smaller containers with plenty of juice in each one.  When we’re ready to eat it we toss it the blackstone, get it crispy, add a slice of pepperjack cheese, some bbq sauce and put it on a toasted bun.  Best “pulled pork” sandwich I’ve had.  5 stars

  10. I’ve lived in Mexico. This is a fantastic simplified recipe! I do highly recommend one additional step if you have time. I usually cut my pork shoulder into large chunks rub the spices in and brown all sides on high heat. The caramelization you get really adds a ton of extra flavour. My house mom in Mexico uses full sugar coke and orange juice as the braising liquid.  It’s a one pot meal for me as I use a Dutch oven and I can brown and then braise in a 300F oven for 5 hours in the same pot. I skim off the fat and then reduce that liquid to 1/3rd. Makes an incredible sauce. 

    Seana5 stars

  11. These truly are the best Carnitas. The pork is flavorful and tender. I love how easy the recipe was to make in the crockpot. Very quick to prepare and then you get to enjoy the amazing smell of it cooking all day. Broiling the meat after it is shredded adds the final touch of crispness, but doesn’t leave the meat dry due to adding the flavorful broth left  from cooking the pork. If you love Mexican food, this recipe will not disappoint. 5 stars

  12. Hi there! I have your carnitas recipe in the slow cooker as we speak for a Sunday dinner and it smells so good! I did make one mistake and I forgot to add the garlic in the beginning, I just added it in with an hour and a half left to cook in the slow cooker.. do you think it will be fine that I added the garlic so late? I’m worried I ruined it!

  13. Made this for the first time in a new crockpot. It really was fall apart tender. Super easy prep. I just let it slow cook overnight. Hardest part was finding the meat at a local grocer.

  14. Wow! I don’t even like pork and saw this recipe and thought it looked really good. I think the pork shoulder J hot was extra big because I slow cooker for 6 hours on high and not all of it would shred so I had to put the other half back in to slow but it was amaaaaaazing! My husband loved it as well and I served with avocado, the pickled onions, lettuce, and chalupa hot sauce. I will definitely be making this again, thanks Lisa!!!5 stars

    1. Hi, I’m making this as we speak and I’m bringing for birthday lunch tomorrow..I wanted to do street tacos with it and perhaps a slaw…any suggestions as to the slaw? I was thinking chipotle slaw?