Carnitas

Carnitas is juicy and tender shredded pork with crispy, flavorful edges. It’s a staple in Mexican cuisine and easy to make at home. All you need to do is 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 the most flavorful, tender and crispy meat with a few spices and seasonings. Thank you Mexican cuisine, for creating one of the best ever pork recipes with carnitas!

While I’m a huge lover of regular pulled pork, carnitas hits a bit differently – in a good way. It has deep, rich flavors from the spice blend. And it’s simultaneously tender on the inside, but also crispy on the outside, with perfectly perfectly browned edges. I’d say that’s the best of both worlds.

So today, I’ll show you how to make completely foolproof carnitas with a simple tool: a slow cooker. Just toss everything in, shred it when it’s done, then pop it in the oven to crisp it up. But if you don’t have a slow cooker, don’t worry. I’ve provided an oven option below.

What Cut Of Pork Is Best?

Traditionally, carnitas is made with pork shoulder (also known as pork butt) because of its higher fat content. This will help keep the meat extremely juicy and tender while it’s cooking.

Making carnitas in slow cooker.

How To Make Pork Carnitas

Generously season your pork then toss everything into the slow cooker. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. But if you’re wondering why there’s no 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 8-10 hours, or on high heat for 5-6 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.

How To Crisp In The Oven

  1. Spread the shredded pork into an even layer on a baking sheet.
  2. Pour 1 cup of the reserved slow cooker liquid over the pork to season.
  3. Broil for about 5-10 minutes, until it becomes golden brown and crispy on the edges.

How To Crisp On The Stovetop

  1. Add a tablespoon or two of avocado oil to a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat.
  2. Transfer the shredded pork and let it cook for about 5 minutes, until the bottom is browned. Note: you may have to do this in batches.
  3. Continue tossing occasionally for about 5-7 minutes longer, until the edges are crisp and caramelized.

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 degrees Fahrenheit. 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 3-4 hours, 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 as I mentioned at the beginning, it’s also extremely versatile, so have fun with it! Use it as a base or side to create even tastier meals.

A pile of carnitas on a serving plate.

Storing and Reheating Options

Storing any leftover carnitas is a breeze. Just place it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.

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 and then plan to crisp it before serving. Make sure to let the pork cool before storing in an airtight container. It’ll stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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!

Pork Carnitas Recipe Video

Want to see how easy it is to make this recipe? Give it a watch below! I’ll walk you through it step-by-step.

More Easy Mexican Recipes

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

Carnitas on a serving plate.

Best Carnitas (Slow Cooker Pulled Pork)

5 from 53 votes
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 8 hrs
Total Time: 8 hrs 10 mins
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 crisp, golden edges. Watch the video above!

Ingredients

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

Instructions 

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).
  • 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 5-10 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.

Nutrition

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
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164 comments on “Carnitas”

  1. Can you tell me how big a portion is? .5 cup? 1 cup? 

  2. I wanted to know if you can use bone in If boneless is not available

  3. My carnitas turned out fantastic… and it was almost too easy!  For years I had been intimidated by carnitas because I thought it would be too much work, but I prepped everything in all of 14 minutes last night and went to bed!

    I forgot to get the jalapeño when I picked up the pork, so I debated whether to add pickled jalapeños from a jar.  In the end, and without a frame of reference on the spice level, I decided to go without.   I was sort of wincing as I was rubbing on the spices because of all the fat on a pork shoulder, but I shouldn’t have worried.  The small marbling of fat kind of melts into the meat while cooking, and the large fat caps are super easy to remove once the meat is cooked and ready to shred.  Speaking of shredding, I started out with forks but quickly gave up on them and pulled the rest by hand so I could really feel where the large pieces of fat were hiding.  And in case anyone is wondering, no, you can’t taste the orange at all!  I haven’t crisped it up yet, I’ll do that when we’re ready to serve.  Thank you for another winner, Lisa!5 stars

    • So thrilled to hear that you loved this carnitas recipe! The process to make it is definitely a lot easier when you make it in a slow cooker :)

  4. Delicious!! We love pulled pork and I was looking for something alternative. In our area in Germany Mexican cuisine is not that well known. Made this and my family loved it. Plus it is so easy to make. Thank you for sharing!5 stars

  5. Hello, this recipe is DELICIOUS! How many ounces of pork shoulder does the nutrition account for? Thank you, Lisa. 😃5 stars

  6. Hi Lisa,
    Is it possible to make this without a slow cooker?

  7. Fantastic and juice carninitas‼️ Thanks and Happy Cinco de Mayo🍸5 stars

  8. LISA. Wow. I literally hopped onto your website before bed just to leave this review. I have tried several recipes from your website and have enjoyed them all, but THIS recipe is by far my favorite (so far). The seasoning blend is just PERFECT and I found myself nibbling chunks of the broiled carnitas even before dinner time officially started. I’m normally the kind of person who gets tired of leftovers quickly, but even though I had carnitas last night and tonight, I am so looking forward to eating more tomorrow. This recipe is to die for and definitely caused me to eat way too much food. Thank you for an amazing, memorable recipe and all your time experimenting and perfecting your craft in the kitchen.5 stars

    • Thrilled to hear you’re loving this carnitas recipe Lina! It really is such a great recipe to make many meals throughout the week. Also, thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment as well.

  9. Love this! Lisa, your recipes are approachable, non-intimidating clean eating. Game changers for people like me who’ve struggled to make healthy food practical. I recently tried some “Whole30” Cashew Queso with carnitas at a restaurant.
    Can you please do a cashew queso recipe for these amazing carnitas???

  10. very taste love these5 stars

  11. I love this recipe! I’ve made it in the crockpot several times but would love to try it in my Dutch oven. What would way recommend for cooking temp and time?

  12. I love this recipe – I’ve made it once before. This time, I’m making it a day ahead for a party and crisping it right before serving. From what I understand (from the previous question that was asked),  it sounds like I should store the pork in the fridge tossed in the 1 cup of reserved cooking liquid. Do I need to save MORE cooking liquid to pour over the meat right before crisping it the next day? 5 stars

    • I don’t think you’ll need it. But if you want to maximize the flavor from the cooking liquid, you can reserve it!

  13. I am making ahead for a party. I’m wondering if simply taking it out of the fridge and cripsing for the 5-10 minutes will have it warm enough or do I need to warm it up prior to crisping? Also, in the recipe you use one cup of the cooking liquid – when storing in fridge and then crisping later, should I also only store with one cup of the liquid or all? Thank you!

    • Crisping it for 10 minutes from the fridge should warm it up, but depends how warm you want it. If you like your meat on the warmer side, warm it up for an extra 5 minutes or so prior to crisping. As for the liquid, just stick with one cup.

  14. I want to try this! I have no oranges but I have fresh pineapple and organic pineapple juice, could that work instead of the orange?

  15. So delicious, layers of flavour. I followed the recipe and crisped up the pork in the oven after and it was amazing! Making it for the second time today, this recipe is a keeper!!5 stars

  16. This looks really good. How would I go about freezing it to use in other meals? I am only cooking for myself, and I see lots of recipes here that I can use it in.

  17. PHENOMENAL! One of my favorite recipes. We made this for Christmas dinner last year because we loved it so much. Make more than needed so you can have lots of leftovers. We use if it for tacos, bowls, nachos, enchiladas, etc. 5 stars

  18. We followed the recipe to a ‘t’ and the carnitas turned out perfect. So tender, and just like Lisa noted we utilized a spatula to remove it from the slow cooker. I was amazed how much juice it produced as I was a bit worried about not adding any liquid to the slow cooker, but Lisa was right that it naturally produces its own juices and these juices used for the crisping process were great at keeping the meat moist. The meat was so flavorful that we only topped the street sized tacos with Cotija cheese and a squeeze of lime.5 stars

    • Yep! The pork cooking low and slow will always produce juicy results without the need for too much additional liquid :)

  19. Absolutely delicious! Great meal to drop off to a family in need of help with a meal after surgery or other reasons for needing help with meals.  So easy and everyone loves it! My daughter requested this again for dinner tonight…. Im happy to grant her request! 😄5 stars

  20. Great recipe! My roommates were going crazy for it.. I always use my own seasoning blend, and I didn’t have any oranges or OJ on hand, so I substituted with 1/2 cup apple juice and 1/4 cup lime juice. It worked great! I also added 1/4 cup chicken broth for extra finished juice, then added some of that to my Spanish rice and it made it AMAZING!! I’m taking the leftovers and making stuffed poblanos for dinner tomorrow.5 stars

    • Glad you enjoyed this carnitas recipe Patrick! Excited to see how your stuffed poblanos turn out :)

      • The stuffed poblanos were out of this world!! I had sauteed some bell pepper and onion for the carnitas, so I diced that, the rice, the carnitas, some braising liquid, and some queso fresco and cotija cheese together then stuffed some poblanos (that I had roasted under the broiler, skinned, spit in half, and seeded) then topped with more cheese and baked until the cheese was golden. My roommates have requested carnitas and stuffed poblanos for a weekly meal. LOL5 stars

      • Woo! Glad this carnitas recipe was such a hit Patrick :)

  21. Listen, I didn’t even really LIKE carnitas until I made this recipe. I’ve had so many less flavorful recipes, but I can’t see eating them again. This is now the only recipe. It’s really THAT GOOD.

    I made this for my husband’s birthday party – we did a nacho bar with salsa chicken, carne asada, and these carnitas (with every fixing you can imagine). These were *everyone’s* favorite meat, and I got several requests for the link to your recipe. I made the carnitas exactly as instructed and put them in a little 3-well crock pot with a splash of the liquid to keep them from drying out on the buffet line. Just divine.

    Thank you!!5 stars

    • This recipe is honestly the best for a taco/nacho bar! Thrilled to hear this was a success for your husband’s birthday party – which by the way – happy belated birthday to your husband Sonja!

  22. I am going to give this recipe a try at home. My son will love it.

  23. Hi Lisa,

    Do you have or are you planning on creating Carnitas for the Instant Pot/ Pressure Cooker? What do you think? Thank you very much for all you do. Your recipes and videos are the best out there…Seriously!!

    • Others have made this in an Instant Pot successfully! I would cook it on low for 5-6 hours and check to see if the meat is tender enough yet from there!

  24. I used 4 one lb/each boneless pork chops. The only change I made was to add 1 tsp of smoked 
    paprika to the rub. I cooked it on high for 6 hours & it was just falling apart and so unbelievably tender! I’m planning to freeze it in one meal packets so will broil it when I use it. But it’s so good already that you could use the recipe without broiling if you don’t have a broiler. By far the best recipe I’ve ever found for pulled pork!5 stars

  25. I tried to click on your crockpot recommendation link, but it was not successful. Can you give a new link? I’m in need of a better crockpot. Thanks!

  26. Hi! I was hoping to use this recipe based on all the fantastic feedback but wanted to use 2 lbs of pork shoulder instead of 4. I plan to cut the ingredients in half but how long would you recommend cooking it for in the crockpot? 

    Thank you in advance! 

  27. This is an amazing recipe.  I am planning to make this for Taco Tuesday tomorrow! :)
    I was in a hurry at the market and I read the recipe wrong.  I bought Orange Juice instead of a whole Orange.  Would I be able to use the juice?5 stars

  28. I made this for a taco bar for my family visiting from out of state and it was a big hit. I made exactly as you have written except had to skip the broiling since my air conditioner is broken. The carnitas were still mouth wateringly delicious! I will definitely add the broiling step next time once it’s it’s cooler. I always panic when I’m cooking for others and I wondered if the oregano would be too strong. But it was absolutely perfect. The flavors blended together so nicely, and wow the flavor!  Such an easy recipe with so much depth of flavor. Thank you for your recipe!5 stars

    • Happy to hear this carnitas recipe was such a hit!

    • Awesome recipe foundation as I do a few things differently. I add a Serrano pepper, 10oz of Cheer Wine or Cherry Coke, I use the little Cuties oranges for juicing and add the juice of 1 lime. I also score the meat in 4 different places to the bone, use the dry rub and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator. I store bacon grease so when browning I do so with it in a cast iron. 
      Thank very much for sharing this recipe, it is my go to when I brain fart on the rub.5 stars

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