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Slow Cooker Carnitas are fall-apart tender, with crispy edges and a combination of Mexican spices and citrus juices that will make your heart sing. Add this slow cooked pulled pork to a taco, roll it into burritos, or load it onto chips to make nachos—any way you enjoy carnitas, it’s going to be GOOD.

Slow cooker pork carnitas in tortillas

Why You’ll Love This Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe

  • Set-It-and-Forget-It. This is an EASY carnitas recipe. No need to precook any of the ingredients—just 10 minutes of prep time! Simply add everything to the slow cooker, stir, and walk away.
  • Big-Batch for a Crowd or Meal Prep. Whether you need to feed a crowd (everyone loves carnitas meat and can help themselves right from the slow cooker!), stock your freezer, or just love leftovers (ME!), you’ll be pleased with this recipe’s generous yield.
  • So Many Ways to Serve Them. Whether you tuck carnitas into tortillas, serve them bowl-style with rice, or come up with a creation of your own, you’ll never run out of ways to eat carnitas. They’re incredibly versatile.
  • Gush-Worthy Guaranteed. Carnitas are essentially the Mexican version of Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, and everyone loves them. Whenever this recipe (or Instant Pot Carnitas), my friends react the same way: they freak out. YOU MADE THIS?! It’s uhhh-ma-zing!

For a version of this recipe made on the stovetop instead of the slow cooker that is most similar to authentic carnitas tacos, check out these classic pork Carnitas.

Tender slow cooker carnitas

How to Make Slow Cooker Carnitas

The Ingredients

The Best Cut of Meat for Carnitas

  • Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder are the best meat to use for carnitas. Both of these are fatty cuts with a lot of connective tissue that breaks down and becomes super tender and juicy when slow cooked (this is key!).

Substitution Tip

If you’d like to make carnitas on the healthy side, you can swap leaner pork loin; check it very early to make sure you do not overcook it. Also, note that it won’t shred *as* easily. See this post for Instant Pot Pulled Pork for tips.

DO NOT use pork tenderloin for carnitas; it will dry out and not shred (instead, try this Instant Pot Pork Tenderloin).

The Carnitas Marinade

  • Orange and Lime Juice. Although these are orange slow cooker carnitas, they do not taste like orange juice. The orange juice and lime juice merely brighten the overall flavor of the carnitas and give them the perfect hint of acidity and sweetness. The outcome will be similar (but healthier) than a popular Coke slow cooker carnitas recipe.
  • Spices. Chipotle chile powder, cumin, and chili powder add smokiness, depth, and warmth. Oregano brings a touch of earthy, herby flavor and is classic in Mexican cooking.
  • Garlic + Onion. These two are working in the background from the start to build rich flavor.

The Toppings (Pick Your Favorites)

  • Avocado. Both sliced avocado and guacamole are scrumptious. Try my recipe for the Best Homemade Guacamole.
  • Cilantro. Fresh and tasty.
  • Cheese. Either feta or queso fresco would be wonderful.
  • Onion. Sliced, diced, or Quick Pickled Onions add pop.
  • Jalapeño. For a nice kick.
  • Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream. Cool, creamy, and tangy.

The Directions

Seasoned meat on a cutting board
  1. Trim and Cut the Pork. Season with salt.
Sauce being whisked in a glass measuring cup
  1. Stir Up the Marinade. Juices, garlic, and spices—it smells amazing!
Pork in a slow cooker for carnitas
  1. Put the Pork Shoulder and Marinade in Your Slow Cooker. Toss to coat.
Chunks of meat in a crock pot
  1. Cook Low and Slow. Cook slow cooker carnitas on LOW for 5 to 6 hours or on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours.
Shredded meat in a crockpot
  1. Shred the Carnitas. Stir it in all the juices.
  2. Line a Baking Sheet with Aluminum Foil. Put the pork on top.
  3. Crisp the Meat. Broil the carnitas to crisp up their edges (the best part!). Serve as desired and ENJOY!
A serving tray with slow cooker pork carnitas

Ways to Use Pork Carnitas Meat

  • Tacos. Carnitas make a scrumptious filling for tacos (for a different flavor profile, try Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork Tacos).
  • Quesadilla. Tuck carnitas and cheese into a tortilla for a tasty quesadilla. (If this sounds tasty, don’t miss my Pulled Pork Quesadilla.)
  • Salad. Top a bed of lettuce or Mexican Salad with carnitas for a protein boost.
  • Burrito Bowl. For a copycat Chipotle carnitas bowl, swap the chicken in this Chipotle Bowl recipe for this carnitas.
A tray of slow cooker carnitas

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate carnitas in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days. 
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F, in a pan on the stovetop, or in the microwave. 
  • To Freeze. Freeze carnitas in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 

Meal Prep Tip

Up to 1 day in advance, trim and cut the pork. Refrigerate in an airtight storage container until you’re ready to finish the recipe.

Up to 1 day in advance, you can also fully prepare the recipe as directed. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat as directed just before serving.

Easy slow cooker carnitas on a tray

What to Serve with Slow Cooker Carnitas

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Stick With Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt. The fat and marbling is essential for tender carnitas. Leaner cuts will be dry.
  • Use the Keep Warm Setting. While it’s difficult to cook pulled pork too long in the slow cooker (if you’re using the correct cut of meat), it can start to become mushy because of the ingredients in the sauce. If you’re going to leave the pork in the slow cooker for an extended amount of time, make sure to switch it to the “keep warm” setting to deter overcooking.
  • Let Guests Serve Themselves. Set up a taco bar, keep the meat warm in the slow cooker, and let guests assemble their own for easy entertaining.

Slow Cooker Carnitas

5 from 4 votes
Juicy, tender, and crispy slow cooker carnitas are perfect for tacos, burritos, and more. Just 10 minutes of prep time for this easy recipe!

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 5 hours 6 minutes
Total: 5 hours 16 minutes

Servings: 10 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 4 to 5 pounds boneless pork butt (Boston butt, or pork shoulder)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice from about 1 large orange
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 cloves garlic minced, about 1 tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion diced

FOR SERVING:

  • Flour or corn tortillas or cooked brown rice
  • Toppings of choice: chopped fresh cilantro and feta or queso fresco, sliced avocado, sliced or diced onion, diced jalapeno

Instructions
 

  • Trim the pork of excess fat and cut into 3 to 4-inch cubes. Season the meat on all sides with salt.
  • In a mixing bowl or large measuring cup, stir together the orange juice, lime juice, garlic, chipotle chile powder, cumin, oregano, chile powder, and black pepper.
  • Scatter the onion in the bottom of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
  • Add the pork on top of the onion, then pour in the orange juice mixture. With a large spoon, turn the pork pieces to combine the ingredients and coat the pork with the juices on all sides.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours or HIGH for 4 to 5 hours, until the pork is fall-apart tender and shreds easily with a fork.
  • Place a rack in the upper third (but not topmost) rack of the oven and preheat the oven's broiler to high. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • With two forks, shred the pork directly in the slow cooker, discarding any large bits of remaining fat. Stir the pork in the sauce to coat it evenly, then use a slotted spoon to scoop the pork onto the prepared baking sheet (it's OK for some of the juices to come with it). Spread the pork into an even layer.
  • To warm the tortillas, wrap them in foil and pop them into the oven’s center rack while the pork broils. Or, you can heat the tortillas in a dry skillet on the stove.
  • Broil the pork for 3 to 5 minutes, until the edges of the pork begin browning and crisping up (don't walk away! It can quickly start to burn).
  • Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Spoon a little sauce over the top, lightly toss and stir the pork to expose unbroiled sides. Return the pan to the oven and broil for 3 to 5 minutes more (the meat should become nice and crispy at its edges). Repeat once more if you'd like your pork a bit more crisp. Enjoy hot, piled into warm tortillas or over rice with toppings of choice.

Notes

  • TO STORE: Refrigerate carnitas in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days. 
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave. 
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze carnitas in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 
  • Adapted from my Instant Pot Carnitas.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 10)Calories: 270kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 35gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 109mgPotassium: 700mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 337IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 46mgIron: 3mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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12 Comments

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  1. Hi Erin. Can’t wait to make this recipe. Couldn’t find in the directions what to do with the cooked onion. When you shred the pork do you shred the cooked onion as well or discard it?

    1. Hi Pam! You won’t have to do anything with the onion. It will be cooked into the pork so when you shred the pork it will mix right in. Hope this helps!

  2. Delicious and so simple to make. I’ve been making a far more elaborate version of carnitas for years, and decided to switch it up and try this one instead today. So easy, and the results are equal to or better than the version I’ve always made. This will be a repeat! Thanks so much for the awesome recipe! My husband and 10 year old wolfed it down!5 stars

  3. This recipe was so easy and so yummy! I used it for my Tuesday Taco Night and it did not disappoint. I had never made carnitas at home because I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my standards but this one did :)5 stars

  4. I have made this recipe several times now, and it is easily the best one I have found so far. The flavor is incredible, and the setup is simple. Chicken thighs can be used instead of pork, if that’s something you’d want to do.

    Thank you Erin for this recipe! It became a favorite instantly.5 stars