Change up your next taco night with tender, flavorful Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas!  Seasoned pork is braised until it’s falling apart tender, then it’s broiled until crisp for the best taco filling ever.  This is an easy dump and go recipe that requires just 10 minutes of prep and a few simple ingredients, so it’s perfect for busy weeknights!

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas in tortillas with onion, cilantro and lime

Last year during the pandemic, I went all out for Cinco de Mayo and prepared an epic feast. We couldn’t go anywhere after all, and it’s one of my favorite days of the year.

It was the first time I’d ever made these Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas, and they were an instant hit. We still love our turkey tacos, but this recipe is my family’s all time favorite now!

I actually prefer to prepare pork shoulder or Boston butt in my Instant Pot because it cooks up so fast. My Instant Pot Pulled Pork is ready in one hour, so it’s a great option if I don’t have my ducks in a row and get my pork cooking early.

I completely appreciate my slow cooker, however, because when I do get slow cooker pulled pork or crock pot chicken and rice cooking earlier in the day it’s such a load off. I feel organized, efficient, and most of all relaxed!

I actually took a poll on Instagram and asked people which appliance they would rather use for this recipe. The slow cooker won big, so I developed this recipe with that in mind. 🙂

Baking sheet with shredded pork carnitas, lime and cilantro

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • Pork carnitas are tender, flavorful and addictively crispy.
  • It’s an easy, dump and go slow cooker recipe that delivers. It’s guaranteed to be a hit!
  • This recipe is so versatile — it’s great in tacos, enchiladas, burritos, bowls and so much more.
  • It’s perfect for meal prep. Make a batch to use during the week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Recipe ingredients

Aside from the pork, this recipe only includes (6) ingredients. Each ingredient is integral in permeating flavor into the pork during the low and slow braising process, which is what makes this dish so special.

Simple substitutions may be made as outlined below in the Ingredient notes. There are so many ways to customize this recipe.

Pork carnitas ingredients

Ingredient notes

  • Pork. The best cut of pork for this recipe is pork shoulder or Boston butt as they contain more fat, which translates into tender, juicy meat. If you’d like to use a leaner cut, pork loin is a viable option, but cooking times will vary depending on the size.
  • Citrus. I used a combination of oranges and limes for sweetness, acidity and flavor. The citrus adds a nice tangy flavor to the pork carnitas. Pro tip: part of the citrus may be substituted with a bottle of beer or chicken stock for another layer of flavor.
  • Herbs and spices. I chose to season my pork with a simple rub of ground cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. You can change things up by using chili powder, smoked paprika or your favorite store bought dry rub.
  • Garlic. I highly recommend using fresh garlic in this recipe as it adds a ton of flavor. If you don’t have any on hand, add a teaspoon of garlic powder to the dry rub and/or slice half an onion and place it in the slow cooker for added flavor.
  • Cilantro. If you’re not a fan of cilantro, use bay leaf instead.
Pork carnitas tacos on a serving plate

How to make this recipe

Slow cooker pork carnitas are an easy dump and go recipe that requires very minimal prep and most of it may be done in advance.

Advance prep: Cut and season the pork and chill in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap overnight, and juice the citrus and prep the garlic and cilantro so it’s ready to pop into the slow cooker when you’re ready to get it cooking.

How to make pork carnitas collage
  1. Trim some of the fat from the pork if there is an excessive amount of it. Combine the cumin, oregano, salt and pepper and rub all over the pork. Place the pork in the slow cooker with the fat cap facing up.
  2. Place the garlic and cilantro in the slow cooker around the pork. Whisk the orange and lime juice together, then pour into the slow cooker.
  3. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for about 8 hours or until very tender.
  4. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and shred with two forks. Taste and adjust the salt if needed.
  5. Preheat the broiler. Place the shredded pork in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle some of the reserved liquid over the top of the pork to moisten (this will promote browning).
  6. Broil for about 5 minutes, or until the top of the pork is browned and crispy. Serve as tacos, burritos or in bowls with rice. Enjoy!
Spoon full of shredded pork carnitas on a baking sheet

FAQs

What is the difference between carnitas and pulled pork?

Both carnitas and pulled pork are braised in the oven or slow cooker, or cooked in a pressure cooker, until tender enough to shred. Pulled pork is often served with barbecue sauce in a sandwich, while carnitas are cooked with Mexican seasonings, herbs and citrus and are served in tacos, enchiladas, burritos and more.

What kind of meat is carnitas?

Carnitas are made from pork. A fatty cut such as Boston butt or pork shoulder is typically used for the most tender, juicy meat, but a leaner cut such as pork loin may also be used.

What does pork carnitas taste like?

Pork carnitas are rubbed with cumin and oregano, then braised in citrus, garlic and cilantro or bay leaf, so they have a delicious tangy, savory flavor. They’re not spicy at all, so they make a great family friendly meal.

What goes with pork carnitas?

Pork carnitas are extremely versatile. They may be served as tacos with tomatillo salsa, pineapple salsa or guacamole, or serve as enchiladas or burritos with red or green enchilada sauce. They’re also great served as burrito bowls with rice and toppings such as guacamole!

How to serve this recipe

The versatility of this slow cooker pork carnitas recipe is one of the best things about it. It can be served any number of ways so that it’s fresh and exciting every single time.

Recipe notes

  • Pro tip:  Cutting the pork into smaller pieces speeds up the cooking process significantly.  It’s typically done on high temperature in 4 hours!
  • Pro tip: part of the citrus may be substituted with a bottle of beer or chicken stock for another layer of flavor. The cumin and oregano may also be substituted with chili powder, smoked paprika or your favorite dry rub.
  • Advance prep: Cut and season the pork and chill in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap overnight, and juice the citrus and prep the garlic and cilantro so it’s ready to pop into the slow cooker when you’re ready to get it cooking.
  • Store leftover pork carnitas in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Slow cooker pork carnitas tacos on plate with diced onion, cilantro and lime

More pork recipes you’ll love!

If you make this recipe I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment and rating below, or snap a photo and tag me @flavorthemoments on Instagram!

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas in tortillas with onion, cilantro and lime

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas is flavorful braised pork that's addictively tender and crispy. It's great for tacos, burritos and bowls, and is the perfect meal prep dinner!
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Ingredients

  • 4 lb. pork shoulder cut into 4-6 large pieces
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt or use 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons regular table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 large oranges juiced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 large limes juiced (about 1/3-1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves substitute with 2 bay leaves if you're not a fan of cilantro
  • 6 cloves garlic smashed and peeled

Instructions 

  • Trim some of the fat from the pork if there is an excessive amount of it. Combine the cumin, oregano, salt and pepper and rub all over the pork. Place the pork in the slow cooker with the fat cap facing up.
  • Place the garlic and cilantro in the slow cooker around the pork. Whisk the orange and lime juice together, then pour into the slow cooker.
  • Cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for about 8 hours or until very tender.
  • Remove the pork from the slow cooker and shred with two forks. Taste and adjust the salt if needed.
  • Preheat the broiler. Place the shredded pork in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle some of the reserved liquid over the top of the pork to moisten (this will promote browning).
  • Broil for about 5 minutes, or until the top of the pork is browned and crispy. Serve as tacos, burritos or in bowls with rice. Enjoy!
    Pork carnitas on baking sheet before and after broiling

Notes

  • Pro tip:  Cutting the pork into smaller pieces speeds up the cooking process significantly.  It’s typically done on high temperature in 4 hours!
  • Pro tip: part of the citrus may be substituted with a bottle of beer or chicken stock for another layer of flavor. The cumin and oregano may also be substituted with chili powder, smoked paprika or your favorite dry rub.
  • Advance prep: Cut and season the pork and chill in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap overnight, and juice the citrus and prep the garlic and cilantro so it’s ready to pop into the slow cooker when you’re ready to get it cooking.
  • Store leftover pork carnitas in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 306kcal, Carbohydrates: 10g, Protein: 36g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 122mg, Sodium: 838mg, Potassium: 765mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 211IU, Vitamin C: 37mg, Calcium: 68mg, Iron: 3mg

Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.

Tried this recipe?Mention @flavorthemoments or tag #flavorthemoments!

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