Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Carnitas
This easy slow cooker carnitas recipe makes perfectly tender pulled pork that is delicious in tacos, burritos, or all on it’s own!
I’ve been making slow cooker pork carnitas for years. You just throw the ingredients in a Crock Pot and let it cook for about 6 hours. The result is flavorful, super moist, tender pork that shreds apart easily.
What makes pork carnitas different than regular slow cooker pulled pork is that the meat is slightly crisp. You get that crispness by taking the shredded meat and pressing it into a skillet, letting it cook for a few minutes to crisp up the bottom.
It’s a delicious dish that can be served all on it’s own with some of your favorite sides or added to pulled pork tacos or pork enchilada casserole to
We love Mexican food, and this is one of our favorites! In addition to the pulled pork carnitas, we have also been loving these instant pot chicken tacos and pork tacos. And if you love these carnitas we know you will also love our slow cooker BBQ pork!
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Ingredients You’ll Need
- Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt – See below about the best cut of meat for this recipe.
- Olive Oil – Extra virgin olive oil is best for cooking meat.
- Spices – Salt, dried oregano, and ground cumin.
- Onion – We suggest a white or yellow onion for recipes that call for cooked onion.
- Jalapeno – If you want to increase the spice, leave the seeds and ribs.
- Orange – Can use store bought juice if needed. Make sure it is 100% juice with no added sugar.
Some people also like to add in some black pepper or chili powder for extra heat, depending on your taste.
How to Make Slow Cooker Carnitas
Step 1 – Prep pork – Rub olive oil all over the pork.
Step 2 – Mix and add rub – In a small bowl combine salt, dried oregano, and cumin. Sprinkle it over the pork, rubbing it into the pork to cover it.
Step 3 – Add ingredients to slow cooker – Place the pork in a slow cooker and add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Let some sit on the pork and some fall into the slow cooker. Pour the juice of 1 orange over everything.
Step 4 – Cook – Cover and set slow cooker to high for 4-6 hours.
Step 5 – Shred pork – When the pork has finished cooking it should be fall-apart tender. Remove it from the slow cooker and use two forks to shred it.
Step 6 – Collect the fat – Skim the fat off the top of the juices in the slow cooker and pour into a measuring cup to use as you cook.
Step 7 – Crisp the shredded pork – In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shredded pork, pressing it into the pan. You will probably need to do this in batches, so you don’t crowd the pan. You want all the meat touching the pan. Pour about ½ a cup of the reserved juice over the shredded pork and let it cook for 3-4 minutes until the meat gets crisped and brown on one side. Remove from the pan and continue the process until all the shredded pork has been crisped.
What is the Best Way to Pull Pork?
There are many methods people use and they all work well. Try them all out and see what fits your likes and needs. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Forks – This is the most traditional method. You simply take two forks and twist the to shred apart. This is a very inexpensive way to do it, and you don’t need any special tools.
Shredder Claws – You can buy some claws that are specifically made for shredding all sorts of meat. You literally just twist them, and next thing you know, you have perfectly shredded meat!
Stand Mixer – I know it might sound a little crazy, but if you put the meat in the stand mixer, you can turn it on to low speed for a few seconds to a minute, and it will shred FAST!
Food Processor – Using your slicer blade, you can efficiently shred the meat by giving it a few pulses. It will be a fabulous texture and will look great too.
As you can see, there are several methods and there is no right or wrong way to do it. We have used several methods, and they all work great.
If you opt to use a different cut of meat, like a pork tenderloin or pork roast, using the stand mixer or food processor is the way to go. Since they are a little denser, you need a stronger shredding option to get it pulled apart well.
Pork shoulder has the perfect fat content to break down and create the pull apart tender pork needed for pulled pork.
If you can’t find pork shoulder can easily swap it out. Many people use pork butt, which is essentially the same as shoulder. The main difference is that the pork butt is a little bit higher up on the pig. Otherwise, they are pretty much the same in flavor and texture.
You can also use boneless pork country-style ribs in place of pork shoulder. They are both cut from the shoulder meat, so they have the same great flavor.
If you have extra pork shoulder you can use it to make our pulled pork tacos, slow cooker BBQ pulled pork or Instant Pot BBQ pulled pork, or our pulled pork enchilada casserole.
Pulled pork and carnitas are both made by slow cooking pork shoulder (or similar cut of meat). The difference is carnitas are cooked with Mexican spices and is finished in the oven or on the stovetop to give it little crispy bits that add to the texture and flavor.
What are carnitas served with?
Typically, they are served as a taco on corn tortillas with side of rice and black beans, pinto beans, or refried beans. You can top them with your choice of cheese, sour cream, some fresh tomatoes or Pico de Gallo, cilantro, pickled red onions, jalapenos, and a squeeze of lime juice.
Make sure to serve with warm tortillas for that perfect final touch. You can warm your tortillas in a cast iron skillet or just by placing them on a plate, covering them with a wet paper towel, and putting them in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
How to Store It
Refrigerate – Place leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Freeze – If you want to meal prep, this dish will freeze well. Let cool completely and then store in an airtight container, or gallon freezer bag. It can be frozen for up to 2 months.
To reheat thaw it in the fridge overnight. Once thawed you can place it in a microwave bowl in the microwave for 3 -4 minutes until it is warmed through OR you can heat it on the stovetop over medium heat until warmed through.
Looking for More Tex-Mex Recipes?
- Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Pulled Pork Tacos
- Beef Enchilada Casserole
- Mexican Pizza
- Chicken Quesadillas
- BBQ Pork Quesadillas
- Instant Pot Chicken Tacos
- Shredded Chicken Taco Bowl (Low Carb)
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
- Rub olive oil all over the pork.
- In a small bowl combine salt, dried oregano, and cumin. Sprinkle it over the pork, rubbing it into the pork to cover it.
- Place the pork in a slow cooker and add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Let some sit on the pork and some fall into the slow cooker.
- Pour the juice of 1 orange over everything.
- Set slow cooker to high for 4-6 hours. Cover and wait.
- When the pork has finished cooking it should be super tender. Remove it from the slow cooker and use two forks to shred it.
- Skim the fat off of the top of the juices in the slow cooker and pour into a measure cup to use as you cook.
- In a large skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.
- Add the shredded pork pressing it into the pan. You will probably need to do this in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. You want all of the meat touching the pan.
- Pour about ½ a cup of the reserved juice over the shredded pork and let it cook for 3-4 minutes until the meat gets crisped and brown on one side. Remove from the pan and continue the process until all of the shredded pork has been crisped.