Juicy, melt-in-your-mouth, tender pork is the star of my slow cooker carnitas recipe. After cooking the meat all day long, I like to make mine as crispy as possible for delicious taco and enchilada filling!
If you’re familiar with my blog, you know that I’ve got a bit of a thing for carnitas. I’ve made this flavorful taco and enchilada filling in my Instant Pot, and I’ve also made the traditional and authentic Mexican recipe. This one calls for a crockpot (and your stovetop!) for seasoned meat that will fall apart at the touch of your fork.
How can my slow cooker carnitas be so juicy and tender, and yet crispy at the same time? I get these results through the use of my specially seasoned rub and about 10 hours in the crock pot slow cooker. Then, I crisp up the pork to perfection in a skillet before serving (completely optional). And that, folks, is how you get juicy and crispy results every time!
Mexican cuisine often involves a spicy blend of seasoned meat, fresh veggies, and corn tortillas. It’s a combination that I constantly go back to and one that I try to recreate here on the blog.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Boneless Pork – Opt for boneless shoulder (sometimes called pork butt) for your slow cooker carnitas. You’ll want to use skinless too as it’s a lot easier to shred with a fork once it’s been cooked.
- Oranges, Carrots, & Onions – You’ll add these fruits and veggies to the crockpot with the shoulder. You may not associate orange with this dish, but the citrus will add even more flavor and help tenderize the meat!
- Bay Leaves & Chicken Stock – You can feel free to sub in orange juice for the chicken stock! It plays nicely with the oranges already in the mix.
- Rub – When it comes to cooking meat, I can’t say no to a good marinade or rub. It just adds so much more to the recipe. My rub is made with:
- Garlic cloves
- Brown sugar
- Mexican Oregano – You can substitute regular oregano if needed!
- Serving Add-Ons – Trust me – the meat is so delicious you’re going to want to eat it on its own. I’ve been known to eat it right out of the pan! But, I will admit, it is much better when enjoyed with:
HOW TO MAKE SLOW COOKER CARNITAS
1. Prep the Meat. Add all of the ingredients for your rub to a small bowl and combine. Use your hands to apply the rub all over the meat, being careful to cover the entire surface. This part can get a little messy!
2. Slow Cook. Put the shoulder in your crockpot with the fatty side up. Add the oranges, carrots, onion, bay leaves, and chicken stock (or orange juice if that’s your preference). Cover and cook on Low for 10 hours – or on High for just 6 hours.
3. Crisp. Remove the meat from the cooker. Let it cool a little, then shred it using two forks. You could then serve as is, but I can’t say enough good things about crisping it first! Heat a bit of oil in a large skillet and remove some of the cooking liquid from the crockpot. In batches, fry the shredded meat while pouring some of the cooking liquid over it. The results will be a perfectly caramelized filling!
4. Serve & Enjoy. Serve your slow cooker carnitas with warmed tortillas, refried beans, and your choice of toppings!
What’s the Difference Between Pulled Pork and Carnitas?
While both recipes call for slow cooking, pulled pork and carnitas do have their differences. The spices in both are quite different. What’s more, after pork carnitas has been slow-cooked, the meat is usually placed in a skillet for frying or in the oven for browning. The added crispiness sets it apart from pulled pork!
What Cut of Pork is Best for Carnitas?
If you want to serve up the best pork carnitas, you can’t use any old cut of meat. Opt for pork shoulder, which is also referred to as pork butt. Some recipes will say to use bone-in or bone-out, which is technically valid, but I prefer boneless. Whichever you choose, you do need to make sure the skin is removed!
Can You Put Raw Pork in a Slow Cooker?
Most definitely! Using your crockpot ensures more juicy and tender results. After you’ve applied my specially seasoned rub to the meat, cook for about 10 hours before transferring to a skillet to fry.
This recipe first appeared on Kevin Is Cooking February 10, 2013 (to celebrate my birthday!) and has been updated with slow cooker/Instant Pot instructions, new photos and a video.
Here’s a look at what my old photos looked like back in 2013…
We quadrupled the carnitas batch for a party of 40 friends and I used my iPhone with the yellow kitchen lights on. Really quality pics! I used to add fresh cilantro and orange concentrate to the boil and have since refined the recipe.
Slow Cooker Carnitas
- 6 lbs boneless pork shoulder pork butt
- 2 oranges cut in half
- 2 large carrots cut in half
- 1 onion cut into quarters
- 3 bay leaves
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp oregano Mexican or regular
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Combine the rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Use your hands to apply the rub over the entire surface of the pork.
- Place the pork butt in the slow cooker, fat side up. Add the oranges, carrots, onion and bay leaves and pour the chicken stock (or orange juice) over and cover.
- Slow cook on low heat for 10 hours, or high heat for 6 hours.
- Use a slotted spoon to carefully transfer the pork carnitas to a serving platter. Allow the meat to cool slightly, then shred by hand or by using two forks. Eat as is, but BEST if crispy.
- Remove and discard cooked orange and vegetables from cooking liquid. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over high heat add a tablespoon of oil and fry shredded carnitas meat in batches, pouring 1/4 cup of cooking liquid in and simmer until juices have evaporated and meat is crispy and caramelized.
- Serve with hot tortillas, refried beans, sliced onions, tomato slices, cilantro, limes and salsas of choice.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.