Carnitas Recipe (Mexican Pulled Pork)
This easy Pork Carnitas recipe is sure to win you over. They are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside! Let the slow cooker do all the work and you will make restaurant-quality Mexican carnitas with little mess or fuss.
We love re-creating our favorite Mexican-inspired recipes at home, from Guacamole to Fish Tacos and even Chicken Fajitas. These pork carnitas are another family favorite that will be on your regular rotation. You’ll also appreciate that leftovers keep really well.
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We love slow cooker recipes that require simple ingredients and minimal clean-up. I’m SO looking forward to sharing this recipe with you! For years, I’ve worked on creating the perfect carnitas. They either came out too dry or too greasy. But, these are JUST right. Here’s why you will love this Carnitas Recipe:
- Easy – there’s no need to pre-sear the meat, just season it and add it to the slow cooker along with all the other ingredients.
- Crisp and Tender – the slow cooker makes the meat super tender and finishing it off in the oven (or skillet – see below) creates the dreamiest crispy edges.
- FLAVOR – the addition of lime and orange juice create a richly flavored broth that bastes the meat as it slowly cooks.
- Leftovers – Pork carnitas store really well in the refrigerator or freezer so they a great idea for your weekly meal plan.
- Crowd-Pleasing – this recipe is easy and makes a generous batch which is perfect for feeding a crowd. It’s a great option for hosting, birthdays or events.
What is Carnitas?
Carnitas, or “little meats” in Spanish, is a popular Mexican recipe. It’s essentially braised or simmered pork that has been cooked in a flavorful broth until ridiculously tender.
If they already aren’t one of your favorite dishes to order at your local taqueria, get prepared to fall in love. This pork packs some serious flavor and is the perfect candidate for weekend meal prepping. From carnitas tacos to burritos to salads, carnitas go great on almost anything.
- Pork Roast – The best roast for Carnitas is a boneless pork shoulder or pork butt.
- Carnita seasonings – Salt, black pepper, and dried oregano make a simple and delicious seasoning.
- Onion and Garlic – add rich flavor to the broth.
- Lime juice and Orange juice – add bright flavor and keep the carnitas from feeling too greasy. The acidity also helps to tenderize the pork roast. This is the key to the best carnitas.
- Bay leaves – If you don’t have bay leaves on hand, you can skip them, but just as with soups, we like to add them for more aroma and flavor.
How to Make Carnitas
Let the slow cooker do ALL the work for you. Cooking your pork low and slow ensures that it will be nice and tender when it is time to chow down. There’s nothing worse than spending a bunch of time prepping carnitas for them to simply turn out bland and dry. Follow this easy step-by-step process for perfect carnitas every time:
- Season – Pat your pork dry and season pork roast liberally.
- In the slow cooker, add your veggies, broth, citrus and bay leaves.
- Add the roast and slow cook on high heat for 5 hours (or on low for 7-9 hours) or until pork is very tender and shreds easily with a fork.
- Shred pork – transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and shred pork with 2 forks. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the slow cooker juices on top.
- Broil the shredded pork for 5 minutes, until the edges are delicious and crispy.
How to Serve Pork Carnitas
- Carnita tacos: Grab your favorite corn tortilla, some onions, Cowboy Caviar, cilantro, and lime wedges. Pack each tortilla with crispy pork. This is the perfect party food!
- Nachos: Oh yes, everyone’s favorite snack food is made that much more delicious with some homemade carnitas. Top your chips off with a scoop of carnitas, cheese, sour cream, and Pico de gallo.
- Burrito: I mean, who doesn’t love a good burrito? Stuff a large, flour tortilla with all the usual suspects and dip it into jalapeno ranch.
- Salad: Add carnitas for our favorite Mexican Salad! This makes for a great weekday lunch.
Unfortunately, a pork tenderloin or pork loin would not work well in this recipe because they are too lean and will end up tough and dry.
Be sure to thaw your pork roast before putting it into the slow cooker, otherwise, your cook times will be off and your pork won’t cook properly. The USDA recommends you always defrost meat before putting it into a slow cooker.
Yes, you can crisp up the carnitas in a skillet after you shred the meat. Oil a skillet, add pork and drizzle with some of the slow cooker juices. Let the meat cook and sear until golden brown on the first side, then flip and briefly sear on the second side to your desired crispiness.
Carnitas are often confused for another dish called “barbacoa”. While the concept is similar, barbacoa is typically beef that has been slow-cooked in dried chiles and spices until tender. Also, barbacoa is much spicier!
We love that this Mexican pulled pork can be made ahead.
- Refrigerating – Before the final crisping step, carnitas can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- To freeze – Carnitas can be frozen for up to 3 months. Pack carnitas in a freezer-safe bag with some of the juices from the slow cooker. To prevent freezer burn, remove as much air as you can when sealing.
- To reheat – Thaw carnitas if frozen, then you can crisp them on a skillet or in the oven per the recipe instructions.
More Pork Recipes
- Roasted Pork Tenderloin
- Pulled Pork Recipe
- Instant Pot Ribs
- Grilled Pork Chops
- Pork Chops in the Air Fryer
- Cuban Pork Sandwich
Carnitas Recipe (Mexican Pulled Pork)
- 4 lb boneless pork roast, (pork butt or pork shoulder)
- 3 Tbsp fine sea salt, (or 2 1/2 tsp table salt)
- 1 Tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves
- 4 Tbsp lime juice, (from 2 limes)
- 1/2 cup orange juice, (from 2 oranges)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves, optional
- Pat the pork dry with a paper towel. Combine salt, pepper and dried oregano and rub pork with the seasoning.
- In the slow cooker, add chopped onion, garlic cloves, broth, lime juice, orange juice, and bay leaves if using.
- Add the pork to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 7-9 hours.
- Remove the pork from the slow cooker and transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet. Shredded the pork with two forks and drizzle the top with 1/2 cup of the slow cooker juices.
- To get crispy edges, broil in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown.