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.

Pork Carnitas tacos with herbs and limes

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Carnitas

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 Carnitas on a baking sheet with herbs

Ingredients

  • 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.
Ingredients for making pork carnitas

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:

  1. Season – Pat your pork dry and season pork roast liberally.
  2. In the slow cooker, add your veggies, broth, citrus and bay leaves.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Broil the shredded pork for 5 minutes, until the edges are delicious and crispy.
Step by step how to make pork carnitas

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.
A tray of nachos with vibrant veggies on top

Common Questions

Can I use pork tenderloin or pork loin?

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.

Can I use frozen pork?

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.

Can I pan-fry carnitas?

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.

Is this the same as Barbacoa?

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!

Tacos made with pork carnitas meat

Make Ahead

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

Natasha's Kitchen Cookbook

Carnitas Recipe (Mexican Pulled Pork)

4.99 from 193 votes
Author: Natalya Drozhzhin
Pork carnitas served as Carnita tacos
Pork Carnitas are crispy on the outside with a juicy center. It's so easy to make authentic Mexican pulled pork in the slow cooker.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours 10 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients 

Servings: 8 servings
  • 4 lb boneless pork roast, (pork butt or pork shoulder)
  • 3 tsp fine sea salt, (or 2 1/2 tsp table salt)
  • 1 tsp 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition Per Serving

323kcal Calories5g Carbs52g Protein9g Fat3g Saturated Fat1g Polyunsaturated Fat4g Monounsaturated Fat143mg Cholesterol993mg Sodium948mg Potassium1g Fiber2g Sugar42IU Vitamin A12mg Vitamin C28mg Calcium2mg Iron
Nutrition Facts
Carnitas Recipe (Mexican Pulled Pork)
Amount per Serving
Calories
323
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
9
g
14
%
Saturated Fat
 
3
g
19
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
4
g
Cholesterol
 
143
mg
48
%
Sodium
 
993
mg
43
%
Potassium
 
948
mg
27
%
Carbohydrates
 
5
g
2
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
2
g
2
%
Protein
 
52
g
104
%
Vitamin A
 
42
IU
1
%
Vitamin C
 
12
mg
15
%
Calcium
 
28
mg
3
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: carnitas, pork carnitas
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $$
Calories: 323

Natalya Drozhzhin

Natalya is a food blogger who founded Momsdish.com to make cooking easier. Growing up on a farm in Ukraine, Natalya was inspired by the amazing dishes that were prepared using simple ingredients. Natalya is most notably known for making cooking approachable for any person.

Read more posts by Natalya

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating




Comments

  • Linda
    May 14, 2024

    I’ve got a 4lb pork loin in the crockpot right now. No where in the recipe does it tell you to add the chicken broth. I’m skipping it as I’ve checked other recipes and most don’t include broth.

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      May 14, 2024

      Hi Linda, we have it on step 2. “In the slow cooker, add your veggies, broth, citrus and bay leaves.” I hope that helps.

      Reply

  • Cindy Miller
    May 3, 2024

    Absolutely fantastic! Made it for Cinco de Mayo family night. ALL GONE!!! Easy and delicious!

    Reply

  • Bob Curley
    April 29, 2024

    Hi Natasha,
    Love the Carnitas recipe; a bit confused, the recipe calls for diced onions, however, pics of the taco looks like sliced onions. Pickled? I know its a trivial
    question, thanks for your patience.

    Bob Curley

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      April 29, 2024

      Hi Bob! That’s correct, the diced onions are used to make the meat for the carnitas (see the recipe card for step by step instructions).
      The pickled onions you see in the image are additional toppings that can be added to your tacos but not part of the actual recipe.

      Reply

  • Johna
    March 27, 2024

    Do you ever baste the roast with the juices in the crockpot?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      March 27, 2024

      Hi Johna! No, I do not baste it during the slow cooking process.

      Reply

  • R
    March 1, 2024

    Hi, I made this and reading back I think the salt is supposed to be 3tsp? You have 3tbsp or 2tsp. Please let me know because I’m trying to figure why it’s so salty

    Reply

    • Natasha
      March 2, 2024

      Hi R, oh my goodness I’m so sorry. I’m not sure how I missed that but you are correct it is 3 tsp of salt. Thank you so much for letting me know.

      Reply

  • Anu
    February 10, 2024

    Hi. I don’t have an insta pot or Dutch oven. What else could I use to make these pork carnitas

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      February 10, 2024

      Hi Anu! If you want to bake them, you’ll want to use something similar like an oven safe pot/dish with a lid. I used my dutch oven at 300˚F for about 3 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender and easy to shred with forks.

      Reply

      Reply

  • Kelly H.
    January 9, 2024

    Made this tonight for my family and they loved it. The meet was so tender and flavorful. Thank you so much for the recipe. This will be my go to for recipe for carnitas…and I love carnitas. lol 🙂

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      January 9, 2024

      Hi Kelly! You’re very welcome!

      Reply

  • Karen J
    November 13, 2023

    This was absolutely delicious. I did make it with a pork tenderloin though. I just halved the recipe ingredients and used a meat thermometer to test to see if it was done. Cooked 1 hour on high, and 3 1/2 on low. Nice and tender. Definitely will make this again. Made some lime and cilantro rice to go with it.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      November 13, 2023

      That’s great, Karen! Thank you for sharing.

      Reply

  • Marta
    October 31, 2023

    I am considering making this for a party this weekend. I will have around 25 guests so if the measurements you provide are for 8 servings, I’m guessing I will need to get at minimum 12 pounds of meat. Because I will be tripling the recipe, does this mean I should triple all seasoning amounts? I don’t want it to come out too salty like other reviews have mentioned.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      October 31, 2023

      Hi Marta. You can season to your preference but yes, you’d increase all the ingredients the same. You can actually change the number of servings in the recipe card and it will convert the list for you.

      Reply

  • Bianca
    October 28, 2023

    This was delicious. I also drizzled honey over the pork just before I crisped the meat.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      October 28, 2023

      Sounds wonderful!

      Reply

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