Easy Pork Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)
Easy Pork Carnitas are sure to win you over. They are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside! With the power of the slow cooker, you will make restaurant-quality carnitas with little mess or fuss.
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Hi there! My name is Natalya and I run the blog Momsdish. If you already follow me, you know I can’t get enough of easy slow cooker meals that require simple ingredients and minimal clean-up. I’m SO looking forward to sharing this recipe with you! For years, I toiled with creating the perfect carnitas. They either came out too dry or too greasy. But, these are JUST right.
What is Carnitas?
Carnitas, or “little meats” in Spanish, is a dish of braised or simmered pork that has been cooked in juice 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 tacos to burritos to salads, carnitas go great on just about anything.
How to Make Pork 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 and don’t let that happen to you:
- Pat your pork dry and season pork roast liberally.
- Add your veggies, broth, and citrus to the slow cooker.
- Add the roast and slow cook on high heat for 5 hours.
- Shred pork with a fork, transfer to a baking sheet and pour juices on top.
- Broil the shredded pork for 5 minutes, until the edges are delicious and crispy.
What Can I Make with Pork Carnitas?
- Street tacos: Grab your favorite corn tortilla, some onions, cowboy caviar, cilantro, and lime wedges. Pack each tortilla with a hefty chunk of 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, guacamole 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.
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!
How to Store Pork Carnitas
We love that this Mexican pulled pork can be made ahead. Carnitas can be covered and refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 3 months. To freeze, 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.
More Pork Recipes
- Roasted Pork Tenderloin – so tender and is super easy to make.
- Pulled Pork Recipe – delicious on a bun with coleslaw
- Instant Pot Ribs – you’ll want this on your weeknight rotation.
- Air Fryer Pork Chops – get super crispy in the air fryer
- Cuban Pork Sandwich – perfect balance of tangy and juicy
Easy Pork Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)
Easy pork carnitas are sure to win you over. They come out just right - and that means crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside!
- 4 lb boneless pork roast
- 3 Tbsp fine sea salt, (or 2 1/2 tsp table salt)
- 1 Tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 large 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
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.
Add the pork to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours.
Remove the pork from the slow cooker. Shredded the pork with two forks. Keep the juice.
To get crispy edges, transfer the shredded pork to a baking sheet. Pour ½ cup of the juices on top of the meat and broil it for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown.
If you make this recipe, I’d love to see pics of your creations on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Hashtag them #natashaskitchen
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I made this using a 4 lb pork roast. It was delicious. Perfectly seasoned & fall apart tender. This is definitely staying in my dinner menu rotation.
Happy to hear that, Sandy. Thanks for sharing!
I used a 6.5 lb pork butt roast with all the seasoning (used fine sea salt as directed). The flavors were delicious and perfectly seasoned.
I’m so glad you loved the recipe, Eva! Thank you for sharing.
After your roil it can you add it back to the crock pot to serve and keep warm?
Hi Teresa! Yes, you can throw this back in the crock pot to keep it warm.
My dear Natasha, I love your recipes and your personality is adorable too! I subscribe to your YouTube channel and follow you here on Pinterest but…the salt amount in this recipe is way, way, off. 3 tbsp is so much, it makes it too salty.
A warm welcome to you! Thank you so much for subscribing, Lana!
My boyfriend, kids and I have made this a weekly staple! It’s so easy and so delicious! I make a coleslaw topping and pineapple salsa for them and everyone eats it up!! Thank you for this gem!
That sounds delicious! Thank you for the review.
I often make burrito bowls, like from Chipotle, with pork carnitas. Its always a hit!
Happy to hear that, Nancy!
Maybe I missed it, but what are they topped with in the pic? Cilantro for sure but is that also pickled onions? Do you have a recipe for it?
Hi Julie, those are serving suggestions since pork carnitas are just plain flavored pork without toppings or fixings. Yes, you may use cilantro, finely chopped onions, shredded cabbage and so much more!
Why the the recipe say it’s being cooked in a slow cooker but the picture shows an Instant Pot?
Hi Rosemary, The Instant Pot is a multi-cooker—it has settings for pressure cooking, slow cooking, sautéing, and yogurt making. I hope that helps.
I made this for my family and it was absolutely delicious. I will be making again for sure.
Glad that your family enjoyed this recipe! Thank you for sharing that with us.
Hi there. I am making this recipe for 50 people and got the pork shoulder roast a week early, as it was on sale. Can i rub the spices on the meat, put in a zip lock bag and place in freezer for a few days, or should I just make it early and freeze until the party. Unsure if they will taste the same after being frozen.
Hi Kate, I would think seasoning and freezing the meat before cooking is best.
I’ve made this several times for guests and it always gets complements. My only — complaint — is not really correct is that I think the salt part of the recipe must be incorrect. I’ve tried it with both kosher and regular salt — both times got way too salty results. Now skip the salt and everyone is happier.
Love these carnitas! I use kosher salt and I think the 3 Tablespoons is spot on, with 4 pounds of meat and the natural amount of fat in the meat, you need that much salt (plus some gets left behind in the liquid) I serve it with homemade salsa verde, raw onion, and cilantro. Every time I make this for others they ask for the recipe!
Great to hear that this always gets good reviews from others too! Thank you for your good comments and feedback, Morgan.
If we to replace the pork with a vegetable; to make it for a vegetarian what vegetable would you use for this? We are going to make the Pork Carnitas but we also need to make a small portion of this (without meat) for a guest who is a vegetarian. So, if there is a vegetable that you would recommend to use or a meat alternative please let us know.
Thank You 🙂
Hi Ken, I haven’t tried a vegetarian substitution myself to advise on the outcome. If you happen to experiment, I’d love to know how it goes!
These were a hit at my husbands birthday. The only negative is you could not eat the meat on its own because it was so salty! When added with all the taco fixings it was good. My husband usually likes things much saltier than I do and even he said it was a bit much for him. I triple checked that the recipe actually called for 3 TABLESPOONS. I would definitely cut this to 1.5 next time.
Hi Courtney, we use fine sea salt, but if using table salt, I would definitely recommend using 2 1/2 tsp. I added that note in the recipe card to clarify.
Do you have to use juice straight from lime or orange? Would bottled juice be ok?
Hi John, I haven’t tried bottled juice to advise on the outcome; it truly works best with fresh squeezed!
OMG! These were amazing! Even my picky 12 year old liked them too! We added pico, guacamole, coijta, and the jalapeño ranch. Sooooo good! We will be making these again soon. ❤️
Fantastic! So great to hear that the recipe was a hit. I hope you and your family will love every recipe that you will try for them.
I have made this two times. The first time it was okay, nothing to write home about. I had made a mistake the first time by forgetting to place under the broiler for a few minutes. So it tasted just okay. The second time I did the broiler and WOW what a difference. It was so good and tasty. I also changed the recipe by using a can of beer in place of the chicken stock because beer makes me a jolly good fellow. You have to be old to know that song. Anyway going to make it again. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Randy, nice to know that you enjoyed this recipe! Thank you so much for sharing your experience making this recipe, that was helpful!
Could I cook in a roasting pan in oven on low heat? If so, what temp do you suggest? I need to make for 30 people. TiA!
Hi Bonnie, I haven’t tested this recipe in the oven so I can’t speak to that. If anyone else has advice on that, please let us know.
I have done it in the oven only. I usually cook at about 325 for several hours until it starts to pull easily and then shred and finish under the broiler.
This was such a great recipe! I loved the carnitas!
I’m so happy to hear that! Thank you for sharing your great review, Amy!
OMG the title of this from Pinterest did not lie. This was hands down THE BEST tasting and juiciest carnitas ever!
That’s so great! It sounds like you have a new favorite!
OMG the title of this from Pinterest did not lie. This was seriously THE BEST tasting carnitas I’ve ever had. 😍😍😍 hands down, most tastiest and moist carnitas!
Thank you for the wonderful review!
After reading other reviews, I cut back on salt to 1 T. Then I followed the directions as written. It was fabulous! I made Carnitas Burritos, with shredded cheese, pico de Gallo, sour cream and shredded lettuce!
Best carnitas I’ve ever had!
That’s so great! It sounds like you have a new favorite, Barbara!
What temp do you usually cook this meat at? Our slow cooker is always fast!
Hi Katie, we used the slow cooker function on our instant pot for this. The low setting is about 170 degrees, and high is 210 degrees.
What did I do wrong?? It’s sooo salty! 😩
Hi Giana, I would double-check the ingredients and measurements you used based on the amount of meat. It sounds like something was not proportioned correctly.
You didn’t do anything wrong. That is way too much salt for this recipe. Even the nutrition facts show that’s enough salt to cause a problem.
I used low sodium broth and cut the salt to 3 tsps. You can always add more later.
Cut back on the added salt. Chicken broth has a lot of salt in it already, so you can skip the added salt all together, or cut it to about 1 teaspoon.
I’m a rebel, and I got tired of turkey and Ham on Thanksgiving. So I made Carnitas. Coming from California I know Good Carnitas. Now I live in a small town. I had friends ove for Thanksgiving all Mexican menu…
pico de gallo
I have a feeling a lot of people are coming next year, because some of my guest are still talking about the best carnitas they ever had. i guess I’ll make some tamales.
Thank you Natsha The recipe was a star!
That’s so great! That sounds like a very tasty and special Thanksgiving Dinner! THank you so much for sharing that with me!
Best carnitas I ever had!! Accidentally bought a bone in pork, still worked though. Amazing, so good!!
Fantastic! Thank you for your excellent rating, Heather. I’m glad you enjoyed this recipe!
could I use a pork tenderloin for this?
Hi Katherine, I have not tried this with pork tenderloin to advise. If you experiment I would like to know how you like this recipe.
I used a 2 pound pork tenderloin, halved the recipe and it was delicious!
Thank you so much for sharing that with me!
Hi! Can this be made in the instant pot? What time would you suggest?
Hi Sydney, typically for this amount of pork, you could make pork carnitas in an instant pot on high pressure for 30 minutes with a 15-minute natural pressure release.
Do i use all the seasoning? Seems like a lot but don’t want to not use it if need be.
Hi Nallely, we used everything listed in the recipe!
I bought a massive pork shoulder/butt from Costco. So I split up the pork and made 2 different carnitas recipes. This recipe totally annihilated the other recipe!!! This recipe is sooo good, my whole family enjoyed it, including my 5 yr old and 1 yr old! I definitely want to make this for an upcoming celebration/party. Thanks for sharing! One note: I did have to cook mine slightly longer, maybe 8.5 hours in the slow cooker, but I also could have had closer to a 5 lb pork shoulder. Totally worth the wait!!!
Yay so great to read your comments and awesome feedback. Thank you so much for sharing, Steve!
Excellent, I used coke instead of stock
I’m so glad you enjoyed that! Thank you for sharing that substation idea with us!
Can I cook on low? How long?
Hi Annie, I bet that could work. I imagine it will take significantly more time and without testing that I can’t say. I would recommend checking it with a temperature probe to be sure it is fully cooked.
Can you use Bone-In Pork Butt for this recipe? Any different cooking times?
Hi Samantha, I haven’t tested this bone in but I imagine you will need to increase cook time.
Love love love this recipe! I get a little intimated by cooking meats sometimes as I was vegetarian for a few years. But this has got to be one of my favorite meals I’ve made! The meat is juicy & flavorful, no additional seasoning required! We made street tacos out of this & topped it with green Chile salsa & cheese on a corn tortilla, so yummy! Oh & it’s easy! What more can you ask for in a weeknight dinner recipe?!
I love your comments! Thank you so much for sharing that with us, so glad you loved this recipe!
Amazing! Cooked this tonight with a 2.75lb. Pork roast and still used the recipe ingredients as recommended. I let cook on high for 5 hours. So juicy and tender. Made corn tortillas and served with radishes, onion and cilantro and a bit of cheese. So good. I may try it next time with a bit of cumin it spice it up a bit but overall we enjoyed it and will definitely be making it again!!
That sounds so awesome! I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe, thank you for sharing your experience with us!
This sounds wonderful. For the carnitas do you use a pork loin roast?
Hi Judith! I hope you love this recipe! We used a 4 lb boneless pork roast.
What if I don’t have orange juice or oranges? What can I use instead? Thanks!
Hi Shannon, I have not tried any other substitute ingredient to advise.
The recipe calls for 5 garlic cloves. Are added whole? Step 2 in the instructions say add garlic cloves then at the end of the sentence it says to add garlic and bay leaves.
Hi, yes those are whole cloves and I apologize we had the word garlic doubled in those instructions.
I love all of Natasha’s recipes. She makes them all sound so easy and so good. I really like the nutritional info after each recipe, BUT while recipes give info on a serving, SERVING SIZE is not given. For those of us on special diets, we need the serving size so we can plan our daily meals and keep nutritional values within our necessary ranges. Can that be included in the nutrition info, please?
Hi Paula, thank you so much for that suggestion. As you can imagine it is a time-consuming process to add those to each post and we are working through our list. We include the serving sized on our printable recipe card.
Looks like that would be an awesome meal for a pressure cooker.
Cooked half the time.
I hope you like it and please share with us how it goes.
Try using smoked pork for making this. It takes it all up to another level of deliciousness. As always, I love your blog and trying your recipes. Good work Natasha!
So great to hear that Sandy. Thank you so much for your suggestion and tip!
It looks delicious. Is that pickled red onions you served them with? How do you make it?
HI Isa, if you marinate sliced red onion in a little vinegar, it will create pickled onion. I don’t have a recipe posted for that yet but that is the simplest way.
Loved this recipe and flavor was good but next time I cook this I will cut the salt in half as it was too salty for me.
I’m so happy you enjoyed that. Thank you for sharing that with us!
I agree, way to salty and this is coming from someone who will literally lick salt from the palm of their hand.
My husband loved it and I did, too!! <3
Great to hear that, Kathy! I hope you both love every recipe that you try.
I have a bone-in pork roast. Should I adjust cook time?
Hi Lia, you’re right – bone-in would require more cook time.
Made these for all the neighbors, they were amazing!! Everyone loved them! Will make again, freezer left overs were just as good!!
That is so nice of you to share it with your neighbors. I’m glad everyone enjoyed this recipe!
THE PICS FOR THE RECIPE SURE DON’T ADD UP?? WHATS THE GREEN STUFF?? WHERE DID THE RED ONIONS COME FROM??
Hi Robert, those are serving suggestions since pork carnitas are just the plain flavored pork without toppings or fixings.
Thanks so much for the recipe, these look so delicious, perfect weekday lunch idea! Can’t wait to prepare these for my family!
I hope your family loves this recipe!
Easier way. Cut a pork shoulder into four sections, place in a oven roasting bag – like the turkey bags but smaller – place in roasting pan and into a 300 degree over for four hours the meat will literally fall off the bone scoop the meat out with a slotted spoon and it’s ready. What happens as the meat cooks the fat is rendered out and the pork will actually deep fry itself in it’s own fat. One can put rubs on pieces before cooking and add a quartered onion to the bag. Comes out like carnitas which is really deep fried pork
Thank you so much for sharing that with me.
This sounds delicious! Do you think it could be done in an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, and how long would that take? Thanks in advance for your advice!
Hi Barbara, typically for this amount of pork, you could make pork carnitas in an instant pot on high pressure for 30 minutes with a 15-minute natural pressure release.
Can I cook on the stove or in the oven of i don’t have a slow cooker? If so, for how long? Thanks
Hi Marina, you can also make baked carnitas in the oven covered in a dutch oven at 300˚F for about 3 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender and easy to shred with forks.
Great for Taco Tuesday
The best! I hope you love this recipe!
These are seriously sooo delicious and flavorful! And so simple! My family is so obsessed! Thanks so much for sharing!
I’m so happy you love the carnitas recipe! Thank you for sharing that with me!