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

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

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

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
Natasha's Kitchen Cookbook

Natalya Drozhzhin

Natalya is a food blogger who founded Momsdish 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

  • Cindy
    October 21, 2023

    This was so good. I can’t get over how delicious this was. It is one of my new favorite dishes. Thank you for sharing this recipe. AMAZING! Flavor explosion.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      October 22, 2023

      I’m so glad to hear that, Cindy! Thank you

      Reply

  • Melanie
    July 10, 2023

    Can’t wait to try this recipe! If I make ahead, what is the best way to reheat from the refrigerator? Also- how long will it keep in the refrigerator?

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 10, 2023

      Hi Melanie, you can crisp them on a skillet or in the oven per the recipe instructions. I hope you love these!

      Reply

      • SweetSue
        July 24, 2023

        This is such an AWESOME and LOW CARB RECIPE! I will be using low carb tortillas, too. Also VERY BUDGET FRIENDLY. Pork butt on sale often for $1.99/#. One recipe makes a LOT of meals. BUDGET AND CARB FRIENDLY!!! AND OH SO YUMMY!!!

        Reply

        • Natasha's Kitchen
          July 24, 2023

          Thanks for your good comnents ad feedback, Sue. So glad to hear that you loved it!

          Reply

  • Linda
    June 23, 2023

    I just made these using a 7 1/2lb pork butt. Too much meat for my (large) slow cooker, so I roasted it in a tightly covered deep roasting pan at 275F for about 5 hours. Barely needed much shredding. Will crisp the meat tomorrow and my guests will enjoy it on homemade buns. I reserved some of the un crisped meat & we’re having it in burritos tonight because it’s too good to wait until tomorrow! Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      June 24, 2023

      Hi Linda! I’m so glad you loved the recipe. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply

  • Lydia
    May 27, 2023

    Oh this is going to be another awesome supper Nat !! We have never had Mexican Carnitas before so kind of looking forward to it !! Also having mango margeritas to drink and deep fried mozza sticks and deep fried dill pickles to nibble on..I was thinking about doing fried icecream balls (mmm so delish) and would be a great finish for a late night desert but mabe just churros instead. They are yummy also. I was looking at another recipe and i think philly cheese steaks will be next…haven’t had them for a long time…Thanks again Nat..Have a great evening !!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      May 27, 2023

      Hi Lydia! You’re welcome. That menu sounds amazing!

      Reply

  • Jessica Sbragia
    May 12, 2023

    Hi my pork shoulder had a ton of fat so I trimmed some off. Is that ok? Is it supposed to have that much fat? Thanks so much.

    Reply

    • Natasha
      May 12, 2023

      Hi Jessica, some cuts will have more fat than others and I would do the same if there was too much fat on the roast.

      Reply

  • Elise Des roches
    May 3, 2023

    I don’t have a slowcooker. Can I make It in a dutch oven instead?
    Thank you 🙂

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      May 3, 2023

      Hello Elise, 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.

      Reply

  • April
    May 2, 2023

    OMG soooooo good! We made these the other night and the kids just gobbled them up! Definitely will be making again soon!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      May 2, 2023

      So glad you finally had the opportunity to make the recipe, April! Thank you for the feedback.

      Reply

    • AndreaJane
      September 12, 2023

      I have made this two weekends in a row to raving reviews. I do have a question about the amount of salt listed in the recipe. Three tablespoons seems like an awful lot. I only put in two tsp. Of kosher salt and it was perfectly seasoned. Thanks for a fabulous and easy recipe!

      Reply

      • NatashasKitchen.com
        September 12, 2023

        Hi Andrea! I’m so glad you love it.

        Reply

  • Samantha
    May 2, 2023

    My family raved over these tacos! The pork just melted in our mouths. And it was SO easy to make — thank you!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      May 2, 2023

      That’s great to hear, Samantha! I’m so glad they were a hit.

      Reply

  • Sandy
    February 27, 2023

    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.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      February 27, 2023

      Happy to hear that, Sandy. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply

  • Eva
    December 21, 2022

    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.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 22, 2022

      I’m so glad you loved the recipe, Eva! Thank you for sharing.

      Reply

  • Teresa VanOpdorp
    December 15, 2022

    After your roil it can you add it back to the crock pot to serve and keep warm?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 15, 2022

      Hi Teresa! Yes, you can throw this back in the crock pot to keep it warm.

      Reply

  • Lana
    October 3, 2022

    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.

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      October 3, 2022

      A warm welcome to you! Thank you so much for subscribing, Lana!

      Reply

  • Stephanie
    August 17, 2022

    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!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      August 17, 2022

      That sounds delicious! Thank you for the review.

      Reply

  • Nancy
    August 15, 2022

    I often make burrito bowls, like from Chipotle, with pork carnitas. Its always a hit!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      August 15, 2022

      Happy to hear that, Nancy!

      Reply

  • Julie
    July 31, 2022

    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?
    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      July 31, 2022

      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!

      Reply

  • Rosemary
    July 10, 2022

    Why the the recipe say it’s being cooked in a slow cooker but the picture shows an Instant Pot?

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      July 11, 2022

      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.

      Reply

      • Carolanne Daniels
        May 5, 2023

        How long should i do this in the instant pot if i didnt want to slow cook?

        Reply

        • NatashasKitchen.com
          May 5, 2023

          Hi Carolanne! I have not tested this in an instant pot to advise.

          Reply

  • Tabatha
    June 16, 2022

    I made this for my family and it was absolutely delicious. I will be making again for sure.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      June 16, 2022

      Glad that your family enjoyed this recipe! Thank you for sharing that with us.

      Reply

  • Kate
    May 13, 2022

    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.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      May 13, 2022

      Hi Kate, I would think seasoning and freezing the meat before cooking is best.

      Reply

  • Dee
    January 22, 2022

    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.

    Reply

    • Lucy
      August 11, 2023

      I agree, I trimmed the fat and used fine sea salt and it was super salty to me.

      Reply

  • Morgan Waterman
    October 17, 2021

    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!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      October 17, 2021

      Great to hear that this always gets good reviews from others too! Thank you for your good comments and feedback, Morgan.

      Reply

As Featured On

Never Go "Hangry" Again!

Get weekly updates on new recipes, exclusive giveaways plus behind the scenes photos.