Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas (Video!) – Carlsbad Cravings

Mexican pulled pork recipe slow cooker

These are the BEST Carnitas de Cerdo (Mexican Slow Pot Shredded Pork) you’ll ever try! Or so all the reviews say!

Your search for the best pork carnitas recipe stops here. These slow cooking pork carnitas are super juicy, easy and much tastier than other versions complete with glorious caramelized crispy burnt tips! They are ideal for large crowds or make advance meals and make the best tacos, burritos, nachos, salads, etc.

Video of the recipe of pork carnitas

Slow cooker pork carnitas in a plate garnished with cilantro

Pork carnitas recipe

!!! Whenever Patrick and I frequent Mexican restaurants here in San Diego (or more accurately holes in the wall joints, the best), one of us usually ends up with Carnitas pork street tacos. The crazy, juicy pork shoulder with addictively crispy edges is hard to beat. And now we can all devour them at home!

Carnitas are milder in flavor than my intensely flavored slow-cooking BBQ meat, making them incredibly versatile for anything and everything you want to make with them and pair fabulously with my homemade sauce, salsa verde and pico de gallo recipe.

They also make a fabulous base if you want to “get salty” and stir some enchilada sauce, sauce and a touch of brown sugar at the end of cooking. But chances are you want to devour these Crockpot Carnitas alone. the. sense. They. are.


  • FLAVOR. Onions, garlic, jalapeños, oregano, orange juice, lemon juice, liquid smoke are slowly cooked to create layers of complex flavor that envelop every nook and cranny of your tender, juicy shredded pork.
  • easy. The slow cooker does most of the work! Seal the pork, apply the wet massage and then let the pork cook low and slowly until it melts tenderly. And you can use my EASY and hands-off method to roast the carnitas in the oven!
  • FRIENDLY PANTRY. If you fancy some authentic tasting carnitas, this recipe is just the ticket. The ingredients are easy to find in most grocery stores so you can keep them stocked and ready to use.
  • PREPARE IN ADVANCE AMICABLY. This carnitas recipe is beautifully reheated so you can make some on Sunday and be grateful for leftovers throughout the week.
  • versatile. Remember those leftovers? You can reinvent pork carnitas every time you serve them for the perfect makeshift food loaded with flavor. Carnitas are fabulous only with rice, beans and lettuce or wrapped in tortillas, burritos, tacos, flutes or stacked on tostadas, tortas or nachos. It’s really delicious in all the ways you serve it!
  • FRIENDLY WITH FREEZERS. Whether you want to prepare in advance or save leftovers, carnitas freeze beautifully. Now, just take a little from the freezer for quick and easy lunches or dinners throughout the week.
pork carnitas dish with fork protruding from the middleWhat are carnitas

? While carnitas


traditionally made by simmering large pieces of pork seasoned in hot lard on the stove, then cutting thickly to achieve the name Carnitas (translated as “little meats”), virtually the same result can be achieved in the slow cooker then baking and roasting the meat once shredded to achieve the crispy pieces.

Some might call this method blasphemy, but I call it easy, intelligent, healthier, and absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious. Your family and friends will thank you for making this slow cooking pork carnitas recipe over and over again – think of an easy taco bar!


list of ingredients on the recipe card below may seem long, but that’s only because there are so many tasty spices in this dish! Actually, you don’t need much to make Crockpot pork carnitas.

  • Cigarette butt/pig shoulder: You’ll want to wear 4-5 pounds of pig butt or pig shoulder. Both come from the front of the pig (not the back). If you can choose between the pig butt and the pig shoulder, use the pig butt, often called the Boston butt. It is named after the barrels (cigarette butts) in which pork used to be stored around the time of the War of Independence. Pork butt has more fat marbling in all the meat, so it emerges more tender. Be sure to trim any excess fat.
  • Vegetable oil: You need a splash of high-smoking oil in the hot pan to properly seal the meat
  • .

  • Orange juice: Use freshly squeezed orange juice if possible. Otherwise, buy a good quality bottled brand.
  • Lemon juice: Adds flavor and helps tenderize meat. Freshly squeezed is the best.
  • Liquid smoke:

  • Liquid smoke can be found alongside barbecue sauces in your grocery store and adds a wonderfully smoky
  • flavor.

  • Bay leaves: Add a lovely depth of flavor to
  • pork.

  • Onion: Any variety will work here
  • .

  • Jalapeño: Remove veins and seeds so that the Mexican shredded pork doesn’t end up being super spicy.
  • Tomato paste: This is the backbone of wet
  • spice massage. Soy sauce:

  • I recommend buying reduced-sodium soy sauce so you can control the amount of salt in this dish
  • . Brown sugar:

  • You need some sugar to balance the spicy and smoky flavors in the wet spice massage.
  • Dried herbs and spices: This slow cooking carnitas recipe is full of spices. Use good quality spices and smell first to make sure they are fragrant (this means they are fresh and still good for cooking).


to make carnitas

To make these restaurant-quality Mexican shredded pork carnitas, the pork is first sealed to seal the juices and caramelize the sugars in the meat. I also like to leave my pork in a large piece instead of cutting it smaller because the inside of the meat stays extra moist, not to mention it’s much easier to cut!

Then, (once it’s cold enough to handle), massage with a touch of wet spices from hand-picked Mexican spices, as well as tomato paste, soy sauce, and brown sugar. This wet spice massage really sets this carnitas recipe apart from other versions, as it infuses meat flavor (but not too much flavor), making it delicious.

Now it may seem a bit counterintuitive to rub the meat with the Spice Rub after sealing it, but because this rub contains brown sugar, it can easily burn and blacken when scorched. The spices will still penetrate the meat as it simmers in the bath of orange juice, lemon juice, onions, garlic, jalapeños and liquid smoke for a truly glorious slow-cooking pork carnita. The aforementioned liquid smoke also adds an undeniable smoky flavor that makes these carnitas taste truly authentic.

After your meat has been cooked in LOW for 8-10 hours or in HIGH for 5-6 hours, it’s time for those edges to be nice and crispy! Please don’t skip this step, otherwise you only have slow cooking Mexican pork, but NOT pork carnitas!


are some schools of thought when it comes to getting the crispy edges. Some people fry their shredded pork on the stove, which, while delicious, requires more labor and takes too many batches for so much pork.

I prefer the oven method. Simply cover 2 baking sheets with foil, spread your shredded pork, drizzle with some of the leftover seasoned slow cooking juices that are full of flavor, and bake for 20 minutes.

At this point, your pork will start crunching in some places, but to finish it, roast it to the desired crispy for an additional 5-10 minutes and then drizzle it with more delicious juices so that it is crispy and juicy. Stack


high slow cooker carnitas…

And wrap it in a hot tortilla topped with your favorite ingredients or pack it on a plate or stuffed into barbecued pork cubes with ridiculously delicious cheese. and savor the beauty of Carnitas without being in front of a stove all day. It’s a beautiful thing.

Tips for making the best carnitas

  • Cook until tender, but don’t fall apart tender. When your pork is tender enough to crush into pieces but doesn’t fall apart tender, crush it into larger sections in the slow cooker and continue simmering for 20 minutes until it practically melts tender. This allows the tasty contents of the slow cooker to seep into each pork crack without overcooking.
  • Add a little spice. This Crockpot carnitas recipe is tasty but not spicy when using 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder. If you know you like a kick, then use 1 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder.
  • Seal the meat. When burned, the pork will naturally be released from the pan once it is properly singed. If you stick to the bottom of the pan, you will most likely need more time. It will take 2 to 5 minutes per side (longer if a nonstick skillet is used).

Carnitas variations to try

  • Add chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Instead of a jalapeño, add a canned chipotle pepper to add some spices and extra smoke. Be careful, chipotle peppers are much more potent than jalapeños!
  • Make it spicy. For a spicy version, instead of roasting the pork, drain the excess juices and then add: 1/2 cup enchilada sauce, 1/4 cup salsa, 4 ounces green chili peppers and brown sugar and hot sauce to taste.
  • Add coverage. Pork carnitas can be stacked with any number of ingredients. My favorites are restaurant-style salsa, salsa verde, and guacamole!


The ways to serve carnitas are endless, from serving with rice and beans, to piling up on tacos or salads or even pizza. Here are some ideas, but don’t let this limit your imagination


Mexican favorites

: Tacos de carnitas:

  • Hot tortillas and then layers with carnitas, black beans or pintos, and desired ingredients like lettuce, onion, cilantro, homemade guacamole, cotija cheese and sour cream. Baked Carnitas
  • tacos: Top a 9×13 baking dish with hard taco shells and fill each shell with 2 tablespoons of refried beans (optional), followed by pork carnitas and cheese (like this recipe). Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until cheese is completely melted. Top carnitas tacos with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, etc.
  • Carnitas Tacos Salad: Stack carnitas on a bed of chopped romaine lettuce. Add peppers, black beans, cucumbers, nuggets, olives, etc. and top with crushed tortilla chips or tortilla strips. Serve with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch or Cilantro Lime Dressing.
  • Carnitas Burritos: Place a burrito-sized tortilla with cilantro and lime rice or Mexican rice, black beans or pintos, cheese, carnitas, guacamole, sour cream and lettuce. Serve with additional sour cream and pico de gallo or salsa. You can also add potato chips like in this California burrito recipe.
  • Suffocated/wet Carnitas burritos: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray cooking spray. Make burritos by placing each burrito-sized tortilla in the center with 1/4 cup rice, 1/4 cup black beans (if using refried beans, layer first), 1 tablespoon sour cream, and frac13; Cup carnitas, and the desired amount of cheese and then roll the burrito style. Place burritos on prepared aluminum foil and lightly brush the lids and sides with olive oil (or spray with nonstick cooking spray). Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned and then remove from oven. Fold the sides of the foil around the burritos (to prevent the sauce from escaping) and evenly pour the red or green enchilada sauce over the burritos and then cover evenly with a cup of cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese melts.
  • Carnitas Burrito Bowls: layer of cilantro and lime rice with cheese, black beans or pinto beans, carnitas, chopped lettuce, crushed tortilla chips and serve with your favorite salsa (homemade salsa, green salsa, corn sauce, avocado corn sauce, mango sauce, pineapple sauce, pico de gallo), sour cream and guacamole. I also love adding pineapple or mango, mmm!
  • Carnitas enchiladas: Take a few minutes to assemble once the carnitas are done! Just change the meat in this enchilada recipe and be sure to use my homemade enchilada sauce for the best enchiladas of your life!
  • Carnitas Quesadillas: Place a burrito-sized tortilla with Mexican cheese and pork carnitas and grill until golden brown and cheesey. Serve with your favorites of sour cream, salsa, chopped lettuce, guacamole, etc.
  • Carnitas Nachos: Stack thick restaurant-style tortilla chips with cheese and beans and bake. Top with carnitas and toppings such as jalapeños, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc.
  • Carnitas Flutes/Taquitos: Go as simple as filling tortillas with carnitas, cheese and beans or make my BBQ Carnitas Taquitos recipe that mixes carnitas with barbecue sauce, cream cheese and cheese, SO good! Brush the cubes with olive oil and bake on a greased rack on a baking sheet at 425 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.
  • Carnitas sopes: spread sopes with refried beans, top with carnitas and then stack with lettuce, sour cream, radishes, tomatoes, avocados, etc
  • .

  • Toasted Carnitas: They are extremely similar to sopes, only with a different base. Place a toast with refried beans or avocado puree, top with carnitas, lettuce, red onions, cilantro, avocados, sour cream, cotija cheese or queso fresco, etc.
  • Carnitas Tortas: Cut French-style bread in half horizontally, spread refried beans on each side, top with carnitas, cheese, avocado or guacamole slices, tomato slices, pickled red onions, pickled jalapeños, etc.
  • Carnitas chilaquilles: the perfect way to use leftovers! Use this recipe as a guide along with your favorite sauce.
  • Mexican Soups – Swap the shredded chicken in any of your favorite Mexican soup recipes for pork carnitas! Simply add the shredded pork at the end to warm up. Carnitas would be great in tortilla soup, chicken broth, enchilada soup, fajita soup, taco soup, black bean chipotle chili and even this barbecue chili.

Non-traditional – ideal for leftovers!

  • Carnitas Pizza: Use this shredded pork pizza recipe as a guide and swap carnitas for meat.
  • Carnitas pasta

  • : This may sound strange, but adding carnitas to pasta is so good! Add macaroni and cheese, cacio e pepe, ramen, etc. to the green sauce.
  • Baked potatoes from carnitas: Make holes in washed and dried potatoes. Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and brush lightly with oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender and skin is crispy. Open the potatoes, cover with carnitas and cheese and then put back in the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts. Top with sour cream, green onions, etc.
  • Scrambled eggs or

  • carnita omelets: Add them to scrambled eggs along with pepper Jack or Monterrey Jack cheese when the eggs are almost curdled.
  • Carnitas Frittata: Add carnitas to this delicious frittata recipe.

How to prepare pork carnitas in advance

You can make this Mexican shredded pork mainly the day before if that’s easier and then you don’t have to worry about cooking times later on

. If prepared in advance, cook the slow pot


until tender enough to crush, then crush the pork into large sections. After doing this, let your slow cooker sit at room temperature for a while so that the ceramic insert can cool. Then, cover and place the ceramic insert in the refrigerator (including both the pork and the liquid you are sitting in).

The next day, remove the hardened fat from the top and heat to LOW for about 1-1 1/2 hours to heat, then continue with the rest of the recipe as written. You can’t crunch the carnitas in advance, as the meat loses its crispy edges over time.

How to store pork carnitas

Slow cooker carnitas should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. It should last up to 4 days.

How to Reheat

Pork Carnitas

I recommend reheating any leftover Mexican shredded pork in a lightly greased pan over medium heat. In this way, you do not lose the freshness of the meat.

How to freeze


carnitas Slow cook carnitas are a great meal to freeze! To freeze:

  1. Prepare pork according to instructions
  2. .

  3. Cool to room temperature
  4. .

  5. Add the meat to a large freezer bag OR portion in smaller-sized sandwich bags.
  6. Press the

  7. flat bag(s) and squeeze out excess air to prevent frostbite
  8. .

  9. Seal, label and freeze for up to 3 months
  10. .

  11. To defrost, place it in your refrigerator overnight.

What to serve with


Choose your favorite ingredients and side dishes to transform these already fabulous carnitas into an epic meal

! Toppings


  • Guacamole
  • Avocado cream Sour cream
  • Pico de gallo
  • Green sauce Homemade

  • Sauce Garnishes


  • Cilantro Lima Rice
  • Mexican

  • Rice
  • Black

  • beans (or any bean!)
  • Corn salad with

  • cilantro and
  • lime dressing Grilled corn salad with

  • lime butter and chipotle
  • Southwest salad with creamy avocado sauce dressing
  • Mexican salad

  • Mexican street fries with Ketchup
  • sauce


Perfect fruit salad

  • Grilled
  • pineapple
  • colada fruit salad with brown sugar Orange glaze


  • Churros
  • Tres Leches Cake

Looking for more pork recipes?


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  • Chipotle Sweet shredded pork
  • Green Sauce Honey Lime Pork Fajitas
  • Al

  • Pastor Tacos Slow
  • Cooker

  • BBQ Pulled
  • Pork Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • Sloppy Joes

these are the BEST Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork I've ever had! Super juicy, easy and much tastier than other versions I


Put it on your MEXICAN, SLOW COOKER, or DINNER Board to SAVE it

for later!

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Cravings by

Carlsbad Cravings Original

* Try using leftovers in these amazing BBQ pork taquitos with cheese! Culinary specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry.

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