Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas

Crispy, juicy, Slow Cooker Carnitas are one of my family’s favorite meals. For about 7 years now I’ve been making carnitas using this recipe for oven-roasted Pulled Pork Carnitas, and they are truly phenomenal that way.

As much as we love that recipe, it is a little more involved than I often have time for on a weeknight. There just isn’t always time to take all the steps it requires to enjoy delicious carnitas.

That’s where the crock-pot comes to the rescue and it’s why I’m thrilled to have found a Slow Cooker Carnitas recipe that delivers all the delicious juicy pork flavor with far less effort.

Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas

On a busy day, Slow-Cooker Carnitas make a spectacular dinner that is about 10x less hands-on than the traditional recipe and my whole family loves them.

My friend Sandra introduced me to this recipe for Carnitas a couple months ago and I’ve already made them twice since then. The pork is always flavorful and the leftover carnitas keep nicely in the refrigerator for days.

What is Carnitas?

Carnitas are a dish made by roasting or braising or simmering a cut of seasoned pork in oil (traditionally lard). After cooking, the meat is shredded and used as a filling in tacos, burritos and similar dishes.

In many parts of Mexico, Carnitas are served on top of corn tortillas with toppings of fresh cilantro, chopped onions, salsa, and lime juice. We love eating them like this (I call it Carnitas Street Tacos) and can gobble up a whole recipe easily.

My family also likes Carnitas in plenty of non-traditional ways as well. A batch of Slow-Cooker Carnitas is delicious inside flour tortillas, on salads, inside enchiladas or served over Chipotle Lime Rice or even Cheesy Potatoes.

In my opinion, there’s no one right way to eat Carnitas!

Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas

Slow Cooker Carnitas

Slow cooking pork in a crockpot may not be traditional but delivers the same great flavor of pork that’s been slow-roasted or braised. The longer cooking time helps make the pork extra tender and juicy.

This Carnitas recipe also draws some of its delicious taste from an array of herbs and spices added to the pork as it cooks. Simmering the meat in orange juice adds a tangy, citrusy flavor that compliments the ample amounts of garlic, onion and Mexican spices covering the pork.

 Slow Cooker Carnitas is one of those rare pork dishes that manages to be both perfectly tender and crispy all at once.

In this recipe, the pork is cooked long enough in the slow cooker to fall apart when pierced with a fork then given a pan fry on the stovetop. This combination of cooking methods yields magical results.

Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas

While you absolutely are able to skip the last step and have a perfectly acceptable seasoned pulled pork recipe, why would you want to miss out?

Slow Cooked Pork

Take the extra 5-10 minutes for the finishing step on the stove; it makes an enormous difference in the crisp, juicy, amazingness of this meat!

Save this recipe now, make it for dinner this week and try not to eat all the pork right away. Leftovers are phenomenal in a Carnitas Salad Bowl for a tasty lunch or for breakfast in Pork Carnitas Hash.

I also enjoy substituting Carnitas for pulled pork in lots of my favorite recipes that call for prepared pulled pork. Give it a try with Pulled Pork Enchiladas and Pulled Pork Tacos and let me know how you like them!

Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas

Crock Pot Carnitas

Not sure what cut of pork to use to make carnitas? Shoulder, butt, and picnic cut pork roasts work best for this recipe.

Both bone-in or boneless roasts will work just fine. I use a 4-5 pound roast when I’m cooking a boneless roast and a 5 or 6-pound roast if it’s bone-in.

If you’re after more slow cooker recipes that deliver amazing taste without a ton of difficulty, check out our Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas , Slow Cooker Smothered Chicken Burritos and Slow Cooker Pork Roast too!

Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas

Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas

  1. Rinse and pat dry the pork roast. Stir together the olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork roast. Place the roast in the slow cooker with the fat cap facing up. Place the onions and the garlic over the roast. Pour the orange juice over the roast.
  2. Cover with lid and cook on LOW for 9-11 hours, until tender and falling apart. (If the fat cap is still intact over the roast, pull the biggest pieces of it off and discard.) Carefully pull apart the roast, leaving plenty of bite-size chunks of meat. (Try not to shred it to tiny pieces.) Use a slotted spoon, spatula, or tongs to lift the meat out of the slow-cooker.
  3. Heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat. Place about 2 cups worth of shredded pork into the hot pan and press down with a spatula. Cook until the bottom side of the pork is crispy and browned about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter or serving dish and drizzle with some of the juices from the slow-cooker. Repeat with the remaining pork. Enjoy!

FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS: If you are freezing extra pork or making the recipe in advance, skip the stove-top cooking step and simply place the shredded pork in a gallon size zip-close bag along with the crock-pot juices. When ready to use, thaw completely in the refrigerator and then use the above directions to crisp the pork in a pan on the stove.

{originally published 10/12/15 – recipe notes and photos updated 2/12/19}

Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas

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