Juicy, savory, and seriously simple to make, this Pork Carnitas recipe, is a dinner-time dream! Stuff it in tortillas, put it on burrito bowls, and more! Ready in just a few minutes of prep -- the slow cooker does the rest of the work for you!
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This easy prep carnitas recipe is a versatile Mexican food dish your whole family will love! Just thinking about juicy pork slow cooking – so tender it falls apart – makes me drool. All it takes is simple ingredients you can find at any grocery store, a few minutes of preparation, and a crock pot/slow cooker to cook it to perfection!
The best part is there are so many ways to enjoy it, from the perfect pork tacos to a festive twist on game day sliders. Make a batch to eat throughout the week or host a dinner party that will rival eating out at a Mexican restaurant.
If you’re looking for a pro-tasting meal that ANYONE can make with minimal prep work, this pork carnitas recipe is for you!
Why You'll Love this Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Recipe
- Easy to Prep. 5 minutes to prep crock pot carnitas is all you need! Once you put all the ingredients in the slow cooker, sit back, relax, and watch it make the best carnitas!
- Flavor-Packed. The balance of citrus and Mexican spices packs a punch in every delicious bite.
- Versatile. There are so many ways to enjoy this recipe as a side or main dish!
- Freezes Well. Make a big batch and freeze to enjoy juicy carnitas later without losing any of the quality.
Pork Butt. A fatty cut of pork, best for slow cooking for a juicy consistency and flavor.
Orange Juice. The citrus helps to tenderize the pork and add a subtle sweetness.
Lime Juice. Use freshly squeezed for the best flavor, but you can also use store-bought if needed.
Coca-Cola. The combo of sweet and tangy acidity adds a bold flavor.
Dried Oregano. Brings an aromatic, pungent flavor to the carnitas.
Smoked Paprika. Provides a bold, robust smoky taste. In a pinch, you can use regular paprika but it will have a more mild flavor.
Ground Pepper. A little spice that goes a long way to perk up your taste buds.
Ground Cumin. Slightly sweet and nutty, this spice brings carnitas to life with a rich flavor.
Garlic Powder. Finely ground garlic powder is more potent in flavor than garlic granules for this essential dry rub spice.
Onion. White onions are most commonly used in Mexican dishes, but yellow onions will also work!
Garlic. Fresh gloves, peeled and sliced become caramel goodness in the delicious, slow cooking liquid.
Jalapeño. Optional add-in for extra spice! Omit if you prefer less spicy.
Pork Shoulder. If you want a lower-fat option, you can make this recipe with a leaner pork shoulder cut of meat.
How to Make Pork Carnitas
For the complete recipe and measurements, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Combine dry rub spices in a small bowl. Spread the seasoning combo all over the pork to coat completely.
Step 2: Add the sliced onion, fresh garlic, and jalapeño (if using) to the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the seasoned pork on top. Pour the orange juice, lime, and Coca-Cola around the pork, not on it.
Step 3: Slow cook on high, turning pork over halfway through cooking time.
Step 4: Shred the meat with 2 forks.
Step 5: Crisp the pork in a cast iron skillet with residual juices or broil on a sheet pan with residual juices for a couple of minutes until crispy.
Step 6: Add salt and lime juice to taste and serve hot as desired!
Avoid Drying Out the Carnitas. The best way to keep carnitas juicy is to allow the pork to cool before shredding to maintain its natural juices.
How to Brown Pork. AFTER the pork is cooked and shredded, crisp it in a cast iron skillet for an authentic Mexican carnitas crust. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large skillet over high heat. Spread pork evenly in the pan and drizzle with some of the residual juices. Crisp for 1-2 minutes until juices evaporate and the bottom of the carnitas is golden brown. Save the slow-cooker juices. If this is your first time making a pork tacos recipe, don’t forget to drizzle the carnitas with slow cooker juices right before serving for extra juicy flavor!
- Spices. For a less spicy flavor, omit jalapeño. If you want to crank up the heat, add jalapeño and some chili powder to taste.
- Cook in the Oven. If you are low on time or don't have a slow cooker, braise the carnitas in the oven instead. Cut pork into large chunks, place all ingredients as outlined in a large Dutch oven/braising dish, and add one cup of chicken broth. Cook covered at 325° F for 4 hours until tender then shred.
Enjoy these slow cooker carnitas as a classic pork taco recipe, stuffed in warm corn or flour tortillas with a dollop of sour cream and diced red onion. Or layer crispy carnitas onto nachos, taco bowls, or salads. They also make a great filling for quesadillas and enchiladas!
If you’re looking for a fun twist on a game day staple, dish the shredded pork carnitas onto sliders as a snack or main dish your guest will love.
This recipe is naturally gluten-free and dairy-free!
- Refrigeration. Carnitas leftovers keep well stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
- Freezing. You can also freeze the carnitas in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
- Reheating. Cool the pork to room temperature before moving to the container and freezing. Defrost the pork overnight in the refrigerator and warm it back up in the microwave on medium heat until warmed through.
Carnitas is Spanish for “little meats”, it’s the Mexican version of pulled pork. The dish is traditionally made with pork butt, a higher-fat cut of meat that makes a juicy, tender texture when slow-cooked.
The natural sugars and citrus in the orange juice and lime juice combo help to tenderize the carnitas so they’re fall-apart tender. It’s also what gives traditional carnitas tacos their delicious, crispy edges. And no, it won’t taste like oranges!
You’ll know when the carnitas are ready when they’re easy to pull apart, but to be sure, the internal temperature of the pork should be at least 200° F on a meat thermometer.
Yes! Make this carnitas slow cooker recipe now and enjoy it later without losing any quality when reheating.
If you’re super crunched for time, this recipe also works well in a pressure cooker! Just add one cup of chicken broth to the recipe, set to high pressure, and cook for 50 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally, for about 15 minutes. Remove the pork and shred!
Tools Needed to Make This Recipe
More Pork Chop Recipes
- Pork Chop and Pineapple Tacos
- Citrus Dijon Pork Tenderloin
- Maple Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
- Pork Chop Marinade
- Asian Pork Meatballs
- Colorado Pork Green Chili
If you made and liked this recipe, don't forget to rate the recipe and let me know how it went for you in the comments! It always makes my day to hear from you!