This delicious Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas recipe is tender and juicy, yet simple to make. Mexican pulled pork is great to have on hand for carnitas tacos, burrito bowls, salads, sandwiches and more.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Recipe
If you are looking for an easy but flavor packed Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas recipe, I have one for you! Adapted from my popular Mexican Shredded Beef (Barbacoa) Recipe, these Slow Cooker Carnitas require minimal prep and are delicious in tacos, burrito bowls, and even on salads!
What Are Carnitas?
Pork Carnitas are traditional made like a confit (something cooked in its own fat), simmered in their own fat until very tender. Then after they are very tender, they can be shredded and crisped up in the pan. In this case, we are adapting the recipe for a modern kitchen by using the slow cooker.
Crock Pot Carnitas
Why use the slow cooker for carnitas? We are using a tough cut of meat – the pork shoulder, or Pork Butt. This is a muscle that works very hard, so it has lots of connective tissue, which makes it tough. But, when cooked for a long time over low heat, that connective tissue breaks down and makes the meat very tender and juicy. With the Crock Pot, we can cook the pork low and slow without having to watch over it. I use THIS Crock Pot (affiliate link).
What Cut of Pork is Carnitas?
Carnitas are usually made from a cut of pork shoulder – the Boston Butt or Picnic Ham. In the UK it is sometimes referred to as the Pork Hand. This is a fatty, marbled piece of meat with lots of connective tissue. It benefits from a long cooking time to break down the connective tissue and make it tender and juicy.
If you like this recipe, you will love:
Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef
Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
- 3 pounds pork shoulder roast
- 1 onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- juice of one lime 1-2 tablespoons
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- Mix together the chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, oregano and red chili flakes, set aside.
- Add the chopped onion and garlic to the slow cooker with the tomato paste, lime juice, and just 1-2 teaspoons of the spice mixture. Stir everything together until fully mixed.
- Sprinkle the rest of the spices all over the chuck roast, patting to help it stick to the meat.
- Place the meat on top of the onion mixture and set cook on low for 8-9 hours. Total cooking time will vary for different roasts.
- After meat has cooked, use two forks to shred the meat, removing any large pieces of fat or gristle as you find them. (If the meat is still too tough to shred, it needs to be cooked a little longer. Cook for an additional 30-60 minutes and check it again.) Stir to mix well with the sauce. Cover and continue to cook on low for another 30-60 minutes.
- Before serving stir well again to mix the meat with the sauce. Taste meat and season with more salt to taste.
- Optional Step: To create crispy carnitas, heat a heavy skillet (cast iron is best) over medium high heat. When pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the carnitas in batches, careful not to crowd the pan. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the crock pot over the meat as it fries. Once bottom is crispy, turn the meat, until desired crispiness is reached.
Hello, I’m making this recipe tomorrow morning. It doesn’t show any liquid added to the mixture. Just want to make sure that’s correct before I start. Thanks so much! Dale
Hi Dale, yes that is correct. The roast is going to release lots of liquid during cooking, so you will still end up with plenty of sauce!
Is it possible to make this recipe in Instant Pot?
Hi, I haven’t made it in the instant pot yet – you might be able to try it on the slow cook function! I think it would work on the pressure cooker function too, but I haven’t tested it so I don’t know what the timing would be.
I haven’t made this yet but I’m going to for my sons grad party! Can’t wait to try them. My question is. If I make the pork the day before what is the best way to reheat for the party so as not to dry it out. Thank you.
Hi Karen – You can just save the last optional step for last and crisp it up while reheating in a cast iron pan. You can also do this on a sheet pan under the broiler if you are serving a crowd and want it to be faster. I like the results better from a cast iron pan but under the broiler is easier/faster for larger quantities.
Enjoyed by the whole family (3 teenagers). Used long low oven cook as don’t own slow cooker and came out great. My shoulder had rind on it which I crisped up in the air fryer @the end for a crunchy surprise either in the tortilla or on the side 😀
Emily Renken says
My family loves this! There are a lot of food allergies and intolerances in my house, so it is nice to find a recipe that everyone CAN eat, everyone WANTS to eat, and that provides lots of leftovers for a cheap price.
I’m so happy to hear that Emily!
Do you think I can use canned pork instead? I have 2 big cans of it and don’t know what to do with it.
Hi Emily – I haven’t tried that so I can’t be sure! Is it already cooked? If so, you won’t need to cook it for such a long time, maybe just add the other ingredients and let it cook long enough to warm up and meld the flavors.
lIZ ROMINE says
First time making this and it was very easy and very tasty. I will be doing this again soon. Everyone loved it.
So happy to hear that!
Nancy Perine says
Hi Meghan! I love your blog. So many yummy sounding recipes it was hard to choose. Except ~~~ I had shredded pork in the freezer from a pork roast I’d made last week in my slow cooker, and I actually had all the rest of the ingredients on hand … including ripening avocados on the counter! We have an herb garden down behind our condo, so I used fresh cilantro and oregano.I’m a fan of flour tortillas, browned like you mentioned. It was a quick and easy recipe and was a bit hit! Thanks for sharing.
Aloha … Nancy On Maui
Hi Nancy – Yay, I am so happy that you loved them!