Slow Cooker Carnitas

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Mexican pulled pork, or carnitas is wonderful in any Mexican dish. This Carnitas recipe is full of flavor and easily prepared in your slow cooker.

Slow-cooker meals are the best, aren’t they? This carnitas recipe has minimal prep, and you toss everything into your crock pot and come home to your kitchen smelling fantastic. Simply shred the meat and serve it however you desire.

We have a Mexican grocery store in South Omaha that I love to shop at. It is full of wonderful products that I don’t get to see at my regular grocery store. The best part, however, is the “deli counter” in the back, which isn’t really a “deli,” per se. It looks like a deli counter that all other groceries have, but this one, this one is very special.

You can purchase the most amazing homemade salsas, chips, tamales, enchiladas, whole chicken, Mexican rice, and one of my favorite things– carnitas, and the carnitas burritos. We always get a burrito for the ride back home … who can be expected to wait? They wrap it up warm, and on the way out the door grab a cold Jarritos that they will open with a bottle opener at the checkout counter. Heavenly.

I love Mexican food with my whole heart and I knew I needed a Carnitas recipe on my website.


Easy to make: These are the best slow-cooker carnitas! Simply seasoned pork slowly cooks in the crockpot and results in succulent tender meat. Waiting for the carnitas to cook is the hardest part!

Simple Ingredients: Aside from the pork, you most likely have all the ingredients in your pantry right now!

Economical: Pick up pork roast on sale and you will have a satisfying family dinner for next to nothing!

And, if you love this dish, try these tasty slow cooker recipes too: Slow Cooker Buffalo Pulled Pork and Dorothy’s Pulled Pork in the Crockpot


How to Serve Carnitas

This recipe can be used to make slow cooker carnitas tacos, sliders, burrito bowls, enchiladas, or nachos. Or simply serve the carnitas over baked potatoes, rice, or on a salad. Whatever you choose to make, try a few of these garnishes or toppings: Red onion, fresh cilantro, avocado or guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, black beans, Refried beans, cheese, corn, sour cream, and lime wedges.

Side Dishes for Carnitas

There are so many different ways to use carnitas in recipes and wonderful side dishes to serve alongside. Here are some of my favorite sides: Cilantro Lime Rice, Queso, Easy Homemade Refried Beans, Tortilla Soup, and Blueberry Margartias!  


  • Pork shoulder bone-in roast or boneless pork butt – You will need approximately a 5-pound roast. You could also use pork tenderloin.
  • Onion – You can use chopped white or yellow onions. For a shortcut, you can find pre-chopped onions in the produce or frozen section of your grocery store.
  • Jalapeno – Seeded, ribs removed and chopped.
  • Salt
  • Black pepper – Fresh ground pepper is best!
  • Garlic – Mince your own cloves or buy pre-minced garlic. You can add ½ teaspoon of garlic powder to the spice mixture in lieu of fresh garlic.
  • Oranges – You will use the juice from 2 oranges. Or, you can add ⅔ cup of already squeezed orange juice.
  • Dried oregano
  • Ground cumin
  • Olive oil – You can also use vegetable oil.


FIRST: Combine olive oil, oregano and cumin and set aside. Rinse and dry your roast and rub in salt and pepper.

Rub the spice mixture all over the roast.

SECOND: Place roast in slow cooker and top with onions, garlic and jalapeno.

Squeeze the juice of the oranges directly over the top.

THIRD: Cook on low for 8-10 hours. 

FOURTH: Remove the meat and shred. Skim the fat off of the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and return the meat to the slow cooker.

Now your shredded pork is ready to use however you desire. 


Love these tender pork carnitas? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest recipe board before you go!


  • What is the difference between pork butt and pork shoulder? Pork butt and pork shoulder are frequently confused cuts of meat because they are somewhat misleadingly named. Both cuts are from the shoulder of the pig, but pork butt is higher on the foreleg and has a higher fat content. Pork shoulder is under the pork butt on the foreleg. Both cuts are fairly tough and fatty and benefit from slow cooking methods such as roasting, stewing, braising and cooking in the crockpot. It is recommended that both cuts be cooked to an internal temperature of 145-160 degrees F. 
  • What is the difference between pulled pork and carnitas? Carnitas is a Spanish word and is literally translated “pulled pork”. So, they are the same but can differ in how they are cooked. Like carnitas, pulled pork is slow cooked until it is very tender and then it is shredded. However, pulled pork is usually cooked in BBQ sauce which makes it sweeter. Carnitas are usually seasoned with Mexican spices and orange juice.
  • Do I need to add liquid to slow cooker pork shoulder? Yes, you need liquid to braise the meat. However, in a slow cooker, the liquid will not evaporate much, so you don’t need as much liquid as you might use in a traditionally prepared recipe. 


Orange Juice – The secret to carnitas is in the sauce! Orange juice is acidic which helps to break down the meat and tenderize it. The juice also adds brightness and sweetness to the carnitas. You can also use fresh lime juice or lemon juice or a combination of citrus juices. I’ve also seen recipes that add cola instead of juice.



  • To get those crispy bits and edges that carnitas are known for, spread the shredded pork on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour a little bit of the juices over the pork. Put the sheet pan under the broiler for about 5-10 minutes, until you get those crispy edges.
  • Should you have leftover carnitas you can store your meat in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Place your leftovers in the refrigerator within 2 hours.
  • Make a bigger batch and freeze some meat for another meal. It will stay fresh in your freezer in an airtight container (such as a gallon zipper bag) for up to 3 months. Moisten the carnitas with a little bit of chicken broth if needed when reheating.

Instant Pot Carnitas

To prepare this recipe in the pressure cooker, cut the pork into 2 or 3-inch chunks and place them in the Instant Pot. Combine olive oil, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the roast. Top with the onions, garlic and jalapeno. Squeeze the juice of the oranges directly over the top. Pressure cook on high heat for 1 hour.

When cooking is done, let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. Then, quick release any remaining pressure before carefully opening the Instant Pot lid. Shred the pork, discarding any excess fat.

One bowl of cilantro lime pork with limes, tomatoes, onions, rice, and jajapeños


My husband grew up on a farm where they raised hogs. We both grew up eating a lot of pork. One of my favorite childhood meals was my Mom’s recipe for Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy. Here are some other great pork recipes:



Cook up some Slow Cooker Carnitas tonight! You can use this meat in so many different ways such as tacos, burrito bowls, enchiladas, and sandwiches. 

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slow cooker carnitas step by step prep
5 from 2 votes
Print Recipe

Slow Cooker Carnitas

Mexican pulled pork, or carnitas is wonderful in any Mexican dish. This Carnitas recipe is full of flavor and easily prepared in your slow cooker.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time8 hours
Total Time8 hours 5 minutes
Course: Pork
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: best slow cooker carnitas, carnitas tacos, crockpot carnitas, Mexican pulled pork, pork shoulder carnitas, recipe for slow cooker carnitas, slow cooker carnitas, slow cooker carnitas recipe, slow cooker carnitas tacos, slow cooker carnitas with orange juice
Servings: 12
Calories: 611kcal
Author: Michaela Kenkel


  • 5 lb pork shoulder bone-in roast or boneless pork butt
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 jalapeno seeded, ribs removed, chopped
  • Tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 oranges juiced
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil


  • Combine olive oil, oregano and cumin, set aside.
  • Rinse and dry your roast, rub in salt and pepper. Rub in oregano/cumin mixture.
  • Place roast in slow cooker, top with onions, garlic and jalapeno.
  • Squeeze the juice of the oranges directly over the top.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours, remove meat, shred.
  • Skim fat off of the juice, return meat and juice to slow cooker, use however you desire.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 611kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 24g | Cholesterol: 179mg | Sodium: 798mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g

This recipe was originally posted on September 11, 2015. It has been updated to improve user experience and reshared on February 16, 2023.

Slow Cooker Carnitas


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  1. I too love the Mexican grocery stores. In fact, my time spent in them — despite that they are smaller than traditional American grocers — is twice as long. The carnitas look fantastic! The recipe is spot on!

  2. This recipe is easy to make, and always comes out so tender and tasty! Carnitas are great for so many things, too – we love them in everything from salads to sliders.

  3. I love carnitas and this recipe was no exception! Tender, juicy and delicious; definitely a favorite recipe in our home!

  4. We had these carnitas for dinner last night and my whole family loved them! Definitely adding to our regular rotation!

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