Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas are an incredibly easy recipe that is full of flavor! Made with an inexpensive cut of pork and a flavorful braising liquid, this shredded Mexican pork comes together effortlessly in the crockpot.
Crockpot Pork Carnitas are a family favorite recipe. This recipe is incredibly simple to make, yet results in outrageously tender shredded Mexican pork that can feed a crowd and be served in endless ways.
But let me be clear. This recipe for carnitas meat is not authentic. Instead of being simmered in lard as traditional for carnitas, these Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas are braised in a flavorful combination of spices, beef, and orange juice in the crockpot and then crisped up in the oven. While this recipe may not be authentic, it is every bit as delicious. Not to mention lower in fat and much easier to make!
Served on tortillas with fresh Mexican slaw, this crockpot carnitas meat creates a pork taco that has the best combination of texture and flavors. Irresistibly good!
Notes on Ingredients
- Pork Roast: You can use a pork shoulder, pork butt, or pork loin. For the best flavor and results, I recommend using a pork shoulder or pork butt. However, pork loin is a great substitute if you need the recipe to be lower in fat.
- Beer: Use a mild lager-style beef like Corona or Coors Light. If you do care to use alcohol or need this recipe to be gluten-free, use chicken stock in place of the beer.
- Orange Juice: The orange juice can not be substituted. It adds flavor, depth, and acidity that helps to flavor and tenderize the pork. Be sure to use pulp-free orange juice.
- Spices: The meat is flavored with garlic powder, cayenne, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Feel free to omit the cayenne for less spice if desired.
- Slaw (optional): The Mexican-flavored slaw is completely optional but adds insanely delicious flavor and texture to the pork tacos. It is made with fresh limes (zest & juice), cilantro, red onion, cumin, salt, olive oil, and cabbage. Use red or green cabbage and feel free to omit the cilantro if you don't care for its flavor.
How to Make Crockpot Carnitas
- Cut the pork roast into 3 to 4-inch chunks. This will help the pork to absorb more flavor and break down easier as it cooks.
- Season the pork liberally on all sides with salt and pepper.
- In a large crockpot, mix together the beer, orange juice, and seasonings.
- Place the seasoned pork into the liquid inside the crockpot.
- Set the crockpot to low for 10-12 hours or on high for 5-7 hours.
- Once the meat has cooked, remove the pork to a large mixing bowl and shred with 2 forks. It should be fall-apart tender at this point.
- Add in ½ cup of the cooking liquid to keep the meat moist and to add in additional flavor.
- To achieve a crispy texture on the carnitas meat, place the slow-cooked shredded pork onto a rimmed sheet pan.
- Broil for 3-5 minutes and then remove the sheet pan, flip the pork and broil for 2-3 more additional minutes until slightly charred.
When serving this carnitas meat as a base for tacos, adding a Mexican slaw that is made with lime juice, cumin, cilantro, and red onion adds such a tangy, crisp, fresh element that is a perfect contrast to the richness of the carnitas.
- To prepare this slaw, mix together lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, minced red onion, minced cilantro, cumin, and salt together in a large mixing bowl until combined.
- Fold in shredded red or green cabbage.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving to allow the cabbage time to absorb the flavor of the dressing.
While Crockpot Carnitas makes the perfect base for tacos, the options on how to use this spiced shredded pork are endless. It is an easy set-it-and-forget-it crockpot recipe that makes a great family meal.
- Strain off the cooking juices and serve in flour tortillas, corn tortillas, or taco shells topped with the slaw or cabbage, queso fresco, and cilantro.
- Use the carnitas meat in place of taco meat in Taco Pizza or Taco Salad.
- Serve the shredded pork over a baked sweet potato or baked potato.
- Swap out the shredded chicken for carnitas in Enchiladas or Enchilada Casserole.
Tips and Modifications
- If you need Gluten-Free Carnitas, just omit beer and use chicken stock and serve on corn tortillas. You can even use these homemade corn tortillas from Foolproof Living.
- This recipe works well with an equal amount of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs in place of the pork roast. Simply put the cooking time down to just 5-6 hours on low and 2-3 hours on high.
- Store leftover shredded pork in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before heating.
Side Dishes for Carnitas
- Instant Pot Refried Beans
- Instant Pot Cilantro Lime Rice
- Instant Pot Spanish Rice
- Mexican Quinoa Salad
- Grilled Corn on the Cob
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If you tried these Slow Cooker Carnitas, I would love for you to leave a comment and rating below.
Slow Cooker Carnitas
- 2 ½ lb pork shoulder or pork butt roast cut into 4-inch chunks
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper optional
- 12 ounces pale beer (or chicken stock)
- ½ cup pulp-free orange juice
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice about 2 limes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup chopped cilantro optional
- ¼ cup minced red onion
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups purple or green cabbage shredded
For the Carnita Meat
- Cut the pork roast into 4-inch chunks and season with the pepper and ½ teaspoon of salt.
- Combine the beer (or stock), orange juice, remaining salt, garlic, cumin, chili, and cayenne together in the slow cooker, and then nestle the pork into the liquid.
- Set the crockpot to cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high 5-7 hours.
- Once cooked, remove the meat to a large mixing bowl and shred the meat with 2 forks. Once shredded, add ½ cup to 1 cup of the cooking liquid to the meat and stir to moisten.
- For crispy pork, place the shredded pork onto a rimmed sheet pan. Broil for 3-5 minutes, flip the meat, and continue to broil for another 2-3 minutes, or until crispy. Keep an eye on the meat, so it does not burn.
- Serve the crispy, shredded pork on tortillas or over rice and top with slaw and crumbled queso fresco or feta if desired.
Mexican Slaw (optional)
- While the meat is cooking, combine lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, onion, cumin, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the cabbage and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
This recipe was originally shared in 2016 but has been updated in 2021 with new tips and photos.