Made with an inexpensive pork roast and a flavorful braising liquid, Crockpot Carnitas are an incredibly easy crockpot recipe that is full of flavor!
No time to slow-cook your pork roast? Try out my recipe for Instant Pot Carnitas. It works great if your pork is frozen as well.
When I want a flavorful family recipe that feeds a crowd, I love turning to this recipe for Crockpot Pork Carnitas.
Just like my recipes for Crockpot Salsa Chicken and Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, this easy recipe for Slow Cooker Carnitas produces a meal that is relatively inexpensive, full of flavor, and always a crowd-pleaser.
While this recipe may not produce authentic carnitas meat, it is every bit as delicious. Not to mention lower in fat and much easier to make!
why you'll love this recipe
- Easy. No searing, no sauteeing, simply dump and cook! Crockpot Carnitas is one of the easiest dinner recipes to prepare.
- Outrageously Delicious. These Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas are braised in a flavorful combination of spices, beef, and orange juice and then crisped up in the oven, to create the most tender, flavorful shredded pork.
- Endless Serving Options. While I love serving Crockpot Carnitas on tortillas with fresh Mexican slaw, it is also delicious served over rice, in the filling of burritos or enchiladas, or even used to create a delicious Taco Salad.
- Feeds a Crowd. This recipe makes a ton of shredded Mexican pork that can be stretched out to serve a lot of people--especially if you serve the carnitas as part of a taco or burrito bar.
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: Orange juice can not be substituted. It adds flavor, depth, and acidity that help 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 the pork with 2 forks.
- Add ½ cup of the cooking liquid from the slow cooker to the mixing bowl with the pork, to keep the meat moist and flavorful.
- 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 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.
Store the leftover shredded pork in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze it for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Defrost the pork in the refrigerator overnight before reheating and serving.
The slaw can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Gluten-Free Crockpot Carnitas: If you need a recipe for Gluten-Free Carnitas, omit beer and use chicken stock and serve on corn tortillas. You can even use these homemade corn tortillas from Foolproof Living.
- Use Chicken: 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.
Side Dishes to Serve with Crockpot Carnitas
- Instant Pot Refried Beans
- Instant Pot Cilantro Lime Rice
- Instant Pot Spanish Rice
- Mexican Quinoa Salad
- Grilled Corn on the Cob
Need more inspiration for planning meals that your family will love? Sign up for my FREE Meal Plans and each week you will get a meal plan with a shopping list.
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.
I never had pork tacos until I moved to Texas. Now I can't get enough of 'em!
Pork tacos are pretty amazing!
We eat a lot of pork carnitas because my hubby makes them all the time but it is always a long process. Such a nice treat to have them from the crock pot!
Well you are a lucky lady that your husband makes them--but I am NOT in the same boat and don't have that kind of patience.
Joy @ Joy Love Food
I love making pork carnitas in the crock pot, your version with the slaw sounds delicious!
Thanks Joy. The slaw does add so much.
eat good 4 life
I love Mexican food but never made tacos before. I think I should soon because my family would love them for sure!
Oh, you must try these soon! I think you would love them for sure!
Karen @ Karen's Kitchen Stories
Those carnitas look delicious! Great idea for a cole slaw too!! I'm pretty sure I'm making this this weekend!
Thanks so much Karen. I hope you enjoy them!
pam (Sidewalk Shoes)
I don't know which I like better, the sound of the pork or the slaw!
HA! That is why you need them both!
This is a perfect dish to try on a busy weeknight! I can't wait to put this into my rotation.
Totally! It really helps make dinner so much easier during the weeks.
Cooked this yesterday... We love it... I am thinking the leftovers would make great enchiladas...
Yea!! That makes me so happy! And yes, the leftovers would be amazing in enchiladas. I love "morphing" one meal into another.
What type of beer would you recommend using?
Any lighter flavor beer would work. Corona is great. The last time I made these I used one of my husbands bud lights and it was great. I would just steer clear of a flavored beer or a really dark beer like Guinness.
thank you Kristen! making these tonight!
Let me know how you like them!!! Can't wait to hear!
Julia@Mini Van Dreams
I cannot wait to try this! My husband will love it. Thank you for linking up at Tickle My Tastebuds last week. I am featuring you this week and would love if you would stop by and link up some more delicious recipes!
Julia @ Mini Van Dreams
Awesome!! Thank you so much for the feature and I will be sure to stop by again! Enjoy the Pork--it is delicious!