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Slow Cooker Carnitas

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posted: 01/24/21

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This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy

Slow Cooker Carnitas will be your new favorite weeknight meal! These pork carnitas are easy to throw together and has the best flavor. It is the perfect dinner recipe to come home to.

bowl of slow cooker pork carnitas meat that has been garnished with cilantro and limes

Our family loves taco night so much. We build them right at the table together, and everyone is able to make theirs exactly how they want it. I’m sure you’ve caught on by now, but feeding my family delicious recipes that bring us around the table is happy place.

While my Chicken Taco recipe is a family favorite, I’m always looking to mix things up. This carnitas recipe is perfect for that! It starts in the morning and is thrown into the slow cooker. When you come home there are only one or two more steps, making this an ideal meal for a busy weeknight.

How to Make Carnitas

As I mentioned there are only a few simple steps to this recipe. Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the post to get the full list of ingredients.

  1. Cut up the pork: We are going to cut up the pork shoulder before cooking so that it will all be fully submerged in the liquid we are cooking it in.
  2. Sear the pork: Rub the meat with salt on all sides and then sear it in a heavy bottomed pan. Searing the meat will help hold in it’s juices.
  3. Make the sauce: In the bottom of the slow cooker combine the chicken stock, onion, garlic, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
  4. Cook: Add the pork to the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  5. Shred the meat: At the end of the cooking time remove the chunks of meat and shred it with two forks.
  6. Bake: This step is optional, but traditionally carnitas have crispy parts to them. Put the shredded meat in an oven for 15 to 30 minutes or until crispy.

Finally, you might like to take some of the liquid from the slow cooker and pour a little bit of it back on the carnitas meat.

baking sheet full of the pulled meat from a carnitas recipe topped with fresh cilantro and two limes

Crispy Carnitas

In traditional carnitas the heat is turned up at the end, making parts of the meat crisp before it is shredded. While we can’t do that in this slow cooker version, we can crisp it in the oven.

To do that, shred the meat and then put it on a baking dish in the oven for 15 to 30 minutes or until the desired crispiness is achieved. As I mention above, this step is optional. If that texture doesn’t work for your family or you have limited time, skip it.

Serving the Carnitas Meat

My favorite way to eat carnitas meat is as carnitas tacos. This meat would be amazing in burritos, tamales, or on top of tostadas too!

Topping Carnitas Tacos

There is so much flavor in carnitas meat, that you don’t really need to add a lot of toppings to it. Here are a few suggestions:

  • My favorite way to top them is with my Pico de Gallo recipe.
  • Adding cilantro and red onion to these would be delicious.
  • You could also add some cotija, a Mexican cheese.
close up view of a carnitas taco topped with Pico de Gallo

FAQ

Can I use beef to make carnitas?

Yes! This recipe would be great with beef. Use a chuck roast and follow the recipe as written replacing the pork with beef.

Can I make slow cooker carnitas the day before?

Yes! Cook this recipe all the way through the point of shredding the meat. Then instead of making it crispy, return it the slow cooker and put the whole pot of the slow cooker in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, cook it on low for an hour. Remove the meat and proceed with step 5.

How do you store carnitas leftovers?

Put the left over meat in a container and top with leftover sauce. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

When ready to eat left overs, remove only the amount you want to eat and heat over low heat with the liquid on the stovetop. Do not reheat leftovers more than once.

How do you freeze pork carnitas leftovers?

Put the left over meat in a container and top with leftover sauce, so it is completely covered. Make sure there is at least an inch of room for expansion. Freeze for up to three months.

Thaw the leftovers in the refrigerator overnight. Heat the thawed leftovers in a saucepan over low heat to serve.

overhead view of slow cooker carnitas meat that has been garnished with two limes and fresh cilantro

If you make these delicious slow cooker carnitas or any of my other recipes, please leave me a comment and let me know! I love hearing about you making Simple Joy recipes.

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Pork Carnitas

Serves: 8 servings
(tap # to scale)
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 8 hours
Total: 8 hours 30 minutes
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas will be your new favorite weeknight meal! This carnitas recipe is easy to throw together and has the best flavor. It is the perfect dinner recipe to come home to.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 pound pork shoulder cut into 4 large pieces
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth (see note)
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 6 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed dutch oven.
  • Season the pork with the salt, and brown it in the hot oil, making sure to get each side of the pork and working in batches as necessary.
  • In the bottom of a slow cooker, combine chicken broth, oniong, garlic, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
  • Add the pork to the bottom of the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until the pork falls apart easily with a fork. Remove from the slow cooker and shred with two forks.
  • Optional step: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Add the shredded meat. Roast the meat for 15 to 30 minutes or until it reaches desired level of crispiness.
  • Use the liquid from the slow cooker to moisten the meat as needed. Serve as tacos, topped with onions and cilantro or pico de gallo.

Notes

If you don’t use low sodium chicken broth, you will want to cut back the amount of salt you coat the pork in to 2 tablespoons.
Calories: 545kcal (27%) Carbohydrates: 4g (1%) Protein: 49g (98%) Fat: 38g (58%) Saturated Fat: 11g (69%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g Monounsaturated Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 140mg (47%) Sodium: 1422mg (62%) Potassium: 124mg (4%) Fiber: 1g (4%) Sugar: 1g (1%)
Author: Lisa Longley
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican

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Pork Carnitas

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Hi! I'm Lisa Longley, and I am committed to giving you simple dinner ideas and recipes that are easy to make; recipes that will fill your home with joy. I am the owner and author of SimpleJoy.com and I'm so glad that you are here.

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