My all-time favorite Mexican-inspired pork carnitas recipe…made extra easy in the slow cooker! They’re crispy, juicy, full of great flavor, and irresistibly delicious. (This post contains affiliate links.)
Happy Monday, friends!!
I hope that you all had a lovely Easter weekend, and that it filled your spirits with some extra hope and joy, and that you got to share some good time around the table with those you love. I ended up making a last-minute decision to drive home to Wichita to see my family for the weekend, with a fun little detour tucked in there to go see Patty Griffin, Sara Watkins and Anais Mitchell all share the stage on Saturday evening on the way home, which was absolutely delightful. Then Sunday morning we celebrated a snowy Easter at the church where I grew up, followed by a big traditional brunch afterwards, where my mom surprised me by making this spring veggie egg casserole that I posted last week. So fun!
That said, though, it wouldn’t have been a trip to Wichita without a trip out for some of our favorite Mexican food for lunch on Saturday. Which my friends and I promptly followed by another Mexican dinner in Hutch that evening. Which I then followed up, upon returning home last night, by warming up some frozen leftovers of my favorite 5-Ingredient white chicken chili for dinner. Because who doesn’t want to have Mexican food three times in 48 hours, right?!
Well to continue the Mexican streak, I thought I’d re-share an old recipe on the blog today that still continues to be one of my all-time favorites. I made again for the hundredth time last week, and snapped some new photos along the way so that you could see the step-by-step process. And yet again, I was blown away by how incredibly easy and delicious it was. And the thanks all goes to my magical slow cooker (and, oh, a few minutes under the broiler).
So guys, if you haven’t already tried these, it’s time. It’s time to try my Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas.
Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe | 1-Minute Video
I first posted the recipe for these crispy carnitas when I first figured out how to make them in the crock pot back in 2012. (Original photo below!)
Years before, one of my friends from Mexico taught me how to make carnitas the authentic, traditional way. And while I remember them being delicious, I also remember standing around for hours in the kitchen, babysitting the meat on the stove and then after turns upon turns upon turns in the oven. Definitely gave me a new appreciation for the carnitas I’ve enjoyed at restaurants for so many years — and admittedly had me eating them “out” much more than taking the time to cook them myself.
This slow cooker method became a total game changer.
Turns out that if you add the pork to your slow cooker with a handful of tasty seasonings, the meat is extra-juicy and tender and flavorful. Then you just shred it up with a fork, and toss it in the juices.
And, well, you could just stop right there and eat it. But this is where the “crispy” trick comes in.
To get all of those browned, crunchy, deliciously crispy burnt ends on your carnitas, simply spread them out in a single layer on a foil-covered baking sheet (or two, you want the pork in a single even layer). Then pop it under the broiler for 5 minutes until the ends get nice and crispy, take it out, toss it with some of the leftover juices in the slow cooker. Pop it back under the broiler for 5-ish more minutes, toss it with some more juices (and I added a handful of chopped cilantro)…and then voila.
…or hey, no one’s stopping you if you want to just dive in with a fork and eat it plain. ;)
However it’s served, I’m convinced that this shortcut method tastes just as delicious as the traditional method for making crispy carnitas. And bonus — you get to know exactly what goes into it, you can customize the recipe to make it as spicy or mild as you’d like, and this recipe makes a good-sized batch for a party or for leftovers. So you can stretch it out for many a delicious meal. :)
So grab a big crock pot, and give it a try!
And if you end up eating this Mexican treat for three meals in a weekend, know that you’ve got my full support. ;)
Add all ingredients to a large slow cooker, and give the mixture a stir to combine. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours until the pork is completely tender and shreds easily with a fork.
Once the pork is cooked, preheat your broiler to high heat and prepare two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Use a fork to shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, and then use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the prepared baking sheets, spreading the pork in an even layer and leaving the juices behind in the slow cooker. (Don’t discard the juices, we’re going to use them later!)
Place one sheet under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until the edges of the pork begin browning and crisping up. Remove the sheet from the oven, then ladle about 1/4 cup of the juices from the slow cooker evenly over the pork, and then give it a good toss with some tongs. Broil for an additional 5 minutes to get the meat more crispy. Then remove and ladle an additional 1/4 cup of broth over the crispy pork.
Repeat with the other baking sheet of pork.
Serve immediately in tacos, burritos, salads, or whatever sounds good to you! This pork can also be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or frozen in a sealed container for up to 3 months.
*This recipe was edited in August 2017. The initial version called for searing the pork before adding it to the slow cooker. But I realized that step isn’t actually necessary, since the pork crisps up in the broiler after cooking. :) Enjoy!
I must’ve used the wrong cut of pork as mine came out dry & I followed the recipe to the “T.” I used a boneless pork loin roast with very little fat on it. Does this make a difference?
I don’t know why anyone uses loin for anything, as it is so dry. Pork butt or pork shoulder are always the go-to.
Yes. It makes a huge difference. Carnitas are made with pork butt/shoulder, same as pulled pork for BBQ. Loin Roast is not appropriate for this recipe.
Just popping in to reply, because on my screen, this is the top comment (probably due to the replies) but please, if you’re reading this and scared to try because of the comments about it being dry – those reviewers did not use the correct cut of meat. As mentioned many times, you’ll want to use pork shoulder or pork butt (boston butt, etc). Made with the correct cut of pork, this is AMAZING. The recipe calls for “lean boneless pork roast” which I can totally understand is confusing. I spent a moment in the grocery store trying to decide which cut to get. Let me be clear, the term “lean” is a misnomer. The cut you’ll want is super fatty – I trimmed away a lot of it, but the rest melted into the juices and the rest crisped up under the broiler. If you see the word, “tenderloin” THAT’S NOT IT! (Ali, maybe you can update the recipe to clarify the cut, as it seems that many reviewers are simply using the wrong cut?)
My husband is from Mexico where carnitas are made in an entirely different way (simmered in lard in copper kettles). He couldn’t believe how well these turned out. (I used a pressure cooker for about 40 minutes instead of the slow cooker). Fantastic!
I’ve made this twice now, and the verdict is, it’s A Keeper! Delicious, easy, and outstanding. Many thanks.
For the liquid base, I use. Bottle of Mexican Coca Cola.
I like to add orange juice and lime juice
We use OJ and 7 up since I can remember. I have never tried coka cola. Next time I’ll try
Easy, Tasty, Leftovers!
Despite all the positive reviews – I found this recipe just OK. Lacking a bit of flavor.
I have used pork loin just added more broth and it’s not dry pork loin is only dry if you overcook my family loves this recipe and my sis from Montana is hooked on it after I made when she was here for visit
Is it feasible to use a 3 pound pork shoulder instead of the boneless pork roast? I always thought carnitas was from that part of the pig… :) Thanks!
Have made this many times with a crock pot, always turns out fabulous now we are in an rv traveling and have swapped my crock pot for a instant pot, do you have a instant pot version of this recipe?
Outstanding. To the person who said the flavor was really mild, make sure you’re using adequate salt. The recipe calls for fine sea salt which I do not keep around, so I had to amp it up with significantly more kosher salt. Worked fine. And don’t skimp on the toppings – some extra diced white onion, chopped cilantro, and a squirt of lime are near mandatory.
One of my all time favorite recipes!
So I bought and used boneless pork roast like the recipe said… and it was dry dry dry. Yuck.
Very good and forgiving recipe. Just dont make the mistake i did and get the lean boneless pork. I accidentally bought a pork shoulder so the ratio was really off. Over all very forgiving incase you do mess up and delicious
Can I use pork tenderloin? If I do how long should I cook it?
I bought a bone in pork picnic shoulder roast by mistake. Can I follow this recipe anyway as it looks delicious?
I always do a bone-in pork shoulder – I think it adds depth to the flavor.
Delicious and soooo easy! I cut my pork butt into a few very large pieces, put everything into the Instant Pot form90 minutes (then natural release). Came out perfect!
I made this recipe for my family for the first time this evening and it was a HIT! Can’t wait to make it again!
This recipe was delicious! I honestly didn’t have much time so I rushed it and it still came out great. I added orange juice from half an orange. Didn’t have chipotle powder – so I used a little chili powder and cayenne to substitute. I cut the pork shoulder in smaller cubes and trimmed (most) of the fat. It cooked on high for ~4 hours. Shredded and broiled like the directions said. Flavor was amazing and the meat came out crispy. Thanks for the bullet proof recipe!
Home run recipe here folks. All of the reviews were great. Was so easy to make. Putting this into my three times monthly cook.
Recipe turned out great !! Super easy and I had white rice and black beans on the side as well.
I topped it with Cilantro, sour cream and my favorite habanero sauce and it was delicious. I also made some Spanish rice on the side, tasty.
Great recipe! I will make again!
What kind of beer should I use?
I made this recipe a coupe of days ago, the worst part was smelling this all day while it cooked in the crock pot! :-) It was so good. I skipped the oven part, wasn’t enough juices, but it tasted so good we just wolfed it down with fresh corn tortillas, fresh onion, chopped cilantro and lime juice. Next time I’ll add a little more beer ;-)
These are AMAZING! My whole family, 7 of us were dying they are so yummy!
Would love to have nutrition info.
Thanks, all the recipes I’ve tried we’ve enjoyed, thanks!
One of the first things I made in my slow-cooker when I first got it a few years ago, and it remains a go-to recipe! Easy, forgiving if you don’t have the exact spices, and the final product is SO delicious. We always make for a large group, or is excellent if you have a busy week ahead and need some leftovers to rely on.
Yes darling for slow cooker pork carnitas or pulled pork you have to use the right cut of meat or it will not shred and it will b very dry. You must use pork butt or pork shoulder picnic roast. U can cook a pork loin roast in a crick pot yes…but not for carnitas or pulled pork. It is a much shorter cook time to make the pork loin roast.
Made this with over 3 lbs of pork butt and it was delicious. Very flavorful meat. Made tacos, taco bowls, and quesadillas.
I’m not sure what went wrong. This was super dry.
I’ve made this twice, the first time following the directions exactly, and the second with some modifications. The first attempt left me with dry pork, despite having liquid in the slow cooker and the meat shredding easily. The second time, I made the following changes, with much better results:
– I used a 2.5 lb. pork loin with the fat cap on. I used the same amount of seasoning despite using a smaller roast. I coated the pork with the dry seasoning ingredients and browned in a dutch oven in 2 Tbsp. of neutral oil, in two batches.
– I removed the browned pork to a clean slow cooker crock, then charred two onions and four cloves of garlic in the dutch oven.
– When the onions and garlic were browned, I added them to the pork, then deglazed the dutch oven with 1/2 cup of orange juice and a bottle of beer, scraping up the browned bits. I then poured this liquid over the pork mixture and cooked on high for 4 hours. The pork was moist (though not as much as if I had used pork shoulder) and flavorful.
– I crisped the pork in a little bit of oil in a skillet before serving, instead of the under the broiler.
How would I do this in my instant pot? It’s one of my family’s all time favorite and was wondering if I could do it in the instapot instead?
Delicious. Made with bone in pork butt and left whole, just increased cooking time to 8+ hours. Used an amber beer and added 1 Tablespoon Triple Sec since most other Carnitas recipes used orange juice versus beer. Served with purple coleslaw and pickled onions.
I used Boston Butt (pork shoulder); with the bone in it was around 3.5 lbs. I cut off the meat into 3 inch cubes and browned each piece. I added the bone back into the slow cooker. 4 hours in the slow cooker is just fine for around 3 lbs of meat. Do NOT use loin or lean cuts of pork. They lack intramuscular fat and collagen to keep the meat moist as it cooks past the well done stage. Pork shoulder/butt is perfect
This is one of my go-to recipes! It’s easy and absolutely delicious! I have used both beer (usually a Mexican lager) and chicken broth and prefer the chicken broth. I add in some paprika, extra salt (kosher or pink himi sea salt), and a pinch of oregano. It’s delicious on its own, in tortillas, or on a bed of salad (a nice slaw is fabulous). Don’t forget lime juice, diced onions, avocado, and some cilantro! xx
This is my go to carnitas recipe! I use my air fryer instead of broiler to give it extra crispyness. Simply perfection!
Tips for reheating from freezer?
I’ve been making this recipe for years, it’s one of my favorites! A go to when we have company in the summer. Thanks!
This recipe is hard to mess up. I used a bone-in butt and just baked it at 275 degrees F, cutting the meat in the roasting pan a few hours in. I love the method of crisping the carnitas under the broiler at the end. I work from home, and the prep on this was ridiculously light and something I could do over a quick break, providing me with a meal that tasted like it took much more effort to prepare at the end of the workday. This recipe is an absolute keeper!
It was so awesome although I didn’t have as much broth left over. Just on the edge of my heat tolerance (which isn’t very high) and so flavourful!
I want to try this out, but I have a question. Can I replace the beer (chicken broth) with orange juice or coke? I have heard of it made with that instead of beer or chicken broth.
Hi there! I’d like to make your recipe for 20 people. How much pork should I purchase?
Thank you, Terri
Well, you’ve done it again, Ali! This was amazing – it ticked all my boxes – it wasn’t expensive, it didn’t have a million bizarre ingredients, it was easy, and it was DELICIOUS! Even if it had been pricier or more putzy, I’d still give it “keeper” status because it was so so so good!!! Highly recommend and it’ll definitely be on my regular rotation. (I also am always looking for good pork recipes to mix it up. It’s easy to fall into a rut of everything chicken or beef. Speaking of pork – I used a pork shoulder roast – it looked super fatty and I trimmed away a lot of it but I was concerned – I don’t like gristle at all. But the majority of it disappeared in the slow cooker juices and anything that remained crisped up beautifully under the broiler. As others have mentioned, don’t use lean pork tenderloin – you need the fatty shoulder or maybe the Boston Butt cut.)
I made twice with with 4lb lean pork loin. I added 1cup beer, 1 cup stock and juice of an orange. I missed the step of precutting into cubes and it wasn’t fork tender after 8 hours on low- but another 1 hour on high and it was ready to go. I broiled as described and it turned out great. I’m sure pork shoulder would be great too but I enjoy this recipe using pork loin !