A recipe for home cooked pulled pork carnitas made simple in the slow cooker, then lightly seared to crispy perfection and served cantina style with warmed tortillas, onion, cilantro and roasted jalapeno peppers.
I am a man in love with Mexican pork carnitas. There are worse things to love. We're talking incredibly juicy pulled pork shoulder that is seasoned and seared, then slow cooked in juices until it is fork tender, shredded, and finally finished with a light sear in oil to make it crispy, all served on corn tortillas with your favorite toppings. Can I get an AMEN? Oh yes! I do not recall where I was the first time I encountered slow cooker pulled pork, but I do remember the emotion. PURE JOY. What a discovery it was to try it for the first time. You have to make pulled pork in a slow cooker to fully grasp the ultimate juiciness of it, the captured flavor, in short, the perfection of it.
SO. FREAKING. GOOD.
There aren't any big secrets to making slow cooker pork carnitas. The process is fairly simple. Cut your pork shoulder into smaller chunks and rub it down with your seasonings. I used Mexican oregan, cayenne, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Feel free to use your favorite blend, such as a simple taco seasoning. Sear them up in a hot pan to brown the edges, then toss them into the slow cooker with some additional cooked veggies - onion, peppers, garlic - and some chicken broth.
A couple notes on this. First, YES, you CAN skip the first searing step. If you prefer, and would like to save time, just toss the seasoned pork into the slow cooker without searing it. However, I have found that you'll get an extra dose of flavor by searing first. See the steps below. Second, you can vary up your liquid in the slow cooker. I used chicken broth, but feel free to sub in other liquids, like beer, orange juice, beef or pork stock. You have choices! Exercise them as you make this numerous times, takes notes, and settle on your personal favorite.
Once the pork is SO TENDER and JUICY that you can break it apart with a fork, go ahead and do just that - break it all apart with a couple forks, which is essentially "pulling" it, or shredding it.
This LAST STEP now is CRUCIAL. Heat a pan to medium-high heat and add a bit of oil. Sear a serving of your shredded pulled pork in the oil and press down with a spatula. Sear it until the pork is crispy and browned. Spoon a bit of the reserved juice/liquid from the slow cooker and let it steam a moment. Scoop it up with your spatula and serve it onto warmed corn tortillas. Top it with awesomeness! OH BABY!
Seriously, this pork is JUICY and massive on flavor. I'm reliving the meal as I type this up. WANT. MORE. NOW.
Quick NOTE about the slow cooker shredded pork: You can very easily freeze the pulled pork. I do this all the time. There are only 2 of us here, so we will enjoy it for dinner, then I can freeze the remainder in containers with some of the liquid. When you're ready for another meal, thaw it then reheat or sear it as you normaly would. It is PERFECT this way. It is great to have some available in the freezer anytime you want it.
We served ours up "cantina" style, with some roasted jalapeno peppers, onion, cilantro and bit of homemade picante sauce, but feel free to serve fixings to your liking, like homemade guacamole, shredded cheese, hot sauce, tomatoes, you name it! Go nuts. I hope you enjoy them!
Patty's Perspective: Gimme gimme! Need more!
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas (Crispy Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos) - Recipe
- 2 pounds pork shoulder (pork butt)
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ cup chicken broth
- More Olive Oil as needed for making the carnitas
- Roasted jalapeno peppers, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- Chopped cilantro
- Warmed corn tortillas for serving
- Cut the pork shoulder into 4 large pieces. Combine the Mexican oregano, cayenne, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper and oil. Rub it into the pork.
- Heat a cast iron pan to medium heat and sear the pork shoulder on each side, about 3-4 minutes per side. Get it good and browned. Remove and add to a crock pot or slow cooker.
- To the pan, add onion and jalapeno pepper. Cook a couple minutes, stirring. Add a bit more oil if needed. Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring. Add to the slow cooker.
- Add the chicken broth to the hot pan and scrap up the browned bits from the bottom. Pour it all into the slow cooker.
- Cook on low for about 6-8 hours, or until the pork breaks apart easily with a fork. Remove from heat and shred it up with a couple forks.
- Skim the fat from the juices in the slow cooker. Save the pork with the juices until you are ready to use. You can freeze it at this point if you’d like, or refrigerate a few days.
- TO ASSEMBLE THE CARNITAS – CANTINA STYLE
Heat a pan to medium heat and add a bit of olive oil. Add the shredded pork to the pan and press with a spatula. Cook until the bottom of the pork become crusty, just a couple minutes. Spoon some of the reserved juices over the pork and serve it on warmed tortillas.
- Top with onion, cilantro and chopped jalapeno peppers.
I also like to serve with some hot sauce or picante. Bring in your favorite toppings!