This slow cooker pork carnitas recipe makes the best pork carnitas tacos, with pork shoulder cooked low and slow, then quickly seared until crispy, 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.
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.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Ingredients
- Pork Shoulder (aka Pork Butt).
- Seasonings. Mexican oregano, cayenne, cumin, paprika, salt, black pepper.
- Olive Oil. For searing the pork.
- Vegetables. Onions, jalapeno peppers, garlic.
- Chicken Broth. Or use chicken stock.
- For Serving. Roasted jalapeno peppers, diced onion, chopped cilantro, warmed corn tortillas (or flour tortillas).
How to Make Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas - the Recipe Method
Chop and Season the Pork Shoulder. Cut the pork shoulder into 4 large pieces. This will help the pork cook more quickly. Combine the Mexican oregano, cayenne, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper and oil. Rub it into the pork.
Brown 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.
Onion, Peppers, Garlic. 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.
Deglaze the Pan. Add the chicken broth to the hot pan and scrap up the browned bits from the bottom. Pour it all into the slow cooker.
Slow Cook the Pork. 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.
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.
Skim the Fat. 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
Crisp the Carnitas. Heat a pan to medium high 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 and Serve! Top with onion, cilantro and chopped jalapeno peppers, and lime juice.
Boom! Done! The best slow cooker carnitas around. I also like to serve with some hot sauce or picante. Bring in your favorite toppings!
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Do I Need to Sear the Pork? 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. You can also crisp up the carnitas in the broiler with the pulled pork spread out over a baking sheet.
- Slow Cooker Liquid. I often use chicken stock to make my slow cooker carnitas, but 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.
- Stove Top Carnitas. You can make slow cooker carnitas on the stove top in a large pot or Dutch oven by adding all of the ingredients, then cooking low and slow for 4-6 hours, or until the pork pulls apart easily. Just keep an eye on it.
- Freeze the Leftovers. 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 normally would. It is PERFECT this way. It is great to have some available in the freezer anytime you want it.
Seriously, this pork is JUICY and massive on flavor. I'm reliving the meal as I type this up. WANT. MORE. NOW.
Serving Pork Carnitas
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!
Gimme gimme! Need more! We love Mexican food.
Try My Other Popular Taco Recipes
- Carnitas Recipe (Authentic Mexican Pulled Pork)
- Szechuan Salmon Tacos
- Crock Pot Taco Soup
- Burrito Bowls with Shredded Pork and Black Beans
- Juicy Turkey Tacos
- Carne Asasa Tacos
- Pork Street Tacos with Crispy Fried Habaneros
- Tacos al Pastor
- Cochinita Pibil
- Chicken Tinga Tacos
- Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you'll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don't forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I'll be sure to share! Thanks! -- Mike H.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Recipe (Crispy Mexican Pork Carnitas Tacos)
- 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 basically make the same recipe except I use a pressure cooker and I change the chicken stock to one liter of original coca cola mixed with one large can of frozen orange juice. It only takes 45 minutes cook time (about an hour and a half heating up cooking then cooling off.) Then I fry it add a little liquid and enjoy. A friend got the recipe while traveling in Guadalajara.
Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness says
Wow, nice! I love this variation! Sounds awesome, actually. Thanks for sharing.
This recipe is DELICIOUS!!!! Question: would this recipe also work if I replace the pork by chicken breast or chicken thigh?
REPLY: Angelique, absolutely. Give it a try and let me know how it turns out for you. Chicken breast might turn out a bit dryer, though, due to the lower fat content. -- Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.
I feel I wanted to add pico, what stage of the process would I do that? Slow cook it with the meat or add it when I pull the pork?
REPLY: Jake, if you add the pico earlier, the salsa will break down into more of a sauce, adding some developed flavor. If you add it later, you will have a fresher taste from the salsa. Personally, I would probably add it early on, then also top the carnitas with pico to serve. Let me know how it turns out. -- Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.
Doug Major says
Beyond outstanding, beyond totally awesome! Great recipe Mike.
I didn't use the recommened broth, but made one by throwing an orange, a healthy slice of lime, and a respectful shot of dark rum into the blender. Adds just a wee bit of character to the mix.
Thanks for sharing Mike.
REPLY: Doug! I love the addition of the orange, lime and rum. Great touch. -- Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.
These might be the best lookin' tacos I've ever seen! Even the tortillas have style! Totally trying these soon!
REPLY: Ha! Thanks, Karly! You ROCK. -- Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.