Slow Cooker Mexican Carnitas Recipe | Whenever I am asked if there are any foods I don’t like or if I have any allergies I declare that I eat all the foods. And this is a true statement.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have strong preferences for one food over another. If given the choice, I will always choose pork over beef. Especially when it comes to tacos. Ground beef is a sad comparison to the hearty, fall-apart tenderness of Mexican pulled pork.
Let’s be honest, I will never turn down any type of taco. But I will snatch a pork taco out of your hands. I will! This is why I insist that, for your next Taco Tuesday, you ditch the ground beef, get yourself some nice pork roast, switch on the slow cooker, and make these Mexican carnitas!
Pork carnitas tacos and tacos al pastor are my two favorite types of tacos. Today is all about amping up your taco night with this slow cooker carnitas recipe.
Taco Tuesday has taken the internet by storm as a family favorite because it’s easy and–let’s be honest–no one says no to tacos. There’s something comforting in flavorful meat and gooey cheese in a delicious tortilla envelope. And toppings take things to a whole different level.
This taco night, let’s bypass the ground beef, taco seasoning envelope, and taco shells that break. Nobody wants taco juice spilled all over their white shirt. Because that is usually how it works, doesn’t it? Let’s up the Taco Tuesday game and make some crispy pork carnitas and warm tortillas.
Slow Cooker Carnitas
The great thing about these tacos is that, with the help of a slow cooker, they come together as easily as the other tacos. In fact, with the whole “fix it and forget it” simplicity of the slow cooker, I dare say that these are easier than traditional tacos. But you won’t be forgetting these any time soon.
Carnitas meat is tender and flavorful with all the savory elements of an authentic taco at a street stand. Spoiler alert, it’s the browned bits involved in the searing and the addition of orange juice to the warm Mexican carnitas spices that make these the best. So don’t skip out on those steps.
To finish off this Mexican carnitas recipe, all you need to do is crisp them in a skillet to create those irresistible edges, warm some tortillas, and layout a spread of toppings. Everyone has their ideal taco, after all.
Carnitas Tacos Toppings
- sour cream
- queso fresco
- pico de gallo
- mango salsa
- grilled pineapple
- cotija cheese
- lime juice
- Tajin seasoning
- crema mexicana
What are Carnitas?
In the simplest terms, carnitas are tender morsels of meat heaven. To be more specific, the word “carnitas” literally translates to “little meats” or “meat nuggets.”
Traditionally made of pork, sometimes the term “carnitas” will be used in reference to beef. However, if you are at a Mexican home or restaurant and carnitas is on the menu, 9 times out of 10 they will be pork.
Carnitas is a Mexican dish originating from the state of Michoacán, which is made by braising pork and then frying in oil or lard until tender.
What’s the Difference Between Carnitas and Al Pastor?
If you’re Team Tacos al Pastor, the biggest difference between these two is the preparation and the seasoning. Carnitas are typically marinated in a mixture of spices, citrus, and oil. Then they are braised until tender and shredded.
Al Pastor literally means “shepherd style.” The pork is marinated in a combination of spices, chilies, and pineapple. It is then traditionally prepared shawarma-style, which is a slow cooking vertical rotisserie. This preparation style was brought by the Lebanese immigrants to Mexico.
The only thing these two preparations have in common is that they are both pork tacos. So as we established above, you cannot go wrong with either one.
Ideas for Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Leftovers
I love to make this dish in large batches! Because there are so many things you can make with them. One of my favorite dishes to make with leftovers is posole, a comforting pork and hominy soup.
Leftovers are also great for enchiladas, breakfast hash, panini sandwiches, breakfast tacos, or over a salad. In fact, they are the secret to making the ultimate salad bowl. They can also be frozen to enjoy later.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy leftovers is nachos! I just spread tortilla chips on a baking sheet and top them with shredded carnitas and cheese. After they come out of the oven, they can hold up to a substantial pile of toppings.
There are so many ways leftover slow cooker carnitas can add more versatility to your weekly meal plan. But they’re also a great way to feed a crowd for game night, movie night, or another gathering without a lot of fuss.
How to Make Slow Cooker Carnitas
I have used both pork butt and pork shoulder for this recipe. They are my favorite cuts of pork for this recipe because both of these cuts have a healthy ratio of fat, producing fall apart tender carnitas.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork roast with salt, cumin, and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and rub seasoning and oil evenly over roast.
- Sear the roast on all sides until brown and crispy, 3 minutes per side. Place the roast to the slow cooker.
- Add the chicken stock into the hot skillet and scrape all the brown bits from the pan. Don’t skip this step, there are a lot of flavors in the brown bits. Transfer scrapings to the slow cooker.
- Add all remaining ingredients to the slow cooker. Set slow cooker on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 3-4. The longer it cooks, the more tender the pork. You want the pork to be falling apart.
- Heat the cast-iron skillet or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat and drizzle with vegetable oil. Using a slotted spoon transfer the pork from the slow cooker to the pan in batches.
- Fry the pork until brown and crispy, breaking it up as you fry it. Do not crowd the pan as this will lead to the pork steaming and not crisping.
- Serve on tortillas garnished with chopped onions, avocado, fresh cilantro, and a lime wedge.
What to serve with Pork Carnitas
Part of the ultimate carnitas experience is also serving some killer side dishes and drinks. One of my most popular recipes Elote Corn (Mexican Street Corn) is the perfect accompaniment to carnitas.
Do you like to drizzle salsa over your tacos? You may like Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde. And of course, you can never go wrong with some authentic Mexican Rice. Finally, consider washing everything down with some Spicy Pineapple Margaritas.
If you are looking for more slow cooker pork recipes, check out this slow cooker pork ramen, slow cooker Puerto Rican pork, or spicy malta slow cooker pulled pork. To prove my love for pork check out all of my pork recipes.
more pork love
more tasty ideas for your Taco Tuesday
Not a pork fan? We can still be friends!
- lighter loaded chicken nachos
- skirt steak with mole and cilantro
- instant pot Texas brisket
- carna asada with orange salsa
See notes before starting this dish.
- 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (butt) roast
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- olive oil
- 1/4 cup of chicken or beef stock
- 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 7 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- Season pork roast with salt, cumin, and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and rub seasoning and oil evenly over roast. Heat a cast iron skillet or heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
- Sear the roast on all side until brown and crispy, 3 minutes per side. Transfer roast to the slow cooker.
- Pour the chicken stock into the hot skillet and scrape all the brown bits from the pan, transfer to the slow cooker.
- Add all remaining ingredients to the slow cooker. Set slow cooker to low for 6-8 hours. The longer it cooks the more tender the pork.
- Heat a cast iron skillet or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Using a slotted spoon transfer the pork from the slow cooker to the pan in batches.
- Fry the pork until brown and crispy, breaking it up as you fry it. Do not crowd the pan with pork for best results.
- Serve on tortillas garnished with chopped onions, avocado, fresh cilantro and a lime wedge.
Reserve juices for Posole soup.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 468Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 154mgSodium: 973mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 47g