Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (2024)

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Updated on Mar 13, 2023

See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.

These Carnitas are tender and juicy with the most irresistible crispy edges. Made in the slow cooker, these pork carnitas are easy to make and perfect for tacos, quesadillas, nachos and more!

Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (1)

Given my love of both Mexican cuisine and my slow cooker, it’s easy to see why carnitas is one of my favorite easy slow cooker recipes. For taco night or Cinco de Mayo, this carnitas recipe can’t be beat!

These carnitas are extremely versatile. They make the best pork tacos, they’re a delicious enchilada filling, and they take quesadillas to a whole new level. You can also add them to burrito bowls, nachos and more!

Make a big batch and enjoy a variety of delicious meals throughout the week. Or, put the leftovers in your freezer for a quick meal later on.

Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (2)

What is Carnitas

Carnitas is Mexican pulled pork, typically made with pork butt or pork shoulder that’s slow cooked until it’s fall apart tender and juicy.Authentic carnitas are typically cooked in lard, but instead this recipe calls for slow cooking the seasoned pork with onion, garlic, orange juice and lime juice. While this recipe may not be 100% traditional, I assure you it is incredibly delicious.

The best parts are the crispy bits that you get by placing the shredded pork under the broiler. The edges caramelize, giving you the best combination of tender juicy pork and crispy edges!

Carnitas Recipe Ingredients

Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (3)

  • Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt: These are the best types of pork for making carnitas because their higher fat content makes for extra tender and juicy pulled pork.
  • Seasonings: Dried oregano, ground cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper make the pork so flavorful.
  • Orange Juice and Lime Juice: These help to tenderize and flavor the meat as it cooks.
  • Onion and Garlic: For more flavor!

How to Make Carnitas

Here is a quick overview of the steps to making this recipe. Find the full recipe with ingredient amounts and instructions below.

  1. Put the pork in the slow cooker. Rub it with the seasoning mixture.
  2. Add the orange juice, lime juice, onion and garlic to the slow cooker. Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (4)
  3. Cover and cook until the pork shreds easily. This will take about 8 to 10 hours on low, or 5 to 6 hours on high.
  4. Remove the pork from the slow cooker. Shred using two forks.
  5. To get crispy edges on the pork (the best part!) place the shredded carnitas on a baking sheet and place it under the broiler for a few minutes until the edges begin to crisp and caramelize. I like to add a little of the juices from the slow cooker for flavor, but not so much that the pork becomes soggy. Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (5)
  6. The carnitas is so good, you’ll want to eat it straight from the pan! Our favorite way to serve it is wrapped in warm tortillas, topped with chopped onion, avocado and fresh cilantro. A squeeze of fresh lime juice is delicious here too.

Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (6)

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use pork tenderloin or pork loin? These cuts of pork do not work well for carnitas because they don’t become as tender or as flavorful. The higher fat content in pork shoulder/pork butt makes for fall apart tender shredded pork with mouthwatering flavor.
  • Can I use bone in pork butt/shoulder? Yes, but it may take longer to cook due to the bone.
  • Can I freeze carnitas? Yes, carnitas freeze well. Store the shredded pork and some of the juices in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. It’s best to freeze before crisping it under the broiler. This way, you can reheat in the oven on a baking sheet and crisp it at the same time.
  • Can I make carnitas in the Instant Pot? Yes! You’ll love my Instant Pot Carnitas recipe!

Serving Suggestions

Carnitas can be used to make shredded pork tacos, enchiladas, or quesadillas. Try adding it to nachos, or serve in a burrito bowl or salad. Or keep it simple and serve carnitas alongside rice, beans and guacamole for a quick meal.

Try one or two of these recipes to round out the meal:

  • Tortilla Recipe
  • Salsa Recipe
  • Corn Salad
  • Instant Pot Mexican Rice
  • Instant Pot Black Beans
  • Instant Pot Pinto Beans

Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (7)

Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (8)

4.94 from 15 ratings

Carnitas (Slow Cooker Recipe)

Servings: 8 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes mins

Cook Time: 6 hours hrs

Total Time: 6 hours hrs 15 minutes mins

This Carnitas recipe is easy to make in the crockpot. It's tender and juicy with the most irresistible crispy edges. Use it to make pork tacos, quesadillas, nachos, enchiladas and more!

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  • 4 pound boneless pork butt or pork shoulder*
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup orange juice, from two small or one large orange
  • ¼ cup lime juice, from 2 limes
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • tortillas, chopped onion, chopped fresh cilantro, avocado, limes, etc., for serving, as desired


  • Place pork butt/shoulder in slow cooker.

  • In a small bowl, stir together the dried oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Rub the spice mixture on all sides of the pork. Arrange the pork so that it is fat side up in the slow cooker.

  • Pour the orange juice and lime juice around the sides of the pork in the slow cooker, so as not to rinse off the spice rub on top of the pork. Add the onion and garlic to the slow cooker.

  • Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours, until pork shreds easily.

  • Remove the pork from the liquid in the slow cooker. Use two forks to shred the pork, discarding excess fat.

  • You can serve the pork now, or (the best way!) crisp it under the broiler. To crisp the pork, spread it out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (if desired, you can line the baking sheet with foil for easy clean up). Add a little of the juices from the slow cooker to the pork, but not too much. Put pork under the broiler in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until the edges start to crisp.

  • Serve in tortillas with toppings as desired, or in a burrito bowl, on a salad, etc.


  • You can use a 3 to 5 pound pork butt/pork shoulder in this recipe.
  • You will need a 5 quart or larger slow cooker for this recipe.
  • The pork should be fully thawed before cooking.
  • Leftover carnitas can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Add some of the juices to the carnitas before freezing. It is best to freeze the shredded pork before crisping it under the broiler. This way, you can reheat and crisp the pork in the oven at the same time. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Serving: 1/8 cooked carnitas, Calories: 309kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 52g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 136mg, Sodium: 710mg, Potassium: 948mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 128IU, Vitamin C: 12mg, Calcium: 41mg, Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is an estimate.

Cuisine: Mexican

Course: Main Course

Tried this recipe?Mention @kristines_kitchen on Instagram or tag #kristineskitchenblog.

This site contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting Kristine's Kitchen!

Dairy Free Dinner Recipes Gluten Free Recipe Videos Slow Cooker

posted by Kristine Rosenblatt on Apr 30, 2022 (last updated Mar 13, 2023)

34 comments Leave a comment »

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34 comments on “Carnitas”

  1. Jessica Reply

    I can’t wait to try this! Yum!

  2. Kathleen Herrmann Reply

    These carnitas are so delicious! Juicy with a crunchy crispness on the outside. Excellent!

  3. Jennifer Reply

    Do you think I could use pineapple juice instead of orange? Or do half and half?

    • Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (12)

      Kristine Reply

      That should work fine. Enjoy!

  4. Kim Reply

    This came out beautifully! I followed your directions exactly! I wish I could take a picture and post it but I don’t know how. Thank you

  5. Lyn Reply

    If I make these 1 day ahead, shld I keep the pork in the juice till tomorrow or shred and save alittle yo put away in an air tight container?

    • Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (13)

      Kristine Rosenblatt Reply

      I would shred it and add a little bit of the juices back to the shredded pork before storing.

    • Mary Reply

      Could I use canned pork

      • Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (14)

        Kristine Rosenblatt

        No, that will not work in this recipe.

  6. Laresa Reply

    Amazing recipe! We loved it. It’s definitely a keeper and one of my sons is excited that it’s on the menu again for dinner!!!

  7. Diane Karrasch Reply

    Amazing recipe. I was so hesitant to take on a Pork Shoulder, but wow so simple and delicious.

  8. Linda Reply

    I’ve made these twice now. We really enjoy them in flour tortillas and on sandwich buns. So much good food from an inexpensive cut of meat! Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  9. Alexandra Reply

    Made these multiple times! I’ve adjusted the recipe here and there depending on what I have on hand but it’s delicious! Use the leftovers for a Mexican eggs Benedict.
    Thank you !

  10. Belinda Reply

    Can you use regular orange juice in a bottle instead of juice from an orange?

    • Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (15)

      Kristine Rosenblatt Reply

      You can, but I’d recommend using one that is pure juice with no sugar added.

  11. Gloria Mendoza Reply

    Do I have to broil the carnitas?

    • Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (16)

      Kristine Rosenblatt Reply

      No, the broiling step is optional. We love how broiling the carnitas makes the edges a little crispy.

  12. Cheri Reply

    I add 1 whole Jalapeño so I wouldn’t get the heat but the flavor, if you want the heat diced it up.

  13. Samantha Reply

    I went to the store and all they had was an 8lb shoulder, literally no other option and I was in a hurry so I couldn’t go somewhere else. In my haste I only grabbed one orange and one lime. I just put everything into my crockpot and I feel more liquid is needed. What do you recommend for additional liquid? I feel like I want to add some chicken or beef broth but don’t want to alter the flavor of what this recipe brings. I would love to hear some alternatives, TIA! <3

    • Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (17)

      Kristine Rosenblatt Reply

      The meat will release some liquid as it cooks, so you don’t need to add additional liquid (you don’t have to add liquid when cooking in a slow cooker). If you really want to add some, I’d try 1/2 cup or less of chicken broth.

  14. Lisa Stockton Reply

    You named this receipe correctly! The best carnitas I’ve had any where. Followed receipe exactly except I doubled the spice mixture since my pork was about 8 pounds. Cooked for 10 hours on low. The taste was so good we didn’t even top it with anything. This will be one my gold star list. Thank you

  15. Jackie Reply

    This was a hit with everyone in the house. I used fresh oregano because we had it. I had a spicier chili pepper so I adjusted that down a bit for the kids.

  16. Wayne Reply

    Should I cut off excess fat before cooking? I hate how chewy carnitas can end up.

    • Carnitas Recipe {Slow Cooker} - Kristine's Kitchen (18)

      Kristine Rosenblatt Reply

      Yes, I usually cut off excess fat before cooking, and then I also remove some after cooking as I shred the meat.

  17. Josette Reply

    Omg delicious! I cooked 2 hours on high and 5 on low

  18. Beth Reply

    This recipe is delicious my family loved it.

  19. Carolyn Offerhaus Reply

    Made this last night ,was so good . We dipped the tortillas in the marinade and cook them on the flat top, so yummy thank you for the recipe will definitely be making this again

  20. Laresa Reply

    This is an easy and very flavorful recipe! A real fantastic recipe that
    I have made several times and making it again today!!! 🤤😋🤤😋🤤
    Definitely a keeper and a family favorite!

  21. Susan Reply

    This recipe is so good. We make it all the time. I usually double the recipe and share with family. They all love it too. Thank you so much!

  22. Sylvia Reply

    I will make this again and again…delicious !!

  23. Karen Reply

    So delicious ! My hubby said need to add to weekly dinner rotation !
    So easy crockpot did all the work !
    Spices and juices were perfect !
    Thank you for sharing !
    Using left overs tonight for carnitas enchiladas !

  24. Amy Holdaway Reply

    We made these in a crockpot on our boat this last weekend. Made exactly per recipe.So good! Very flavorful! Fed the whole crew. So many crock pot recipes turn out bland, but not these. Easy prep and cleanup, too. Adding to our regular rotation-

  25. Steve Reply

    This recipe was good but needs more flavor. I will make this again but will double the spices.

  26. Jay Miller Reply

    I made this exactly per the recipe. We absolutely was delighted with the outcome. Easily made and quickly consumed.

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