The combination of aromatic spices and juicy pork makes these Crock Pot Pork Carnitas an easy way to enjoy protein packed with flavor. With just a few simple steps and your slow cooker, enjoy carnitas that are the perfect addition to any Mexican dish!
Carnitas are a popular Mexican protein made from slow-cooked pork that is juicy, tender, and bursting with savory flavors. Traditionally, the pork is cooked in a large copper pot called a cazuela until it's crispy on the outside and fall-apart tender on the inside. But with this recipe, you can achieve the same amazing results using your slow cooker!
Carnitas are incredibly versatile - you can serve them on their own, as a taco filling, or even in a burrito bowl. But what really sets carnitas apart is the depth of flavor that comes from slow-cooking the pork with a combination of aromatic spices and citrus juice. The result is a dish that's both comforting and complex, with a mouthwatering balance of sweet, spicy, and savory flavors.
Using a crock pot to make carnitas is the best way to get perfectly tender and flavorful pork every time. The low and slow cooking method allows the meat to cook evenly and absorb all of the spices and juices, resulting in pork that practically melts in your mouth.
Plus, it's incredibly easy - just rub the pork with spices, toss it in the crock pot, and let it cook for 8 hours. No stirring, no fuss - just delicious, restaurant-quality carnitas in the comfort of your own home!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- The juicy and tender pork is infused with a mouthwatering blend of spices and citrus flavors that will taste just like authentic Mexican cuisine.
- This recipe requires minimal prep work, so you can throw everything in the crock pot in the morning and come back to a delicious protein.
- With the option to customize your toppings and serve the carnitas in tacos, burrito bowls, or any other way you prefer, this recipe is a versatile and fun way to spice up your meal routine.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Pork Shoulder Roast - This cut of meat is perfect for making carnitas because it has enough fat content to keep the pork tender and juicy during the long cooking process. The bone-in roast also adds extra flavor to the dish.
- Olive Oil - Helps to create a crispy exterior on the pork during the broiling process.
- White Onion - Adds a sweet and savory note to the carnitas while also helping to balance out the acidity of the orange juice.
- Orange Juice - Fresh squeezed orange juice is a crucial component of this recipe, as it adds a bright, citrusy flavor to the dish that pairs perfectly with the savory pork and spices. The acid in the orange juice also helps to tenderize the meat.
- Minced Garlic - Adds a pungent, earthy flavor to the carnitas that complements the other spices in the dry rub.
- Dry Rub - A combination of cinnamon, dried oregano, cumin, onion powder, salt, and pepper, the spices work together to create a complex, aromatic flavor that infuses the pork as it cooks.
How To Make Pork Carnitas In The Crock Pot
Season the pork roast: Pat pork roast dry with a paper towel and rub olive oil on all sides. Add cinnamon, oregano, cumin, onion powder, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Mix until well combined. Coat pork with dry rub on all sides and place in the crock pot with the fat cap up.
Add liquid: To the crock pot with the seasoned pork, add the chopped onion and orange juice.
Cover and cook: Add the lid to the top of the crock pot. Cook on LOW for 8 hours. Or until the meat is fully cooked through.
Shred the pork: Remove the pork roast from the crock pot and place it on a foil-lined baking sheet. Let rest for 5 minutes. Then shred with two forks. Pour ½ cup of drippings from the crock pot over the shredded pork.
Broil until crispy: Place the shredded carnitas in the oven. Broil for 3-5 minutes, just long enough to crisp up the edges. Serve with your preferred toppings on flour or corn tortillas, and enjoy!
- Don't skip the step of patting the pork roast dry before applying the dry rub - this will help the spices adhere to the meat and create a flavorful crust as it cooks. Coat the pork with the dry rub on all sides, including the fat cap.
- For a spicier kick, add a sliced jalapeno to the crock pot along with the onion and orange juice. Just be sure to remove the seeds and membranes from the jalapeno to control the heat level.
- To make clean-up easier, line your crock pot with a slow cooker liner before adding the ingredients. This will prevent any burnt-on bits from sticking to the pot and will help make cleanup easier.
- For a smoky twist on this recipe, try substituting smoked paprika for the cinnamon in the dry rub. The paprika will lend a rich, deep flavor to the dish that pairs perfectly with the pork.
- Swap out the orange juice for lime juice. This will give the dish a bright, zesty flavor that's perfect for summertime meals.
- Serve the carnitas over a bed of lettuce or cauliflower rice instead of tortillas for a low carb version.
- Sprinkle some shredded cheddar or crumbled queso fresco over the pork before broiling it. This will create a gooey, melty layer on top of the crispy pork.
- Before serving, set up a DIY toppings bar and let everyone build their own tacos. Offer a variety of options, such as diced tomatoes, sliced avocado, cilantro, hot sauce, and lime wedges, so that everyone can create their perfect flavor combination.
Storing & Freezing
Storing: To store any leftover pork carnitas, let it cool down to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Freezing: Transfer cooled pork carnitas to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. The carnitas can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy, thaw the pork in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat it in a skillet over medium heat until warmed through.
The best cut of pork to use for carnitas is a bone-in pork shoulder roast. This cut of meat, also known as pork butt or Boston butt, is well-marbled with fat and has a rich, flavorful taste that lends itself perfectly to slow-cooking while leaner cuts of pork can become too dry.
Pulled pork tends to have a sweeter and smokier flavor, while carnitas are often more savory and citrusy. Additionally, while both dishes are slow-cooked, the cooking method for carnitas involves a dry heat source, while pulled pork is typically cooked with smoke or wet heat.
Pulled pork will create its own liquid, however, if you want to add additional liquid for a more intense flavor, you can use chicken broth or other flavored liquids such as apple juice, beer, or wine.
Crock Pot Pork Carnitas
- 8 lb bone-in pork shoulder roast
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup white onion (diced)
- ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 3 tsp garlic (minced)
- Pat pork roast dry with a paper towel and rub olive oil on all sides.
- Add cinnamon, oregano, cumin, onion powder, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Mix until well combined. Coat pork with dry rub on all sides and place in the crock pot with the fat cap up.
- Add onion, orange juice, and jalapeno to the crock pot.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
- Remove the pork roast from the crock pot and place it on a foil-lined baking sheet. Let rest for 5 minutes. Then shred with two forks.
- Pour ½ cup of drippings from the crock pot over the shredded pork.
- Broil for 3-5 minutes, just long enough to crisp up the edges.
- Serve with your preferred toppings on flour or corn tortillas, and enjoy!
*All nutrition information provided is automatically calculated and is an estimate and will vary based on ingredients, brands, and changes in cooking methods listed in the recipe. If you need exact numbers on your ingredients, I would recommend calculating them with your prefered nutrition calculator.