Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

By Polly Conner

This is the type of recipe our readers go ga-ga over. Slow Cooker Carnitas are a dump-and-go crock pot meal that’s easy to make, freezes well before or after cooking, and everyone loves them!

Slow cooker crispy carnitas

Why You Must Make Carnitas in the Slow Cooker

Pork shoulders are one of my favorite cuts of meat to cook in the slow cooker. Coming from someone who has tested hundreds (yes, hundreds) of slow cooker recipes, that means a lot. I have probably made this slow cooker recipe more than any other one for groups of people.

Pork shoulder shredded and broiled on a foil lined baking sheet

The seasoning and marinade, plus the slow cooking method, pack some serious tangy-smoky-citrusy flavor into the meat. After being cooked all day and shredded, you’ll pop the meat under the broiler and broil until it begins to crisp up on the edges. You’ll find yourself going back to this recipe again and again!

What Ingredients Do I Need to Make These?

Like most of our recipes, the ingredients are fairly simple. To make Slow Cooker Carnitas, you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 (3-4 pound) pork shoulder (also known as pork butt or Boston butt), trimmed of excess fat 
  • Seasonings: oregano, cumin, chili powder, Salt & pepper
  • Lime juice
  • Orange juice
  • Hot Sauce
Ingredients for slow cooker carnitas

How Long Do I Cook Pork Shoulder in the Slow Cooker?

After testing hundreds of recipes for our slow cooker cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker, we found that cooking one (3-4 pound) pork shoulder should take 7-9 hours depending on your slow cooker.

Oftentimes, people take the pork out too early because it appears to be tough and dry. However, the pork needs lots of time to break down the fibers holding the meat together. When cooked correctly, pork shoulder in the slow cooker should be tender, juicy, and shred easily.

Cooked pork carnitas on a wooden spoon coming out of the slow cooker

Get our Slow Cooker Times Chart

After years of testing slow cooker recipes for our website and cookbooks, we’ve developed a reliable cooking times chart for all different types of recipes. Never overcook or undercook a recipe in the slow cooker again!

Can I Cook Carnitas in a Dutch Oven?

While we love our crock pot, you for sure can make this in your dutch oven, too.

pork shoulder in a dutch oven

Simply follow the instructions in the recipe below, but instead of putting it all into a slow cooker, place the pork into a roasting pan or Dutch oven. Add 1 cup of water or broth. Cover tightly with the lid and roast the pork at 300ºF for about 4 1/2 hours, turning once at the half way point. Follow the broiling instructions after that!

Can I Make Carnitas in the Instant Pot?

Absolutely! When using the Instant Pot, you can have these done in almost an hour!

We have instructions for Instant Pot Carnitas here. Enjoy!

Make It Into a Freezer Meal

As if our Carnitas weren’t good enough, I have even better news. They work really well as a make ahead freezer meal.

Simply double the recipe and freeze an uncooked batch. This won’t take much more time at all and will set you up for an incredibly easy dinner down the road!

When you’re ready to prepare the frozen meal, thaw it using one of these safe methods. Then slow cook on low for 7-9 hours.

Pork carnitas in a freezer meal bag

Here are some great tips on making freezer meals, if you want to learn more about freezer cooking (our speciality!).

How to Serve Pork Carnitas

One of the beauties of this meal is that it can be customized and served in so many different ways. That’s why I love making carnitas for large groups. Here are some ideas of how to serve them:

  • Change up taco night by using this filling instead of ground beef.
  • Top a leafy green salad with it and other toppings like roasted fresh corn shaved off the cob, diced bell peppers, red onion, and crunched up tortilla chips.
  • Throw this shredded pork in a quesadilla or on top of a “burrito bowl” with brown rice, beans, and your favorite Mexican toppings.

So many options! I personally almost always serve it with our Avocado Lime Salsa.

Slow cooker pork carnitas on tortillas
Print

Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas

  • Author: Polly Conner
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 9 hours
  • Total Time: 9 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 810 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

The seasoning and marinade, plus the slow cooking method, pack some serious tangy-smoky-citrusy flavor into the meat. After being cooked all day and shredded, you’ll pop the meat under the broiler and broil until it begins to crisp up on the edges. You’ll find yourself going back to this recipe again and again!


Ingredients

  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (3-4 pound) pork shoulder (also known as pork butt or Boston butt), trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup lime juice* (juice of about 4 limes)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice* (juice of about 3 oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • chopped cilantro (optional for garnishing)

*Freshly squeezed is the best!


Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Over medium-high heat, saute the onion just until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper while it cooks. Stir in the garlic during the last 30-60 seconds. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper.
  3. Pat the roast dry with paper towels and then rub the seasoning all over each piece. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  4. Add the seasoned meat, onion/garlic mixture, lime juice, orange juice, and hot sauce into the slow cooker.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours.
  6. Remove the pork to a wooden cutting board, and shred with two forks.
  7. Preheat the broiler. Broil the meat on a rimmed baking sheet for 3 minutes. (Tip: Cover the pan with foil for easy clean up.) Using tongs, turn the meat over and spoon about ¼ cup of the juices from the slow cooker over the meat. Broil another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the edges of the meat start to crisp up and turn brown. Remove from the oven and spoon another ¼ cup of the juices over the cooked pork.
  8. Serve immediately in tacos, burritos, or salads, or enjoy a la carte. If serving in a corn tortilla, we suggest topping with diced avocado, pico de gallo, Cojita cheese crumbles, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges. If serving on a salad, use those same toppings and try our Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette as the dressing.

Freeze For Later: Follow Steps 1-3. Place the onion/garlic mixture, seasoned pork, lime juice, orange juice, hot sauce into a gallon-sized freezer bag. Seal and freeze.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw 24-48 hours. Follow steps 5-8.

Want more slow cooker recipes?

Hop over to our round up of 25+ Slow Cooker Recipes for Groups of People.

slow cooker and crock pot Recipes for groups of people

Tags: , , , ,

Subscribe

Join our weekly newsletter and receive ourTop 10 Easy Freezer Meals eBook for free.

Top 10 Easy Freezer Meals eBook

Leave a Comment

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 replies