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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
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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

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

By Polly Conner

Who doesn’t love a simple BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich with moist shredded meat? After a day in the slow cooker, this shredded pork is a total crowd pleaser. Not only is it an easy dump and go meal for the Crockpot but it also makes a great make-ahead freezer meal!

Slow cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches on a yellow plate
Image Credit: Hélène Dujardin in From Freezer to Cooker

Why We Love Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This BBQ Pulled Pork has been a regular around our house. It’s SUPER easy, freezes beautifully, and makes a lot of servings. Since we used rolls to turn the last batch into pulled pork sandwiches, it was enough to feed 10+ people!

A butcher will tell you to plan for 1/2 pound per person but I find that to be pretty generous. I guess it just depends on the appetites of those you are feeding.

How to Make Slow Cooker Pulled Pork (A short video tutorial)

This crock pot pulled pork recipe is hard to screw up. Watch and see how easy it comes together!

What Ingredients do I need to make Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork?

The ingredients are SO simple! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1, 3-4 lb. pork shoulder (also known as Boston butt)
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (Here is our homemade recipe)
Ingredients for slow cooker bbq pulled pork

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 a 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 in the slow cooker should be tender and juicy.

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

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!

How to serve Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

My favorite way to eat it is as a sandwich. If you want to go gluten-free, eat it without a bun. I serve it with more Killer Homemade BBQ Sauce on the side. Some side dishes that go well with Slow Cooker Pulled Pork are:

BBQ Pulled Pork on a plate with asian slaw

Can I freeze pulled pork?

YES! Like so many of our freezer meal recipes, BBQ Pulled Pork works great as a make-ahead freezer meal. To make this recipe into a freezer meal, follow these instructions:

TO FREEZE FOR LATER: Follow steps 1 and 2. Place the seasoned pork and 1 cup of the BBQ sauce in a gallon-size freezer bag or container. Seal and freeze. Place the remaining 1 ⁄2 cup BBQ sauce in a small freezer bag or container and the buns in a separate freezer bag. Seal and freeze them alongside the pork.

PREPARE FROM FROZEN: Thaw. Place the pork in the slow cooker. Follow steps 4 through 6.

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich on a white plate

This is a great recipe to stock up on when pork goes on sale! Such an easy freezer meal and a great meal to take to others.

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Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 810 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This pulled pork recipe is a cinch to make when you whip it up in the crockpot. Add some BBQ sauce and your dinner is done!


Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) pork shoulder (also known as Boston butt), trimmed

  • 1.5 cups BBQ sauce, homemade or your favorite all-natural store-bought BBQ sauce


Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  2. Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels and rub it with the seasoning mix to coat all sides. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  3. Place the seasoned pork in the slow cooker and top with 1 cup of the BBQ sauce.
  4. Cover and cook on Low for 7 to 9 hours or on High for 4 to 5 hours, until the meat easily shreds.
  5. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and shred the meat. Return the meat to the slow cooker and stir it into the sauce.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to the toasted buns and top with the remaining BBQ sauce as desired. Serve.

FREEZE FOR LATER:

Follow steps 1 and 2. Place the seasoned pork and 1 cup of the BBQ sauce in a gallon-size freezer bag or container. Seal and freeze. Place the remaining 1 2 cup BBQ sauce in a small freezer bag or container and the buns in a separate freezer bag. Seal and freeze them alongside the pork.

PREPARE FROM FROZEN:

Thaw. Place the pork in the slow cooker. Follow steps 4 through 6.

Making this for a group of people? Here are more recipe ideas for large groups if you need some! You can also check out our 25+ Slow Cooker Recipes for a Crowd if you want more ideas.

Collage image of 20+ meal ideas for groups of people