Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas


There are several debates on the proper manufacture of carnitas. For the absolute purist, carnitas must be made by simmering meat in manteca (or lard) for a very long time. This isn’t really practical in many most home kitchens. It is much safer to do outside. It’s also a very labor-intensive method, as the pot has to be supervised at all times for safety reasons, so we’re not going there today.

The other big debate comes into play when serving carnitas. Many people believe they should be shredded, much like pulled pork. My wife and I disagree and prefer ours cubed, which makes it perfect for picking up with a fresh flour tortilla, as the topping for a salad, or as the perfect addition to a soup or sauce. (But hey, if you want yours shredded, you won’t hurt my feelings any.) The really cool part about carnitas is that they take at least 4 hours to make, which makes them perfect for the slow cooker.

Slow cookers are cool. We’re all in agreement on that, right? Nobody thinks of the crock pot as something that your Grandmother used in the 70’s and that we should avoid using any more, do they? Of course not.  That would be silly. Slow cookers are incredible at what they do best. They cook food slowly, all day or all night, so that it’s ready for you when you’re ready for it.

That’s the beauty of this recipe. It’s a toss it in the cooker and forget about it for 4 to 8 hours, though you may be tempted to try to rush the process once the aromas of cooking start to fill your house! It’s perfect for a weeknight meal for a family on the go and equally soul-food satisfying enough to serve for a sit-down Sunday supper, which is what we did last week.

Carnitas are also perfect for picky eaters, since they can be used as a taco filling and you can just let all the little ones add the toppings that they like. That way everyone gets to tailor dinner to their liking.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
  • 3 to 4 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp chipotle chile powder or ancho chile powder
  • 4 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 3 Tbsp ground cumin
  • The juice of 1 orange
  • The juice of 1 lime
  1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir to combine.
  2. Cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours.
  3. Serve with tortillas or your favorite sides.
  4. Share and enjoy!

What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time: dd

While I might play with the spices a bit, this turned out marvelously and the entire family gobbled it up. I’m calling that a win, so it’s good to go in our humble opinion!

Links to other recipes like this:

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  1. says

    Sheeeyuh! I know, right? It’s pork, it comes out wonderful no matter how it’s properly cooked. We’ve done 2 carnitas runs here at Meathenge Labs over the last month. I ran it through the oven at 300 until it got to over 210, rubbed well. Shredded, then pan fried with more of the rub in oil until crispy bits form. And speaking of rub, thank you for the confirmation. I’ve been using a base of chile powder, but noticed the cumin and oregano action wasn’t quite coming up front enough. Next time will use chile powder, cumin and oregano as the base, all in the same proportions. I think I used 3 tablespoons of cumin to the 4 of chile powder last time, 2 or 3 on the oregano. Yahoooooo.
    xo, Biggles

  2. says


    I wanted to stop by, mention a somethingorother that I did last week. I’m not really sure what to call it. Took a 4 pound bone-in pork butt, rubbed it with something similar you did. Browned it in a cast iron dutch, removed. Browned a white onion, fire roasted and sliced pasilla peppers (3), roasted maybe a pound and a half tomatillos (whizzed up chunky smooth), 1 fire roasted jalapeno and added a cup of chicken broth. Simmered at 300 for 5 hours with the lid on. I shredded the pork butt while IN the brothy slurry, served in toasted corn tortillas. Juice to meat ratio was PERFECT. The red chile powder in the rub kinda steered the final flavors away from a traditional chile verde. Was fricken GREAT.
    xo, Biggles


  1. […] Speaking of outdoor food, I love to order carnitas when I go to a Mexican restaurant, but I’ve never tried making them at home, because I don’t have hours to spend in the backyard simmering the meat in lard. Fortunately, Jerry Russell has a slow-cooker version that takes just 10 minutes of prep time. Throw your pork into the pot with some spices and citrus juice, then go to work and forget about it until dinnertime. I can not wait to try this -now to find Mexican oregano at my local store. ( […]

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