These Slow Cooker Carnitas (AKA Mexican Pulled Pork) is generously seasoned, slow-cooked until fall-of-the-bone tender, then seared to caramelized perfection! With a sweet and savory flavor combo, these pork strands are tender and juicy with crunchy edges. They are perfect on their own but are spectacular with rice, warm tortillas, or Pico de Gallo on the side.
The Best Homemade Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe
Also known as Mexican Pork Carnitas, this shredded pork recipe is common in most Mexican restaurants and is usually used as a filling for tortilla wraps, burritos, or tacos or as toppings for nachos. If you have ever wondered how they make the pork shreds super soft with so much flavor, then this recipe will let you in on the secret!
It’s all about the spices, herbs, and seasoning used- the perfect blend of Mexican flavors. They are a mixture of sweet, earthy, tangy, and warm flavors that seeps into the pork as it slowly cooks for a long time. Plus, the lime and orange juice make the meat really soft! Once the meat is fork-tender, it is then seared in a large skillet with the same braising juice to give it that roasted, deeply caramelized taste! So next time you are in the mood for some Mexican food, this slow cooker Pork Carnitas recipe should top your list together with my Taco Pie, Chicken Fajita Crunchwrap, and Frito Chili Pie! Anyone up for a Cinco de Mayo theme party?
Why this Recipe Works
- It is so easy to make! Yes, I know it takes hours to make, but this recipe will keep you busy for a measly 10 minutes only. Most of the work will be done by your slow cooker or crockpot.
- This authentic Carnitas recipe is more economical and infinitely more delicious than most of the ones you order from your Mexican restaurant. That is because you have complete control over the amount of sweetness, savoriness, and spiciness that pleases your palate!
- This is a freezer-friendly dish that you can make a big batch of ahead of time and enjoy for lunch or dinner any day of the week you feel like it.
- There are various ways to enjoy these crispy pork carnitas! Aside from my favorite ways mentioned above, you can also eat these with enchiladas, quesadillas, tamales, sandwiches, pizza, soups, and salads!
- Brown sugar
- Olive oil
- Jalapeno pepper
Kitchen Supplies You’ll Need
- Slow cooker
- Cutting board
How to Make Mexican Pulled Pork Carnitas at Home
- Rinse the roast and dry it well.
- Remove seeds from the jalapeno pepper before slicing it.
- Dice the onion and halve the orange and lime.
Step 1: Make the Dry Rub. In a medium bowl, mix brown sugar, ground cumin, oregano, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and paprika together. Then add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
Step 2.: Season the Pork. Rub the mixture all over the pork butt. Then place it in the slow cooker with the fat side up. Place the jalapeno pepper and chopped onion around the roast. Squeeze the orange and lime juice all over the roast and place them in the slow cooker too.
Step 3: Cook the Roast. At high power for 8 hours.
Step 4: Cool and Shred: Once done, let the cooked pork cool down on a cutting board, then proceed to shred pork.
Step 5: Sear. Heat the remaining olive oil in the cast iron skillet over high heat. Place ¼ of the pork shreds in the skillet and add ¼ of the braising juice. Press the meat down the bottom of the hot pan and let the pork cook and brown before moving them. Cook by batches until all meat has been seared.
Step 6: Serve as is or drizzle some of the remaining juice if desired. Enjoy!
Tips when Making Mexican Pulled Pork
- This recipe calls for long and slow cooking time. Don’t cut it short to enjoy the best pork carnitas you can ever have. If you are planning to serve this for lunch the next day, you can season and slow cook the meat the night before. If you expect to cook this longer than 8 hours, use low heat or power instead and cook it for up to 12 hours.
- Do not overcrowd your pan when searing the meat. Or else your shreds will turn soggy and oily instead of browned and crisp.
- Leave the shreds to sear undisturbed for a few minutes instead of constantly moving them around the pan. This is the only way for you to get those perfectly crunchy edges.
- Make sure to let the pork rest for a few minutes before shredding it. This will allow the juices to distribute evenly.
- If your pork is not shredding easily, it needs more time in the slow cooker. Shredding should be effortless, with the strands almost falling off on their own.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas may be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. If you are planning on keeping them longer, place them in a freezer-friendly bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Make sure to indicate the date on the container to know until when it can still be reheated.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, either will work fine in this recipe.
You can, however, I find that if you sear the meat in a skillet after shredding it, you get a really nice crisp to the meat, and you don’t need to brown it ahead of time.
I find that the searing makes a huge difference to the flavor of the meat.
No, it is not spicy. If you would like the meat to be spicier, you could add more jalapeno peppers, chili powder, and some red chili pepper flakes.
No, pulled pork requires higher fat meat. You could use a fatty boneless pork shoulder, but not a pork loin as it is too lean.
It means that it is still undercooked, and the connective tissues have not yet melted. Place it back in the slow cooker until it becomes tender.
Some ingredients use broth, apple juice, or even beer. I have not tried those, so I cannot vouch for the results.
If you’ve tried this Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork or any other recipe on my site, let me know in the comment section how they turned out. We love hearing from you! You can also follow along with me on FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM to see more colorful recipes!
- 4 pound pork butt
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium jalapeno pepper
- 1 medium onion
- 1 medium orange
- 1 medium lime
- Rinse the roast and dry it well.
- In a medium size bowl, mix together brown sugar, ground cumin, oregano, salt, garlic powder, peper, and paprika. Stir in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
- Rub this mixture all over the pork butt. Place the seasoned pork into the slow cooker, fat on top.
- Remove seeds from the jalapeno pepper, slice it up and place it on and around the roast.
- Dice the onion and place it on and around the roast.
- Halve the orange and squeeze the juice over the roast, add the orange halves to the slow cooker.
- Halve the lime and squeeze the juice over the roast, add the lime halves to the slow cooker.
- Cook the roast at high power for 8 hours.
- Remove the roast from the pot and place it onto a cutting board. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Then shred the meat using 2 forks.
- Place the remaining 1 Tablespoon of olive oil into a large skillet. Heat the skillet to high heat.
- Next, we will caramelize the pork by frying it (in batches- we don’t want to crowd it). Place about ¼ of the shredded pork and about cup ¼ of the juices from the crock pot in the skillet. Press the meat onto the bottom and allow it to sear. Continue this until all of the meat has been seared.
- Place the seared meat into your serving container. You may serve the meat drizzled with some of the remaining juices from the crock pot if you like.
Storage InstructionsPork carnitas may be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. If you are planning on keeping them longer, place them in a freezer-friendly bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Make sure to indicate the date on the container to know until when it can still be reheated.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Does it matter if I use a bone-in or boneless roast? No, either will work fine in this recipe.
- Should I brown the meat before putting it into the slow cooker? You can, however, I find that if you sear the meat in a skillet after shredding it, you get a really nice crisp to the meat, and you don’t need to brown it ahead of time.
- Is it really necessary to sear the meat after it has been cooked in the crock pot? I find that the searing makes a huge difference to the flavor of the meat.
- Is this dish really spicy? No, it is not spicy. If you would like the meat to be spicier, you could add more jalapeno peppers, chili powder, and some red chili pepper flakes.
- Could I use a pork loin instead of a pork butt roast? No, pulled pork requires higher fat meat. You could use a fatty boneless pork shoulder, but not a pork loin as it is too lean.
- Why is my slow cooker Carnitas tough? It means that it is still undercooked, and the connective tissues have not yet melted. Place it back in the slow cooker until it becomes tender.
- Can I use other liquids aside from citrus juice? Some ingredients use broth, apple juice, or even beer. I have not tried those, so I cannot vouch for the results.