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Slow cooked Pork Carnitas over a tortilla on a white plate

Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas

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I tested a Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas recipe which resulted in succulent morsels of meat with crispy edges and rave reviews from my family! Flavored with subtle orange and lime undertones along with oregano, bay, and cumin, this combination makes an unforgettable pork recipe.

Slow cooked Pork Carnitas on a white plate with a bamboo fork

Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas

It’s hard to be an expert on a recipe you’re making for the first time, especially when you’ve never even tasted the dish. But pork carnitas have been on my bucket list for a while, and this recipe did not disappoint. Cooked in its own fat, these tender morsels of seasoned pork developed delightfully crispy edges.

Rolled into tortillas with your favorite toppings, this pork was transformed into the perfect summer fare. My desire for this dish was magnified two weeks ago when two of my Sunday Supper friends made their versions for Cinco de Mayo. Susan, of Girl in the Little Red Kitchen, created some irresistible Duck Carnitas and my buddy, Annie, of From the Bookshelf made a more classic pork version.

Slow cooked Pork Carnitas in a tortilla on a white plate with avocado and orange garnishes

What are Authentic Pork Carnitas?

My inspiration was a Cook’s Illustrated pork carnitas recipe which called for slow cooking the pork in water infused with lime and orange juice along with oregano, cumin, and onion. When fork tender, these pork pieces were tossed in a reduction of the fat-laden (AKA extremely flavorful) juices, then broiled to get the classic crispy chunks of meat.

The word carnitas translates to “little meats” in Spanish. This Mexican dish originated in the state of Michoacán and is made by simmering pork in oil or lard, with the latter preferred.

  • Traditional Mexican pork carnitas are cooked in lard, but this healthier recipe is cooked in its own fat.
  • The flavors of orange, lime, onion, oregano, cumin, and bay help make up for the lack of lard. And it only takes minutes to throw together. The slow cooker does all the work!
  • Use a pork shoulder or pork butt for this recipe. It will be fall-apart tender after being slow-cooked and will shred like a dream.
  • The slow cooker is turned to high at the end of the cooking time to thicken the juices.
  • Once shredded, the succulent pork is broiled and it’s own fat helps make crispy pieces without using lard!
  • Serve these authentic pork carnitas with either corn or flour tortillas and all your favorite taco garnishes, you’ll go back for seconds, then thirds. Thinly sliced radishes are a classic accompaniment, but any of your favorite taco fixin’s will do.

My crew went with queso fresco (though Bill looked at it a bit suspiciously at first as he’s more of a cheddar guy) and salsa fresca while I piled on a little of everything. These slow-cooked pork carnitas were outstanding, trust me. The BEST entree I’ve made in ages!!!

Slow cooked Pork Carnitas on a white plate with tomatoes, avocadoes and citrus

Can Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas Be Made in an Instant Pot?

Yes, these authentic pork carnitas can be made in an Instant Pot or even in a Dutch oven in a traditional oven. Just cook until the meat is fall-apart tender, then broil as the recipe directs.

What Do You Serve with Pork Carnitas?

Go with a Tex- Mex menu which can include Beer Margaritas or Peach MargaritasGuacamole and chips, Spanish Rice, Spicy Mexican Corn Salad, Mini Margarita Cheesecakes or Tres Leches Cake.

A Few Slow Cooker Recipes You Might Enjoy:

Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas: A delicious method for crispy yet succulent pork! #Slowcooker #carnitas #texmex #pork #thatskinnychickcanbake
Pork Carnitas

Pork Carnitas

Succulent slow cooked pork crisped up in the broiled before serving

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Yield 6 servings


  • 3 1/2 pounds boneless pork butt roast/pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 orange, cut in half
  • Salt and pepper
  • For serving: corn or flour tortillas, queso fresco, pico de gallo, guacamole, sliced avocado, minced red onion, sprigs of cilantro, fresh lime wedges, sliced radishes, sour cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 300º.
  2. Place the pork chunks into a Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover the pork and then add onion, garlic, lime juice, oregano, cumin, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, and the juice from the orange along with the orange rinds. Stir, then bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Cover the pot and transfer to the lower middle rack of the oven. Cook for about 2-2½ hours or until the pork is fork tender.
  4. Remove the orange rinds, onion, and bay leaves. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack over the sheet. With a slotted spoon, remove the meat to a bowl. When cool enough to handle, break meat pieces in half, removing any excess fat. Set aside.
  5. Place Dutch oven over high heat and cook for about 15 minutes, till the juices are reduced to about a cup, stirring frequently. Pour the sauce over the meat, season with salt and pepper, mix to combine, then spread over a wire rack.
  6. Turn oven to broil and place pan on the lower middle rack. Broil till meat is brown and crispy, about 5-8 minutes, then flip and broil the other side.
  7. Serve while hot in tortillas with garnishes of your choice.


Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 979 Total Fat: 67g Saturated Fat: 24g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 36g Cholesterol: 263mg Sodium: 502mg Carbohydrates: 20g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 5g Sugar: 5g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 73g
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55 comments on “Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas”

  1. YUM!!! So full of flavor and that meat looks so juicy.

  2. Great recipe! We just love carnitas! Wish I had some right now!

  3. My favorite recipe for carnitas!

  4. One of my favorite meats! Makes the best tacos.

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