Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas
I tested a Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas 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.
This Pulled Pork Recipe is delicious comfort food that’s equally as welcome for a family dinner as for company! Everyone loves this dish!
Why You Must Make
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 traditional pork carnitas have been on my bucket list for a while, and this recipe did not disappoint.
- Cooked in their own fat, these tender morsels of seasoned pork developed delightfully crispy edges.
- Made with the cut of pork I prefer for my pulled pork, this Pork Shoulder Carnitas recipe is amazing served as tacos.
- First cooked in a Dutch oven, then shredded and broiled to get browned, it’s impossible to resist the tender and crispy pork carnitas!
Rolled into tortillas with your favorite toppings, this pork was transformed into the perfect summer fare.
Tips for Making 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. Park it in a covered Dutch oven, slide it into the oven, and relax as it cooks away!
- 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.
- Once shredded, the succulent pork is broiled and its own fat helps make crispy pieces without using lard!
- Serve this pork carnitas recipe 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!!!
Frequently Asked Questions
Carnitas is the Mexican word for “little meats.” Traditionally, carnitas are small pieces of fried pork. They start with an inexpensive cut of pork which is first simmered in a bit of water, then fried in pork fat until well browned.
Carnitas are served with salsa plus also can be the filling for tacos and burritos.
Look for a pork shoulder AKA pork butt to make your carnitas. This cut is well-marbled and the higher fat content is ideal for a long braising time. The fat melts away as the pork cooks, keeping the meat tender and juicy.
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.
Go with a Tex- Mex menu which can include Beer Margaritas or Peach Margaritas, Guacamole and chips, Spanish Rice, Spicy Mexican Corn Salad, Mini Margarita Cheesecakes or Tres Leches Cake.
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Succulent slow cooked pork crisped up in the broiled before serving
- 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: See list in notes
- Preheat the oven to 300º.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve while hot in tortillas with garnishes of your choice.
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.
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 979Total Fat: 67gSaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 36gCholesterol: 263mgSodium: 502mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 73g
54 Comments on “Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas”
I love carnitas, so making it easier by using the crock pot sounds fabulous
Carnitas are wonderful! One of my favorite dishes to order in a Mexican restaurant. I’ve made them before, but it’s been ages and ages. Of course now you have me hungry for these! Something I need to try, and soon – thanks!
Liz, these look incredible! So glad you gave it a chance, and this version sounds perfect! Love that you added sliced radishes also, I’ve been wanting to try that. Beautiful recipe, and presentation!
Liz – I am so excited about this dish. It looks so good and easy enough for me to make on a weekday. Thank you so much 🙂
These are definitely one of my favorite slow cooker meals! They are so flavorful and easy to make!
Carnitas is one of my favorite things in the world. My recipe uses orange juice too. That acidic flavor with spices like cumin and oregano go so well together.
Those look so good, never had these before and I love the addition of the radishes!!
I’ve never heard of carnitas before, but I can see why you’d love them. They sound great!
Looks great – and those tiny little tomatoes are making me wish ours would hurry up!
This looks sooo good Liz!
Liz your carnitas look wonderful! I love these kind of meals!!
Carnitas are my son’s favorite meal! Yours look fabulous and I love that you made them in the slow cooker!
Carnitas are pretty awesome right? Also possible to resist. I love this recipe from CI. Basically the reason why I haven’t tried pork is because I didn’t want to deal with all the fat, but this solves it!
I’ve saved the recipe and will be making this very soon. Carnitas are so good and it is time I made them too.
I think i’m gonna threat my lamb leg this way….
slow cooking until the theat is fork tender, what could possibly better????
Oh wow – those look and sound delicious!! I’ve never tried making them but am saving this recipe for sure! Thanks Liz!
I have the pork in my freezer ready to make this for the first time. I never tried them either, but so many can´t be wrong! And your description picks my interest even more. Gorgeous Liz!
I’m not much of a pork or meat person, Liz…But, your description and photo of the crispy edged morsels kind of has me reverting to younger self cravings =)
Have a beautiful Sunday!
It’s 5AM and I’m craving this for breakfast! I’ve never had carnitas, only because my own picky eater “doesn’t like citrus”… ugh. I think I’ll have to try them and open a can of refried beans for him:@)
Carnitas YUM! It’s easier than I thought. Thanks for the recipe, will be trying this one out –pinning! 🙂