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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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

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. Carnitas YUM! It’s easier than I thought. Thanks for the recipe, will be trying this one out –pinning! 🙂

  2. 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:@)

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. Oh wow – those look and sound delicious!! I’ve never tried making them but am saving this recipe for sure! Thanks Liz!

  6. I think i’m gonna threat my lamb leg this way….
    slow cooking until the theat is fork tender, what could possibly better????

  7. I’ve saved the recipe and will be making this very soon. Carnitas are so good and it is time I made them too.

  8. 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!

  9. Carnitas are my son’s favorite meal! Yours look fabulous and I love that you made them in the slow cooker!

  10. Liz your carnitas look wonderful! I love these kind of meals!!

  11. Looks great – and those tiny little tomatoes are making me wish ours would hurry up!

  12. I’ve never heard of carnitas before, but I can see why you’d love them. They sound great!

  13. Those look so good, never had these before and I love the addition of the radishes!!

  14. 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.

  15. These are definitely one of my favorite slow cooker meals! They are so flavorful and easy to make!

  16. 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 🙂

  17. 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!

  18. 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!

  19. I love carnitas, so making it easier by using the crock pot sounds fabulous

  20. I have been wanting to try carnitas..this recipe is perfect!

  21. Liz I don’t think I’ve ever had a carnitas either but they sound very tasty and I do love Mexican dishes. I’ll have to try these sometime. Hope your having fun at the FBForum. Looking forward to hearing about it.

  22. It would be a first to try carnitas! This dish looks delicious 🙂

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  23. My meat eating guys would love these! I do love the crispy edges of any meat. Looks like one great recipe.

  24. What a great tortilla filling!

  25. I love carnitas but usually end up getting the premade stuff from Trader Joe’s (which is super tasty) … but now I have no excuse–this looks quite doable, and it’s going to the top of my list of things to try!

  26. I just love carnitas!! My mom used to make them all the time growing up. I need to make some again soon!

  27. I’ve been looking for a great carnitas recipe! Score! Thanks for sharing!

  28. Your carnitas look mouth-watering, I’d love these for dinner! 🙂

  29. Consider yourself an expert!

  30. I love long, slow cooking. There’s great comfort in knowing early in the day that dinner is prepared and there’s nothing more to be done. This looks like a mouth-watering recipe. I do hope your husband was up for it! xx

  31. You made these look like they were made by an expert! 🙂

  32. Yum, the carnitas sound so good. I love the ingredients that you used for the pork.

  33. Lizzy, I love Carnitas, and love your recipe! We have so many Mexican restaurants in our area, and most of them are so good and authentic, but I will be trying it out to make at home! xo

  34. These look great Liz !! Hmm and here I was expecting a pretty pastry 😉 ! Just kidding … you make great mains too ! Must try this recipe ! Yumm !

  35. look delicious Lizzy!

  36. This looks awesome! I still have a bag of tortillas, might just give this one a go! Thanks, Liz, for sharing.

  37. Love carnitas. I make a recipe in the crock pot with beer. I will have to try this addition. Bet the orange makes it extra yummy!

  38. Mmmmmmm…..the only thing missing is a side of mole ;P. No really, your carnitas look delicious, Liz!

  39. I’ve always wanted to make carnitas. I get it often when we go out, but we’ve never attempted at home.

  40. Dame, dame, dame de esas carnitas (Give me, give me, give me these carnitas). This is a great dish per se and wrapped in a tortilla with cheese and sour cream is even better. Eating it would put a happy smile on on face!!!

  41. We love making tacos in our house. This dish looks and sounds delicious! And always a good recipe for during the week. Thanks!

  42. I am much fonder of pork than beef, so this dish would definitely make me happy.

  43. Love these. And they sound easy to make too. Thanks for the idea.

    We’re having a party at Tumbleweed Contessa and I’d love it if you brought these over.
    http://www.tumbleweedcontessa.com/blog/whatd-you-do-this-weekend-16/

    Wishes for Tasty Dishes,
    Linda

  44. For the first time out of the gate making carintas… you won a blue ribbon!! Then again… you do everything wonderfully. 🙂

  45. Now this is carnitas done right! Gotta have a little orange and I do love the addition of the lime. These look positively delicious!

  46. Lizzy,
    I’ve never had carnitas either. You did a great job and I’ve already pinned.
    Annamaria

  47. Yum! Love this, Lizzy. Hope you’re having a great week.

  48. I get carnitas at the local fair every year and look forward to them. but they have been on my cooking bucket list too. Yours sound delicious, Liz.

  49. I love carnitas! These look so good and easy to make. I can’t wait to make them for dinner next week.

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