Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe

If you are lucky enough to live in an area where Mexican food is readily available, chances are that carnitas is one of your go-to orders. This dish is basically the south-of-the-border version of pulled pork, and recipe developer Hayley MacLean describes it as "ultra moist and flavorful," adding that "it basically melts in your mouth!" She explains that carnitas is traditionally made from an inexpensive cut of meat — the pork shoulder — and notes that it works really well as it is marbled and comes out perfectly tender and juicy when cooked low and slow. 

While this dish contains some of the seasonings you'd expect to see in traditional Mexican cuisine, what might come as somewhat of a surprise is the orange. MacLean explains that the citrus juice "adds the perfect amount of acidity and sweetness to balance the savory spices and pork," which helps cut through some of the richness from the fat. The acidity of the juice also tenderizes the meat, something MacLean says will result in "a super succulent final dish!"

Gather the ingredients for slow cooker carnitas

As we mentioned, you'll be making this dish using a pork shoulder. If you've got another cut of pork in the freezer or for some reason you can't get hold of a shoulder, MacLean does say that "a leg or loin roast will work in its place." You'll also need the aforementioned orange, both the juice and rind, as well as a yellow onion and garlic cloves. Spices include the usual suspects: oregano, cumin, and chili powder. You'll also need a bit of olive oil and some chicken stock for cooking.

Prepare the produce and seasonings

First off, peel and slice the onion into wedges, then peel and mince the garlic. Slice the orange in half and squeeze out the juice, but don't toss the orange peel. You can leave the peel as it is — no need to scrape your knuckles zesting it. MacLean tells us that including the entire rind, pith and all, "adds a wonderfully subtle citrusy, bitter flavor to the dish." Mix the dry spices, garlic, and olive oil with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 ½ teaspoon of black pepper, and set the seasoning aside while you unwrap the pork.

Add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker

Place the pork in your slow cooker and cover it with the spice mixture, doing your best to rub it over every bit of the surface. Now add the rest of the ingredients to the pot: orange juice, orange peel, onion, and chicken stock. Set the slow cooker to high and let the meat cook for 4 hours, at which point the pork should be tender and ready to shred. If you'd like to let the dish cook overnight or while you're at work, you can also cook it on a low setting for 8 hours. (Yes, we know that doesn't account for commute time, but that's what the keep warm function is for.)

Serve the carnitas warm

Once the time is up and the pork is fork-tender, take it out of the pot and shred it using two forks, meat claws, or whatever your preferred shredding implement may be. Mix a small amount of the juices left in the pot into the shredded pork so that it stays moist, and serve it before it cools down.

As to how to serve carnitas, that's up to you, but know that shredded meat is very versatile. MacLean says, "I love serving this carnitas on a potato bun with a heap of creamy coleslaw on top, or in a taco with some cabbage, radish, and a squeeze of lime juice!" The meat can also be rolled into a flour tortilla as a burrito, used to top nachos, or eaten on a bed of rice with a side of beans. If you aren't serving a crowd, you'll likely have leftovers from this recipe. MacLean assures us they'll be fine in the fridge for five days, or you can also freeze the meat and reheat it at a later time.

Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe
5 from 46 ratings
This succulent slow cooker carnitas recipe is the perfect meat dish to enjoy with rice, beans, tortillas, or as a burger. Try it for an easy and filling meal.
Prep Time
Cook Time
carnitas tacos
Total time: 4 hours, 15 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 to 4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 orange, juice and rind
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  1. Combine the oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil.
  2. Place the pork shoulder in the slow cooker and rub it all over with the spice mixture.
  3. Add the onion, orange juice, orange peel, and chicken stock to the slow cooker.
  4. Cook the pork on high for 4 hours until it falls apart when shredded with a fork.
  5. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and reserve some of the juices.
  6. Shred the pork and mix the meat with a small amount of the pork juices.
  7. Serve the carnitas warm.
Calories per Serving 701
Total Fat 51.1 g
Saturated Fat 17.1 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 190.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 9.1 g
Dietary Fiber 1.5 g
Total Sugars 4.2 g
Sodium 910.2 mg
Protein 48.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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