Carnitas is a Mexican dish made from pork that has been slow-cooked for hours and then fried until crispy. The crispy pork carnitas we are making are seasoned with cumin, oregano, and chili powder then slow cooked in orange juice until the fat breaks down and meat melts in your mouth!  

The pork is then shredded and fried in the oven until crispy. Use this delicious slow cooker Mexican pork carnitas recipe on carnitas tacos, burritos, enchiladas, salads, sliders and more! You’ll love making this Mexican restaurant classic right at home!

Two flour tortillas filled with slow cooker Mexican pulled pork carnitas, topped with chopped avocado and a side of tomatoes.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Best Mexican carnitas. These pulled pork street tacos are made with delicious pork that has been slowly cooked in orange juice and spices in the slow cooker, then marinated in the juices and broiled in the oven until slightly crisp. These are the best carnitas made right at home!
  • 10-minute dinner prep. It only takes 10 minutes to get things ready for this slow cooker carnitas recipe! Then let the slow cooker do the rest! 
  • Eat it plain or use it in another dish. You’ll love this carnitas recipe so much, you’ll just eat it off the pan! But you’ll also love serving it in tacos, on salads, in soups, and more! 

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients used to make Mexican Pulled Pork carnitas on a white background: pork butt, oranges, salt, chili powder, cumin, oregano, onion powder, and garlic powder.
  • Pork Shoulder Roast: This is also called the pork butt. 
  • Oranges: Using fresh oranges to make the orange juice provides great flavor! The citrus juice will help to break down the meat and tenderize it. 
  • Spices: The seasoning rub for the meat uses a combination of cumin, salt, oregano, chili powder, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Make the seasoning rub. To a small bowl add 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder. Mix to combine.
  2. Prepare the meat. Place the juice from 2 large oranges in the slow cooker. Cut the roast into 3 large chunks (make sure they are equal pieces) then rub with the seasoning mixture. Place the seasoned pork in the orange juice in the slow cooker.
  3. Slow cook. Cover and place on low for 6-8 hours. Remove the meat from the crock pot and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Save the juices from the slow cooker! 
Four photos showing the process of how to make pork carnitas, top left image is a glass bowl of seasonings and a bowl of orange juice on white background, top right is raw pork shoulder with seasoning rubbed on it, bottom left photo is raw seasoned pork in a black slow cooker, bottom right photo is juicy pork shoulder in a slow cooker.
  1. Shred meat. Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes. Using forks, shred the meat. Then drizzle the cooking liquid over top the shredded pork.
  2. Broil the carnitas meat. Place the pan in the oven and broil for 2-3 minutes or until the shredded meat has crispy edges. Remove from the oven.
  3. Serve the slow cooker pork carnitas! You can use this delicious slow cooker Mexican pork carnitas in tacos, quesadillas, burritos, salads, sliders, enchiladas, soups, and more! Then add your favorite toppings. We love making carnitas street tacos topped with fresh avocado, pico, cilantro, fresh tomatoes, and some fresh lime juice. Enjoy! 
Four images showing Mexican pulled pork on a baking sheet, top right image has leftover pork juice being poured overtop, bottom left is crispy pulled pork on a baking sheet, bottom right is pork carnitas in flour tortillas.

Recipe Tips

Use pork with skin removed but leave the fat on so you have juicy carnitas! If there is still any excess fat on the meat after slow cooking, you can trim that off. 

One thing you’ll noticed when the slow cooker is done, is the fat from the meat will slowly break down while cooking for a long time and will tenderize the meat even more! That’s why you don’t want to trim off the fat before cooking it. 

The orange juice will not only provide a sweet flavor, but the acidity will help to break down the meat so you’ll have deliciously tender pork. You’ll see some recipes will use Coke or beer for a similar reason. 

You can pan fry the meat if you want. I prefer the hands-off oven approach because I don’t have to stand by the stove. 

You can also try my Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe if you are looking for something more along those lines! 

Carnitas Toppings

You can serve the crispy carnitas in corn tortillas, hard taco shells, flour tortillas, etc.

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

You’ll need to plan a bit ahead of time for this slow cooker Mexican pork carnitas just because you need the time in the crock pot. 

I loved these pulled pork street tacos, but I feel like the leftover carnitas just got even better! 

Store any of the leftover pulled pork carnitas in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 6 days. 

To freeze leftover pulled pork tacos meat, just let the meat cool completely, then store in a freezer safe bag or container and freeze for up to 3 months. Remove and let thaw. 

Slow cooker Mexican shredded pork on a black plate on a white background.

Recipe FAQs

What are carnitas?

Carnitas, or “little meats” in Spanish, are tacos served with pork that has been cooked in the pork fat with spices until tender, then shredded and fried until crispy on the outside. 

What kind of meat is carnitas?

Pork.

What to serve with carnitas? 

I love serving pork carnitas with some fresh avocados, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and a squirt of lime. You can use the pork carnitas meat in burritos, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, salads, sliders and more! 

Why are my carnitas dry?

You probably over cooked them. Or you may have forgotten to pour the cooking liquid over the shredded meat before adding it to the broiler.

Should I cut the fat off pork before putting it in the slow cooker?

No. Keeping the fat on is important because during the slow cooking process, the fat will bread down and coat the meat, providing a tender and juicy texture. 

Does this carnitas recipe use lard?

Nope! See the question above for details. You don’t need the lard especially when we are leaving the fat on the meat! 

Carnitas on a Kraft colored parchment paper on a white background with avocado and tomatoes surrounding the carnitas.

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Mexican pulled pork inside a flour tortilla to make a carnitas, topped with avocado and a lime wedge.
Print Save Text Recipe Review
5 from 2 votes

Carnitas

Carnitas is a traditional Mexican dish made from pork that has been slow-cooked and then fried until crispy. The pork is seasoned with a combination of spices such as cumin, oregano, and chili powder, and then cooked in its own fat until tender and juicy.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients
 

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder roast - also called a pork butt
  • 2 large oranges - juiced (about 3/4 cup of fresh orange juice)

Seasoning Rub

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Equipment

Instructions
 

  • In a small bowl combine the cumin, salt, oregano, chili powder, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder. 
  • Place the orange juice in the slow cooker.
  • Cut the roast into 3 equal size pieces. Rub the pork roast with the seasoning. Then place inside the slow cooker. 
  • Cover and cook on LOW heat for 6-8 hours. 
  • Remove the roast from the slow cooker and place in a baking dish (with sides). Use two forks to shred the meat. Save the juices from cooking the meat. (We will drizzle this overtop of the meat when we broil it).
  • Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes. 
  • Spread the shredded meat on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the saved juices from cooking the meat, overtop of the shredded meat. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until parts of the meat begin to crisp. Remove from the oven. 
  • Serving: Can use this meat for tacos, quesadillas, burritos, tacos, salad, sliders, enchiladas, in taco soup or enchilada soup. We like to use tortillas and fill them with meat, top with diced avocado, guacamole, pico, cilantro, grated cheese, sour cream. Whatever you desire!

Notes

Use pork with skin removed but leave the fat on. It adds juiciness to the carnitas. And if there is excess fat it can be skimmed off later.

Nutrition

Calories: 182kcal (9%)Carbohydrates: 7g (2%)Protein: 21g (42%)Fat: 8g (12%)Saturated Fat: 3g (15%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 70mg (23%)Sodium: 666mg (28%)Potassium: 468mg (13%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 4g (4%)Vitamin A: 200IU (4%)Vitamin C: 25mg (30%)Calcium: 49mg (5%)Iron: 2mg (11%)
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
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