For this recipe, we'll be cooking a pork butt low and slow until it's tender, juicy, and flavorful. Then we give it a quick sear to get those nice crispy brown bits that make carnitas so tasty. This is a simple recipe that only takes a few minutes to put together, and it's great for meal prep. You can use it in tacos, rice bowls, burritos, or with some spiced roasted vegetables for an easy, delicious meal.
What are pork carnitas?
Carnitas translates to "little meats" and are the Mexican version of pulled pork. Traditionally they're made by slowly braising pork butt in lard until the meat is falling apart tender. In this recipe, I veer a bit away from the authentic preparation by eliminating the lard but the result is still tender, juicy, flavorful meat.
Why I love this easy recipe:
- extremely delicious
- makes a big batch
- works great for meal prep
- only requires 5 minutes of hands-on time
- made with simple, whole ingredients
- the slow cooker does all the work
- it makes the house smell amazing
- great for entertaining or feeding a crowd
- perfect when it's too hot to cook
Using a cut of pork aside from the butt is not recommended. Pork butt comes from the shoulder and is full of fat which gives this recipe tender, juicy, flavorful meat.
Please do not skip this step. Those brown, crispy bits add even more flavor and texture to the carnitas.
If you can't find a 4 pound butt it's ok to use two smaller ones. Just be sure to rub them both all over with the spice rub.
I do not recommend cooking these carnitas on high for half the time. The meat will not be as flavorful as when it is slowly simmered.
Yes! Leftover carnitas freeze perfectly. Just be sure you do not brown the meat before you freeze it. When you're ready to eat your frozen carnitas, be sure to thaw them, then give them a good sear in a skillet until browned.
Carnitas will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days.
You can brown your carnitas if you'd like before you store the leftovers, but I prefer to brown them right before serving. This results in the ultimate flavor and crispiness. If you do decide to brown the meat before storing it, I recommend drizzling the meat with the juices before you reheat it.
I have a great oval crockpot that I've been using for years and it works perfectly for this. You'll want to be sure your crockpot can hold at least 6 quarts.
What to serve with your carnitas
My favorite way to eat carnitas is in tacos. You can use flour, corn, or grain-free tortillas. I like to drizzle the juices over the meat then top it with a squeeze of lime, some freshly chopped lettuce and tomato, cilantro, avocado slices, salsa, and a drizzle of crema or some grated cheese (vegan feta works as a great substitution for cojita). If you have some pickled onions those are great with these carnitas, too.
You can also serve carnitas with a side of roasted vegetables and rice, or in enchiladas, burritos, sandwiches, quesadillas, or taquitos.
Other recipes you might like:
Easy Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
- 4 lb pork butt
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- the juice from 2 oranges about ¾ cup
- the juice from 2 limes about ¼ cup
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil olive oil works too
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Dry your pork butt with a paper towl and place it in to your slow cooker. Set your cooker to low.
- Combine all of your spices in a small bowl, then rub them on all sides of the pork butt.
- Add the garlic, onion, bay leaf, and orange and lime juices to the pot.
- Cover the pot and cook the pork for 10 hours, until it shreds apart easily with a fork.
- Shred your pork using two forks, until it's all shredded down into thin strips.
- Heat the avocado oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Use a slotted spoon to pull some of the pork out and add it to your skillet.
- Cook the pork undisturbed for a few minutes. Don't stir it or flip it until the juices have cooked off and the bottom is nice and crispy. Then flip the pork over and let it cook for about 2 minutes on the other side just until it's crispy.
- See the post above for serving suggestions. Don't forget to drizzle the browned meat with the juices right before serving. Enjoy!