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Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

two carnitas tacos on a plate topped with cilantro, red onion, radish and salsa.

These flavorful pork carnitas are made easy in the slow cooker! Make healthier carnitas with pork loin, or go the traditional route with pork shoulder. Either way, you get tender, perfectly spiced Mexican pulled pork for the most delicious carnitas tacos! (gluten-free)

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2-3 lb center cut pork loin roast (or boneless pork shoulder for more traditional carnitas)
  • 1 small orange, sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you can find it)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for crisping in the skillet

Instructions

  1. Place orange and onion slices in the bottom of your slow cooker. Add garlic and bay leaf.
  2. In a small bowl, combine cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt, pepper, cinnamon and cloves. Rub spice mixture all over the outside of the roast. Rub with olive oil and place in the slow cooker.
  3. Cook on LOW 4-6 hours or until pork easily shreds.
  4. Use two forks to shred the pork into bite-sized pieces. You can also use a stand mixer to shred the meat if you'd like. Be sure to discard the bay leaf and any pieces of orange peel.
  5. Optional: Crisp the carnitas. Place a cast iron skillet on the stove over medium high heat. Heat a drizzle of olive oil and add shredded pork. Cook, until crisp on the edges, stirring occasionally. Moisten with juices from the slow cooker.
  6. Serve carnitas with warm corn tortillas and any toppings you like. You could also serve on a salad or in a burrito bowl.

Notes

  • Orange Juice - Some people like to make carnitas with orange juice to give it the orange flavor. This is a good option if you don't have any fresh oranges. Simply add about 1/2 cup of orange juice to the bottom of the slow cooker in place of orange slices.
  • Pork Roast or Pork Shoulder - You can absolutely use a more fatty pork shoulder roast or "Boston Butt" for this recipe. Cut the roast into baseball-sized chunks before rubbing with spices and adding to the slow cooker. You may need to add 1-2 hours to the cook time to get the meat nice and tender.
  • Crisping Under The Broiler - If you'd rather get the carnitas crispy under the broiler, go for it! Spread the shredded pork in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toss with a little bit of the liquid from the slow cooker and broil on high for 3-5 minutes or until the edges start to sizzle and crisp. Watch carefully so the meat doesn't burn!
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I like to reheat them in a cast iron skillet.

Keywords: slow cooker carnitas, healthy carnitas, slow cooker carnitas with pork loin