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Slow Cooker Carnitas

Slow Cooker Carnitas is a popular Mexican dish made by slowly cooking pork shoulder until it becomes tender and juicy, then shredding it into small pieces. This delicious and flavorful dish is typically served in tacos, burritos, or as a main course with rice and beans. Slow cooking the pork shoulder with aromatic spices such as cumin, chili powder, and garlic infuses the meat with bold flavors and results in a mouthwatering dish that is easy to make and perfect for feeding a crowd. Whether you are a fan of Mexican cuisine or looking for a new recipe to try, Slow Cooker Carnitas is a dish that is sure to please everyone at the table.

What does slow cooker carnitas taste like?

Slow cooker carnitas have a rich and savory flavor that is a combination of the tender, juicy pork and the aromatic spices used in the recipe. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to fully develop, resulting in a dish that is both bold and flavorful.

The pork is typically seasoned with cumin, chili powder, and garlic, which gives it a slightly smoky and earthy taste. The dish may also have a slightly sweet undertone from the addition of orange juice or other sweeteners. Overall, slow cooker carnitas have a satisfying and complex flavor that is sure to please any fan of Mexican cuisine.

Which kinds of carnitas can you make in slow cooker?

A slow cooker is a great tool for making all kinds of carnitas. Here are some different types of carnitas you can make in a slow cooker:

  1. Traditional Pork Carnitas: Made with pork shoulder, onions, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and other spices, this classic recipe is perfect for tacos, burritos, and more.
  2. Beef Carnitas: Swap out the pork for beef chuck roast to create a delicious and hearty alternative.
  3. Chicken Carnitas: If you’re looking for a lighter option, chicken thighs can be cooked in a slow cooker with spices, lime juice, and garlic to create tender and flavorful carnitas.
  4. Vegetarian Carnitas: Even if you’re a vegetarian, you can still enjoy the flavors and textures of carnitas. Jackfruit or tofu can be cooked in a slow cooker with spices, onions, and garlic to create a meat-free alternative.
  5. Overall, a slow cooker is a versatile tool that can be used to make a variety of carnitas recipes to suit your tastes and dietary preferences.

Why should you make carnitas in slow cooker?

Slow cooker carnitas are a great way to prepare this classic Mexican dish for several reasons:

  1. Easy to make: Slow cookers are known for their convenience and ease of use, and slow cooker carnitas are no exception. Simply season the pork shoulder with your favorite spices, add some liquid, and let the slow cooker do the work. The result is a flavorful and tender meat that can be shredded easily.
  2. Saves time: Slow cooker carnitas can save you time in the kitchen because the slow cooker does all the work for you. This means you can prepare the meat in the morning and let it cook all day, leaving you free to attend to other tasks.
  3. Makes tender meat: Slow cooking pork shoulder in a slow cooker allows the meat to become extremely tender and juicy. This is because the low and slow cooking process breaks down the connective tissue and allows the meat to absorb the flavors of the spices and other ingredients.
  4. Large batch cooking: Slow cooker carnitas are perfect for feeding a crowd, as they can easily be made in large batches. This makes them ideal for parties, potlucks, or meal prep for the week.
  5. Versatile: Slow cooker carnitas can be used in a variety of dishes, such as tacos, burritos, salads, or served with rice and beans. They are also a great addition to your meal planning as they can be made ahead of time and used in different recipes throughout the week.

Overall, making carnitas in a slow cooker is a convenient, time-saving, and delicious way to prepare this classic Mexican dish.

How to make carnitas in slow cooker

Here is a basic recipe for making carnitas in a slow cooker:


  • 3-4 lbs. pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice


  1. In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Rub the spice mixture over the pork shoulder pieces, making sure they are well coated.
  2. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the slow cooker. Place the pork shoulder on top of the onion and garlic.
  3. Pour the orange juice and lime juice over the pork.
  4. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the pork is tender and falls apart easily.
  5. Once the pork is cooked, remove it from the slow cooker and shred it with a fork. Discard any large pieces of fat.
  6. Place the shredded pork back in the slow cooker and stir it in with the juices and onions.
  7. Turn the slow cooker to high and cook for an additional 30-45 minutes, or until the juices are mostly absorbed and the pork is slightly crispy on the outside.
  8. Serve the carnitas with tortillas, fresh cilantro, diced onion, and lime wedges, or use them as a filling for tacos, burritos, or bowls.

Enjoy your delicious and tender slow cooker carnitas!

What can slow cooker carnitas be used for?

Slow cooker carnitas can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Tacos: Shred the cooked carnitas and serve them in soft or crispy tortillas, topped with diced onions, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.
  2. Burritos: Wrap the carnitas in a large tortilla with rice, beans, cheese, and your favorite toppings.
  3. Bowls: Serve the carnitas over a bed of rice or quinoa, with black beans, avocado, salsa, and other toppings of your choice.
  4. Salads: Use the carnitas as a protein source in a Mexican-style salad, with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and a tangy dressing.
  5. Nachos: Top tortilla chips with shredded carnitas, cheese, jalapeños, and other toppings for a delicious and hearty snack.
  6. Sandwiches: Use the carnitas as a filling for a Mexican-style sandwich, with avocado, tomato, and mayo or sour cream.
  7. Breakfast: Serve the carnitas with scrambled eggs, tortillas, and salsa for a filling breakfast.

Overall, slow cooker carnitas are a versatile dish that can be used in a variety of ways to create delicious and satisfying meals.

How long does it take to make carnitas in slow cooker?

Typically, it takes 8-10 hours to make carnitas in a slow cooker. The pork shoulder needs to cook on low heat for a long period of time to become tender and fall apart easily.

However, cooking times may vary depending on the size and thickness of the pork shoulder pieces, as well as the individual slow cooker. It’s best to check the pork for doneness after about 8 hours of cooking and continue cooking if needed until the meat is tender and fully cooked.

Tips for making carnitas in slow cooker

Here are some tips for making carnitas in a slow cooker:

  1. Choose the right cut of pork: Pork shoulder is the best cut for making carnitas in a slow cooker. Look for a pork shoulder with a good amount of marbling and fat, as this will help keep the meat moist and tender during cooking.
  2. Trim excess fat: While pork shoulder needs some fat to stay moist and tender, it’s a good idea to trim away any large chunks of fat that won’t melt away during cooking.
  3. Use a rub: A spice rub helps flavor the pork and creates a nice crust on the outside of the meat. Be sure to rub the spices all over the pork for maximum flavor.
  4. Add aromatics: Onion and garlic add flavor and depth to the carnitas. Be sure to chop them finely and spread them out evenly in the slow cooker.
  5. Use citrus juices: Orange and lime juice not only add flavor to the carnitas, but also help tenderize the meat. Be sure to use fresh citrus juice for the best flavor.
  6. Don’t add too much liquid: The pork will release its own juices as it cooks, so you don’t need to add too much extra liquid to the slow cooker. In fact, too much liquid can make the carnitas too soupy.
  7. Shred the meat: Once the pork is cooked, remove it from the slow cooker and shred it with a fork. This will help distribute the flavors and create a more tender texture.
  8. Crisp up the carnitas: To get that crispy texture on the outside of the carnitas, transfer the shredded meat to a baking sheet and broil it in the oven for a few minutes. This will help create that signature texture and flavor of carnitas.

By following these tips, you can create delicious and tender slow cooker carnitas that are sure to be a hit with your family and friends.

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