Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas, the Mexican version of pulled pork, cook all day in a crock pot until tender, moist, and flavorful. Always a family favorite, serve these carnitas on tortillas drizzled with a fresh and tangy homemade chimichurri sauce and a dollop of sour cream.
This easy, no-fuss recipe can be made with a pork shoulder roast, a leaner pork loin roast, or even a Boston pork butt. Season the meat with a mixture of spices, fresh herbs, and citrus juices, then set it and forget it—letting the slow cooker do all the work!
Once it’s done—it should be literally falling off the bone—shred the meat with two forks back to back. Toss it in some of the cooking juices and keep warm until ready to serve. Or, if you like your pork carnitas with some crispy edges, place the pork in a pan under the broiler for just a few minutes.
This Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas recipe is a great one for football parties, casual dinner parties, Taco Tuesday, or any day of the week you get a craving for delicious Mexican food at home.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas with Chimichurri
Let me tell you, a few years ago when the first Chipotle Mexican Grill opened in Knoxville, I was so excited. I’d eaten at a location on a business trip to Houston and immediately became a fan of their take on fresh, quick Mexican food.
Normally, I almost always order a chicken burrito bowl and if it’s not a burrito bowl, it’s a chicken taco, and if it’s not a chicken taco, it’s a chicken salad. I don’t know why I’m such a creature of habit, but it took me a long time to sneak a bite of my hubby’s pork carnitas bowl. Of course, I immediately loved it!
Carnitas are traditionally made by braising the meat, sometimes in oil or fat, until extremely tender. Some recipes also call for deep frying once the meat is done, but I think that’s overkill. If you like some crispy edges, under the broiler for a few minutes is the way to go.
- Pork shoulder roast, pork loin roast, or Boston pork butt — either of these cuts of meat will work with this recipe. Keep in mind that some fat, like with the shoulder or Boston butt, gives favor and makes the meat more tender. If you want something more lean, choose the pork loin roast.
- Ground cumin
- Chili powder
- Fresh oregano leaves — may substitute dried oregano
- Brown sugar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh orange juice and fresh lime juice — the acidity in citrus juices acts as a meat tenderizer
- Red enchilada sauce — use mild or spicy depending on your preference
How to make slow cooker pork tacos
- Start by lightly coating the bottom of the slow cooker with cooking spray.
- Combine the spices, fresh herbs, brown sugar, salt, and pepper to make a rub., then spread it evenly all over the pork roast.
- Place the roast in the slow cooker, fatty side up, and pour orange juice, lemon juice, and enchilada sauce over the top.
- Cook on LOW for 6 hours, or until the pork is tender.
- Shred the meat, then strain the cooking juices and pour just enough over the meat to keep it moist.
Topping ideas for pork carnitas
I love the fresh and tangy flavor of chimichurri on my pork carnitas, and so have included the recipe in the recipe card below, but here are a few other favorite toppings you may also like:
- Sour cream
- Sautéed peppers and onions
- Pickled red onions
- Pico de gallo
- Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- Sliced green onions
What do you serve with carnitas?
- Serve this easy Mexican Street Corn Salad just once and it will quickly become one of your favorite go-to sides for taco nights at home!
- Easy Tomatillo Salsa is made by roasting fresh tomatillos, onions, garlic and jalapeño pepper until charred and softened brings out the rich, earthy flavor.
- Make Fresh Tomato Salsa at home in your blender, then serve this zesty salsa dip with your favorite tortilla chips.
- Instant Pot Charro Beans are made with smokey bacon, fire roasted tomatoes, pinto beans, and a little spice for the most perfect Frijoles Charros you have ever eaten!
One thing I love about this Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas recipe is that there are so many ways to get creative and enjoy this delicious shredded pork. Make pork tacos, burritos or burrito bowls, use it to top a salad, make quesadillas, or even a pan of enchiladas.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3-pound pork loin or shoulder roast
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce
- 1 cup sour cream, for serving
- 8 8-inch flour or corn tortillas, for serving
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons minced onion
- 3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- Lightly coat the bottom of a 6 or 7-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano leaves, brown sugar, salt, and pepper to make a rub. Spread it evenly all over the pork roast, then place the roast in the slow cooker, fatty side up.
- Pour the orange juice, lemon juice, and enchilada sauce over the top. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours, or until the pork can be pulled apart easily with a fork.
- Remove the roast from the slow cooker and using two forks, shred the meat and place in a baking dish.
- Strain the cooking juices from the slow cooker and pour over the meat, stirring gently to combine.
- Serve the carnitas immediately on four tortillas with sour cream, and chimichurri sauce, or return to the slow cooker or oven to keep warm until ready to serve.
- With the food processor on, drop the whole garlic cloves through the food chute and process until minced.
- Add the onion, oregano, and parsley; pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the sides as necessary.
- With the food processor on, add the white wine vinegar and olive oil through the food chute and process until the desired consistency. Stir in the salt and red pepper flakes, if desired.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 935Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 166mgSodium: 640mgCarbohydrates: 104gFiber: 5gSugar: 4gProtein: 63g
Sheila Thigpen, author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook, is a recipe developer, food photographer, and food writer. She spent 20+ years as a business manager in the publishing industry before she retired in 2018 to focus on her passions — cooking, photography, and writing. Living near the beautiful Smoky Mountains, Sheila and her husband have two adult daughters and two fine sons-in-law, are active in their church, love to travel, and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. Follow Sheila on YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!