Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Recipe

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Recipe
This Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Recipe is made in the slow cooker for a juicy and flavorful Mexican pulled pork perfect for tacos, tostadas, salads and more! (gluten free, dairy free, paleo)
This carnitas recipe was originally published in November 2015. It was retested, rephotographed, rewritten, and republished based on reader feedback in February 2018.

Hi. I’m Isabel and I have a love-hate relationship with my slow cooker. Like many things in life, the slow cooker has its pros and cons. Pro – it can make even the toughest cut of meat tender and flavorful. Con – it requires time and patience.
Because of the slow cooking process (after all, it is a slow cooker), many recipes require a total cook time of about 8 hours. Sure, that’s perfectly okay if you remember to plan ahead, but I know many people, including myself, that quite simply forget. What if I told you that I had a recipe for Mexican Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos that took about HALF the normal cooking time of other recipes yet is just as delicious?
Yep, just keep on reading. 
I’m going to let you in on a little secret – most slow cookers have a high and a low setting. The low setting is usually the temperature that most people are familiar with. And that’s great. Longer cooking time usually results in a richer flavor. But today I want to encourage you to get to know and love that often neglected high setting.
Seasoned with oregano, cumin, chili powder, lime juice and other spices, these Mexican Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos only take 4 hours to make. That’s half the time you’ll find in most recipes without sacrificing any of the rich flavors.
Carnitas are the Mexican version of pulled pork. They’re often made with pork shoulder (also known as pork butt) because of the higher fat content which helps make the meat super tender and juicy.
These tacos will make you feel like you’re in an outdoor market in Mexico with a taco in one hand and an ice cold beer in the other. What’s not to love about that?
I like topping mine with a few simple ingredients like cilantro, diced onions, freshly squeezed lime juice and some jalapeƱos. Pure Mexican heaven.
Oops. I think I just made myself drool.
Growing up in a Mexican household, I ate my fair share of pork. It’s kind of in my blood. And since I’ve moved hundreds of miles away from home and am only able to visit the family a handful of times a year, learning to cook a variety of Mexican meals has been one of my goals.
Mexican pork carnitas is now one of those meals that I can cross off my list.
If you love Mexican food as much as I do but you don’t want to wait 8 hours for slow cooked meats, don’t hesitate to use the high setting on your slow cooker. You don’t need anything fancy to make this delicious Mexican dish. Just take a look at the slow cooker I have here – it’s one of the cheapest ($14) and smallest ones you can find! So if that’s all you have, that’s perfectly okay.

However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my eye on this bad boy – it’s programmable, much larger than what I have now AND even has a locking lid! Yeah, that’s going on my Christmas list this year.
Frequently asked questions

Since posting this recipe back in 2015, I’ve received so many great questions from readers that I wanted to make sure to clear up. So here we go.

Yes. To freeze, cool the pulled pork carnitas to room temperature. Place it in an air tight freezer bag, leaving about 2 inches of room at the top to allow for expansion, and freeze. It can be kept frozen for 4-6 months. To reheat, heat it up in medium pot on the stove or a large bowl in the microwave.
This recipe doesn’t require any extra liquid because pork shoulder is a pretty marbled cut of meat. As the meat cooks in the slow cooker, the fat starts to render and provides enough liquid (and flavor!) for the recipe.

Yes, but I would add a tablespoon or two of fat – either olive oil, coconut oil or whatever you prefer. Since the loin is usually a much leaner cut than pork shoulder, I’d also add 1/4 cup of liquid – either broth or orange juice.

Tortilla brands will vary depending on what part of the country you’re in, but in Pittsburgh I usually use these Mission yellow or white corn tortillas. If you live in an area with a tortilleria , I recommend picking some up there! Those are usually the freshest tortillas you can buy. And of course, you can always make them yourself! Here’s my recipe for 3-ingredient corn tortillas
There’s two things you can do to keep your tortillas from falling apart and breaking. The first is to heat them on a tortilla comal like this or in a frying pan until they kind of bubble up and brown. This changes the texture and almost “toughens them up” a bit. The second thing is once they’re warm, I highly recommend keeping them in a tortilla warmer like this or even just in between a kitchen towel. That will help keep them warm and flexible while everyone is getting ready and set up.

Something to keep in mind: if the filling is super juicy, sometimes it’s inevitable that the tortilla will tear because of all the moisture. That’s why you often see street tacos made with two tortillas.

Mexican Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 5 mins

Seasoned with oregano, cumin, chili powder, lime juice, these Mexican Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos are the perfect meal for any night of the week.
Course: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: servings
Calories: 207 kcal
Author: Isabel Eats

For pork carnitas
  • 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder (also known as 'pork butt')
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
For tacos and toppings
  • corn tortillas
  • cilantro, diced onions, lime wedges, avocados
  1. Cut the pork shoulder into large 4-inch chunks, removing any excess fat. Place them in the slow cooker.
  2. Add all the other ingredients to the slow cooker and mix thoroughly to coat the meat with all the herbs and spices.
  3. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. When tender, shred the meat by pulling it apart with a fork.
  4. Serve pork carnitas on warm corn tortillas and top with onions, cilantro, lime juice and any other toppings you desire.
Nutrition Facts
Mexican Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos
Amount Per Serving (1 /12 of recipe)
Calories 207Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g22%
Saturated Fat 5g25%
Cholesterol 63mg21%
Sodium 444mg19%
Potassium 15mg0%
Total Carbohydrates 1g0%
Protein 18g36%
Vitamin A1%
Vitamin C2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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