Easy Crockpot Carnitas

121 reviews / 4.8 average

Favorite things in life, in order:

  • tacos
  • tacos
  • tacos.

And one thing that has been known to transform the tacos in my life is juicy, tender, savory, fall-apart pork that is both massively flavorful (garlic, spices, and just a hint of tangy lime) and juuust browned and crispy enough to keep me snacking on little bites of it while prepping my taco ingredients.

Yes, you know it. We’re talking about crockpot carnitas.

In my life, I give bonus points to any recipe that is idiot-proof easy to make and can be popped in the slow cooker or Instant Pot to cook while you manage your normal life things. More bonus points for recipes that can be frozen, prepped ahead, or kept easily as leftovers. And let’s just say that this carnitas recipe is racking up the bonus points right now.

Are you so into this right now? I AM SO INTO THIS.

Close up of carnitas.

Super Simple Carnitas

This recipe is absolutely my go-to for “entertaining” aka “hey you guys should come over and watch the game and we’ll eat something yummy while sitting on the couch.”

You can prep all your beautiful extras (guacamole, fresh cilantro and lime, sour cream, cotija cheese, radish, red onion, tortillas, pico de gallo) in advance, and maybe even run a few errands (oops, forgot the drinks, and the dog could probably use a walk, and have I showered yet today?), all while the meat does its delicious thing, needing no supervision whatsoever.

Time For a Quick Browning Treatment

When it’s time for friends to arrive, you shred that meat, you brown it up under a broiler (THIS IS ESSENTIAL DO NOT SKIP), and you plate it up nice and pretty and let everyone compliment you for this delicious, juicy, colorful spread.

Juicy, tender, saucy and simultaneously crispy carnitas. Truly a thing of beauty.

Carnitas in a pan with limes and a serving fork.

Carnitas is a staple of Mexican cooking and eating and literally means “little meats.” The method to make it can vary from person to person, but what’s always consistent is shreddable pork for tacos, tortas, and more. This is a simple slow cooker version of carnitas, but traditional carnitas recipes are typically cooked by simmering or braising the pork in oil. You can learn all about the history of carnitas here. Also, to explore Mexican food more, highly recommend checking out the vibrant and fun Chicano Eats cookbook, written by Esteban Castillo and described as “Mexican food with an immigrant sensibility that weaves seamlessly between Mexican and American genres and cultures.”

More Pork Recipes To Make Over and Over Again

Watch How To Make This Recipe

Common Questions About Our Easy Crockpot Carnitas

Is there a substitute for the beer?

You can use chicken broth instead.

Can these be made in the Instant Pot?

Sure can! Watch our video here for how to make these easy carnitas in the Instant Pot.

I found pork butt, but I can’t find pork shoulder. Will that work?

Yes! Both are tougher cuts of meat that will do great with a long and slow cook.

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Easy Crockpot Carnitas


  • Author: Pinch of Yum
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1012 1x

Description

These are the easiest crockpot carnitas and simple enough for anyone to make! Juicy, flavorful, and perfectly browned with a crispy crust.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 45 lbs. pork shoulder
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle hot sauce (optional)
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 12 ounces beer (a standard lager works great for this!)
  • 1/2 cup salsa (I like to use a less chunky one)

Instructions

  1. Place the pork shoulder in the slow cooker. Roughly chop the garlic and place in the slow cooker (I actually kind of rubbed it onto the meat to get as much garlic flavor as possible, but you could just toss it in, too).
  2. Sprinkle the meat with salt, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, oregano, cinnamon, and cayenne. Rub seasonings onto the pork.
  3. Add lime juice, orange juice, beer, and salsa. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  4. Shred meat with two forks directly in the slow cooker (or take out, shred, and replace in sauce). It should fall apart easily.
  5. Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the shredded meat on the cooking sheet and pour a few spoonfuls of sauce over the top. Broil for 5-10 minutes or until you get browned edges on the pork.
  6. Serve on tortillas with fresh cilantro, avocado, and lime juice.

Equipment

  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: crockpot carnitas, easy carnitas recipe, carnitas recipe

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One More Thing!

This recipe is part of our collection of yummy pork recipes. Check it out!

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524 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Susan

    If you make ahead and freeze, should you hold off on the broiling step until just before serving? Thank you!

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Nicole Smith

    Any specific kind of beer?
    I plan on making these tomorrow for Cinco De Mayo!! I can’t wait!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      We use whichever restaurant style salsa is available. We’ve used Pace brand in the past!

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Amy

    Going to try these this week—they look amazing! Looks like they can feed a crowd—if I’m cooking for a family of 4, you think I can I freeze leftovers & they would be good?

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kaitlin

    I normally don’t love pork, but these carnitas were amazing! Threw them into a bowl with rice, beans, cabbage, and hot sauce. Delicious!!






  5. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kristina

    Hello! These look amazing. For a family who prefers chicken to pork, any idea if that could sub here, versus using another recipe?

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      We think chicken would be a great substitute, especially chicken thighs! If you give it a try, we’d love to hear back!

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kenzie Mountisne

    I was so excited to make these, pulled our pork out and realized it’s bone in. Help. Will that still work?

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Ashley

    Hello! This is my all time favorite crockpot carnitas recipe! It comes out perfectly every time. If I am short on time, would the meat turn out differently if I were to cook it on high, instead of low for 8 hours? If cooking on high is fine, how many hours would you recommend cooking it?

    Thank you!






  8. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Vicki

    Wow … these were so flavorful and perfectly crispy while not being dry. The cinnamon takes it to another level. Best carnitas recipe I have made. Cheers to Lindsay from a former Minnesotan.

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Meghan

    This is my go-to recipe whenever we have friends over for dinner, and without fail, everyone we make it for asks me to send them the recipe. One of our absolute favorites (and great with copycat Chipotle cilantro lime rice as a side!).






  10. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jaclyn

    This was fantastic! I only did a small amount of the cayenne (and no hot sauce) and it still had plenty of kick. Thank you!!!

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Hi Lindsey, We made these tonight and loved these (and also your chicken tinga tacos are my absolute favorite). I had a question. If we wanted to make these spicier, what could I add? I’m guessing chili powder? I added some chipotle adobo sauce but it didn’t spice the meat. Any ideas would be helpful as we love spicy food. Thank you and keep up the great work. Love your blog!






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Krista @ Pinch of Yum

      Hi Christina! You could add in a 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper when you season the meat. You could also chop up a couple chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (instead of using just the sauce). The seeds and ribs of the pepper are what make things spicy!

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kristin Kelley

    Sub suggestions for the lime and orange juice? I have an allergy to all citrus

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Holly

    Hello Lindsay,
    Can’t wiat to try your recipe. I’m new to AIP-Paleo and this pork carnitas recipe sounds great.
    QUESTION: Do you have a recipe for gluten free, grain free tortillas that you use? I searched everywhere and could not find one or any references.
    Many thanks,
    Holly