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Easy Crockpot Carnitas

139 reviews / 4.9 average

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

Juicy, flavorful, crispy. We’re talking about these beautiful crockpot carnitas!

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.

In This Post: Everything You Need For Crockpot Carnitas

Prefer To Watch Instead Of Read?

Close up of carnitas.

Super Simple Ingredients For 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.”

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • pork shoulder
  • garlic
  • limes
  • beer (or broth)
  • orange juice
  • salsa
  • seasonings

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.

Pork Shoulder Vs. Pork Butt

So you’re in the grocery store and you can find pork shoulder but not pork butt? That’ll work great still for this carnitas recipe! Both are tough cuts from the pig’s shoulder – pork butt is just a smidge higher up on the animal. Both are really perfect cuts though for long and slow cooking, like roasting, braising, or making crispy carnitas tacos!

How To Make This Crispy Pork

  1. Plop the pork shoulder in your slow cooker with the garlic and massage the seasonings into the meat.
  2. Add in the lime juice, beer, orange juice, and salsa. Walk away and let this pork turn into something magical.
  3. Shred the meat and crisp it up in the oven. See more below!

Time For a Quick Browning Treatment

When it’s time for friends to arrive, you shred that meat in the crockpot (it’s okay if you have extra liquid in there), 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.

Easy Crockpot Carnitas: Frequently Asked Questions

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.


Source notes: 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.”

Print
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Crockpot carnitas on a plate with lime.

Easy Crockpot Carnitas


  • Author: Pinch of Yum
  • Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1012 servings 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

Units 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

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: crockpot carnitas, easy carnitas recipe, carnitas recipe

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More Pork Recipes To Make Over and Over Again


One More Thing!

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

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Recipe rating

563 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jane

    We make this so often I just had to find a short cut for the dry seasonings. I tripled and then doubled all of them into one happy jar. Now all I need do is grab my Carnita Seasoning and shake away!






  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Nicole

    Delicious recipe that we’ve made time and time again. Love doing it in the instant pot, and everyone is always wowed. We love serving with some pickled radishes and fresh tortillas.






  3. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Bonnie

    Is there a substitution for the beer or can I leave it out all together? I have a gluten allergy and I know there are gluten free beers available, I would just prefer not to have to buy any if I can get away with it?

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Ana

    My mouth is watering just looking at this recipe. Can’t wait to make it, perfect to make the night before or really early in the morning!

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jennifer

    Such a delicious, flavorful recipe. I only had a bone-in half pork butt, so I made this in the oven instead of the crockpot. Same ingredients. Cooked for about 6-7 hours. Turned out amazing!






  6. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Caroline

    Note: If you use Boston Butt, you need to put it in the instant pot for at least an hour






  7. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This was SO good! I used Yuengling for the beer (that was what was in the fridge) and it was perfect.
    The only thing I would probably do differently next time would be to cut back on the cinnamon slightly. I could taste it more than I would have liked.
    Also, I didn’t add the salsa. My husband doesn’t like salsa at all. I think it would make it even better, but it was still great without it.






  8. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kat

    Can I prepare this night before and marinate the meat in with all the ingredients overnight so i can throw it in the crock pot before i head to work? Or what would you suggest? I have time late at night after work to prepare it but only have enough time to slow cook it while I’m at work! Please help!