A Spicy Perspective

Best Slow Cooker Carnitas

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I looooove me some Carnitas, and today we’re making it in the crock pot! This is easily the Best Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe we’ve ever made, big on flavor and low on effort

Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe close up on tacos

CrockPot Carnitas

What is it about Mexican cuisine that makes us ravenously woozy with anticipation?

I can’t quite put a finger on it, but I can tell you, tender shreds of spicy pork served with cheese, veggies, and warm tortillas always sounds good to me.


Overhead shot of Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe on plate

CrockPot Pork Carnitas Recipe

We make carnitas as a base recipe for all sorts of Mexican creations.

Seriously… you can use a good carnitas recipe in anything from chili, to quesadillas, to nachos, even on pizza. I’ll stop now before I pass out from the thought of a steaming pork carnitas pizza covered in cheese.

Traditional carnitas are made in a dutch oven, but I like to prepare my Best Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe in the crock pot, so I can start it in the morning and not think about it again until dinner time.

(Those are the best kind of dinner. Am I right, mothers?)

This authentic carnitas recipe is one that will leave you full and curb all your Mexican restaurant cravings!

Authentic Carnitas Recipe

Slow Cooker Carnitas Ingredients

  • Bacon Grease – To add extra pork essence.
  • Onions and Garlic – The essentials for deep flavor. Be sure to use fresh cloves garlic.
  • Pork Butt – Buy one big roast and cut it into large chunks.
  • Orange Juice – This offers sweetness and tang.
  • Liquid Smoke – To make the pork taste like it was cooked on a smoker.
  • Ground Cumin – To a peppery note.
  • Ancho Chile Pepper – The most flavorful chile pepper, in my humble opinion. But chili powder would work in a pinch.
Liquid Smoke for Smoked Flavoring

How To Make the Best Slow Cooker Carnitas

This is so easy, guys…

  1. Smear the bacon grease on the bottom of a large slow cooker. Cut the pork into large chunks and place it inside the slow cooker. Then add ALL remaining ingredients around the pork.
  2. Turn the slow cooker on Low for 8-10 hours, or High for 4-6 hours. Once the pork is fork-tender, use 2 forks to shred the meat into the juices.
  3. If you like your carnitas crispy on the edges (like it’s served in restaurants) use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat out of the juices and spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet(s). Place on the upper oven rack and broil for 2-5 minutes, until darker crispy edges form. 
  4. Do not take your eyes off the broiler, you can burn the carnitas quickly. Serve over rice, in tacos with lime juice and pico de gallo, or on top of salads!

With sweet and tangy orange juice, aromatic spices, and a little bit of liquid smoke mingling with the pork for hours, how could this not be divine?

Simple Carnitas Recipe

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Tip for Cripsy Edges

Once you’ve cooked the tar out of the carnitas (in the words of my dad) the pork is so tender, that it nearly falls apart when you shred it with a fork.

Then either serve the Best Slow Cooker Carnitas as-is or crisp-ify it under the broiler.

Personally, I’m crazy over the little crispy bits.

Best Carnitas Recipe overhead in crockpot

Get the Full (Printable) Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe Below!

Best Slow Cooker Carnitas on baking sheet to crips under broiler

Slow Cooking Carnitas Additional Tips and Tricks

This simple “Best Slow Cooker Carnitas” recipe is a must-have in your arsenal of recipes.

We use it most often in “street tacos” with onions, cilantro, and fresh warm puffy tortillas. Es increíble!

Serve this fall-apart tender recipe in a homemade corn tortilla with many different types of toppings like, salsa, black beans or refried beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo.

For dessert after these carnitas tacos, you can always stick with the Latin theme and make a decadent Tres Leches Pie.

Pork Carnitas Recipe made crispy under the broiler

Frequently Asked Questions:

What cut of meat can you use for carnitas?

The best cut of meat for carnitas is one that had a high-fat content, like pork shoulder (or pork butt). This will help the pork to stay juicy and full of flavor.

How long do leftovers last in the fridge?

Keep the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. 

You can also freeze leftover carnitas in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Place in the fridge overnight to defrost before warming up in the oven. 

Where do I get bacon grease?

Bacon grease it leftover bacon fat from the skillet. Here in the south we save it for just such occasions! You could also use oil if you prefer.

Why use orange juice?

The orange juice balances the heavier flavors and spices, and the acidity also helps break down the meat to soften it.

Is carnitas healthy?

Pork Carnitas are high in proteins. If you are worried about the fat content of the pork butt, you can opt for a leaner piece of meat. This recipe is gluten-free and low carb as well.

Is carnitas keto?

This is keto-friendly as it is low in carbs, but be careful what you pair with it. Maybe make a cheese wrap and load it with vegetables.

What is the difference between carnitas and pulled pork?

Carnitas is a Mexican version of Southern Pulled Pork. It tends to include more spices, giving it a bolder flavor than pulled pork.

Carnitas Recipe Slow Cooker overhead shot on plate

More Comforting Recipes We Love

Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe #carnitas #tacos #mexican #slowcooker #crockpot
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5 from 36 votes
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Best Slow Cooker Carnitas

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 5 minutes
Carnitas, the Mexican meat of the gods! This Best Slow Cooker Carnitas recipe is loaded with flavor and perfect for making tacos, salads and wraps.
Servings: 12



  • Smear the bacon grease on the bottom of a large slow cooker. Cut the pork into large chunks and place inside the slow cooker. Then add ALL remaining ingredients around the pork.
  • Turn the slow cooker on: Low for 8-10 hours, or High for 4-6 hours. Once the pork is fork-tender, use 2 forks to shred the meat into the juices.
  • If you like your carnitas crispy on the edges (like it’s served in restaurants) use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat out of the juices and spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet(s). Place on the upper oven rack and broil for 2-5 minutes, until darker crispy edges form. Do not take your eyes off the broiler, you can burn the carnitas quickly. Serve over rice, taco, or on top of salads!



Serving: 6ounces, Calories: 249kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 97mg, Sodium: 600mg, Potassium: 700mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 790IU, Vitamin C: 11.7mg, Calcium: 35mg, Iron: 2.2mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Sommer Collier

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81 comments on “Best Slow Cooker Carnitas”

  1. Best carnitas recipe I’ve ever had! 

  2. One of my most favorite go-to dinners! Thanks so much for sharing this tasty and delicious recipe.

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  4. I’ve made this recipe at least 10 times and everyone loves it! My husband is from Mexico and he says these are better than you can get in Mexico City! (Because they are so much less fatty!!)

  5. I had a 2 lb. pork loin roast so I adjusted the recipe to suit.  I also used olive oil as opposed to bacon fat.  I can see why pork shoulder would be a better choice but mine tuned out well.  The ancho chili powder takes it over the top.

    Can’t wait to cook another using pork shoulder.  This recipe is great!

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  7. orange juice and avocado give the right balance to the recipe

  8. Made this for Poker Night and it drew *RAVE* reviews!! The guys want to know when I’m making these again. I did not alter a thing but did set aside some hot sauces for those that wanted to add some spice/heat. Absolutely stellar!

  9. Is there anything I can use besides liquid smoke. I’m not a very big fan of liquid smoke.

  10. Hi,
    Do you broil these in Lo or High to make them crispy?


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  12. I make mine like this minus the liquid smoke, but I add lime juice too and sometimes some chopped jalapeños with the onion and garlic.  To crisp the carnitas, I first pour off the juices and separate the fat which i use in a hot skillet to brown the chunks.  Then I fork it apart.  

  13. This was super easy to make! Loved how the flavor turned out!

  14. I seriously loved it! So good for weeknights!

  15. Absolutely DELICIOUS! I omitted the liquid smoke as I am not a big fan, but these were fantastic and so easy. I can’t wait to make them again! 

  16. Mmm… These carnitas look delicious! Putting them on my menu for next week! Thanks for the recipe :)

  17. I made this for my son and his family and they absolutely loved it! They wanted the recipe.

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  19. Great recipe. I made it for my family with some fresh pico de gaillo and we all ate our fill until we were completely stuffed with plenty left over. 
    A couple of things I did differently:
    1. Left out the liquid smoke. Not a big fan and the cumin was enough. 
    2. I was unable to find ancho powder (even in a local bodega) but was able to find whole ancho chilis. I diced one up and used seeds and all in place of the powder. 
    3. Left out the bacon grease since there was enough fat on the meat. 

  20. Wowzers- so good we barely got this onto the tacos  just from stealing tastes. 

    Not a fan in general of liquid smoke so we skipped it and it most definitely wasn’t lacking for it. 

    For sure our new slow-cooker go to meal – literally everything besides the pork is a kitchen staple. 

  21. We made this today without the chile because we cannot take the heat. The meat was absolutely delicious! We had it tonight on taco or tortilla shells, with lettuce, red onion, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. Tomorrow I will broil some to top a salad and/or fix sliders. A delicious result from a very simple recipe! I am glad I saw this and had just bought a pork roast.

  22. I’ve made this recipe probably half a dozen times and it definitely was changed! It should call for diced onion, orange juice, and liquid smoke. I don’t remember the quantities exactly but I think it was half an onion, diced, 1 to 1.5 cups orange juice, and a tablespoon of liquid smoke? I hope they fix it and put the original recipe back up, it was perfect!

  23. Awesome recipe this will be my go to for carnitas from now on!

  24. This is a wonderful recipe! I made this yesterday for dinner and it was a big hit! The spices are perfect as written.. I slow-cooked it for 10 hours and the meat was perfectly cooked. The only change I would make is to take it out of the sauce it cooks in and to broil it — but the taste is PERFECT! I made taco’s.. with the “Fresh Warm Puffy Tortillas” which were so simple to make, but SO GOOD.

  25. The little Mexican joint we like finishes their Carnitas in a cast iron skillet. When we make them at home we finish them on a silicone sheet on the grill.

  26. Turned out great! I didn’t have any orange juice, so I substituted a combination of lemon juice / lime juice / apple cider vinegar that together equaled one cup. I also added a pineapple / red bell pepper relish on top when making the tacos (just cooked red bell peppers and added to a can of a pre cut pineapple).

  27. these look amazing! I’m not a huge fan of “citrusy” pork…is the OJ a prominent flavor when the meat is done? If so, what about chicken stock instead?

    • Hi Lisa,

      I don’t think of the orange juice as a prominent flavor at the end. It does provide a bit of acidity to balance the fat, but it is not overwhelming.

  28. Sommer—your website is amazing Just love the recipes and photos you post. I’m a gal from Brooklyn NY living in NC for over thirty years. I can truly cook a Southern or Mexican dish thanks to sites like yours. Have a great day!!

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  31. Best carnitas ever! Easy to make and absolutely delicious!

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  33. Hi Vee! If you can’t find it, just omit the liquid smoke. :)

  34. Pingback: sunday supper pork carnitas| off the eaten path

  35. So excited to make these!  Is the liquid smoke a must, if so, is that something easy to find in a grocery store?  
    Also, do these come out spicy?  My hubby thinks the spicier the better.  Thanks! 

    • Hi Stephanie! You can find liquid smoke near the barbecue sauce in the grocery store. The carnitas aren’t super spicy on their own, but you could definitely turn up the heat. :)

  36. I used a quarter cup of homemade orange marmalade, and a half cup of white wine, and a little ancho chile powder too. Fughettaboutit.

  37. I made this today in my slow cooker. The texture is great and there is lots of broth and onion to blend together to make gravy. BEWARE! 1 TBSP was too much SALT for me. Next time I will start with 1 Teaspoon. I’m looking for my barbecue sauce recipe and I will leave out the salt.

    • I just realized why my pork is so salty. I used a Swift Premium Boneless Petite Pork Roast WITH up to “12% solution of pork broth, salt and natural flavor.” I better watch that next time.

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  40. I’m making these for the second time… the last time, they were amazing and yielded so much meat that we froze the excess and had delicious carnitas everything for weeks. We used it in tacos, nachos, burritos, quesadillas, homemade mac & cheese, and more.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  41. These have been cooking all day. It smells AMAZING in my house! Cant wait to try them. Thanks for the great recipe. ♡

  42. These look so good! I bet the OJ makes something magical happen! I will have to try it out!! My all time fav is the salsa verde Carne asada tacos crockpot recipe!! I bet this will be a contender for 1st place though! Thanks for sharing

  43. Pingback: Spicy Pork Carnitas | Cook AZ I Do

  44. Hey, so I’m all set to make this today and realized I don’t have ancho chili powder! any recommendations for a substitute? Thanks!

  45. This looks awesome! I don’t use the slow cooker very much because it seems everything is a bit soupy. Need to try the broiler trick. Thanks!

  46. These look amazing!! Cannot wait to try them. Pinning! xo

  47. I JUST got a slow cooker and I CAN’T WAIT TO USE IT! Sorry for all the capital letters, I’m just really really excited. I’ve pinned this recipe so that I can make it asap. Your carnetas look incredible! I love how tender and crispy your pork looks. Yum!

  48. Carnitas…one of my all-time favorite meals. I want some with your puffy tortillas!

  49. Over the top amazing!

  50. I love that you crisped these up! I make carnitas often in my slow cooker, and every once in awhile I toss them in the oven before eating. What a difference it makes! Your photos are stunning too, PINNED!!!

  51. These are amazing Sommer!

  52. This pork looks glorious! I am seriously drooling over this dish!

  53. I love carnitas!! These look so good Sommer. I wish they were cooking away now!!

  54. What is the bacon grease? Looks delicious :)

    • Hey Jocelyne, Bacon grease it leftover bacon fat from the skillet. Here in the south we save it for just such occasions! You could also use oil if you prefer.

  55. I love that you crispified this under the broiler! Such a good idea. And you’re totally right–I’m never NOT craving tacos. :)

  56. Okay these are totally not helping the taco cravings I can’t get over! And served on puffy tortillas?! Yep, I could definitely eat a plate full right now!

  57. Oh my yum! I will be making this tomorrow for dinner! I can.not.wait! (Pinned & Stumbled it!)

  58. This is like ultimate comfort food, Sommer! I want to dig right in!!

  59. Must go with the crispy carnitas, so delicious!

  60. I saw this recipe on pinterest and had to hop over here and let you know how amazing these carnitas look!

  61. Love carnitas and these look fabulous!

  62. These carnitas look absolutely divine. I love slow cooking the meat then finishing them under the grill getting that charred bits. Charred bits are the best!

  63. Oh. my. gosh. This looks so incredibly delicious! I especially love the crisping up under the broiler.

  64. These look completely awesome and will undoubtedly be making an appearance on my table this weekend (maybe after skiing!?)

  65. Pinned! And making this weekend!!! #fistbump

  66. I really love your idea of putting the pork under the broiler for a few minutes. That would resolve my conflicted feelings about cooking hunks of meat in the slow cooker. It usually comes out too soft for me. I really like some chew when I’m eating meat. You know?

  67. Perfect for a large group, Sommer. Beautiful!

  68. Love that you used the slow cooker!

  69. Gorgeous tacos!! Love the slow cookie idea!

  70. Yum! This looks fantastic, and I bet it is even better because it is made in the slow cooker!!! I LOVE the idea of putting it in the broiler after, that is such a great idea! I am gonna make this one ASAP!

  71. Brie’s plans for the weekend: Get pork drunk.