Easy Crockpot Carnitas Recipe - Skillful Cook
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Easy Crockpot Carnitas

154 reviews / 4.8 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

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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: Skillful Cook
  • Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 10-12 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
  • 4-5 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

Notes

Dutch Oven Method: Add the pork shoulder to a large Dutch oven. Roughly chop the garlic and rub it onto the meat. Toss the garlic around the meat after rubbing it on. Sprinkle the meat with salt, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, oregano, cinnamon, and cayenne. Rub seasonings onto the pork. Add lime juice, orange juice, beer, and salsa. Cover and cook in the oven for 4 hours at 300 degrees F. Proceed with steps 4-6 above. 

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

Keywords: crockpot carnitas, easy carnitas recipe, carnitas recipe

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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612 Comments

  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    This recipe is absolutely wonderful. Don’t make the mistake I did my first try by using a tenderloin instead of a shoulder or butt. That extra fat is mandatory for flavor and moisture. The second batch using the proper cut of meat was like candy especially after caramelizing under the broiler.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi, is it possible to make this on the high setting (with about half the time)? Thanks!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      This recipe really benefits from a full 8 hours to make it shreddable/tender! You could try cutting the meat into smaller pieces, but can’t guarantee that it will be tender enough in that time.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    If I use 2-2 1/2 pounds of pork do I cut the crockpot cooking time in half? Or go ahead and cook it for 8 hours on low?

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m making this for a baptism luncheon. If I double the recipe do I need to change the temperature to cook at or lengthen the time? I think I will do it in the Le Creuset dutch oven.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Jan! This already fills an entire crockpot or pot with just one batch, so you’ll likely need to use two pots or crockpots to double the recipe!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Yes, but I need to know if I need to cook it longer or change the temperature as it fills the large dutch oven?

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    The Cinnamon absolutely ruined this recipe l. I have used several recipes similar to this. However, I thought I would try the cinnamon this time. I used half of what the recipe called for and it was disappointing. It taste nothing like any carnitas at any mexican restaurant I have ever been to. I threw 4 pounds of meat in the garbage. Yuck!!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      The recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and you used half – so 1/8 teaspoon – and it ruined it???? Are you sure you didn’t mistake it for 1/4 cup?? Just stop!!

      These are awesome!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    This is my go-to carnitas recipe! I’ve made it for parties, hunting trips, and easy weeknight dinners and get nothing but compliments! And I love how great it smells while cooking. Thanks!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    I have made this twice now. It’s a definite hit. We’re not beer drinkers so once I used beef broth and once I used red wine. Both were delicious. Pork loin is often on sale in my area making this an affordable meal. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    This recipe is amazing! So easy to make and the left overs are very versatile!! Definitely one of the family’s favorites

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    excellent ! I didn’t have OJ, so we used a little pineapple juice, which worked great. Will make again.

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Can I freeze this after it has been cooked and shredded? If so, is there anything I need to do to heat it up? There is so much meat.

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi,
    I saw the video on how to make this in the InstaPot. I am wodnering what kind of a release you do? I know the video said to cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.
    Thanks!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’ve made this once with the beer and once without. I think I like it better without because additional liquid almost makes the meat “boil” in the pot, and it definitely dilutes the spices. I used everything else though, and when the meat started cooking, the liquids rose to at least halfway up the roast–PLENTY. Not using the beer allowed the the subtle taste of the cinnamon to come through as well, which I really liked. Family liked it this way, too. Thank you!

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    I plan on freezing the whole recipe. Would you recommend freezing after shredding in the crockpot and broiling before serving, or broiling then freezing? Thanks!

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi, I see the cayenne pepper, but is it not spicy? In other words, ok for kids to eat?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi, Jennifer! This isn’t spicy in our opinion, especially since it’s just 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne for 5 pounds of meat. The cayenne adds a bit of flavor. Hope this helps!

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    I have tried so many carnitas recipes trying to find the best one and THIS IS IT!!!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    This is amazing! I’ve used a tenderloin each time I’ve made it just because that has been what was available, and it was perfect. I stood next to the crock pot just eating the liquid with a spoon it was that flavorful!

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m thinking about making this ahead of time and bringing to a work potluck. Have you had any experience re-heating and keeping warm in a crock pot after broiling?