My favorite carnitas! Crispy, juicy and slightly smoky. Easy to make ahead for a crowd, and perfect for tacos, salads, rice bowls and more! Slow cooker and Instant Pot directions included.
- 5–6 lb pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into large chunks
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 8 garlic cloves, smashed
- 3/4 cup orange juice (bottled is fine!)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- Optional: Brown the pork in 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, just 1-2 minutes per side. You can do this on the stove and transfer to the slow cooker, or if using the Instant Pot use the saute function to do this.
- Mix together all the spices and sprinkle over pork. Add garlic, orange juice and oil.
- To cook:
- Slow cooker: Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
- Instant Pot: Cook on high pressure for 90 minutes. Let pressure release naturally if you have the time. Otherwise, manual is fine!
- When pork is cooked, take out and shred with two forks. Transfer back into slow cooker or Instant Pot and mix with juices left in pot.
- To finish them off, you have two options:
- Turn on your broiler and get it hot hot hot. Line a baking sheet with foil and spread pork out in an even layer. Broil for 5 minutes. Take sheet out, ladle some of the leftover juices over and toss with tongs. Broil for 3-5 minutes more until the edges are deeply caramelized and crispy.
- Heat a large frying pan on medium-high. Add 1 TB vegetable oil and spread pork out in an even layer. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, pressing down with a spatula to help it crisp up. Toss pork and let it cook for 1-2 minutes more. If it starts to look a little dry, just add in a few tablespoons of juice.
- Serve in tacos, burritos, bowls, whatever!
- If you’re not eating these all at once, they keep really well. You can fry/caramelize them all at once and then keep them in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer for…probably forever?
- Alternatively, you can store the pork as-is out of the slow cooker and then fry up whatever you need, whenever you need it! If you do this, either transfer some of the juices into the container as you pack it up or keep it in a separate container in your fridge. You’ll want it when you broil/fry them up later to keep things from drying out. If the idea of keeping meat juice in your fridge weirds you out (I get it), just keep some chicken stock on hand!
Note: Updated photos and Instant Pot directions added in 2019.
I am SO excited to share this slow cooker carnitas recipe with you today! For two reasons:
1. Carnitas are delicious and the whole purpose of this blog is to share delicious food.
2. Sharing them means I can finally stop making them.
I recognize that 2 kind of contradicts 1, but hear me out kids. Basically, I didn’t want to share these until I was totally sure the recipe worked and would be something people loved. The cycle generally looked like this:
Make carnitas –> like carnitas –> have friends try carnitas and give feedback –> test one last time before posting –>decide to change something up last minute –>like those carnitas –> have friends tell you they like those carnitas –> test ONE last time –>RINSE AND REPEAT.
No joke, this has been going on for a long time. It’s like another full-time job at this point.
(Not true. That was dramatic.)
Anyway, I just kept wanting to tweak things here and there, and could never settle on a recipe that felt totally, 100% perfect. With that said, these are probably also not totally, 100% perfect but I LOVE them and I really think you will too.
Again, maybe not totally, 100% perfect and definitely not totally, 100% authentic but still one of my favorite dishes to make!
I settled on this version of slow cooker carnitas because I think they are just as delicious on tacos as they are on a salad, and that’s important when we’re talking about a giant amount of meat. I mean, sure you can eat 700 tacos and call it a day (my hero), but if you like to switch it up these go on/with almost everything!
At my healthiest, I was mixing them up with roasted vegetables and calling it lunch. At my not-so-healthiest, I was….probably eating them straight out of the pan like a monster.
This is me. This is who I am. Please love me.
(Okay, but can you blame me? Look at those crispy bits up there!)
I consider this a pretty simple recipe since it’s fairly hands off until the very end. If you’ve got a slow cooker you’re on your way to carnitas and isn’t that so exciting?!
And if you don’t have a slow cooker, I’m sure you can still do this in the oven! I haven’t tested it yet but the internet tells me it’s possible.
This is obviously great for a crowd, but if you’re not feeding eight million people these also stay really well in the fridge and freezer. Trust me on this – I’ve pretty much had leftovers on hand for the past two months. The good thing is that I now know a million different ways to use these slow cooker carnitas, so we’re all winners here.
Alright, I’m done rambling and ready to share (but also really nervous?). I promise not to talk this much about pork again for a long time!