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Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe

Slow cooker carnitas wrap with tortilla.

“Carnitas” , directly translated from Spanish, means “little meats.” Carnitas is a Mexican pork dish that features shredded pork cooked a long time until the meat is very tender. The meat is cooked in a sauce with classical Mexican seasonings and citrusy juices.

Often, cuts of pork like pork shoulder and pork butt are chosen for carnitas because the tough meat is inexpensive, fatty, and cooks to “fall apart tender” so it is easily shredded. After the meat is slow cooked to tenderness, it is broiled or baked to lightly brown the meat and provide a crispy texture.

Slow cooker carnitas wrap with tortilla.

Slow Cooker Carnitas

April Freeman
If you need a recipe to feed a crowd, this is the perfect one for you. It feeds a large number of people, cooks in the slow cooker while you are doing other things, and tastes fantastic. If you are hosting a bunch of teenagers or serving lunch to a group of your friends, this recipe is one for you to try.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Slow Cooker 8 hrs
Total Time 8 hrs 25 mins
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 10 Servings


  • Paper Towels
  • Slow Cooker
  • Oven
  • Baking Sheet
  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking Pan
  • Saucepan


Ingredients for the Meat

  • 3to 5 lbs pork butt or pork shoulder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tsp dried cumin
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice

Carnitas Toppings Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 package tortilla wraps
  • 1 to 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1 to 2 bell peppers diced
  • Pickled jalapeno peppers
  • A few sprigs of cilantro, chopped


  • Remove the pork from its wrappings and rinse it lightly in the sink. Pat it dry with paper towels and place it in your slow cooker. Add the salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, minced garlic, orange juice and lime juice to the slow cooker as well.
    Meat on a slow cooker with seasoning.
  • Turn the slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours. Put the lid on the slow cooker and let it cook.
  • When the time is up, the meat should easily shred when you poke two forks into it. Turn your oven on to preheat to 400 degrees. 
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and shred the meat, placing it on the baking sheet in a single layer. Use a ladle to remove about a cup of the cooking liquid from the slow cooker and drizzle this over the meat on the baking pan.
    Cooked meat on a baking sheet.
  • Put the baking sheet into the oven and let it bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the meat begins to brown and get crispy around the edges.
    Chunks of meat on the baking sheet.
  • As the meat is cooking, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the one cup of rice and turn the stove down to low. Put a tightly fitting lid on the pot, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Take the rice off the heat.
    Rice with water on a pan.
  • Take the meat from the oven and use tongs to put it on the tortillas. Top the meat with cheese, peppers, tomatoes, rice, jalapenos, and cilantro.
    Rice and meat with seasoning on tortilla.
  • Fold the tortilla in half and enjoy!
    Slow cooker carnitas wrap with tortilla on a plate.


Carnitas is often used as a filling for tacos, burritos, or tortillas. However, some people eat it on its own alongside chips and salsa.
If you have ever ordered barbacoa at your favorite Mexican restaurant, you may think that barbacoa and carnitas are pretty much the same thing. However, this is not the case. Barbacoa is made from beef and carnitas are made from pork. Additionally, barbacoa is generally spicier than carnitas because it is marinated in adobo seasoning before being slow cooked until the meat falls apart.
Our recipe for Slow Cooker Carnitas cooks the meat in a flavorful juice. You may be a bit surprised at the additions of orange juice and lime juice in the sauce. However, you should not worry. The citrus juices merely provide brighter notes to the meat and a little bit of acidic sweetness to the dish. The flavor of orange and lime are not very noticeable in the final product. The flavors of garlic and cumin help cover the orange and lime flavors in the sauce.
We included rice, cilantro, tomatoes, bell peppers, and jalapeno peppers for toppings on our carnitas. However, the sky's the limit for your carnitas toppings. If you want to add in other toppings, feel free to get creative. Guacamole or diced avocado would be another great idea for a topping, as well as black beans or chopped onions.
****You can also adapt this recipe for a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Just put the meat and all of the sauce ingredients in your Instant Pot and cook it at high pressure for about 45 minutes. You may need to add a cup of water to make sure that there is enough liquid to bring the Instant Pot up to pressure. Open the Instant Pot and see if the meat is soft. If not, cook it for another 15 to 20 minutes at high pressure. Release the pressure and open the pot. Shred the meat and proceed as directed in the recipe above.
Keyword Carnitas Recipe, Slow Cooker Carnitas, Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe, Slow Cooker Recipe

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