Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas (Mexican pulled pork) is my go-to recipe when I want to cook for a crowd or when I want to have a few days of delicious leftovers. It takes about 5 minutes of prep and then 8 hours of low and slow cooking to create deeply flavorful, melt-in-your mouth pork carnitas. (Watch the video to see the buttery texture you can expect.) Serve it straight or on brioche buns with coleslaw and BBQ sauce, or on tostadas with Tostada Shells from scratch, or (my favorite!) in Pork Carnitas Tacos!
I've intended to post a slow cooker carnitas recipe on this blog for at least a year. After three failed attempts, using recipes that looked great but tasted **meh**, I had nearly given up. But I'm thrilled to report that I've found it, the one! As a bonus, it takes no more than 10 minutes to put together in the slow cooker and then it's just a waiting game. (A tormented wait, I'll admit, because it smells incredible.)
But before I get to the recipe, I want to tell you a story.
Keith and I had already scheduled a business trip to Portland when we discovered that if we headed up a day early, we could attend a demonstration and book signing for TheKitchn's cookbook, The Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens & Tips to Inspire Your Cooking. (The book is co-written by Faith Durand and Sara Kate Gillingham.) It sounded like fun, so we booked it. We left in plenty of time to arrive early.
Or so we thought.
It was a dark and stormy night. No really, it was.
We had just 5 miles to go. But then: pouring rain, crawling wheels, stalled cars blocking lanes.
It took us 2 hours.
We arrived at The Cakery ½ hour late and were greeted by the lovely lady pictured below. Her name is Kelly. She didn't seem to notice my frazzled expression nor my frizzed, wet hair; she greeted us with a warm smile and assured us that we were not the only stragglers. (Perhaps, but we were the last to arrive.)
If you hadn't heard of The Cakery, you'd probably drive right by as it's not very impressive from the outside. But inside, it's warm, welcoming and full of carefully curated treasures for the cooking and baking obsessed. I wanted to buy everything. They also make stunning cakes and host what they call Pages to Plate, "... a pop-up culinary event series providing guests with access to intimate book signings, cooking demonstrations and discussions." It's a perfect venue and hosts many wonderful chefs and cookbook authors, among them: Marisa McClellan, Alice Medrich, and, of course, Faith Durand.
Despite the embarrassment of our tardiness, we had a wonderful time. Our efforts were rewarded by Sriracha-Honey Popcorn Clusters, Cinnamon Toast Bread Pudding Cupcakes (both recipes from the book), and a lively cooking demonstration where Faith made cupcakes and conversation, answering our questions and asking her own. It was just what we'd hoped for.
“There is no question that the kitchen is the most important room of the home,” say Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand of the beloved cooking site and blog, The Kitchn.
From the moment you open this cookbook, you get the sense that Sara and Faith believe this deeply and that the book is a labor of love. The book is part handbook: cooking how-tos, lists of kitchen essentials, solutions to common kitchen problems, cleaning and entertaining advice, and even kitchen case studies. But it's also a cookbook: 150 recipes from the everyday to the festive. It's the kind of book that is just right for someone who is learning to cook and setting up their first kitchen, but that also inspires those of us who have been cooking for a while and could use some inspiration!
When I decided to write a post about the book, I started by making a list of recipes that I'd like to try - the list was getting long. But then I got to 'S' and there it was: Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas. My friends, if you like carnitas, you must try this. Just must! We made a marathon of it, first having carnitas on it's own with a salad on the side, then tacos, and finally tostadas and even served it alongside Carne Asada or Lamb Barbacoa for a huge feast with friends.
And the cooking liquid that comes from this recipe should not be thrown away. We not only used it to reheat the carnitas, but also to season homemade refried beans which tasted better than any I'd ever made and certainly better than anything from a can.
How to Serve Pork Carnitas
- Pork Carnitas Tacos
- Pork Carnitas Tostadas
- Pulled Pork Quesadillas
- Pulled Pork Nachos
- Pulled Pork Enchiladas
- Pulled Pork Chili
- And for a lightened up version with all the flavor, try my Chicken Carnitas!
How to Make Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
Step 1: Rub pork shoulder all over with spice mixture and place in a large slow cooker. Sprinkle pork with garlic cloves
Step 2: Whisk together tomato juice, orange juice, and chipotle hot sauce. Pour over meat. Cook on low 8 hours or until fall apart tender.
Step 3: When cooled enough to handle, transfer pork from juices to a large bowl. Shred meat with two forks. (Skim fat from slow cooker juices and and use remaining liquid to moisten carnitas when reheating.) Serve.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Recipe Video
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
- 1 boneless pork shoulder (6 to 8 pounds; also called pork butt and boston butt)
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
- 8 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons chipotle hot sauce such as Tabasco or Cholula brands
- Place trimmed pork shoulder in a large slow cooker.
- In a small bowl, stir together salt, cumin, pepper, oregano, cinnamon, and cayenne; rub mixture over pork on all sides. Sprinkle on garlic cloves.
- Whisk tomato juice, orange juice and chipotle hot sauce in a medium bowl and pour over meat. Cook 8 hours on low, or until pork is pull apart tender.
- Let meat cool slightly in cooking liquid before carefully transferring to a large bowl. Shred meat into bite size pieces using two forks.
- Skim fat off of cooking juices and discard (recipe note #3). Stir 1 cup or more of the cooking juices to the meat to moisten. Refrigerate remaining juices for reheating the pork (see note #1) or freeze for another use (see note #2).
- Serve pork immediately or reheated in tacos, on tostadas, in burritos, on salads, and more! (See post for links to my favorite recipes.)
- My favorite way to reheat pork carnitas is in a slick of hot oil in a non-stick or cast iron skillet until the meat is heated through and the edges are crisp, adding a little bit of the cooking liquid for flavor and moisture.
- Don't throw the cooking liquid away! If you have some left over when your pork carnitas is gone, you can freeze it. It makes a great start for chili or other savory soup.
- Or save the fat and use to fry tortillas for decadent delicious pork carnitas tacos!