Skip to Content

Easy Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas (Mexican Crockpot Recipe)

Easy Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas (Mexican Crockpot Recipe)


Ready to make Mexican style pork carnitas? This easy slow cooker carnitas recipe can be used in tacos and enchiladas, stuffed in burritos, shredded on nachos, or eaten with side dishes. Keep reading for the tips on making no-fail slow cooker pork carnitas in a Crockpot. There’s also a recipe adjustment for cooking in the Instant Pot!

Mom Rewritten uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the links in these posts. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see the Privacy Policy and Disclosures tab.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Pork carnitas (Spanish for “little meats”) is a classic Mexican dish. But if you’ve seen recipes for long, slow preparation of pork tenderloin, you might be off-put to make pork carnitas at home.

If you’re like me, and don’t have the inclination to prepare your pork in the traditional way, (cooked for hours in a Dutch oven on the stove top), keep reading.

Using the slow cooker to make dinner is simple and convenient. This shredded pork is so easy to prepare in a Crock-Pot. Simply season the meat and place it inside the slow cooker. Turn it on and by dinner time, the shredded meat is ready!

Crockpot pork carnitas come out perfect every time, in this never fail recipe. This dish creates fall-apart tender meat that can be used in a variety of ways. Just one additional step to fry up the pork and you’ll have crispy carnitas for all your favorite Mexican food meals!

Young boy holding a plate of food with Mexican pork carnitas, corn tortilla and scrambled eggs
My son likes the pork carnitas with scrambled eggs for breakfast!

Can I Use an Instant Pot to Make Pork Carnitas?

Yes, you can use the Instant Pot to make pork carnitas! Using a pressure cooker to make carnitas meat is a favorite way to get a great meal on the table quickly.

Add Liquid to the Pressure Cooker

While slow cooking in the Crock Pot, the pork will render its own fat into the pot, creating a liquid. However with the quick pressure cooking of an Instant Pot, you’ll need to add liquid along with the meat.

Preparing pork in the Instant Pot requires one additional step. One cup of cooking liquid is required if you want to prepare Instant Pot pork carnitas. I use a pale lager beer, like Corona in this delicious recipe. You could also use orange juice, chicken broth or a combination of liquids.

Adjust the Time for Instant Pot Cooking

Cook the pork in your Instant Pot on high pressure for 15 minutes per pound. That means 4 lbs. of pork would take at least one hour in the Instant Pot, allowing it to slow release by itself.

Shredded pork in a bowl

Best Meat to Use for Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Recipe

You can vary the cut of meat used to make slow cooker pork carnitas. The best cut of meat for this recipe is subjective, but I’m offering a few suggestions and tips when choosing pork at the grocery store.

Boneless Country Style Pork Ribs

My current favorite cut to use when making slow cooker pork carnitas is boneless country style pork ribs.

This is a cut of pork shoulder that I find is a leaner cut of meat. Pork shoulder is usually well marbled, but not overly fatty. The boneless pork ribs are also smaller cuts that cook evenly and shred easily.

Pieces of cooked pork in a slow cooker
All the liquid in the slow cooker was rendered from the fat in the meat

Pork Butt

Pork butt is a tougher cut of meat with a higher fat content that requires a longer cooking time. That makes pork butt ideal for preparation in the slow cooker. It also shreds very well for use in this recipe.

Pork Shoulder

Boneless pork shoulder roast is a slightly leaner meat and may have the skin intact. This should be removed before going into the slow cooker for this recipe.

Pork Loin and Pork Tenderloin

The fat content is lower in a tenderloin, so if you’re looking for a dish with leaner meat, try a tenderloin.

You may wish to add additional liquid to the Crock Pot if using pork loin or tenderloin, due to their lower fat content. You may also wish to reduce cooking time, as this type of meat may overcook.

I don’t personally use pork loin or tenderloin for this recipe, namely because of the higher cost.

How Much Meat to Use When Slow Cooking Pork

Use 4-5 pounds of pork when preparing this in the slow cooker or Instant Pot. If cooking more than this, increase the amount of spices and ensure the pork will fit into the pot.

You may use a single large piece of pork for this seasoned pork recipe. Or consider cutting the meat into large chunks before adding to the pot.

Cooking a Large Piece of Pork

If there is a large fat cap on your meat, carve this off before adding to the slow cooker. You’ll want to minimize the amount of fat to pick out when pulling the meat.

After seasoning the meat, run a sharp knife on all sides of this large cut of pork. Cut at an angle about 1/2″ deep, creating a diamond pattern.

Add the pork to the slow cooker fat side up, where it can more easily be scraped off after cooking.

Large piece of pork in slow cooker with diamond shaped cuts

Test Meat Temperature for Doneness

Large pieces of meat may take a longer time to cook. Set the Crock Pot to either cook on high for 6 hours or on low temperature for 8 hours.

Check for doneness via internal temperature (and whether the meat shreds). You’ll want to reach at least 200 degrees with a Digital Meat Thermometer.

Cook for an additional 15 minutes if you find that the meat doesn’t shred well.

Mexican Seasonings for Pork Carnitas

This simple recipe calls for a straightforward blend of Mexican spices. You’ll be using salt, black pepper, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder to prepare this easy pork carnitas recipe.

Preparing the Carnitas Seasoning

Combine the spice mixture in a small bowl or zip close bag. I often make large batches of this pork seasoning to have on hand, storing it in a glass jar with an airtight lid.

Coating the Pork Chunks

When using this dry rub on the pork, place the meat into a shallow baking pan. Sprinkle the seasonings onto the meat then turn each piece, rubbing the spices onto each chunk.

Don’t be shy with this – you want each piece nicely coated before placing into the pot.

Uncooked pork ribs in a dish with dry rub

Using the Shredded Pork to Make Pork Carnitas

Once your meat has completed cooking (and you’ve checked the temperature), it’s time for the final step. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the chunks of cooked pork and place into a large bowl.

Shred the meat apart, using two forks. Remove excess fat, if you wish to have leaner cuts of meat. Reserve liquid and juices in the pot, as you’ll add this to the meat when reheating carnitas.

Two Ways to Crisp the Pork for Carnitas

The signature method of serving pork carnitas is with lightly crispy edges. There are several ways to crisp up the pork for use in pork carnitas.

Broiling in the oven is the first method. Lay the shredded meat on a baking sheet and place into the oven. Turn the pork frequently as it crisps.

The second method is on the stove. I prefer to fry the pork on the stove top in a pan. I’m able to watch the pork cook carefully, to ensure that it doesn’t overcook and dry out.

Add Liquid As Needed

If you’re using a leaner cut of pork you may want to add oil or lard in the pan when crisping the carnitas. However, I’ve found that the pork crisps fine with just the fats from the meat itself.

You’ll want to get the edges crispy, without making the pork overly dry. Drizzle reserved liquid juices, mixing with a fork into the pork as it reheats.

Squeeze on Lime Juice

The key to delicious pork carnitas is fresh lime juice! Don’t skip this step, as it really add an amazing flavor to the pork.

Squeeze lime juice directly onto the pulled pork before reheating. Then serve your pork carnitas with sliced limes for added flavor.

Crispy pork carnitas on a light blue plate

Ways to Serve Pork Carnitas

As San Diego natives, my family has our choice of many taco shops within quick driving distance. But why eat out when we can prepare this tasty go-to recipe at home any day of the week!

My family prepares delicious Mexican cuisine like this slow cooker pork recipe on regular rotation. Due to the pork’s versatility, you can change up toppings and side dishes to create unique combinations.

Best Carnitas Taco Night

Our weekly easy dinner is pork carnitas tacos, using the slow cooker pork recipe. Simply crisp the pork on the stove top, and serve inside a warm tortilla.

A combo of chopped white onion with cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, and a side of pinto beans, with a squeeze of lime…yum!

These are a few more of our favorite ways to serve this slow cooker pork carnitas:

  • Pork Carnitas Nachos – Serve the hot crispy pork on tortilla chips. Top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese, refried beans, and other toppings.
  • Enchiladas
  • Ensalada – Served on a bed of shredded cabbage with toppings and a drizzle of crema or sour cream.
  • Burrito Bowl – Layer pinto beans and rice with pork, then add toppings.
  • Tostadas
  • Torta – Shred pork onto large, soft rolls, then add toppings.
  • Burritos
  • Breakfast Pork Carnitas – Serve with home fried potatoes and eggs, scrambled or poached with corn tortillas.
Pork carnitas with scrambled eggs and corn tortilla

Toppings to Serve with Pork Carnitas

Having a variety of your favorite toppings to offer with slow cooker pork carnitas is a must! These are some suggestions for serving up authentic carnitas.

  • Pickled red onion
  • Queso fresca cheese
  • Guacamole or sliced avocados
  • Crema (or thinned sour cream)
Tomatillo salsa on tacos
Pork carnitas tacos with avocado tomatillo salsa verde

Best Side Dishes for Pork Carnitas

READ MORE – Get a few more ideas for classic Mexican side dishes in this round-up of recipes for Cinco de Mayo, and beyond.

Storage of Leftover Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

One of the benefits of making this easy slow cooker pork carnitas recipe is having leftovers! Planning to eat leftover carnitas for a week of dinners is a bonus.

  • Store leftover meat in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Reserve extra liquid and juice from the pot to maintain tender pork for reheating.
  • Reheat leftovers in the microwave or stovetop.
  • Freeze extra meat to use for future meals. Set aside leftover pork before frying or broiling to freeze. Add pork to freezer bags and flatten for storage, squeezing out excess air.

Subscribe to Mom Rewritten Newsletter

* indicates required

Email Format


Instant Pot | Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Instant Pot | Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours 6 seconds
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes 6 seconds

Tender and juicy slow cooker pork carnitas (Adjustments for Instant Pot cooking included)


  • 4-5 lbs pork, boneless country style ribs recommended
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Lime juice from 2+ limes, freshly squeezed
  • Reserved liquid from cooking
  • *FOR INSTANT POT* - 1 cup light lager beer, like Corona


  1. Remove excess fat from outside of pork and discard.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Coat each piece of pork heavily in dry rub and add to the cooker, layering into the pot. *INSTANT POT INSTRUCTIONS* Add 1 cup of beer.
  4. Cover and cook - 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low temperature in slow cooker; 15 minutes per pound in Instant Pot.
  5. When done temperature should reach at least 200 degrees internal temperature and meat should be falling apart.
  6. Remove meat carefully to bowl, reserving liquid.
  7. Shred pork with two forks.
  8. Pork can be served like this or cooked again to crisp for carnitas. Add pork to a large pan on the stove top, squeezing fresh lime juice directly onto the meat. Over medium heat, stir often until edges are browned and slightly crispy, to your preference.
  9. Drizzle meat with reserved juices from cooking, as needed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to Recipe