One of my favorite Mexican dishes in the whole wide world is this slow cooker pork carnitas recipe! It makes the BEST Mexican tacos. Seriously!
With these wonderful ingredients, pork never tasted so good. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it, these tacos are divine!
This dish is perfect for any night of the week. It's so easy, almost completely hands-off, and did I mention delicious? You have to give this recipe a try!
We keep frozen portions of pork carnitas in our freezer so all we have to do is defrost, heat, and serve with whatever ingredients we love in our tacos!
This meal is perfect in so many ways. For more recipes like this one, check out our Spring Slow Cooker Recipes.
Why You Will Love Pork Carnitas Tacos
- Deliciously flavorful with just the right amount of spice.
- Versatile enough to use in tacos, burritos, salads, nachos, and more.
- Perfectly cooked pork every time that comes out juicy and crispy on the outside.
- Leftovers freeze easily for easy meal planning for future meals.
- Great option for busy weeknights when you don’t have a lot of time to cook dinner from scratch.
Ingredients for Slow Cooker Pork Tacos
All you need are a handful of simple ingredients to make the BEST slow cooker pork carnitas. Here's a look at some of the most important.
- Pork: I highly recommend boneless pork butt or pork shoulder roast for making pork carnitas in the slow cooker. The fat melts as it slow cooks resulting in the most tender juicy pieces of pork.
- Aromatics: Cooking the pork with onion and garlic increases the depth of flavor in the dish.
- Citrus: This recipe uses both orange and lime to flavor the pork. You will be using both the juice and zest. The juice adds a touch of sweetness while the zest intensifies the citrus flavor.
- Herbs and spices: Oregano, cumin, and bay leaves give the pork more complex flavors.
- Jalapeno: For a bit of heat!
- Tacos: Tortillas and all your favorite taco toppings!
See the recipe card for the full list of ingredients and quantities of each.
Substitutions and Variations
Don't have the correct ingredients on hand? Or want to change something up? Here are some helpful tips for you to change this Mexican tacos recipe.
- Pork: You can also use pork loin or pork tenderloin but these cuts don't shred like the pork butt. Chicken breast or thighs also work great.
- Jalapeno: Use habanero peppers or serrano peppers if you like it spicier, or chipotle peppers for a bit of smokiness as well.
How to Make Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
Are you ready to start cooking? Here's an overview of the steps but be sure to read through all details in the recipe card before you start.
- Turn your large slow cooker up to high and add the onions, lime and orange zest, and garlic to the slow cooker. Spread it out so it covers the surface.
- Add the orange and lime juices, cumin, oregano, jalapenos (if using), bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir everything together.
- Rinse and dry the pork with a paper towel. Rub salt and pepper into the roast.
- Add the roast to a slow cooker, fat side up. Reduce temperature to low if you prefer.
- Cover and cook until the pork roast is tender, between 5 and 7 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.
PRO TIP: The pork is done when it easily falls apart when poked with a fork. The overall cooking time will depend on the size of your pork roast.
- Transfer the cooked pork to a large bowl but do not discard the cooking liquid in your slow cooker.
- Shred the pork using two forks to pull it apart into pieces. It does not have to be perfect.
- Add the pork to a hot skillet along with one cup of the juices from the slow cooker. Cook until almost all the liquid evaporates and the pork is brown and crispy in spots.
- Transfer the pork to an oven safe serving bowl and keep warm in the oven until you're ready to serve. Add about a half cup of the remaining cooking liquid to keep the pork moist while it's in the oven.
If you love recipes like this, you may also enjoy our shredded chicken tacos.
- Leftovers: Store leftover pork carnitas with the juices in a container in the fridge for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three months.
- Freezer: Place the pork in an airtight container and add between a half and one cup of cooking liquid. We always err on the side of too much juice is better then not enough! Feel free to adjust your portion size according to your needs and convenience.
When you are ready to use the leftovers, and they are totally defrosted, all you will have to do is heat up some oil and dump the meat in to your skillet and brown it, the juices are already on it.
- Reheat: Heat some oil in your skillet, add the thawed or refrigerated pork, and heat the it up. Heat in the microwave if you prefer.e Place the carnitas between two dampened paper towels before microwaving until hot.
What to Serve with Carnitas
- Toppings: Some ideas for taco toppings include sliced or diced jalapenos, avocado, tomato salsa, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, lime wedges, diced red onions, chopped cilantro, refried beans, and guacamole.
- Serve with corn tortillas or soft flour tortillas.
- Set up a Make Your Own Taco Station! Place all your toppings in small bowls or on a large cutting board so everyone can assemble their own tacos.
- Side Dishes: Serve it up over your favorite Mexican or Spanish rice recipe.
- Use it in other dishes! Delicious served in pork burritos, nachos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tortilla bowls, and salads for a quick weeknight meal.
- For more ideas check out our list of what to serve with carnitas.
- Cook the pork roast on low heat until it's fork tender and falls apart easily.
- Skim off any excess fat that forms on top of the cooking liquid before adding it to your taco filling.
- Make sure not to overfill your slow cooker. This ensures that all of the ingredients are evenly cooked throughout.
- Don't discard the cooking liquid in the slow cooker. Use it to store and hold the carnitas so it doesn't dry out.
- Use two forks or shredding claws for shredding the cooked pork meat. It's faster and easier.
- For crispier bits, press the shredded pork on to the bottom of the skillet and leave it to brown for a minute or two and then repeat until it's as crispy as you want it.
Opt for leaner cuts of pork such as tenderloin or loin roast which are lower in fat and calories than shoulder or butt cuts. You can also substitute some of the oil used for sautéing with low-fat broth or water for a lighter version. Additionally, you can omit toppings like sour cream and opt for healthier substitutions like Greek yogurt.
Soft flour tortillas are typically used for tacos as they are easier to fold without breaking apart but corn tortillas can be used if you prefer them. Keep the tortillas wrapped in foil warm in the oven on low heat until ready to assemble your tacos.
For the best results I recommend using a boneless pork shoulder or butt. These cuts of pork have an ideal fat-to-lean ratio and a good amount of connective tissue which helps keep the meat moist throughout cooking.
Yes! The pork can be frozen prior to being added to the slow cooker as long as it is properly thawed ahead of time. Make sure to defrost it overnight in your refrigerator before adding it to your slow cooker.
After the pork is cooked in the slow cooker transfer it to a large bowl and use Shredding claws or two forks to shred it. Do not discard any cooking liquid from slow cooker as it can be used to keep the pork moist while in serving dish or freezing in portions.
Easy Mexican Inspired Recipes
Do you like Mexican recipes? Here some recipes you may also like to try.
Ready to get cooking? Remember that you can print this recipe if you would like.
Slow-Cooker Pork Carnitas (Mexican Tacos)
- Shredding claws or two forks
- 4-5 pound boneless pork butt or shoulder roast, cut into 2 to 3 inch chunks
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons orange zest
- 2 cups orange juice
- 2 tablespoons lime zest
- 1 cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon oregano leaves or ground
- 1 tablespoon cumin, ground
- 1 Jalapeno, seeded and chopped optional
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or another vegetable oil of your choice
Mojo Sour Cream
- 1 cup sour cream
- ¼ cup juice from slow cooker
- ½ tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
Cook the Pork
- Turn slow cooker on high. Add onion, lime zest and juice, orange zest and its juice, garlic, cumin, oregano, jalapenos (if using), bay leaves, 3 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Stir to combine.
- Rinse and dry the pork shoulder or butt with paper towel. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. Rub seasoning into roast. Place roast in slow cooker, fat side up. Cover and cook until pork roast is tender; between 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Cooking time will depend on size of pork roast. The pork should fall apart easily when poked with a fork.
- Once the pork is cooked transfer to a large bowl. Using two forks, shred the pork. Do not discard the juices in the slow cooker. If you like, skim excess fat off the top of the juices and discard. You also have the option of straining the liquid through a strainer to remove the onions and little bits. I don't usually do any of this. It's your choice. Remove the bay leaves.
Crisp the Pork
- Put oil in a large skillet, over medium to medium-high heat. Heat until it shimmers or a drop of water flicked in it dances. Add the pork. Whisk cooking liquids in slow cooker. Scoop out 1 cup and add it to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost evaporated and pork is brown and crispy in spots; about 10 to 15 minutes. Press the pork on to the bottom of the skillet and leave it to brown for a minute or two. Turn over and repeat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer pork to an oven-safe serving bowl and place in oven to keep warm. Add about ½ cup of the remaining cooking liquid in your slow cooker to the pork to keep it moist while in the serving dish.
Make the Mojo Sauce
- Combine sour cream, broth, and cilantro in a small bowl and whisk well.
- Warm tortillas, according to package instructions, if desired. Place all of the toppings in small bowls or on a large cutting board so everyone can make up their own. Add pork and your favorite taco toppings to each tortilla. Add a squeeze of lime over the top of the pork. Drizzle with mojo sour cream and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!
- Smear some refried beans in the center third of the tortilla. Add the cheese, pork and sour cream. Then add the vegetables, cilantro and salsa. Finish it off with a squeeze from a wedge of lime. Fold up the bottom edge and roll from the side. Leave one end open.
This post was originally published February 2017. It has been updated with new content.