We like to call these Mexican Pork Carnitas “the absolute best carnitas you'll ever eat in your whole life.” Yes, they're that good. The meat is flavorful and super tender with lots of magical crispy bits. You'll love it!
Also, make sure to try our carnitas taco lettuce wraps and our rotisserie chicken carnitas with jalapeño pineapple salsa!
Table of contents
We really struggled with naming this recipe. Of course, they're known as pork carnitas. But we really wanted the title of this post to be The Best Pork Carnitas in the Whole Wide World or The Best Carnitas You'll Ever Eat. We decided to keep it simple and call them pork carnitas, but know that they really are the best.
Why this is the best pork carnitas recipe ever
- The Mexican pulled pork is melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy.
- But not just tender. It's dotted with magical crispy bits that will make you swoon.
- And flavorful. What sets this recipe apart from others is that the cooking liquid is reduced and then poured over the crisped meat. It makes this carnitas recipe unbelievably tasty.
- These carnitas are so easy to make. If you can put a few things into a pot (or crockpot!), pull apart tender meat, and set your oven to broil then you can make these.
- Only 10 minutes of prep. And that's generous. If you move quickly you can have the carnitas cooking in 5 minutes.
- This recipe uses pantry staple ingredients. Pick up some pork at the grocery store, and you'll likely have everything else waiting for you in your kitchen.
- Tacos carnitas are the best tacos ever!
- This recipe is gluten-free, paleo, and Whole30. Healthy pork carnitas that are out of this world delicious!
So what are carnitas?
Carnitas is braised pork that has been chopped into small pieces or shredded. Braising means cooking in liquid for many hours and is done on the stovetop, in the oven, or in a slow cooker.
Authentic carnitas are made by cooking a fatty cut of pork (like pork shoulder) in lard. Since most of us don't keep tubs of lard in our pantries (at least we don't!) this recipe is made a little differently. Don't worry, it is every bit as delicious.
How to make pork carnitas
Luckily for us, carnitas are super easy to make. While you can braise the meat in your oven or in a pot on your stovetop, we like to use a crockpot. Using a slow cooker is the easiest way to make carnitas.
To make carnitas, rub a pork butt roast (pork shoulder) with some pantry-staple spices then put it into your slow cooker with some lime and orange juice, a little garlic, and bay leaves. Then sit back and drink a fizzy lime margarita while you let the crockpot do all the work for you!
How to store leftovers
Leftover carnitas can be stored airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat them gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Carnitas also freeze very well! Store them in a freezer-proof container for up to 3 months.
How to make carnitas crispy
Once your slow cooker has turned your pork roast into pulled pork, you'll want to crisp the meat. This is where the magic happens. You have 2 options here.
Option #1: Broil the carnitas in your oven.
This is our favorite option. The meat gets beautifully crisp spots like authentic carnitas that have been simmered in lard for hours. The flavor is incredible.
Option #2: Sear the carnitas in a pan on your stove.
Stovetop carnitas is a good option in the summertime when turning your oven to broil would heat your home like crazy. It's also a little faster. The carnitas are good this way, but not as good as the oven method. We find that the meat and sauce can easily burn before the meat crisps. We only recommend using this method as a backup plan if you don't want to turn on your oven.
How to serve pork carnitas
We typically make a big taco feast when we make pork carnitas. Here's what we like on the table:
- Warm corn tortillas
- Easy guacamole or our creamy avocado sauce
- Spicy Mexican rice
- Pico de Gallo
- Black beans or refried black beans
- Cabbage (Try tossing it in our shrimp taco sauce!)
What to make with leftover carnitas
Leftover carnitas can be stored in an airtight container in your fridge for 3 days. But carnitas freeze beautifully. Pop any leftovers in a plastic freezer bag in portion sizes you'll use. Trust us, you'll be so happy that you did!
Other ideas for using leftover carnitas
- Top with eggs and salsa for breakfast
- Make a carnitas sandwich
- Turn them into enchiladas
- Use them to step up your nachos game
- Take a healthy approach and put some on top of salad greens
- Make pork carnitas tacos
Favorite Mexican Recipes
- Grilled Mezcal Chicken Fajita
- Baja Fish Tacos with Southern Slaw
- Shrimp Tacos
- Skillet Enchiladas
- Mexican Corn Dip
Pork Carnitas (Slow Cooker Mexican Pork)
If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!
The Spice Rub
- 2 teaspoons EACH: salt and paprika
- 1 teaspoon EACH: black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and oregano
- Optional: ½ teaspoon chili flakes, if you like it a little spicy
The Pork Carnitas
- 2 ½ lbs. pork butt, or pork shoulder
- Juice from 2 oranges
- Juice from 2 limes
- 1 tablespoon honey, omit for sugar-free
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- Mix the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Evenly coat all sides of the pork with the spice rub.2 teaspoons EACH: salt and paprika, 1 teaspoon EACH: black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and oregano, Optional: ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- Add the orange juice, lime juice, honey (if using), garlic, and bay leaves to your pot. Stir then set the pork on top.Juice from 2 oranges, Juice from 2 limes, 1 tablespoon honey, 4 cloves garlic, 2 bay leaves, 2 ½ lbs. pork butt
- Choose which method you will cook the pork carnitas and follow those directions.
- When the pork is very tender, remove it from the pot and shred it using 2 forks. Turn your oven to broil.
- Pour the cooking juices into a pot and boil for 10 minutes, or until it is reduced to about ½ cup.
- Place the shredded pork on a large, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle it with the avocado oil, and put it on the top rack in your oven. Let it broil for 10 minutes then mix the pork around and broil for 10 minutes more.1 tablespoon avocado oil
- Pour the reduced cooking liquid over the pork and toss to coat.
Slow Cooker Method
- Cover the pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
Stovetop cooking method
- Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat and cover the pot. Simmer very gently for 5-6 hours, or until the pork is very tender.
Oven cooking method
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Cover the pot and put it in your oven for 7-8 hours, or until the pork is very tender.
For more inspiration, check out all of our Southwest and Mexican recipes!
This recipe is part of our Healthy Super Bowl Recipes series.
Have made this 3 times now. Really good recipe. Great with a bit of lime juice and sour cream. Thanks
I made these last night in my slow cooker. The smell was heavenly every time I woke up! Followed the instructions to the letter and the finished product is so tasty and delicious! I bought too big of a pork roast so didn’t have the right amount of limes, I will add more next time. The citrus notes and spices together are key. I will be making this again!! Delicious!
I veganized this recipe by replacing the pork with jack fruit. Made the sauce with the spices and cooked the jack fruit in a pan for about 10 minutes. Then spooned the jack fruit on to a parchment paper covered cookie sheet and baked at 350 for about 20 minutes to get it browned up. In the mean time I reduced the sauce. Put the crisped jack fruit back in the sauce and made some very nice tacos. 👍
Oh that’s so awesome to know that this works with jackfruit! I’ll have to try that myself one day!
Outstanding recipe for carnitas, easy to follow directions. I have made this a dozen or so times, always in the oven and then crisped up under the broiler. If you have never had these, it is well worth the time to try it out. We love the citrus notes you get with the orange and lime.
So freaking good! I’m posting on Instagram w credit to your blog! Hope that’s ok. Seriously, the citrus, garlic, cumin, spice combo plus the dash of honey just made these so savory, so tender, so YUMM.
You’ve done it again! It’s rare that I make recipes exactly as written, but yours are always perfect all the way down to the amount of salt you use. My husband and I aren’t accustomed to eating much salt, so I divided it in half and only used one teaspoon, but in the end, I had to add a little more. I don’t know how you make such perfect recipes, but every time I cook something of yours, I wonder why I don’t come to your blog more often for recipe ideas. This was mouth-watering good. I served it up as burritos with homemade salsa, refried beans, and guacamole. I’ll definitely make this again and again and again.
Can I use orange juice and lime juice in bottles instead of two oranges and two limes & if I could how many tablespoons or teaspoons would that be for each orange juice and lime juice?
I personally prefer the flavor of fresh, but bottled will work, too. 1 lime = 2 tablespoons of juice. 1 orange = ½ cup of juice.
Can i omit the garlic ?
I am going to make this for my son’s birthday next month. The picture at the top looks as if the pork butt was seared before it went into the slow cooker. The directions don’t mention searing the roast. So, to sear or not to sear, that is the question.
Not it’s not seared. Those are the spices that you see on the pork in the slow cooker. It does go into the oven after it’s cooked which gives it beautiful dark crispy bits. 🙂
I have made this several times, it is excellent! I also made the avocado cream and the pickled onions. So good!
Hi there, slow cooked the pork and it came out AMAZING! When I reduced the drippings, it burned…. now I have nothing to poor over the broiled pork. Do you have any quick fixes for this problem? Also, why did it burn? I strained the juice, so there where no chunks. Please help, I love the recipe up until this happened ☹
Oh I’m so sorry that happened! If the drippings are actually burnt, you’ll want to discard them. If they’re just very dark but not burned (you should be able to smell the difference) then you can likely salvage it with some stock or water.
Hi Kristen: I am making this carnitas recipe now, but there are no juices left and we still need to cook for at last 5 hours! We are cooking at 325 in the oven. Not sure what we did wrong?
It smells great, but again no juices.
Hi Laurie! Not sure why there are no juices left. The pork normally releases quite a lot of liquid so there is usually more at the end than what I start with. I’d recommend adding a cup of chicken or beef stock to the pot.
This recipe is so ridiculously good!!!! Made it for the first time last week – nibbled on the leftovers the next day until they were gone and have been craving it ever since – so it’s in the crock pot now! Crisping it in the oven and adding the juice is brilliant. Definitely a keeper and will share with friends.
Do you think I could make this same recipe using chuck roast. My son has decided he doesn’t eat pork anymore. This has been an absolute favorite at our house!!!!!
Beef isn’t as fatty as pork so that might change the result a bit. But I still think that it would be very tasty with chuck roast!
Made the original recipe a while ago & forgot to tag your site so I’ve been struggling to find it.
I’m so happy to find it again and my family will thank you too. Everyone loved it!
Oh yay! I’m so happy that you found your way back!
This is excellent. I copied it exactly but I couldn’t find a port butt I used pork neck (popular here in Thailand with great taste as it’s a little fattier than butt) and only added two bay leafs, an onion (idea stolen from another recipe) and some more chili powder and red pepper flakes to give it some kick (Next time I’ll use more chili.) What makes this so delicious are the last steps of reducing the juices and putting the pork under the broiler for 20 minutes. This gives it a smokey, crisply flavor and texture that really brings it all together. Yum!
Even my Thai wife, who is a Thai chef, loved it. She said, “Wow, how is this so delicious!” I think we’ll be eating this at home for the foreseeable future!
Burned like you wouldn’t believe. Needs two hours in over. Not 7
Pork butt needs to be cooked for a long time at low heat. It would be very tough after only 2 hours. Did you add the liquid that the recipe calls for? Between that liquid, and the liquid released from the pork as it cooks, the pork butt is usually swimming in liquid at the end.
This was the first time I made carnitas, and they were amazing. I served this with cilantro, onions and your creamy avocado sauce. I will definitely make these again and again. Thank you for the recipe!
You’re very welcome!!
Wow! This was outstanding. I have tried many carnitas slow cooker recipes over the years, but this one by far is the best. The combination of the spice rub and citrus was great, but broiling until crispy was fantastic. We served with all the suggested toppings — guacamole, pickled onions, cilantro, onions -so good! Really enjoy your recipes and have tried a few- thank you!
That makes me so happy to hear! Hooray!
Hi, I have been making your original recipe for years and love it, but this recipe is different and the link to the old one is no longer active. Is there anywhereI can find the old recipe? thanks
It is a little different. I removed a few ingredients that were hard for people to source.
This recipe is quite similar:
If you have them, I would add a guajillo pepper or two while it’s cooking then blend it into the sauce.
When I made a similar recipe last month with a 7.5 lb bone-in pork butt, I refrigerated the copious juices overnight to remove the congealed fat before boiling it down. In each quart-sized freezer bag of not-yetcrisped leftover meat I included a snack-sized bag of the reduced juice to use when reheating/crisping (per suggestion of RecipeTinEats.) Ate last night in quesadillas with cilantro-lime rice – yummy and juicy. Next time I’ll try your broiler crisping method – thanks for the idea.
It really is all about boiling down the sauce and mixing it with the meat. It makes such a big difference! Do try the broiler method of crisping the meat. I find it works so much better!
You forgot the Instant Pot/Pressure cooker option for cooking the carnitas. I usually cut the pork into 2 inch chunks, rub with spices and throw into the instant pot. Make sure you have about 1 cup of liquid in the bottom. Set to cook on high pressure for 45-60min and voila, the fastest carnitas you can imagine. I love your idea of crisping the meat up afterwards, thanks!!
Thank you for letting us know the IP instructions! You’re awesome!!
I plan on making these tomorrow! I was wondering what your thoughts are on putting the dry rub on and letting sit over night?
I think that would work just fine! Probably even better. 🙂
What do you think about doing these in a smoker??? I know how….just not sure if the taste would be right! It sounds delicious in my head….and my mouth is watering!!!
I’ve actually never used a smoker before so I really can’t say, but I have eaten smoked meat before and it is delicious. If you make it with your smoker I’d love to hear how it turned out. My guess is it would be extra smoky and delicious ?
Kristen, How do you think using a slow cooker would work for the 4 – 5 hours (may be extending the cooking time)? I also have a cast iron dutch oven which I could use if you think the slow cooker would not work. I work outside the house and don’t like to leave food cooking on stove while I am gone, so I thought the slow cooker might be an alternative.
This will definitely work in a slow cooker. Just finish it up under the broiler when you get home.
Btw: I totally have to get myself a slow cooker. Everyone I know who has one raves about them 🙂
Looks delicious Kristen. Am I right in thinking this amount of pork will serve about 8 people?
I’m pretty sure it would be enough for 8 people. 2 of us pigged out more than we needed to two nights in a row and I put a bunch in the freezer to save for later. If you’re worried at all do get a little bigger piece of pork. I do think it will be enough though.
Hope you have a great dinner!
Kristen, this looks wonderful. I would second that the chile you’re asking about appears to be a guajillo. They are a slight bit shorter and broader than New Mexico chiles and typically have a lower Scoville rating. Ancho are the very dark, almost black, dried chiles. Fresh (and picked green before fully ripened) they are known as pablano.
Loved your carnitas! Guacamole is difficult to get here in Greece. Any alternatives?
It looks a lot like a Mexican Gyros version:) Since we love Souvlaki with Gyros (Pita-Gyros) we ‘ll definitely love this variation!
I can’t think of anything similar to an avocado but if they’re hard to find in Greece then just leave out the guacamole. I bet it would be good with some thick sour cream and some fresh salsa too 🙂
I made these tonight and they were SO GOOD! Both my husband and kids devoured them. Will definitely be making them again. Great recipe 🙂
Definitely NOT carnitas, but it looks really good!
Not carnitas? Really? They’re what I have always known as carnitas. How do you make them?
Im a bit confused about the reduced liquid at the end. You say to mix it with the pork before you broil it, however step 14. says Pour liquid over…does this mean we save half of it for the end? Thanks…cant wait to try this!
Look like New Mexican dried peppers to me. You can get them at any grocery store and they have a light smoky flavor with mild heat.
That’s so great to know! Now I’ll just have to figure out what the rest of the peppers I was given are 🙂
Hi, I live in Mexico and I am pretty sure it’s a guajillo dried pepper. Thanks for the recipe, it looks great and very different from what I have tried here!
I’ve never heard of a guajillo pepper before. I love how there are so many different kinds and they all taste a little (or a lot) different. Thank you for letting me know what it is!
Looks just like all of the ancho chilis I have in my freezer.