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!

A big pile of Mexican pork carnitas on a plate.

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!
Crispy pork carnitas on a baking sheet

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.

To forks pulling apart the pork carnitas.

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:

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
A close up of a big pile of pork carnitas on a plate.

Favorite Mexican Recipes

A big pile of Mexican pork carnitas on a plate.

Pork Carnitas (Slow Cooker Mexican Pork)

We like to call these Mexican Pork Carnitas “the best carnitas you'll ever eat in your whole life.” Yes, they're that good. The meat is super flavorful and tender with lots of magical crispy bits. You'll love it!

If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!

4.91 stars (66 ratings)
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Ingredients

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

Instructions 

  • 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.
Serving: 1 serving = ⅙ of the recipe, Calories: 297kcal, Carbohydrates: 7g, Protein: 36g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 113mg, Sodium: 899mg, Potassium: 707mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 49IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 36mg, Iron: 2mg
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?If you love this recipe as much as we do, be sure to leave a review or share it on Instagram and tag @TheEndlessMeal.

For more inspiration, check out all of our Southwest and Mexican recipes!

This recipe is part of our Healthy Super Bowl Recipes series.