These Crockpot carnitas are made in the slow cooker for a super easy paleo or Whole30 dinner. Pork loin or tenderloin makes these Crockpot carnitas a budget-friendly, healthy Mexican recipe, and they’re so full of flavor! Used in my Whole30 carnitas chilaquiles recipe, as well as my copycat Chipotle carnitas bowl.
Why This Recipe Works
- Using pork loin or tenderloin means no hard-to-find ingredients, and the result is super tender.
- Fresh citrus tenderizes the carnitas while they cook in the Crockpot and leaves you with plenty of juices for browning and serving.
- Cooking these carnitas in the Crockpot means an easy and flavorful Mexican dinner ready for you when you get home from work or school.
- Browning the carnitas at the end adds a beautiful crispiness to a few pieces that you’ll love.
- This Crockpot is super functional, and I highly recommend it! (<<< affiliate link)
I was never a huge fan of carnitas before my first Whole30. Nah, I didn’t have anything against the Mexican pulled pork, but I’d always, always opt for steak if given the chance. Problem is…
Well, two problems.
a) The steak at Chipotle is not Whole30 compliant, and
b) Um, steak is expensive?
So on our first Chipotle outing during a Whole30, I wandered up to the glass with my phone in my face and ordered off a post I’d found on the Whole30 forums.
“Carnitas and lettuce and, um… extra guac, of course,” I emphasized. “And like 2 cups of each salsa.”
Because, you know, that roasted salsa verde is damn good, but not as good as the one I made!
I was surprised, then, when I liked the carnitas bowl as much as I did, considering there was no, GASP, cheese, and no, ALSO GASP, steak, and no corn salsa and no crunchy chips and generally lots of saying no to lots of things. But what I got instead was crunchy and crisp, tender and juicy, bright and flavorful and garlicky and a little smoky. I left feeling satisfied but not grossly full, and I didn’t immediately need to take a nap or top off my steady caffeine drip.
Really, though, I found myself craving carnitas bowls on a recent Whole30 and had a couple pork loins in the fridge that I’d recently found on sale at Sprouts for insanely cheap. At about 4 bucks for half a loin (8 bucks for the whole thing, and we used the other half for a pan-roasted tenderloin with apples and bacon DROOL), this Whole30 Crockpot carnitas recipe made enough carnitas for an entire week of lunches for O and me. And did I mention I literally put it in the Crockpot on Sunday afternoon and just let it do its thing? Y’all.
Tips for Success
- Don’t skip browning the carnitas after they’re shredded! Browning them in a bit of oil with some leftover juices takes them to the next level with crispy bits and a juicy texture.
- You can use pork loin or pork tenderloin for these Whole30 Crockpot carnitas:both are delicious.
- Make sure you only use 2 pounds of either pork loin or pork tenderloin, though, rather than just a whole pork loin or whole pork tenderloin.
- The order in which you add the ingredients after the pork doesn’t really matter, but I usually do salt, garlic, onion, jalapeños, then the juice.
- Deseed your jalapeño for milder Crockpot carnitas.
- Try this recipe with chicken breasts. The cooking time should remain the same.
- Add a cinnamon stick with your citrus juices for a super rich flavor.
- Add 1/2 cup beer, preferably Mexican, to the cooking liquid for really tender Crockpot carnitas. Don’t do this if you’re on a Whole30, though!
Can I use my Instant Pot?
Sure! First, you could try my perfect paleo Instant Pot carnitas and cook them under pressure. The result is seriously amazing.
Or you could use the Slow Cooker setting and follow this recipe as written.
Does the liquid need to cover the pork loin or pork tenderloin?
Can I use two 1-pound pork tenderloins?
Absolutely. The key here is just to use 2 pounds of pork loin or pork tenderloin; however you come to that figure is fine.
Can I double this recipe?
Absolutely! Simply double all ingredients exactly and follow the same time recommendations, perhaps erring on the side of the longer end (5-6 hours on high and 7-8 hours on low).
How to Make It
Combine the rub ingredients and rub all over the pork tenderloin or loin.
Cover pork with remaining Crockpot carnitas ingredients.
Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or high 4-6 hours.
Remove pork from Crockpot and shred.
Heat a drizzle of avocado oil (or olive oil or coconut oil) in a skillet over medium heat. Add a layer of shredded carnitas (but don’t crowd) and spoon a couple ladles of cooking juice over. Cook until crisp on the underside then flip and crisp briefly on the second side. Serve with a bit of extra juice.
Did you make and love this recipe? Give your review below! ? And make sure to share your creations by tagging me on Instagram!
- 2 pounds pork tenderloin or loin
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 jalapeño chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Juice of one lime
- Juice of one navel orange
- Pat dry pork tenderloin with paper towels. Combine rub ingredients and rub all over tenderloin then place in your Crockpot.
- Top with remaining ingredients, cover, and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours. When done, the meat will be cooked through and very tender, easily separated with a fork.
- Remove the tenderloin from the Crockpot and shred the meat with two forks. Do not discard juices.
- Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add enough carnitas to cover the surface without crowding and ladle a little of the carnitas juice over. Cook until juice has evaporated and the bottom of carnitas is crispy and browned. Flip and cook briefly, but not until too brown.
- Remove from skillet and drizzle with a little more juice. Serve.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.
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Note: This post was originally published April 2017, but was republished with step by step instructions and tips June 2018.