Tender pork, slow-cooked to juicy perfection, then quickly browned for deliciously crisp edges. This slow cooker carnitas recipe couldn’t be easier or more incredible, made with a simple spice blend and simmered in citrus juices with a handful of aromatics. I’ve been making this Crockpot pork carnitas for years and it’s still a huge hit in my house!
🌮 What Makes This Recipe So Good
- This easy pork carnitas recipe has been a favorite of mine for years. It’s just SO good! It uses your choice of pork tenderloin or pork loin, so you end up with unbelievably tender, juicy meat. Plus, the perfect amount of lime and orange juices tenderizes the pork even more while adding a delicious citrus flavor.
- Speaking of flavor, there’s SO MUCH of it here. Oregano and cumin, onion and garlic and jalapeño, lime and orange juices, not to mention the pork itself. It’s a simple recipe with just a handful of ingredients, but wow do they have a big impact!
- Cooking carnitas in the Crockpot means you have an incredible, flavorful, protein-packed Mexican dinner waiting for you when you get home. Just add the meat to tortillas or a salad with your favorite toppings, or even just eat it as-is. You’re all set!
👩🏼🍳 Chef’s Tips
- You’ll be tempted to skip the sear, but I’m telling you… DON’T. I mean, you can, but I really recommend the extra step. Browning the pork carnitas after it comes out of the slow cooker really makes a big difference. The meat gets just a little crisp on the edges, and it’s so, so good. You even get a little caramelization from the juices. Don’t worry, though, it doesn’t make the pork dry or tough at all.
- Whether you use pork loin or pork tenderloin for your slow cooker carnitas, make sure you only use 2 pounds! This recipe is written for 2 pounds of pork. If you use a whole pork tenderloin (or pork loin), you won’t have enough cooking liquid unless you adjust the amounts for all the other ingredients to match.
- Don’t let the ingredients list fool you. The recipe doesn’t call for a ton of liquid, because you really don’t need more than we’re using. The lime and orange juices keep the pork loin or tenderloin moist while the slow cooker warms up. From there, the pork starts to release its natural juices. You’ll actually end up with a little more liquid than you start with.
Crockpot Carnitas Recipe Variations
- Add a cinnamon stick to the Crockpot with the other ingredients for a super rich flavor.
- Add ½ cup beer (preferably Mexican beer) to the cooking liquid. The pork will have an even deeper flavor and be that much more tender.
- For hotter carnitas, don’t remove the seeds from the jalapeño when you chop it.
- Add a small can of diced green chilies for a little more kick.
💬 Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! I’ve even got an Instant Pot carnitas recipe on the blog already.
Pork shoulder and pork butt are the traditional cuts for carnitas, but this recipe was actually developed to use pork loin or pork tenderloin. That’s why the cook time is so short!
Anything you like! My favorite pork carnitas toppings are cotija crumbles, chopped cilantro, red onion, guac, pico de gallo, sour cream, and jalapeños.
Whether you make carnitas with pork loin, tenderloin, butt, or shoulder, it’s super versatile. Use it for tacos, quesadillas, nachos, salads, chilaquiles, burritos, or just enjoy it on its own or with a side of cilantro lime rice.
Don’t Miss These Pork Recipes!
- Sous Vide Pork Belly
- Pork Chops with Apples
- Instant Pot Pork Roast with Carrots, Potatoes, and Gravy
- Pork Belly Burnt Ends on the Grill
- Hearty Pork Stroganoff
- Pork Chop Casserole
For the Carnitas Rub
For the Carnitas
- 2 pounds pork tenderloin or boneless pork loin
- half of one onion chopped, approximately 1 cup
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium jalapeño stem removed, chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice juice from 1 medium lime
- 4-5 tablespoons fresh navel orange juice juice from 1 medium navel orange
- avocado oil
- Small bowl
- Whisk or small silicone spatula
- Cutting board
- Paper towels
- Slow Cooker with lid
- internal meat thermometer
- 2 forks
- Medium skillet
- ladle or measuring cup
- Large bowl
To Make the Carnitas
- Add 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, and 1 tablespoon avocado oil to small bowl. Whisk or stir ingredients together until well combined. Set bowl aside.
- Place 2 pounds pork tenderloin or pork loin on cutting board. Pat pork completely dry with paper towels on all sides.
- Coat pork in carnitas rub, gently massaging spice rub into tenderloin until fully coated on all sides. Place seasoned tenderloin in slow cooker.
- Add half of one onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1 medium jalapeño, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, and 4-5 tablespoons fresh navel orange juice to slow cooker.
- Cover slow cooker with lid. Cook on HIGH 4 to 6 hours, or LOW 6 to 8 hours. Check pork occasionally – when fully cooked, internal temperature will read 145° Fahrenheit on meat thermometer and meat will be easy to separate with fork.
- When pork is ready, carefully shred tenderloin in slow cooker using 2 forks. Alternately, remove meat from slow cooker and shred on cutting board, but do not discard any juices.
- If serving carnitas immediately, continue to next section of instructions. If not serving immediately, transfer shredded pork and juices to airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve, then continue with next section of instructions.
To Serve the Carnitas
- Heat medium skillet over medium heat. When skillet is warm, add drizzle of avocado oil and continue heating skillet until oil is hot and shimmering.
- When oil is hot, add just enough shredded pork to cover bottom of skillet without crowding. Ladle small amount of carnitas juice over meat in skillet and cook until liquid has evaporated and bottom of meat is browned and crispy.
- Flip meat over and briefly cook other side until lightly browned. Transfer seared carnitas to large bowl.
- Repeat process with any remaining carnitas. Once all carnitas has been seared and transferred to bowl, drizzle small amount of carnitas juice over meat and serve immediately as desired.
- Pork: It’s important that you use only 2 pounds of pork as directed, unless you also increase the amounts of the other ingredients. If you use more than 2 pounds without adjusting the rest of the ingredients, you will not have enough liquid. Use the servings calculator in the recipe card above to adjust the quantities as needed based on the weight of the pork you’re using.
- Jalapeño: For more heat, don’t remove the seeds from the jalapeño when you chop it.
- Searing Carnitas: Wait to sear the carnitas until you’re ready to serve it. Until then, just refrigerate it in an airtight container with juices drizzled on top.
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.