This Pork Carnitas recipe is tender, flavorful, and perfect for serving in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tamales or salads. The best part is you can make carnitas in the oven, slow cooker or instant pot.

Don’t miss my other favorite slow cooker, or 30-minute meals I can throw together easily on a busy weeknight.

Two carnitas tacos served on a plate, topped with fresh cilantro.

I love making International cuisine from home and Carnitas (Spanish for “little meats”) is one of the tastiest and easiest additions to our taco night! Carnitas pork is similar to pulled pork but flavored with Mexican spices and oven roasted after slow cooking.

Why I love this recipe:

  • 5 Minute Prep and let the oven, slow cooker or instant pot do all the work.
  • Versatile – Serve them in just about anything from tacos, burritos, tamales, quesadillas or burrito bowls.
  • Freezer Friendly – save the leftovers for another meal.

How to make Carnitas (Slow Cooker Method):

Season Pork: Trim and discard excess fat from the pork. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper then generously season the pork on all sides.

A pork shoulder roast in a slow cooker with seasoning on all side to make easy carnitas.

Add Onion, Garlic and Citrus: Place the seasoned pork in the bottom of the slow cooker then add garlic, chopped onions, orange juice, and lime juice around it.

Diced onion poured on top of a pork shoulder roast in a slow cooker.

Cook: Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

A cooked pork shoulder roast in a slow cooker to make carnitas tacos.

Shred: Remove pork from the slow cooker, shred the meat, then return it to the pot. Taste and add more seasonings or salt and pepper, if needed.

Two images showing a pork roast shredded then returned back to the slow cooker for easy carnitas tacos.

Broil (optional): At this point you can eat the pork as is or, to be make it more authentic, you can place the meat on a baking sheet and broil it for 2-3 minutes until the edges are crispy. For carnitas tacos, serve inside warm corn tortillas, garnished with cilantro.

A baking sheet lined with parchment paper then a single layer of pork carnitas meat, broiled.

Instant Pot Carnitas:

Prepare and season the pork the same, inside the instant pot then add an additional cup of water or chicken broth to the pot. Cook on Manual/High pressure for 70 minutes. When timer beeps, allow the pot to naturally release pressure, about 15 minutes longer. Remove lid then shred the meat. Broil if desired.

Oven Carnitas:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F then cut the pork into 4 pieces (this will allow it to cook faster and more evenly in the pot). Season the pork on all sides and place in pot then add an additional cup of water/broth to the pot.  Prepare and season the pork the same, but cut it into a few large chunks to fit evenly into a dutch oven pan or oven-safe pot. Bake for 3-3/12 hours, until tender.

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: Add everything to the pot, cover and refrigerate for 1-2 days before cooking (depending on the freshness of your ingredients).

To Freeze: Allow this easy carnitas recipe to cool completely, then store in a freezer safe container or bag for up to 4 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. To rewarm, spread the meat on a baking sheet with a little of the juice and reheat at 400 degrees F until warm, about 10-15 minutes.

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Recipe

Two of the best carnitas recipe on a plate, topped with fresh cilantro.
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 5 hours
Total 5 hours 10 minutes
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Equipment

Ingredients
 
 

Instructions
 

  • Trim and discard excess fat from the pork.
  • In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Generously season the pork on all sides. 
  • Add the seasoned pork to the bottom of the slow cooker. Add garlic, chopped onions, orange juice, and lime juice. 
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
  • Remove pork from the slow cooker, shred the meat. Taste and add more seasonings and salt and pepper, if needed. 
  • At this point you can eat the pork as is, or for a more authentic taste, place the meat on a baking sheet and broil it for 2-3 minutes until the edges are crispy. 
  • For tacos, serve warm inside warm corn tortillas topped with salsa or pico and cilantro. Serve with a side of Mexican rice and refried beans

Notes

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Oven Method: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Cut the pork into 4 pieces (this will allow it to cook faster and more evenly in the pot). Season the pork on all sides and place in pot. Add an additional cup of water/broth to the pot.  Prepare and season the pork the same, but cut it into a few large chunks to fit evenly into a dutch oven pan or oven-safe pot. Bake for 3-3/12 hours, until tender.
Instant Pot: Prepare and season the pork the same, inside the instant pot. Add an additional cup of water or chicken broth to the pot. Cook on Manual/High pressure for 70 minutes. When timer beeps, allow the pot to naturally release pressure, about 15 minutes longer. Remove lid and shred the meat. Broil if desired.
Make Ahead Instructions: Add everything to the pot, cover and refrigerate for 1-2 days before cooking (depending on the freshness of your ingredients).
Freezing Instructions: Allow the pork to cool completely, then store in a freezer safe container or bag for up to 4 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. To rewarm, spread the meat on a baking sheet with a little of the juice and reheat at 400 degrees F until warm, about 10-15 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 230kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 28gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 723mgPotassium: 589mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 629IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 58mgIron: 3mg

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I originally shared this recipe March 2017. Updated March 2020 and July 2023.

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Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this with my Dutch oven, I did a smaller 2.5lb shoulder roast, it still turned out amazing. I did add some bacon fat as to make up for not using lard and it turned out great! Will definitely be making this again.

  2. 5 stars
    Made this today in the crockpot and served it on homemade tortillas. It was easy and so delish! Leftovers will be a pizza topping in a few days.

  3. 5 stars
    Super easy, super tender, super yummy! I served this with avocado, lime wedges, green onion and Spanish rice on the side. Definitely a keeper recipe!

  4. So great, and one better was to mix left overs with Kinders BBQ Sauce – OMG soooo GOOD! You’ll never make shredded pork any other way <3

  5. 5 stars
    This is soooo good! I’ve made it for my husband and I every week since I found it – we both love it every time I make it. The tacos honestly need nothing as the meat is so good itself

  6. These are SO good. My daughter asks for this all the time. We have them with the tortillas, rice and even on nachos. Delicious.

  7. I just bought a new grill – super pumped! Appreciate the post – trying to learn as much as I can before the Spring is in full swing.

  8. I made this dish in my slow cooker and couldn’t believe how easy is was to put together. I also tried your suggestion of browning it under the broiler to crisp up the edges and liked the result. I used soft tacos spread with avocado and salsa and then topped with the pork. My husband absolutely loved them!

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