It doesn’t get much simpler or more delicious than tender and flavorful pork Carnitas. This delicious shredded pork is flavored with Mexican spices and can be served in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tamales or salads. 

My saving grace as a busy mom is recipes I can prepare first thing in the morning in the slow cooker, or 30-minute meals I can throw together easily after work!

Two carnitas pork tacos on a plate.

What are pork carnitas?

Carnitas (spanish for “little meats”) is a popular Mexican recipe that is made by slow cooking pork shoulder, then shredding it and roasting it in the oven. It’s very similar to pulled pork except that it’s oven roasted after slow cooking and I like to cook my carnitas with a touch of lime and orange juice.

Who needs a Mexican restaurant when you can make it so much better at home, with really simple pantry ingredients? I know you’re going to love theses carnitas!

Why I love this recipe:

  • 5 minute prep time, and you can cook carnitas in the oven, slow cooker or in the instant pot!
  • Versatile: serve them in just about anything from tacos, burritos, tamales, quesadillas or burrito bowls.
  • Freezer friendly 

How to make Carnitas (slow cooker method):

  1. Season pork. 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.
  2. Add onion, garlic and citrus. Place the seasoned pork in the bottom of the slow cooker and add garlic, chopped onions, orange juice, and lime juice around it.
  3. Cook. Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
  4. Shred. Remove pork from the slow cooker, shred the meat, and return it to the pot. Taste and add more seasonings or salt and pepper, if needed.
Four process photos for seasoning, cooking and shredding carnitas pork in a slow cooker.

Broil (optional). At this point you can eat the pork as is or, to be truly authentic, you can place the meat on a baking sheet and broil it for 2-3 minutes until the edges are crispy.

For tacos, serve inside warm corn tortillas, garnished with cilantro.

A sheet pan with crispy shredded pork carnitas.

To make in the 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.

To make in the Oven:

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.

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 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.

Serve Carnitas with my other favorite Mexican recipes, like:

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Recipe

Two carnitas pork tacos on a plate.
Prep 10 mins
Cook 5 hrs
Total 5 hrs 10 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Video

Ingredients
  

  • 4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 2-3 teaspoons salt or more, to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 onions roughly chopped
  • juice from 2 large oranges
  • juice from 2 limes

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. 
    Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas | Tastes Better From Scratch
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
  • Remove pork from the slow cooker, shred the meat, and return it to the pot. Taste and add more seasonings and salt and pepper, if needed. 
    Four process photos for seasoning, cooking and shredding carnitas pork in a slow cooker.
  • At this point you can eat the pork as it, or (to be truly authentic) you can place the meat on a baking sheet and broil it for 2-3 minutes until the edges are crispy. 
    A sheet pan with crispy shredded pork carnitas.
  • For tacos, serve warm inside corn tortillas, garnished with cilantro. Add salsa or pico if desired.
    Two carnitas pork tacos on a plate.
  • Serve with a side of authentic Mexican rice and refried beans
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Notes

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: 27gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 92mgSodium: 722mgPotassium: 589mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 625IUVitamin C: 3.6mgCalcium: 58mgIron: 3.1mg

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I originally shared this recipe March 2017. Updated March 2020 with process photos and instructions.

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