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These crispy pork carnitas are simple, delicious, and SO tender and juicy! The meat cooks up easily in slow cooker or Instant Pot, and is browned in the oven until perfectly crisp. Finish with my cilantro lime crema for a flavorful kick!
My favorite food is tacos. And when it comes to the perfect taco, there’s nothing quite like slow cooker pork carnitas. In fact, this pork carnitas recipe is birthday meal of choice. You know, that one meal you always like to have on your birthday? Pork carnitas finished with a little paleo chocolate cake are at the top of my list!
If you’re unfamiliar with carnitas, you’re in for a treat. Carnitas, which means “little meats”, is a traditional Mexican dish I first experienced in Puebla, Mexico at the age of 16. After having my first pork carnitas, I remember thinking… “I need more of THAT!” Tender and juicy caramelized bits of Mexican heaven? Sign me up!
Carnitas is basically pulled pork that is braised or simmered for a long period of time. Once tender, the heat is turned up and the meat begins to crisp. While there’s quite a bit of variety in carnitas recipes, they’re typically served in tacos with sauces and condiments like cilantro, salsa, and lime.
This pork carnitas recipe is a simple slow cooker rendition that allows for hands off cooking. The pork is then finished under the broiler, and I’ve also included a cilantro lime crema as a finishing sauce. I personally love serving pork carnitas with Siete tortillas. Just heat them up in the pan for a few minutes and you’re good to go!
This meal makes for a perfect weeknight dish for the family, and it’s great for entertaining. If you’ve got people coming over, this pork carnitas recipe is easy, makes plenty of food, and everyone can customize their meal with toppings. You can’t go wrong!
How to Make Crispy Pork Carnitas
The best part about this park carnitas recipe is that it’s SO easy to make. To start, place the pork shoulder in the slow cooker. I like to cut the pork into 2-3 large chunks to get the seasoning on more of the meat.
Sprinkle the meat with sea salt, cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic, paprika, pepper, and cinnamon. Rub the seasoning evenly onto the pork.
Add the chipotle hot sauce, orange juice, and lime juice to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Once the meat has cooked, shred the meat with two forks directly in the slow cooker. To speed things up, you can also put the pork in a stand mixer and mix it on high with the beater attachment. The pork will shred in about 5-10 seconds. If you use this method, be sure to add the pork back to the slow cooker and mix it with the juices.
All About That Crisp
Now, this is where the magic happens. To get the pork nice and crispy, preheat the broiler on high and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the shredded pork to the prepared baking pan with a slotted spoon. You want a small amount of juice with the pork to keep it moist. Make sure the pork is in an even layer on the pan so that each piece gets some heat.
Broil the pork for 5-7 minutes, or until the pork is crispy. Check it right at about 4 minutes, and mix the pork around if necessary. The result is a tender and juicy pork with a beautiful caramelized crisp. Don’t skip this step—this is what makes these pork carnitas irresistable!
Cilantro Lime Crema
A Mexican crema is a slightly thick and tangy condiment similar to sour cream. It’s creamy, a little salty, and can be infused with flavors like cilantro and lime. A dollop or drizzle of this cilantro lime crema is the perfect finish to pork carnitas. To make it, just blend all of the ingredients together until smooth. I typically use an immersion blender for this, but you can also use a standard blender.
Serve pork carnitas in tortillas with shredded lettuce, avocado, and cilantro. Drizzle the cilantro lime crema on top of the meat before wrapping up the tortilla.
Making Instant Pot Crispy Pork Carnitas
I tested this recipe in both the slow cooker and Instant Pot, and it’s equally delicious both ways! To make Instant Pot pork carnitas, cut the pork into 2-inch chunks and place the meat in the Instant Pot. Rub the spices on the pork pieces, then add the chipotle hot sauce, orange juice, and lime juice to the pot. Add 1 cup water, and close the lid securely and set vent to “Sealing”. Cook on high pressure for 35 minutes, followed by a natural pressure release (about 15-20 minutes). Follow the same instructions for shredding the meat and browning it under the broiler.
Why I Love This Crispy Pork Carnitas Recipe
- This pork carnitas recipe has only a few steps, and cooking is hands off!
- This recipe contains simple, nourishing ingredients.
- While this dish is unique and flavorful, the prep work is kept to a minimum. You can have everything rolling in the slow cooker in under 10 minutes.
- This dish is the perfect weeknight dinner. It’s also great for entertaining! It gives you a ton of food, and everyone can customize their meal.
- The recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, low carb, and paleo.
Cooking Tips + Tricks
- Pork shoulder or butt works in this recipe. I prefer boneless pork shoulder.
- Use freshly squeezed juices without added sugar for the best flavor.
- The tablespoon of chipotle hot sauce and the dash of cinnamon are your secret ingredients that will have everyone coming back for more. It may seem like a small amount, but it’s everything!
- To shred the pork, throw it into a stand mixer and mix it on high with the beater attachment. The pork with shred in about 10 seconds.
- When transferring the pork to the sheet pan, make sure a little bit of liquid comes along for the ride. The liquid will keep the pork moist and juicy as it crisps.
- Make sure the pork is spread out on the pan in an even layer so all the little pieces get a hit of heat.
Recommended Equipment + Pantry Items
This is the slow cooker I’ve had for years and highly recommend. It works great, holds a lot of food, and won’t break the bank! It’s a great investment. I also highly recommend this Instant Pot. For more info about what I personally have tried and tested in the kitchen, plus recommendations when it comes to pantry items, check out my baking and cooking resources page.
Other Recipes You’ll Love
- Instant Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup (Whole30, Paleo)
- Creamy Crockpot White Chicken Chili (Dairy-Free, Paleo, Whole30)
- Cilantro-Lime Turkey Burgers (Paleo, Low Carb, Whole30)
- Egg Roll in A Bowl (Healthy, Low Carb, Paleo)
- Sheet Pan Chicken, Broccoli, and Sweet Potatoes with Garlic Herb Aioli (Whole30, Paleo)
What did you think about this slow cooker pork carnitas recipe? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!