Slow Cooker Crispy Pork Carnitas
Yield: 6-8 servings
A healthier, easier way to make tender, juicy, and crispy carnitas starts with your slow cooker!


  • 1 (4- to 4-1/2 pound) lean boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed, cut into 3-inch chunks*
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 2 oranges) plus the squeezed rinds of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2 limes)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (you may leave seeds for added heat if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper



  1. Add all of the ingredients to a large (6-quart) slow cooker and stir to combine.  (Don’t forget to add two of the squeezed orange halves—I do not add the lime rinds.) Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours or until the pork is quite tender and shreds easily with a fork.

    When the pork is cooked, discard the oranges.  Then preheat your broiler to high heat and line two large, rimmed baking sheets with foil. Use a fork to shred the meat into bite-sized pieces (this can be done right in your slow cooker if desired), and then use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to the prepared baking sheets. (NOTE: If I expect leftovers, I proceed with one baking sheet.  Also, you may certainly omit the following broiling step if you’re in a hurry or simply want to forego the crispness for a softer end result.) Spread the pork in an even layer and leave the juices in the slow cooker. Be sure to save the juices—we’ll use them later.

    Place one baking sheet under the broiler for about 2-3 minutes, watching closely, or until the edges of the pork begin to brown and get crispy. Remove the sheet from the oven, and then drizzle about 1/4 cup of the juices from the slow cooker evenly over the pork.  Toss the pork well, redistribute over the baking sheet and, and broil for an additional 2-3 minutes to add a little extra crispiness.  Again, watch closely when broiling.  Remove from the oven and drizzle an additional 1/4 cup of broth over the crisped pork.

    Repeat with the other baking sheet of pork.

    Serve immediately in tacos, burritos, and salads—or straight off the pan!  The pork may be refrigerated in a sealed container for 3-4 days, or frozen in an airtight container for approximately 3 months.


*I’ve made this recipe with a 6+ pound pork shoulder.  In this case, I used 1-1/2 times the spice mix but kept the amounts of orange and lime juice unchanged.  The key to success is the right amount of seasoning for the meat, so feel free to adjust based on the weight of your pork shoulder.

If you wish to crisp the leftovers, simply follow the broiling step as you did the first night.  It’s not necessary but works nearly as well on day two, three, or four.

To clarify when grocery shopping: Somewhat confusingly, pork shoulder is sometimes called and is the same thing as pork butt, even though it all comes from the shoulder of the pig.  The name is a holdover from Colonial days, when butchers in the Boston area would pack the pork shoulders into barrels—called butts—for storage and transport.

Advance prep tips: The spices can be mixed several days in advance and stored in a small jar or covered bowl.  The oranges and limes may be juiced and stored, covered, in the refrigerator up to a day in advance. The pork, onion, and jalapeño may be cut the day before, wrapped well, and stored in the fridge.  If desired, you may toss the pork with the spice mixture the night before—the spices create a dry rub that will act much like a marinade.


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