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Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos


  • One 2 1/2-pound boneless pork shoulder
  • Cumin, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chili powder, to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 Cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 Tablespoon orange juice
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Corn tortillas, for serving
  • Picked onions, for serving
  • Avocado, for serving
  • Cotija cheese, for serving


Generously season the pork on all sides with cumin, salt, pepper, and chili powder. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork to the pan and brown on all sides, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Add chicken stock, orange juice, lime juice, and garlic to slow cooker. Add pork to slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. After 8 hours, remove pork from slow cooker and shred the meat with 2 forks. Add back to slow cooker and adjust seasoning as necessary. Cook on high for 20 minutes.

Before serving, re-brown carnitas in a pan over high heat to add an additional crust to the meat.

To assemble, top tortillas with carnitas, then add pickled onions, avocado, and cotija cheese. Enjoy!

Slow-Cooked Carnitas Tacos

Toss pork in bowl of slow cooker with salt, black pepper, and dried oregano to coat. Place onion pieces atop pork. Cover slow cooker and cook pork on low setting until meat is very tender and falling apart, about 6 hours.

Step 2

Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to cutting board. Discard onion pieces. Using fingers, shred pork transfer carnitas to platter. Place avocado slices, cilantro sprigs, and sliced red bell peppers, if desired, alongside. Wrap corn tortillas in damp kitchen towel microwave until warm, about 1 minute. Serve carnitas with warm tortillas and tomatillo salsa.

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  • Onion– This adds so much flavor. I love using sweet onions.
  • Brown Sugar– Light or dark works in this recipe.
  • Garlic– Since you’ll be blending anyway, no need to dirty your garlic press. Just peel and throw the whole cloves in.
  • Jalapenos– For a mild level of heat, remove seeds and vein.
  • Vinegar– This give flavor as well as tenderizes tough cuts of meat.
  • Salt– Don’t skimp on the salt. The recipe calls for the minimum. Feel free to add more to your liking.
  • Chili Powder, Oregano, Cumin– These are my staple spice/herb trilogy for Mexican cooking. They make everything taste amazing!
  • Pork Roast– A pork butt or pork shoulder works great.
  • Lime– Squeeze on some fresh lime juice and serve with additional wedges. This brightens up the dish and adds a little sweetness.

Time needed: 8 hours and 10 minutes.

Place onion, brown sugar, garlic, jalapenos, vinegar, chili powder, oregano, cumin, and salt in a blender and puree. (Add 2-4 tablespoons water if need to get things moving in the blender.)

Place the pork in the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker. Pour the mixture over the pork, tucking it under any folds. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours until fork tender.

Remove pork from slow cooker (do NOT Discard the liquid!) and shred (discard any large pieces of fat). Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking oil. Spread the shredded meat out on the pan and pour about 1 cup of the cooking juices over the meat. Broil for 5-10 minutes until browned and crispy on the edges.

Place pork on a platter and squeeze with fresh lime juice. Enjoy in tacos with desired toppings.

“Carnitas” means “little meats” in Spanish. It is a Mexican pulled pork dish made using an inexpensive pork roast (pork shoulder, Boston Butt). This heavily marbled pork is cooked for several hours creating a tender, juicy, and easy to shred roast.

Pork Butt (aka “Boston Butt”) or Pork Shoulder (aka “picnic shoulder” or “picnic roast”) can be used for this recipe. Pork Butt has better marbling throughout so it is preferred.

This meat can be used in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or just on it’s own. We typically enjoy it in corn tortillas with cilantro, queso fresco, and pickled red onion.
If you have a lot of leftovers but want to enjoy it in a different way, this meat is actually really yummy with barbecue sauce for pulled pork sandwiches.

Recipe + Hosting Tips

How to keep tortillas warm: We like to serve out carnita tacos with flour tortillas, but you can also use corn tortillas as well. There are several ways you can keep tortillas warm. This is especially helpful when using corn tortillas as they tend to tear unless warm.

  • Tortilla warmer: warm the tortillas in the microwave then place them in a tortilla warmer
  • Crockpot: Get a kitchen towel damp with warm water. Wrap the tortillas in the towel and place it in the warm crock pot.
  • Heating pad: Wrap a heating pad with a towel. Arrange the tortillas evenly over a serving platter. Place the platter on top of the heating pad. The heat will seep through the towel and keep the platter warm.

If you don’t want to use tortillas you can serve the carnitas tacos over tortilla chips or even in a lettuce wraps.

Making ahead of time : I have good news! You can make the meat ahead of time. AND you can also easily store leftovers in the fridge or freezer. Be sure to include any drippings in the storage container to keep the meat moist and flavorful.

  • Fridge: Store carnitas in an airtight container in the fridge for about 4 days.
  • Freezer: Store it in a freezer safe container for 2-3 months.
  • Reheat in a crockpot or in a covered pan in the oven. To crisp them up just put them under the broiler for 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn them.

What to serve with Carnitas Tacos? Complete the meal by also making these easy recipes…

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Yield: 8 servings

prep time: 10 minutes

cook time: 8 hours, 30 minutes

total time: 8 hours, 40 minutes

The easiest carnitas you will ever make in the crockpot, cooked low and slow for the most amazing fall-apart tender goodness!


  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 pound pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced


  1. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Season pork shoulder with spice mixture, rubbing in thoroughly on all sides.
  2. Place garlic, onions, orange juice, lime juice and seasoned pork shoulder into a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
  3. Remove pork shoulder from the slow cooker and shred the meat before returning to the pot with the juices season with salt and pepper, to taste, if needed. Cover and keep warm for an additional 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to broil. Place carnitas onto a baking sheet and broil until crisp and crusted, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately.

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Recipe Summary

  • Carnitas
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 package (1 oz) Old El Paso® taco seasoning mix
  • 1 boneless pork shoulder (3 lb)
  • 1 can (10 oz) Old El Paso® red enchilada sauce
  • 1 can (4.5 oz) Old El Paso® chopped green chiles, drained
  • 16 Old El Paso® flour tortillas for soft tacos & fajitas (6 inch)
  • cup Toppings, as desired
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz)
  • 1 cup sour cream, if desired

Spray 5-quart slow cooker with cooking spray add onion slices.

In 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over high heat. Sprinkle taco seasoning mix over pork shoulder, pressing to coat. Brown pork in oil on all sides remove from skillet to slow cooker. Pour enchilada sauce on top of pork.

Cover cook on High heat setting 4 to 5 hours or until tender. Remove pork from slow cooker shred meat with fork. Place shredded pork in large bowl. Add chiles, 2 cups of the sauce from slow cooker and the onions stir well.

Spoon pork mixture onto tortillas. Add toppings. Roll up tortillas.

Expert Tips:

Any leftover carnitas filling is just as delicious the next day on tacos, in enchiladas, or even on pasta!

Slow Cooked San Antonio Carnitas Tacos

Seasoned with our lively salsa verde, cumin and chili powder, these tasty Texas-style carnitas tacos are easy to make and perfect for everyday dinner or special gatherings.  Simply add the pork to your slow cooker and that low and slow braise allows it to get tender and juicy and absorb all of the fabulous flavors – did we mention how delicious our salsa verde is?  The shredded pork gets topped with a crunchy slaw made with our salsa verde and cilantro then it’s a wrap.

  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut in quarters (and trim off fat)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 jar (16 ounces) Pace® Salsa Verde or Peach Mango Jalapeño Salsa, Medium
  • 2 cups broccoli slaw
  • 16 flour tortilla or corn tortillas (6-inch), warmed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup crumbled queso fresco (optional)
  • 16 lime wedge (optional)
  • Make Ahead Meal: You can prepare the pork mixture ahead of time.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw the frozen pork mixture in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.

Rub the pork with the chili powder and cumin.  Place the pork into a 6-quart slow cooker.  Pour 3/4 cup salsa verde over the pork.

Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours or until the pork is fork-tender.  Spoon off any fat.  Using 2 forks, shred the pork in the cooker and stir.  Season to taste.

While the pork is cooking, toss 1/4 cup remaining salsa verde and the broccoli slaw in a medium bowl.  Season to taste.

Place about 1/2 cup pork mixture onto each tortilla. Top with the broccoli slaw mixture, cilantro and remaining salsa verde.  Sprinkle with the queso fresco and serve with the lime wedges, if desired.

What can I use pork tenderloin carnitas for other than tacos?

Umm. anything! I use pork tenderloin carnitas on anything and everything. Plus it freezes and reheats fabulously so you can keep some leftovers on hand for quick meals further down the road

  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Taco salads
  • Toastadas
  • Huevos rancheros
  • Over polenta
  • Quesadillas
  • Nachos
  • Casseroles

The options are so limitless I need to stop myself here before the list takes up the whole page. With only two and a half eaters in our house, there are always leftovers so I get the chance to morph the leftovers into all of these variations and each one has been delicious.

And since this recipe is a lean version of pork tenderloin carnitas, you can continue the guilt-free spree while you experiment using it in whatever you can dream up. It's so versatile.

Carnitas is basically Mexican pulled pork. It’s traditionally made by braising, or simmering pork in lard until it’s tender. Then once the meat is tender, the heat is increased to crisp up the outside of the pork. It’s used in tacos, burritos, tamales, or on tostadas. Or of course, you can add it to a salad, or just eat it by itself also.

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos with Cilantro-Lime Sauce

Tacos constitute a main food group in this household. No joke. Fish, chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, roasted chickpeas. You name it–we have taco’d it. Often. You would think that with how often we have tacos at home, we would never go out for tacos. But we do that too. (FYI: My top tacos-in-Denver award goes to Uno Mas, but David would probably give a slight edge to Torchy’s…)

(If you’re a 90’s kid, then maybe . . . just maybe . . . you speak my language.)

We have been making a concerted effort to eat out less. Last month at work was INSANE, and we decided the delivery guys from Little India and Patxi’s Pizza were probably tired of our five flights of stairs and being accosted by a large white ball of fur at the door.

Slow cooker carnitas tacos are the quick, easy, and DELICIOUS solution to this goal. Crock pot. No extra cooking when I get home from work. And this cilantro-lime sauce? My favorite. It goes on tacos. Nachos. Huevos rancheros, apparently! Due to too much gilmore girls-binge watching, I was behind on my weekend allotment of work and had to work straight through dinner. David–being my knight in shining armor–took up the apron. He is one of those types of cooks that can always gather the remnants of the fridge and make something spectacular. Always.

So out he comes with a sweet potato, bacon, and garlic hash with a perfectly fried egg and leftover cilantro-lime sauce. A pseudo-huevos rancheros. I don’t know why I’m the one with a food blog. That hash was a James Beard Award-winning dinner, so I promise it will make an appearance on the blog some day . . .