easy carnitas slow cooker
I could eat tacos for every single meal. Fill a fresh corn tortilla with melt-in-your-mouth carnitas topped with tomatillo salsa and avocado crema and I’m the happiest camper you’ll ever see. My taco addiction goes back to the big, rowdy family dinners we used to have at Sal’s Mexican Inn, a hole in the wall Mexican joint in Oxnard, California. Festooned in bright sombreros, fatty multi-colored Christmas lights, and oil cloth tablecloths, Sal’s was big on personality. Sal himself was a jolly mustachioed fellow who had a penchant for string ties and stetsons. He greeted everyone with a firm handshake and made sure our chip baskets were always filled to the brim. 
The whole clan of us–grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, etc.–would order heaps of tacos, chile rellenos (the best of my life), and enchiladas and laugh for hours. Sal’s was Mexican comfort food to the max and I will forever associate a warm plate of tacos with family and home. While we do live close to some of the best tacos in Michigan (thank you, Detroit’s Mexicantown), my favorite way to eat tacos is from the comfort of home. Carnitas simmer all day long in a broth of fresh orange juice, lime, and garlic. It fills the house with the most tantalizing smell. Best of all, leftovers can be transformed into some beyond fabulous posole soup. Here’s everything you’ll need to make restaurant-style carnitas at home:
easy carnitas slow cooker
Fresh orange juice, cilantro, kosher salt, cumin, chicken broth, pepper, garlic, lime, bone-in pork shoulder
Yep, that’s it! You probably have most of it in your cupboards as we speak. Carnitas do best when they are left alone. Toss everything in the slow cooker and all you have to do is twiddle your thumbs and salivate until they’re done. I love coming home to a homecooked meal after a long day. These are especially good when you need to feed a crowd. But perhaps the best way to eat carnitas is on a warm summer night in the backyard surrounded by friends. Enjoy!
slow cooker carnitas

Adapted from The Noshery

  • 3 pounds pork shoulder, bone in (you can use other cuts of pork, but this makes the most tender carnitas)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (we had Simply Orange on hand so just used that)
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (we use Better than Bouillon chicken base and love it)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

Sprinkle pork shoulder on all sides with kosher salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick pan on high. Sear meat on all sides (about a minute per side, until very brown and crispy looking). Your mouth will start watering at this point and it’s only just the beginning… In a slow cooker, combine the orange juice, lime juice, zest, chicken broth, cumin, garlic, and cilantro. Add the seared pork shoulder. The citrus broth should come up just about half way on the pork shoulder (maybe a little less than halfway). Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Meat should literally fall off the bone and shred easily.

Some people fry the shredded pork for more authentic carnitas but we usually are so excited to eat, we just eat it straight out of the slow cooker. It is still divine. We use a variety of toppings but here are our favorites: Warren’s homemade tomatillo salsa (recipe below), avocado crema (blend 1 avocado, 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup buttermilk, juice of 1 lime, cilantro, pinch of salt), guacamole, crumbled cojita cheese, sliced radishes, and/or mango salsa. I bet some coleslaw dressed in lime, salt, and pepper would do the trick as well. You really can’t go wrong when topping these bad boys. Serve with a side of Mexican rice (we love Annie’s Eats) and black beans. 

tomatillo salsa, restaurant salsa

Warren used to make this salsa with his college buddies by using ingredients plucked fresh from his friend’s garden. It is awesome. 
  • 4 tomatillos (they look like green tomatoes with husks if you are unfamiliar with these)
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1 onion
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Puree tomatillos and half the tomatoes. Dice the rest of the vegetables and mix it with the puree, lime juice, and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste (usually about 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds from the pepper mill). Let it sit for at least an hour (preferably overnight) before eating so the flavors can get all fabulous. Cut down or add jalapenos, depending on how spicy you like things. Use salsa to top the tacos or simply devour with a bowl of tortilla chips–or both!

I would highly recommend topping off your taco dinner with a decadent dessert like Nutella Stuffed Brown Butter Double Chocolate Chip Cookies or No Bake Cake Batter or Brownie Batter Truffles.

Linked to Tasty Tuesday


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  1. says

    Those carnitas tacos look good! I actually just made carnitas yesterday! I like to broil the carnitas to get them nice and crispy on the edges after simmering.

  2. says

    Ooh these look so wonderful.. My husband would love this…. I'm gonna have to show him this so he can drool…. 🙂

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