Crispy Pork Carnitas in Slow Cooker with Orange Lime

This is the easiest Crispy Pork Carnitas Recipe in a slow cooker. It’s bold in flavor but easy on the spice in a marinade with fresh orange juice and zest, lime juice, onions, garlic, and Mexican seasonings. This fall-apart tender pulled pork is perfect for tacos, burritos, bowls, salads, and quesadillas for a BBQ, weeknight dinner, or holiday.

Pork carnitas on a plate.

This is the easiest Crispy Pork Carnitas Recipe in a slow cooker. It’s bold in flavor but easy on the spice. The pork is marinated with fresh orange juice and zest, lime juice, onions, garlic, and Mexican seasonings. Whether you use a crock pot, instant pot, or any other slow cooker, this easy slow cooker carnitas recipe yields fall-apart tender pulled pork every time. As a flavorful Mexican version of the classic pulled pork, these crockpot carnitas stand out among pork recipes. 

You will enjoy the convenience of making this delicious dish with minimal effort, resulting in crispy carnitas perfect for tacos, burrito bowls, and more. This slow cooker carnitas recipe is sure to become your go-to, just like it is mine! And everyone can enjoy them regardless of their spice tolerance. I include some delicious suggestions if you’d like to add more heat.

Bring Your Own Spice Mild Recipe logo

BYOS: Flavor Without the Fire!

Love bold flavors but not the heat? Spice things up on your own terms with this BYOS recipe bursting with deliciousness. All the ingredients are prepped for easy digestion and a heartburn-free experience. Adjust the spice level to your preference—no more burnt tongues or tears here! Now, everyone can enjoy this recipe regardless of their spice tolerance!

Pork carnitas in a sheet pan.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Here is everything you need to make my easy Mexican shredded pork:

Pork Shoulder Butt: You can substitute boneless pork shoulder with boneless, skinless chicken thighs for a leaner option or beef chuck roast for a different flavor profile. 

Orange Juice & Zest: Replace orange juice with pineapple juice or apple juice for a different sweet and tangy flavor. 

Fresh Lime Juice: Substitute lime juice with lemon juice or vinegar (apple cider or white wine) to maintain the tangy taste. 

Chicken Broth: Use vegetable broth or beef broth instead of chicken broth, with vegetable broth offering a different flavor profile and beef broth adding a richer taste. 

Orange Zest: Replace orange zest with lemon zest or lime zest to provide different but still citrusy and fresh flavors. 

White Onion: Substitute white onion with red onion, which adds a slightly sweeter flavor, or shallots, which offer a milder, more delicate taste. 

Sea Salt: Use kosher salt or table salt instead of coarse sea salt, with kosher salt being used in the same amount and table salt in a reduced amount. 

Cumin: Replace cumin with ground coriander, which provides a different but complementary flavor, or chili powder, which adds a bit of spice and smoky flavor. 

Oregano: Substitute oregano with thyme for a slightly different herb flavor or basil for a sweet and slightly peppery flavor. 

Paprika: Replace paprika with smoked paprika for a smokier flavor or chili powder for added spice and smoky flavor. 

Black Pepper: Substitute black pepper with white pepper for a milder heat or cayenne pepper for a spicier flavor.

Pork carnitas in a sheet pan.

How to Make My Easy Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe

Here are easy, detailed, step-by-step skillet instructions for making the best slow cooking pork. The simple ingredients are also repeated in the recipe card at the bottom of this blog post.

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

Combine the chicken stock, orange juice, zest, and lime juice and stir. Dice the onion and mince the garlic.

Pat the pork dry with a paper towel. Cut off any excess fat if desired. Season on all sides with coarse sea salt and dashes of pepper.

Combine the cumin, oregano, and paprika in a small bowl and mix. Rub the seasoning all over the pork.

Adding wet ingredients to marinade.
Spreading dry rub on pork.
Assembling pork in slow cooker.

Step 2: Cook the Seasoned Pork

Pour two tablespoons of light olive or avocado oil into the bottom of the slow cooker and place the seasoned pork inside. Pour the marinade around the pork. Sprinkle the onions and garlic on top of the pork.

Cook on high heat for 5-6 hours or on low for 8-10 hours. To speed up the cooking time, slice the pork into large chunks halfway through.

Slicing the pork halfway through cooking.
Shredding the pork with two forks.

Step 3: Crisp the Cooked Pork

Once cooked, remove the pork from the slow cooker and transfer it to a cutting board. Shred the pork with two forks. Spread the pork in a heavy-duty baking sheet in a single layer.

Broil in the oven on high for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully move the pork around. Return to the oven and continue to broil for 1-2 minutes or until the edges are crispy. Be careful not to over cook because it can burn quickly.

Spreading the cooked pork in a sheet pan to broil.
Pork carnitas on a plate.

Helpful Tips

Trimming the Pork: You can decide how much fat to trim before cooking. I like to trim off the large fat slab, typically on the bottom of the butt, along with any obvious fat gristles.

Adjusting Seasonings: You can adjust the amount of salt, pepper, and other seasonings to suit your taste preferences.

Meat Temperature: You can test the internal temperature of the meat to determine when it’s ready to shred. At least 205°F works best. Or, you can test the meat with a fork.

Serving Suggestions for Slow Cooked Pork

You can transform your crispy pork carnitas into delicious and versatile meals with these serving suggestions:

Carnitas Tacos: Serve the carnitas in warm corn tortillas or flour tortillas. Top with fresh pico de gallo, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro for a classic and flavorful taco experience.

Burrito Bowls: Create a hearty burrito bowl by layering carnitas over cilantro lime rice. Add black beans or refried beans, diced yellow onion, and pico de gallo. Drizzle with sour cream and garnish with fresh cilantro for a complete meal.

Rice Bowl: For a lighter option, serve the carnitas over a bed of rice with a side of refried beans. Add a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro for a refreshing touch.

Mexican Food Platter: Combine carnitas with cilantro lime rice, refried beans, and a side of warm corn tortillas or flour tortillas. Top with pico de gallo and sour cream for a well-rounded and satisfying Mexican food platter.

BBQ Carnitas: For a unique twist, serve the carnitas with a drizzle of barbecue sauce. Pair with a side of cilantro lime rice or refried beans and fresh yellow onion for a fusion of flavors.

Authentic Mexican Carnitas: Enjoy the carnitas as they are, celebrating their authentic Mexican flavor. Serve with a side of citrus juices, fresh cilantro, and warm tortillas for a traditional and delicious meal.

Carnitas Burrito: Wrap the carnitas in a large flour tortilla with cilantro lime rice, refried beans, yellow onion, pico de gallo, and a dollop of sour cream for a flavorful and filling burrito.

Taco Bar: Set up a taco bar with a variety of toppings including pico de gallo, sour cream, fresh cilantro, diced yellow onion, and citrus juices. Let everyone build their own carnitas tacos for a fun and interactive meal.

Pulled Pork Sandwich: Use the shredded carnitas as a filling for a pulled pork sandwich. Top with barbecue sauce and serve with a side of cilantro lime rice or refried beans for a delicious twist on a classic dish.

How Can I Make this Crispy Slow Cooker Pork Recipe Spicier?

Add More Mexican Spices: Increase the amount of cumin and paprika in the recipe, and consider adding chili powder or cayenne pepper to the spice rub for an extra kick.

Include Mexican Oregano: Substitute regular oregano with Mexican oregano, which has a more robust and peppery flavor and enhances the overall spiciness of the carnitas.

Incorporate Hot Sauce: Add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce to the slow cooker mixture. You can also drizzle hot sauce over the shredded pork before broiling it for added heat.

Use Spicy Peppers: Add diced jalapeños, serranos, or other spicy peppers to the slow cooker along with the onions and garlic. This will infuse the carnitas with a natural heat.

Spicy Marinade: Add hot sauce to the marinade before cooking. This will allow the heat to penetrate the meat and add depth to the flavor.

Garnish with Spicy Elements: Serve the carnitas with spicy toppings such as sliced jalapeños, spicy pico de gallo, or a hot salsa. These additions will provide a fresh and spicy contrast to the tender pork.

Refrigeration: Store leftover carnitas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

Freezing: Freeze the shredded pork in airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags for up to 3 months. 

Reheating: To reheat refrigerated carnitas, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and spread the pork on a baking sheet. Heat for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through. For a quicker option, you can reheat on the stove over medium heat until hot.

Recrisping: To restore crispiness after reheating, broil the pork on a baking sheet for a few minutes until the edges are crispy again. Be sure to watch closely to avoid burning.

Thawing Frozen Carnitas: Thaw frozen carnitas in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, follow the reheating and recrisping instructions for best results.

Can I use a different cut of pork for this crispy slow cooker carnitas?
Yes, you can use pork loin or pork tenderloin for a leaner option, though they may not be as tender and flavorful as pork butt or shoulder.

How can I make the slow cooker pork carnitas recipe spicier?
To add more spice, you can increase the amount of black pepper, add cayenne pepper, or include diced jalapeños in the slow cooker.

Can I cook the crockpot pork carnitas on the stovetop instead of using a slow cooker?
Yes, you can simmer the seasoned pork with the other ingredients in a large pot over low heat for 2-3 hours or until tender. Make sure to keep the pot covered and stir occasionally.

How do I make sure the pork gets crispy?
After shredding the cooked pork, broil it in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and crispy. You can broil in batches for even crispier edges.

Can I prepare this crispy slow cooker pork carnitas recipe in advance?
Yes, you can cook and shred the pork ahead of time. Store it in the refrigerator and broil it just before serving to achieve the crispy edges.

Pork carnitas on a plate.

Crispy Pork Carnitas in Slow Cooker with Orange Lime

Gluten-Free diet-friendly recipe
This is the easiest Crispy Pork Carnitas Recipe in a slow cooker. It's bold in flavor but easy on the spice in a marinade with fresh orange juice and zest, lime juice, onions, garlic, and Mexican seasonings. This fall-apart tender pulled pork is perfect for tacos, burritos, bowls, salads, and quesadillas for a bbq, weeknight dinner, or holiday.
5 from 5 votes
Servings 10
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients
  

  • 4 pounds pork shoulder butt
  • 1/2 cup orange juice 2 large oranges
  • 1/4 cup lime juice 2 medium limes
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 white onion (diced)
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • dash black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Combine the chicken stock, orange juice, zest, and lime juice and stir. Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
    Pat the pork dry with a paper towel. Cut off any excess fat if desired. Season on all sides with coarse sea salt and dashes of pepper.
    Combine the cumin, oregano, and paprika in a small bowl and mix. Rub the seasoning all over the pork.
  • Pour two tablespoons of light olive or avocado oil into the bottom of the slow cooker and place the seasoned pork inside. Pour the marinade around the pork. Sprinkle the onions and garlic on top of the pork.
    Cook on high heat for 5-6 hours or on low for 8-10 hours. To speed up the cooking time, slice the pork into large chunks halfway through.
  • Once cooked, remove the pork from the slow cooker and transfer it to a cutting board. Shred the pork with two forks. 
    Spread the pork in a heavy-duty baking sheet in a single layer. Broil in the oven on high for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully move the pork around. Return to the oven and continue to broil for 1-2 minutes or until the edges are crispy. Be careful not to over cook because it can burn quickly.

Video

YouTube video

Notes

Trimming the Pork: You can decide how much fat to trim before cooking. I like to trim off the large fat slab, typically on the bottom of the butt, along with any obvious fat gristles.
Adjusting Seasonings: You can adjust the amount of salt, pepper, and other seasonings to suit your taste preferences.
Meat Temperature: You can test the internal temperature of the meat to determine when it’s ready to shred. At least 205°F works best. Or, you can test the meat with a fork.

Nutrition

Calories: 183kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 22gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 75mgSodium: 1569mgPotassium: 465mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 401IUVitamin C: 11mgCalcium: 39mgIron: 2mg
Keyword crispy carnitas, crispy pork, lime, orange, pulled pork
Did you make this recipe and love it?Please let me know in the comments below how it turned out 🙂

8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    You inspired my confidence to give pulled pork a try and this was really easy to make! I don’t like spicy food but this recipe is still very flavorful. Will make again!

5 from 5 votes

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