The best and the easiest crispy pork carnitas recipe and the only one you will ever need. Thanks to two easy steps, this slow cooked, shredded pork is tender on the inside and golden and crispy on the outside. Use it like carnitas – in tacos, breakfast burritos, quesadillas or burrito bowls. Or use it on salads, to make gyros, as a topping for pizza or with barbecue sauce for pulled pork sandwiches.
Is there anything better than crispy pork carnitas? The answer according to Frank is no as evidenced by his bottomless appetite and endless requests for this dish.
Let’s be real. This pork carnitas recipe isn’t the kind of recipe that breaks the internet, but it should. This is the recipe to have in your back pocket for entertaining guests, cooking once to have meals all week or just tucking away in the freezer for some busy future weeknight.
I have been making this pork carnitas all summer long. We’ve done lots of entertaining and traveling and this is hands-down the dish that has made all of that a piece of cake. This week I’ll share two of our current favorite ways to serve this pork, but really – the only limit is your own creativity.
How do you make pork carnitas in the slow cooker?
- Cook pork shoulder (“pork butt”) in the slow cooker / crockpot on low until the meat is tender and shreds easily with a fork. (Note: 6 to 7 pounds of pork shoulder should cook for about 10 hours on low.)
- Shred pork. At this point you can freeze or refrigerate it.
- Sear shredded pork with a bit of oil in a skillet over high heat.
- Enjoy yourself some pork carnitas.
Step 1: Slow Cook Pork
The first step is just to slow cook that pork until it’s super tender. It’s better to err on the side of cooking it longer than shorter, so we almost always cook it overnight for at least 10 hours (for a pork shoulder / butt that is about 7 pounds). This has the added benefit of making everyone in the house dream that they are sleeping inside a meat smoker and wake up wanting barbecue.
A few spices added on top add extra flavor, but the truth is that you could season the pork with just salt and pepper.
Step 2: Shred Pork
When the pork is done, take a knife and a fork and shred / slice the pork into bite-sized pieces. Reserve the cooking liquid. If you cooked bone-in pork shoulder, remove and discard the bone. At this point, you can pack the pork into freezer bags and pop it in the freezer or just refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve it.
Step 3: Sear Pork
About 30 minutes before serving, place a large skillet over high heat. Add a splash of oil (we use grape seed oil for cooking) and sear the pork. The key is to add the pork in a single layer and let it cook, without moving it, until the bottom is crisp. This can take 8 to 10 minutes, so be patient!
Then flip it like a pancake (it may fall apart, but that’s the goal) and sear the other side.
When both sides are crisp, break it apart a bit to give all the little bits contact with the hot pan. As it cooks, season the pork with some salt and a splash of the cooking liquid any time the pan looks dry. At the end you will have tender pork carnitas with crispy bits all throughout.
That combination of tender + crisp makes this pork carnitas absolutely the best we’ve ever made.
Pork Carnitas - Slow Cooker Crispy Pork
- 1 cup Broth (bone broth or pork broth work best; you can also use orange juice which adds a subtle but great citrus flavor)
- 4 cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed
- 7 lbs Pork Shoulder (or "Pork Butt"; bone in or boneless will work)
- 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 tsp Oregano, dried
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- Lime juice
- Add broth and garlic to the bowl of a slow cooker (anything from a 5 quart to 8.5 quart will work, with the smaller size being a bit of a tight squeeze).
- Place pork on top of broth.
- Whisk together olive oil, oregano, salt and black pepper. Rub on the top surface of the pork.
- Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low until the pork is tender and shreds easily, ~10 hours.
- Transfer pork to a cutting board (reserve cooking liquid). When it is cook enough to handle, shred it using your hands or with a knife and fork.
- Freeze or refrigerate shredded pork until you are ready to use it. Be sure to save the cooking liquid as well (this will add flavor back into the meat when you sear it).
- When you are ready to serve the pork, heat a skillet over high heat. Add a splash of cooking oil and then pork (you many need to cook it in batches). Let pork cook on one side until very crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with some salt as it cooks. If the pan starts to look dry, pour a bit of the cooking liquid over top.
- Flip pork and cook on the other side until crisp. Break pork apart and transfer to a serving bowl.
- Squeeze a bit of lime juice over the pork just before serving.
Now that we’ve let you in on our favorite dish of the summer, we might as well share our second favorite – ice cream. We’ve been biking to our local ice cream shop (hence the pink cheeks below) as often as possible. Clara and Molly always choose Creme Brûlée flavor. #fancypantstoddlers