Juicy and Crispy Carnitas: The Perfect Mexican Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Every tortilla dreams of being stuffed with Carnitas. Imagine seasoned pork slow-cooked into tender submission, gently shredded, and pan-fried to golden, crispy perfection. Carnitas has that elusive combination of juicy and crispy that’s so irresistible. And the best part? It only requires 5 minutes of prep time!

What are Carnitas?

If you’re new to Carnitas, let me be the first to welcome you to your new addiction. Carnitas are Mexico’s version of pulled pork. Made by slow-cooking pork until it’s crazy juicy and fall-apart tender, then crisped to golden perfection, Carnitas are the first thing you seek upon landing in Mexico. It’s why we trawled the back streets of Mexico City in torrential rains, hunting down a hole-in-the-wall carnitas joint that was popular with locals. The traditional method involves cooking the pork fully submerged in lard, resulting in pork that’s unbelievably rich and tender with loads of crispy golden bits. Unfortunately, for most home cooks, using a huge cauldron of lard isn’t practical.

But fortunately, it is possible to make Carnitas that taste very similar to authentic Pork Carnitas without gallons of lard. And it’s unbelievably simple.

The One and Only Pork Carnitas

I went through a LOT of Pork Carnitas recipes before settling on this as The One. It ticks all my boxes, and I’ve been loyal to it for over a decade. Here’s what makes it exceptional:

  • Extremely quick 5-minute preparation.
  • Made with easy-to-find natural ingredients.
  • Enough flavor to eat plain (and you’ll definitely pick it out of the pan!).
  • Subtle enough flavor to be used in any Mexican dish.
  • Perfect caramelized brown bits while retaining incredible juiciness.
  • Freezer-friendly – reheats 100% perfectly.
  • Excellent for gatherings – it’s a big batch recipe that stays fresh even hours after cooking.
Further reading:  Smoked Pork Belly Brisket: A Flavorful Twist on Traditional BBQ

How to Make Pork Carnitas

  1. Best Pork Cut for Carnitas: Use pork shoulder, also known as pork butt, for ultimate juicy pulled pork full of flavor. It should be skinless so it can be rubbed with the Carnitas seasoning.

Pork Carnitas

  1. Carnitas Seasoning: Rub the pork with a simple spice mix of oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper.

  2. Flavors for Cooking: Top the pork in the slow cooker with onion, garlic, and jalapeño, then pour over orange juice (the secret ingredient!). Despite its simplicity, this combination transforms into the most incredible braising broth when slow-cooked with the pork.

  3. Slow Cook: Cook the pork until it’s pull-apart tender and infused with incredible flavor.

  4. Pan Fry: After shredding the pork, pan-fry it until golden, doused with the juices from the slow cooker. Pan frying in a skillet is the key that makes this the best Pork Carnitas you will have outside of Mexico.

Pan-Fried Pork Carnitas

Serving Suggestions for Pork Carnitas

While Tacos de Carnitas (Pork Carnitas Tacos) are a great way to enjoy this juicy and flavorful pork, you can use Pork Carnitas in various dishes. Here are some ideas:

  • Enchiladas
  • Burritos
  • Quesadillas
  • Sliders
  • Mexican pizzas
  • Mexican Fried Rice
  • Carnitas Plates – pile Carnitas over Mexican Red Rice with a side of Pico de Gallo or Guacamole, and steamed corn.

And of course, you can always enjoy the Carnitas straight out of the skillet!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use pork tenderloin? No, it’s not suitable for this recipe as it will dry out during the long cook time.
  • Do I need to add any liquid other than orange juice? No, the small amount of liquid from the oranges is all you need to keep it from drying out. The pork will release its juices while cooking.
  • Will it taste like oranges? No, the orange juice magically turns into an incredible broth that is poured over the shredded pork.
  • Can I cook a frozen pork? No, it’s best to defrost the pork before cooking to ensure even cooking and optimal texture.
  • Can I include the onions, garlic, and jalapeños in the final dish? Yes, they become soft and meld into the pulled pork, adding flavor. You can strain them if desired.
  • Will this work with pork stew chunks? It will work, but smaller pieces of pork will cook faster, resulting in slightly less flavor.
  • Do I need to pan-fry the pork before putting it in the slow cooker? No, you brown the pork after it is cooked and shredded.
Further reading:  Herb Rubbed Pork Sirloin Roast

Now that you know how to make the best Pork Carnitas, you’re just 5 minutes away from enjoying this juicy and crispy dish. Whether you’re hosting a gathering or simply craving authentic Mexican flavors, Carnitas will always be a hit. And remember, there’s a reason I am rarely without a stash of Carnitas in my freezer!

For more mouthwatering recipes and cooking tips, visit Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ.