This easy Carnitas recipe is just too good. Imagine well seasoned pork that has been slow cooked to tender, succulent perfection, then broiled to add some crisp factor. It’s perfect for tacos, burritos, nachos, bowl meals and more.
Skip the trip to the Mexican restaurant. This pulled pork is so easy and so good that you don’t have any excuse not to make it yourself!
Today’s carnitas is a staple on menus ranging from authentic Mexican restaurants to big chains like Chipotle. It’s a classic for good reason, and definitely deserves a place in your dinner rotation.
Why You’ll Love It
- Incredibly Flavorful: The unique combination of spices, citrus, and Coca-Cola creates a depth of flavor that is rich, complex, and utterly delicious.
- Juicy Meat: Some methods for make the meat crisp can dry it out, but we’ll show you how to keep it nice and moist.
- Versatile Serving Options: Carnitas can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, making it a versatile dish for any meal. We’ll give you a bunch of ideas later in the post.
- Perfect for Gatherings: This recipe is ideal for feeding a crowd, making it a favorite for parties, family dinners, or any gathering where you want to impress your guests with minimal effort.
- Easy to Make: Despite its complex flavors, this Carnitas recipe is super simple to make. Most of the cooking time is hands-off.
So, What is Carnitas?
Carnitas, translating to “little meats”, is a dish from the state of Michoacán, Mexico. It has won hearts across regions, each adding its unique twist.
Traditionally, pork butt (or shoulder) is braised or slowly cooked in lard until it’s so tender that it can be easily shredded. Yes, it’s true that we’re cheating on the cooking method here, so I’m not claiming this is authentic, but the end result is pretty darn close.
- Pork Butt (or Shoulder): This cut is ideal for Carnitas due to its high fat content, which renders down during slow cooking, ensuring the meat stays moist and tender.
- Oranges and Lime: The citrus juices not only tenderize the pork but also add a bright, tangy flavor that cuts through the richness of the meat.
- Herbs and Spices: Cumin, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper and bay leaves.
- Garlic: Always.
- Coca-Cola: It helps to balance the savory spices and tenderize the meat. For best results, try to find Mexican Coke, which uses sugar instead of corn syrup. It’s easily identified by the slender glass bottle, as opposed to the plastic bottle used for American Coke.
How to Make Slow Cooker Carnitas
1. Sear the Pork: Cut the pork into large chunks, then season generously with salt, pepper, oregano and cumin. Sear it in batches until browned on all sides.
2. Prep the Dish: Juice lime and oranges into a bowl, reserving the juiced citrus pieces. Mix thyme and remaining salt, pepper, oregano and cumin into the juice. Place sliced onion in a slow cooker, then top with pork chunks. Add on top reserved citrus pieces, along with garlic and bay leaves. Pour Coca-Cola all over the pork, followed by the juice mixture. (Do not pour the Coke after the juices, as it will rinse the seasonings off of the pork)
4. Broil: Remove pork chunks to a oiled baking sheet. Broil on high for about 5 minutes, until it is browned and crisp.
5. Shred: Using two forks, shred the pork. If you like (and we do), you can scoop out some garlic and onions and mix it with the meat. Can you resist taking a few test bites while shredding?
Alternate Cooking Methods
If you don’t have a crockpot, or are just in a hurry to enjoy some carnitas, you do have a few options:
To cook it on stovetop, first sear the pork as described above. Then add the remaining ingredients, stirring to deglaze the pan. Cover, and simmer on medium heat for 2-3 hours, or until the pork is fork tender.
If you want it really quick, use your Instant Pot. First sear the pork chunks on Saute mode. Add the other ingredients, seal the lid, and pressure cook in High for 1 hours. Allow pressure to release naturally.
For the final crisp up, you can also pan fry the shredded carnitas in a greased skillet. We do prefer the broiling method because the meat stays moister and you can brown it all at once, but you do have the option.
This Mexican shredded pork is incredibly versatile. The simplest thing to do is load it into tortillas along with any of your preferred toppings.
You can use carnitas for burritos, enchiladas, tamales, tortas, flatbreads, or just about anything else your imagination can come up with.
For low carb options, serve with cauliflower rice, or in lettuce wraps.
Stay tuned, our next recipe is Carnitas Nachos, just in time for the Big Game!
- Searing the Pork: Don’t skip searing the pork chunks before slow cooking. This step is crucial for developing a deep, rich flavor through caramelization. Make sure the pot is hot enough so the pork sizzles as it hits the pan, creating a beautiful crust.
- Properly Season: Be generous with the spice rub. We don’t believe in that ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper kind of cooking around here.
- Coca-Cola Secret: The addition of Coca-Cola might seem unconventional, but it adds a unique sweetness and aids in caramelization, especially when you finish the pork under the broiler. Its sugars also help to tenderize the meat.
- Reserve Cooking Liquids: After shredding the pork, we like to mix in a bit of the cooking liquid. It’s packed with flavor and can keep the meat moist.
Leftovers and Storage
Don’t shy away from buying a big piece of pork, because carnitas makes excellent leftover. And with its versatility, it’s great for meal prep.
Refrigerate leftovers, along with the cooking liquids, for 4-5 days in an airtight container. Or freeze for up to 3 month. If frozen, allow to thaw overnight in the fridge.
You can reheat it in a skillet, or in the microwave, until heated through.
So there you have it my friends, the perfect slow cooker carnitas recipe. Make a big huge batch to feed a crowd for the Super Bowl this Sunday, or keep it all for yourself. Either way, I think you’ll be cooking this pork over and over again.
Remember to pin or bookmark this recipe so you can easily find it whenever you need it. And be sure to subscribe to GypsyPlate, we’re always cooking up new recipes for you.
Slow Cooker Carnitas, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil
- 4-5 pounds pork butt, cut into large chunks
- 3 tsp salt, divided
- 3 tsp black pepper, divided
- 1.5 Tbsp dried oregano, divided
- 1 Tbsp cumin, divided
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 oranges
- 1 large lime
- ½ Tbsp dried thyme
- 8 large cloves garlic, sliced
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 cup Coca-Cola
- Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Mix 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp pepper, ½ Tbsp oregano and ½ Tbsp cumin, then rub all over pork chunks. Add pork to the heated pot, working in batches if necessary, and sear on all sides.
- Juice lime and oranges into a bowl, reserving the juiced citrus pieces. Mix thyme and remaining salt, pepper, oregano and cumin into the juice.
- Place sliced onion in a slow cooker, then top with pork chunks. Add on top reserved citrus pieces, along with garlic and bay leaves. Pour Coca-Cola all over the pork, followed by the juice mixture. (Do not pour the Coke after the juices, as it will rinse the seasonings off of the pork)
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours, until pork is easily shreddable with a fork.
- Remove pork chunks to a oiled baking sheet. Broil on high for about 5 minutes, until it is browned and crisp.
- Using two forks, shred the pork.
- Serve in tacos or burritos, with rice and beans, or on nachos.
Nutrition InformationYield 10 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 555Total Fat 37gSaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 21gCholesterol 156mgSodium 823mgCarbohydrates 10gFiber 2gSugar 6gProtein 43g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.
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