Dive into a bowl of shredded Cuervo & Tecate Slow Cooker Carnitas. This recipe is packed with flavor and makes amazing tacos and burritos!
Why We Love This Recipe for Carnitas in a Slow Cooker
- I’ve made carnitas before. Lots of times. I braised it in the oven and made my friend’s recipe in a crock pot. But this slow cooker carnitas recipe trumped all the others.
- Your house is going to smell ah-mazing. When you open the crock pot there are gorgeous orange aromas alongside the meatiness and spices. I wish I smell-o-vision for you all right now.
- Once you shred the meat it’s a whole new level. You get the smoky spiciness from the chipotle peppers and those subtle beer and tequila notes. It’s a really fantastic carnitas recipe and every bite is packed with flavor.
- The best part about this recipe is that it makes A LOT of meat which makes it perfect for potlucks and big get-togethers. Or make a batch and use it to meal prep for the week. Total dinner win friends.
Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Pork Slow Cooker Carnitas
PORK: You need a 4-pound pork shoulder for the carnitas. This cut of meat is also called pork butt. You can use bone-in or boneless. I usually buy whichever is on sale. Just be sure to pull out the bone before shredding the meat.
PRODUCE: For some fresh flavor we’re adding in garlic, orange, lime, and yellow onion. You’ll be using the zest and juice of the oranges and limes, so pick ones with a good-looking peel.
PANTRY: To season the pork, you’ll need tomato paste, chipotle peppers in adobo (we’re going to use the adobo sauce too), vegetable stock, ground cumin, dried oregano, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.
BOOZE: Let’s kick up the flavor of this pork with some Jose Cuervo gold tequila and Tecate lager. The pork won’t taste boozy when you eat it, but there will be some nice layers of flavor and aromatic notes. If you really don’t want to use alcohol, you can use an extra 32 ounces of vegetable or chicken stock instead.
TACOS: We love to make tacos with carnitas. I recommend corn tortillas, avocado, red onion, and cojita cheese for toppings. Or use whatever your family likes.
How to Make Carnitas in a Slow CookerJump to Recipe
STEP 1 Place the pork should into a slow cooker. Then add the other carnitas ingredients over the pork. (The pork should be almost covered.) You can give it a little stir or just pop the lid on, it’ll get mixed up later anyway. Cook the pork for 7 hours on LOW.
STEP 2 Once the cooking time is up, take the pork out of the slow cooker and put it on a cutting board. Strain the cooking liquid into a medium saucepan and simmer it over medium heat until it reduces to 1 cup. While that’s cooking, shred the pork with a couple of forks. (Don’t forget to take out the bone first if you use used bone-in meat!)
STEP 3 Add the pork back to the slow cooker or plate it in a serving bowl. Then pour about 1/3 to 1/2 of the reduced cooking liquid over the meat. Stir it into the pork to moisten it. Add more liquid to the pork and stir until you’re happy with it. Then dig in!
Tips & Tricks
- Crisp up the carnitas by spreading out the shredded meat on a baking sheet after it’s been tossed in the cooking liquid. Place the pan under your oven’s broiler (set on high) and cook until the tips of the meat are crisped up. Then toss with some more of the cooking liquid to keep the pork moist.
- If you want to keep the meat warm or serve it buffet style, return the shredded pork to the crock pot, pour in the entire cup of the reduced cooking liquid, and stir. Cover the crock pot and set it to WARM until ready to serve.
- Don’t know what to do with the leftover carnitas? It’s great for tacos, burritos, pork chilaquiles, in quesadillas, on salads, and heaped on rice bowls with black beans and elote-style corn.
- You guys! My amazing friend Kristy’s cookbook Cooking with Cocktails launched a few years ago and I was a recipe tester for her book. Everything I had was delicious. From the Dark & Stormy Popcorn to the Sparkling Rose Roquefort Salad Dressing to the Bourbon-Soaked Cherries Tiramisu I was in boozy food heaven. But I’ve been holding out on you because this Cuervo & Tecate Slow Cooker Carnitas recipe is the bee’s knees! Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of her book.
Slow Cooker Carnitas Recipe FAQ
What is the difference between pulled pork and carnitas?
Both dishes start with a pork shoulder and cook for hours. They typically get cooked on a smoker, a slow cooker, an instant pot, or braised in the oven.
Pulled pork is usually made with sweeter add-ins like brown sugar and cola, and seasonings like paprika and garlic powder. Then it’s then shredded and served on a bun with BBQ sauce. Pulled pork is softer than carnitas since it’s not broiled.
Carnitas are made with orange, lime, classic Mexican spices like oregano and cumin, chipotle, and in this case beer. It’s then shredded and crisped up under a broiler so you have tender meat with amazing little crispy bits all over the pork. Yum!
Can you put raw pork in a slow cooker?
You sure can. A lot of recipes will have you sear the meat first. This is to add some extra flavor to the dish. But you can stick whatever pork cut you’re using right into the crock pot raw. You just need to make sure it’s cooked through before eating.
*Disclaimer: Ground pork needs to be cooked in a skillet before being put into a crock pot. Otherwise, it dissolves into this weird mush… and nobody likes that.
Why do you put orange juice in carnitas?
The critic acid in the orange juice (and lime juice) helps to break down and tenderize the pork as it cooks. It also adds depth of flavor, a touch of natural sweetness, and a nice aroma while the pork cooks.
Do I need to add liquid to slow cooker pork shoulder?
Yes, you should have some liquid in the slow cooker with the pork shoulder. Any liquid you use should come at least 1/4 of the way up the pork. The pork shoulder will create some of its own juices as it cooks, but it still needs a little help to keep the meat from sticking to the crock and burning. Apple juice and chicken stock are good choices if you’re making a basic pork shoulder. Colas like Coke and Dr. Pepper are great for pulled pork. I like using vegetable or chicken stock and beer for carnitas.
Cuervo & Tecate Slow Cooker Carnitas
- 4 pounds pork shoulder trimmed of excess fat
- 1 medium yellow onion peeled and chopped
- 6 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
- 1 orange zested and juiced
- 2 limes zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce chopped
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle can)
- 24 ounces Tecate lager
- ½ cup Jose Cuervo gold tequila
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Place the pork shoulder into a slow cooker. Add the yellow onion, garlic, orange juice and zest, lime juice and zest, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, beer, tequila, vegetable stock, salt, and pepper. The pork should be covered all most all the way by the liquid.
- Cover the crock pot and cook on LOW for 7 hours.
- Uncover the crock pot and transfer the pork to a cutting board. Set aside.
- Pour the liquid from the crock pot through a strainer (to catch the solids) into a medium saucepan. If you like you can puree the solids and add them to the liquid or discard them. Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer over medium heat and reduce to 1 cup.
- While the braising liquid cooks, use a couple of forks to shred the pork.
- Once the liquid has reduced, place the pork in a serving bowl and pour the liquid over the meat. Toss the meat until coated so it's nice and moist. Serve warm.*If you want to keep the meat warm or serve it buffet style, return the shredded pork to the crock pot and toss in the liquid. Cover the crock pot and set it to WARM until ready to serve.
- To make tacos, cook the tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until slightly browned. Add some carnitas to the tortillas and then top with avocado, red onion, and cojita cheese.
- You can use a boneless or bone-in pork shoulder or pork butt for this recipe. If using bone-in, be sure to remove the bone from the pork once it has finished cooking. It should pull right out.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.