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Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

There is this amazing taco place here in DC called District Taco that I actually crave regularly! They make the best Pollo Asado and Pork Carnitas tacos. So when I found this amazing recipe that tastes just like my favorite tacos, I felt like I hit the jackpot! Plus, the pork is made in the slow cooker so it couldn't be easier. You need to try this recipe ASAP! It makes me so happy just thinking about it.


Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Serves 6-8

3-4 pounds boneless pork butt roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into large chunks

1 white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered

3 (2-inch) strips orange zest

1/3-1/2 cup orange juice

3 (2-inch) strips lime zest

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

5 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

2 bay leaves

corn tortillas

Toppings: chopped onion, cilantro, fresh lime juice, cheese, etc.

Place the pork in the bottom of a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker. Add the onion, orange zest, orange juice, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Turn the pork pieces a bit so the spices are evenly distributed. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours (or high for 5 to 7 hours). Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork from the slow cooker to a big bowl. Use two forks to shred the pork, discarding any big fat pieces. Spread the pork onto a baking sheet covered with foil. Pour everything (solids and liquid) from the slow cooker into a strainer set over a bowl to catch the liquid. Discard the solids and reserve the liquid. Pour some of the juices over the meat to moisten and sprinkle with coarse kosher salt. Preheat the broiler to high and position an oven rack about 6-8 inches away from the heating element. Broil the pork (watching closely!) for a couple minutes until it is brown and crispy in spots. Give the pork a good stir/turn and broil again until some of the edges crisp up a bit. You still want the pork to be nice and tender so don't overcook it here - and keep an eye on it as to not burn. Season the pork with more salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a serving plate or platter. Use additional liquid from the slow cooker to moisten the pork as needed.


Step-by-step tutorial:

Mexican food is the easiest to make gluten free. Thank goodness for rice, beans, meats, and corn tortillas! Let's get to the recipe!

Gather all of your ingredients for the slow cooker. If you can, be sure to get the right cut of pork (butt or shoulder) as the fats marbled throughout add to the flavor and they will all be discarded at the end. I've made this with a tenderloin, and although still good, the pork butt is better. I have orange juice pictured here because I don't always get quite enough when I squeeze an orange, but that is optional.

Cut the pork roast into big chunks, cutting the extra big pieces of fat off. I use my kitchen shears for this. Place into the slow cooker.

Next, quarter an onion and add that. With a paring knife, carefully cut strips of zest from the orange and lime. (Save a lime or two for serving). You don't want the pith, just the zest. Place on top of the roast.

Juice your orange and lime that you just stripped and pour the juices over the roast.

Add the garlic, salt and pepper, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves.

Gently toss the meat to get the seasonings on all sides. Cover and cook for 8-10 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.

This is what it looks like after it's finished cooking all day. Not as pretty as when we started, but that's good because all that beautiful flavor is now in the pork!

Carefully remove the pork to a bowl and using two forks, shred. My husband loves to smoke meat, so we've invested in these "meat rakes" and they are awesome!

Retrieve some of the delicious juices by using a gravy separator (like I do here) or a strainer over a glass measuring cup. You don't necessarily need to dump the whole hot pot of leftovers. I usually just scoop out a bunch of juice and pour it though a strainer over my glass measuring cup. You'll want at least a cup of meat juices.

Spread the pork out on a foil-lined baking sheet. Pour some of the juices over the meat and generously salt with coarse kosher salt. Place under the broiler and watch it. You want the tips of the meat to start to brown. Remove from oven, stir, and broil again.

Your pork carnitas will look like this delicious bowl of goodness! All of those browned edges really make this pork amazing. Add more liquid, salt, or pepper to taste.

We serve them on corn tortillas. To prepare the corn tortillas, my trick to keep them from ripping while eating is to spray them with cooking spray on both sides and heating them in a frying pan on the stove. We want them soft, but warm and pliable. As I pan fry them, I put them on a plate covered with a towel to keep them warm.

Prepare any toppings you want to use. At my favorite lunch spot (District Taco) the toppings they use for it to be considered "Mexican way" are chopped white onion, cilantro, and limes to squeeze over just before eating. This really is my favorite way to eat them, but my kids love to top with shredded cheese and sour cream which I'm sure is also very delicious.

This meat is so amazing. The way it's prepared just makes it so moist and delicious. You can use it for tacos, burritos, or taco salads. Yum!

It's definitely worth a try with these specific "mexican way" toppings like our favorite DC taco place.

You'll want to start your own taco truck after trying these! They are truly one of my very favorite tacos of all time!

Recipe Source: Adapted from a recipe by Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

1 Comment

Mar 09, 2020

MMMMMM our kitchen smells amazing! District Taco is our favorite restaurant too! So excited to try these out! I can tell they are going to be amazing!


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