These Crispy Mexican Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas are the best carnitas you will ever make! They're tender and juicy, packed with flavor, and easy, too. Perfect for parties and amazing in tacos, nachos, salads, and burritos!
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This recipe for crispy Mexican slow cooker pork carnitas was shared with me by a friend and it’s become one of those dishes I return to again and again. Quite simply, it’s freaking amazing and makes the most delicious carnitas I have had this side of the border.
I made a few tweaks to the recipe over the years, but the flavors are still authentic. Everything simmers in the slow cooker all day, making the pork super tender, then the carnitas are broiled in the oven, which makes the meat crispy and delicious.
That crispy outer texture with the tender juicy interior is what really makes these pork carnitas and not just slow roasted Mexican pork, so definitely do not skip this step!
What Is Escabeche?
Escabeche is a pickled vegetable dish typically made with onions and peppers. It originated in Spain, but it’s served throughout Latin America and it’s super easy to make. I particularly love the slightly sweet, tangy taste of the quick pickled red onions that are used as a condiment in Mexico, especially the Yucatán peninsula.
This Yucatán red onion version of escabeche (also known as Escabeche de Cebolla) can be served with a lot more than tacos, but I find that the sweet and sour flavor pairs perfectly with the crispy carnitas, and the acidity helps balance the richness of the pork.
What You’ll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
For the pork carnitas:
- Boneless pork shoulder or pork butt
- Orange juice – I recommend freshly squeezed instead of bottled.
- Lime juice
- Diced tomatoes
- Green salsa – Choose any heat level you like.
- Brown sugar – This is optional; if you leave it out, these pork carnitas are Whole30 compliant.
- Ground cumin
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Chili powder
- Jalapeno – I like to remove the seeds.
- Bay leaves
- Cinnamon sticks
For the escabeche:
- Red onion – Slice this as thinly as possible. A mandoline slicer works well for this.
- White vinegar – This is just your standard vinegar—the kind that comes in the big plastic jugs!
- Bay leaf
- Granulated sugar – This cuts the acid and balances the flavor, but again, you can leave out the sugar if you want to make Whole30 pork carnitas.
- Black peppercorns
- Red pepper flakes – You can adjust the amount to make your escabeche hotter or milder.
What Cut of Pork Is Used for Carnitas?
You can make this with either a boneless or bone-in pork shoulder, or pork butt, and it will turn out amazing. Some people feel that boneless is easier to work with, but by the time the meat is done cooking, it literally just falls right off the bone so if that is the cheaper cut of meat or all you can find, then definitely go for it!
Just pay attention to weight because the bone will add some extra weight to the meat before cooking. Instead of a 4-5 pound boneless pork shoulder or pork butt, you might want to watch for a 6-7 pound bone-in pork shoulder or pork butt.
How to Make Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
Truly, the hardest thing about this slow cooker pork carnitas recipe is waiting for it to be done! Your whole kitchen will smell amazing as it cooks away in the crockpot.
Make the crispy pork carnitas:
Combine the pork and liquid ingredients. Place the pork into your slow cooker. Pour in the orange juice, lime juice, diced tomatoes, and salsa.
Make the rub. Mix together the brown sugar, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, and chili powder in a small bowl. Rub this mixture into the meat.
Add the remaining ingredients. Add the chopped onion, jalapeno, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks to the slow cooker.
Cook. Cover your slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.
Shred the pork. Transfer the pork to a baking dish. Remove any fat, then shred the meat with a fork. Return the shredded pork to the slow cooker and cook for 30 minutes more.
Broil. Turn your oven’s broiler on and transfer the shredded pork to a large baking sheet covered with foil. Spread it in an even layer and broil for 5-8 minutes. Toss the meat with tongs and broil for another 5-8 minutes, or until some of the meat is crispy and charred.
Make the escabeche:
Bring the liquid to a boil. In a small saucepan, combine all of the escabeche ingredients except the sliced onion and bring the mixture to a boil.
Add the onion. Add the red onion to the pan and stir for about 30 seconds, coating it in the brine.
Cool. Remove the pan from heat and cool to room temperature. Transfer the escabeche to a jar or airtight container and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
Tips For Success
Here are some of my best tips for perfect, crispy slow cooker pork carnitas:
- Get a head start. The pork can be cooked a day in advance, then shredded and stored in an airtight container until you're ready to crisp it up under the broiler.
- Keep an eye on it. Broilers can be unpredictable, so if yours tends to burn things quickly, turn on the oven light and keep an eye on your carnitas. Some char is nice, but you don’t want them completely blackened!
- Stovetop instructions. If you don't want to use the oven, you can crisp up the carnitas in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add a little bit of cooking oil to the pan and then cook the shredded pork in batches, stirring occasionally, until it's crispy.
I have so many suggestions for serving pork carnitas!
- Pile the pork into warm corn tortillas with the escabeche or chopped white onions, thinly sliced radishes, limes, cotija cheese, sliced avocado, and some freshly chopped cilantro.
- We also like having it with the best guacamole ever and piling it on top of patacones (fried plantains) or lettuce for a salad!
- Use your pork carnitas in burritos, nachos, soups, quesadillas, or just serve it up with rice and beans!
As for the escabeche, if you have leftovers you can add some to your quesadillas, eat it with seafood like a nice grilled white fish, or serve it with burgers and hot dogs (so good!).
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Leftover carnitas will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days when stored in an airtight container. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 350ºF oven until warmed through, in a skillet on the stovetop, or in the microwave.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Carnitas are also freezer-friendly and can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat according to the directions above, until they’re warmed through.
More Mexican Recipes
- Authentic Carne Asada Recipe
- The BEST Guacamole Recipe Ever
- Homemade Mexican Rice (aka Spanish Rice)
- Grilled Chicken and Steak Fajitas
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Crispy Mexican Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas with Escabeche
- 4-5 pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt
- ½ cup orange juice
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice about 2 limes
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup green salsa
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar optional
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 jalapeno seeds removed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 red onion thinly sliced
- ¾ cup white vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 1 garlic clove thinly sliced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Place the pork in a large slow cooker. Add in the orange juice, lime juice, diced tomatoes and salsa.
- Mix together the brown sugar, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, and chili powder in a small bowl and rub it into the meat. Add the chopped onion, jalapeno, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks, then cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.
- At the 8 hour mark (or the 5 hour mark if cooking on high), remove the meat from the crock pot (do NOT discard all of the juices from the slow cooker) and place it in a large baking dish (so juices don't run all over your counter). Remove any fat from the meat and then shred the meat into bite-size pieces with a fork. Return the pork to the slow cooker with all of the juices from cooking and let it cook an additional 30 minutes while you prep garnishes and all the things you want to serve with your pork carnitas.
- Turn on the oven to broil.
- Transfer the shredded pork to a large baking sheet covered in tinfoil and spread into an even, single layer. Broil in the oven for 5-8 minutes, then give the meat a good toss with some tongs so other parts can get hit by the broiler and return to the oven for another 5-8 minutes under the broiler. This will give some of the pork a bit of char and create the crispy texture that really makes amazing carnitas even more amazing (and authentic). Serve in corn or flour tortillas with cilantro, fresh avocado, maybe some thinly sliced radishes or chopped white onion and cotija cheese, and homemade escabeche. Or add it to salads, nachos, soups, etc.
- In a small saucepan, combine all of the escabeche ingredients except the sliced onion and bring to a boil. Add the red onion and stir for about 30 seconds to combine and for the onion to be coated in the vinegar brine. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in a container and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
This post was originally published in January, 2017. The photos and content were updated in July, 2022.
Reader questions and reviews
This pork sounds mind blowing! It will be perfect for our playoff party on the weekend!
There is no onion in the Escabeche sauce. How much red onion do you use and how is it prepared?
Oh my goodness, I can't believe I left that out in the ingredient list, lol. It's one red onion, thinly sliced. I updated the ingredients - thanks for the heads up!
Love tacos, love carnitas, love this recipe!
Great idea to combine the convenience of the slow cooker with the crispy broiled top. Looks delicious.
Oh my gosh! This looks AMAZING! Can't wait to try it!
Mexican is my thing. I think the slow cooker is perfect for making carnitas. You can infuse such good flavor and get such a tender fall apart meat.
Slow cooker recipes are some of my favorites. These would be perfect for Cinco De Mayo coming up. Sounds like a fun thing you had going with your friend on Wednesdays! I would love that!
This pork sounds fabulous..! I love that you broiled after slow cooking. Give is that little extra. Love the flavors you have going in this. Yum! Can't wait to try.
Carnitas are so tasty! These look beautiful. I love your tip for getting the pork nice and crispy. I'll have to try that next time!
I love pork carnitas and what a better way to enjoy them but in tacos with escabeche. Great pics too now I am super hungry =)
I've never met a pork carnitas I didn't like. Great idea to combine the convenience of the slow cooker with crisping under the broiler. Beautiful photos too!
Omg your Wednesday tradition sounds amazing and I am sad on your behalf that your friend moved away. I love making carnitas in my slow cooker - it's the easiest. This recipe looks fantastic! You can see both the juiciness and crispness in these photos!
This is what slow cooker dreams are made of. This is definitely going on the list for sure.
This is my idea of a fun, stress free meal. Perfect to feed a crowd. Great way to enjoy delicious pork. This would be great to put leftovers in the freezer for later down the road. I love using my slow cooker.
Love your Wednesday fun tradition. It is great to have a friend to cook with. Slow cooker recipes have great flavors and is such a blessing for a weeknight dinner. Love the pickled onion.
I absolutely love pork carnitas and pairing it with escabeche is delicious! We do make escabeche in the Philippines but it's slightly different and is always prepared with fish.
The carnitas looking amazing. I wish I could have had Pinterest and blogging and all the rest when I was raising my kids. They would have been in culinary heaven. Luckily my grandsons love to try new recipes and old ones too. This is one they would love. I'm pinning to make it for them.
Oh the carnitas look so flavorful and gorgeous! I love how easy it is to make them and I think I need to buy a slow cooker to try these recipes asap.
Yum, this sounds amazing! I love that it is made in the slow cooker, I bet it makes the house smell amazing!
Pork looks delicious like the idea of getting them crispy with broiler method. By the way the Escabeche sounds delicious too. I will give it try. you are right these are great recipe for parties.
Oh, I LOVE the flavor combo in this one. Looks absolutely delicious. I'll have to try this very soon. My husband is a huge fan of Mexican cuisine.
I should consider buying slow cooker. I have never heard about escabeche sauce with lots of onion this looks like soemthing my family will enjoy
I want a friend to come over and cook with me! Tell you what - just come visit, okay? This would be a great way to start.... you make it. I'll eat it. Deal? DEAL.
I love the sound of this, Kylee. We need to make this happen.
What an awesome idea Amy! I really don't use my slow cooker often enough, and I forget that it can be for just PART of the meal. These look great!!
Give me all the carnitas! And I love that you made it escabeche!!!!
Flavor was great, but the broiler dried out the pork quite a bit unfortunately. ☹️ I think I will try pan frying in oil next time.
I made these tacos tonight, and it was truly one of the best meals I’ve ever had! I made a mango/pineapple salsa to go on top, and served them with avocado. I’m already dreaming of tomorrow’s left overs. I did add a bit of the juices from the crockpot while broiling to keep the meat from drying out, and if worked great. I’ll definitely be making these again . . . and again . . . and again.
I'm so glad you loved these! And how funny that we have a mutual friend in Lisa! She just messaged me to tell me that she saw your post about these on FB! Amazing what a small world it is sometimes!
I’m going to be catering my son’s wedding reception with a taco bar, so I’ve been trying different recipes to narrow down my Favorites. This one is it! For the pork carnitas! The flavor profile is amazing with the citrus, jalapeño and hint of cinnamon. I was afraid it would dry out under the Broiler but it stayed juicy!
I'm SO glad you loved this recipe! That's amazing that you are catering your son's wedding recipe! Congratulations!
Made a half batch of this since it's just me and my partner - should've made a whole batch! This was delicious and would have made great leftovers if we hadn't eaten almost all of it! We are very familiar with latin american cooking from time spent living in various countries over time and this is a great way to get some of the warmer flavours with the ingredients and equipment available in the average caucasian american kitchen lol. No parilla required!