Slow Cooker Carnitas

slow cooker carnitas pulled pork

Carnitas are meaty, spicy, garlicky, and (best of all) idiot-proof.  They’re great for tacos, burritos, sandwiches, nachos, salads, or simply part of a hearty (though not super healthy) platter with rice and beans and all those nice filling things.

  I often make this as a main when I have several people over because it’s easy to prepare yet so delicious.  This is also a great “second meat” if a single turkey at a holiday dinner isn’t enough for your family.  Also I’m poor and pork is cheap.  This recipe is quite time-consuming, though, so be sure to give yourself the time and don’t rush the meat.

I just realized that this is my third recipe in a row that uses pork.  Pork is awesome so no regrets.


Spicy Slow Cooker Carnitas

Serves: 6
Time: all day, with 40 min total prep time

  • 1 large handful of dried chili peppers, e.g. ancho, arbol, guajillo, cascabel
  • 500 ml water, more or less
  • 2 medium onions, cut into chunks
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican oregano
    (or 1 tsp dried oregano + 1 tsp dried marjoram)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1.5-2 kg pork shoulder, rinsed and dried with paper towel
  • juice of 1/2 lime (or more)
  • salt, to taste

??????????Clockwise from 12 o’clock: guajillo, cascabel, arbol, and ancho chili peppers

  1. Remove stems and most seeds from the dried chili peppers.  I aim for some heat with a smoky and sweet flavour rather than a super hot dish, thus I don’t leave all the seeds.  Place peppers in a bowl.
  2. Bring water to a boil.  Pour over the chili peppers until they are just covered.  Place another bowl on top to make sure the peppers are weighed down and fully immersed.  Let rehydrate for 15 min.
  3. Place the onion and garlic chunks at the bottom of the slow cooker.
  4. Remove the chili peppers from the bowl of water and drain, reserving the liquid in the bowl.  Place the peppers in the slow cooker.

Re-hydrated chili peppers atop onions and garlic.

  1. In a small bowl, mix cumin, oregano (& marjoram), salt, and sugar.  Use this mixture as a dry rub to coat the whole pork shoulder.  Put roast into the slow cooker on top of the veggies.

All rubbed down and almost ready to go!

  1. There will likely be some dirt at the bottom of the reserved chili water.  We want to keep the water for flavour, but not the dirt.  Therefore, slowly pour about half of the water over the vegetables on the bottom, leaving the rest of the water and dirt out.  I end up adding about a cup of liquid.
  2. Turn the slow cooker to Low and let cook for 8-10 hours.
  1. When you return, the pork should be cooked and tender.  Remove the roast from the slow-cooker and place into a large bowl.  Shred the meat thoroughly with two forks.  Remove any bones and large chunks of fat.

Forked up beyond any recognition

  1. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree liquid and solids that remain in the slow cooker.  You probably won’t be able to get a smooth, soup-like consistency, so don’t worry.
  2. Using a mesh strainer over another large bowl, separate the remaining solids from the mixture.  Push the liquid through the strainer using a rubber spatula.  What you should be left with is any seeds or flecks of tough chili pepper that will not, from my experience, tenderize even through the process of slow-cooking.  This will be discarded while the smooth liquid is what we will use.

Goopy inedibles on the top; delicious spice broth on the bottom

  1. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker.  Add a little bit or all of the broth, depending on how ‘wet’ you want your meat.  I was feeling saucy so I added it all, about 1000 ml.
  2. Add the lime juice and additional salt, to taste.  (I don’t add too much lime because I don’t like it too sour; I add just enough to “wake” up the other flavours.)  Fold mixture together and set the slow cooker to High.  Let re-heat and render for up to 30 minutes.
  3. Serve alongside rice, beans, tortillas, and a salad, or put in sandwiches, tacos, nachos, etc.  I think this freezes ok but I’ve never tried it—this meat doesn’t last long unattended in my home!

2 thoughts on “Slow Cooker Carnitas

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