Carnitas, Meet Crockpot

As promised, I'm back with another great crockpot recipe today. This time around, I'm sharing one of my favorite ethnic dishes that traditionally takes a lot of time and effort and sometimes results in not insignificant burns: carnitas. Carnitas are a Mexican specialty of seasoned pulled pork, traditionally fried in lard, with a pleasing mixture of tender and crispy browned parts. Carnitas are great in tacos, or as a filling for arepas or tamales. This simplified recipe avoids the deep-frying step, and takes advantage of the slow cooker's ability to produce very tender meat. A quick trip under the broiler at the end produces the caramelized, browned meat that typifies excellent carnitas.

A quick note about the choices you have when it comes to the pork that you use. There are many options and traditional choices include pork shoulder roasts or sirloin tip roasts. However, given that pork (along with chicken and beef) has recently been seeing an increase in costs at the market, I opted for a very cost effective package of boneless pork rib ends. Not every market will carry these and they might not always be available, but when they are, they are among the least costly boneless pork options available. Moreover, they cook in the crockpot beautifully without drying out or becoming tough. I've come to really rely on them as a regular part of my family's dinner plans, especially when the crockpot is involved.

I love being able to use my crockpot to make dishes that are often made using other methods that are more involved, difficult, and/or complex. Some examples include curries, pot roasts, pulled pork, chilies, and more. But today's example really tops my list. One of the really fantastic things about making carnitas this way is how it frees up your time and effort to be invested in putting together a selection of great sides and condiments for serving alongside them. I really love serving the carnitas as a filling for soft tacos and having fun items like sliced avocado, fresh salsa, and pickled onions for on them or a savory pot of black beans and rice alongside them is really part of making it a very special meal.You might even want to put together a pitcher of sangria and make it a celebration!

Crockpot Carnitas

  • 3 pounds boneless pork rib ends or other cubed boneless pork roast
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1 cup salsa -- choose your favorite variety
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar

Remove excess fat from the pork. No need to remove all of the the fat - just the really big pieces. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.

Place all of the ingredients in the crockpot and cook on low for about 6 hours, or until pork is very tender and can be pulled apart easily with a fork.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Preheat the broiler.

Shred the pork, and place in on the baking sheet. Pour the sauce from the crockpot over the pork and mix gently.

Broil the meat, turning once, until brown and caramelized around the edges, or desired amount.

Serve warm with rice, beans, and tortillas. Great condiments include sliced avocado, salsa, sour cream, and easy pickled red onions.

  • Yields: About 3 cups pulled pork
  • Preparation Time: About 6 hours