Hola everyone! Slow cooker authentic Mexican pork carnitas is what I am making today. This is like the Mexican version of pulled pork that you crisp in the oven. The smell is filling my house and I am getting HUNGRY. I said to myself "I am going through all this trouble, why not blog about it, right?" There is nothing like killing two birds with one stone.
While the smell of carnitas fills my kitchen I am trying to find carnitas culinary equivalent. Those who know me well know that I am always tying to find food parallels, a culinary kin.
Similar dishes to carnitas:
Carnitas means “little meats” in Spanish and originated in the southwest state of Michoacan, MX. It’s a super tender, fall-apart meat, which exists in many different cultures. So, here I go, authentic Mexican pork carnitas are really the first cousin to pulled pork, a US favorite. Its Latin American/Caribbean counterpart is definitely pernil which is made with pork shoulder rather than pork butt. Authentic Mexican pork carnitas can also be Cuban ropa vieja's second cousin.
Now, in Mexico, there is another close relative to the authentic Mexican pork carnitas called "cochinita pibil", a dish of Mayan origin cooked with achiote paste and herbs. Achiote paste is made with annatto seeds, mixed with many herbs and spices such as cumin, oregano, and cinnamon.
In the U.S., you can find carnitas at chains like Chipotle or Qdoba. But you can find even better carnitas at authentic taquerias. Your tacos will be filled to the brim with this delicious Mexican pulled pork, cooked to tender perfection.
The traditional way of cooking this dish is by seasoning the pig and burying it in the ground. I don't think I'll be doing something similar any time soon, what will the neighbors say?
Traditional Cooking Methods
I read that authentic Mexican pork carnitas are traditionally cooked in a copper pot because copper distributes the heat evenly. Who would have thought? Luckily for most of us, there are many alternatives to cooking your carnitas in a copper pot. Don't worry, I don't have one. I actually like to use my slow cooker because I get to enjoy the beautiful aromas that slowly fill every corner of my kitchen.
I have also removed lard as an ingredient but the flavors are the same. No lard makes the dish much healthier. If you don’t have a slow cooker, feel free to use your sturdy Dutch Oven instead. Dutch Ovens retain a lot of consistent heat, and are built to cook for hours at a time. Just be sure you’ll be at home to keep an eye on it.
After the carnitas are nice and cooked to fork tender, I shred them with two forks, and then lay them out on a baking sheet, and broil for 5 minutes or so. They get a nice golden look on top, not to mention a yummy crispiness for your carnitas tacos.
Now, you would expect that something that tastes this good has to have a secret ingredient, or lots of ingredients. Actually, authentic Mexican pork carnitas is such a humble dish that you probably have everything you need in your fridge and pantry. I also like to use my very own chili powder blend. If you work from home, you can simply throw it all together in the morning and have it ready for dinner time. Or save this special recipe for the weekend. Put your ingredients in the slow cooker, run some errands, and come home to the amazing aroma of carnitas after your day out.
Step by step photos:
- Place the pork shoulder in the slow cooker then sprinkle on the spice mixture.
- Add the onions, garlic and bay leaves.
- Add the lime slices and be sure you peel them and discard the rind.
- Add 1 cup of water and cook on high for 6 hours. Flip the shoulder every couple hours.
- Check it after 5 hours and let it cook until the meat separates easily with a fork. So tender!
- Once the shoulder is fork tender shred it with a couple forks on a cutting board. Set your oven on broil while shredding.
- Place the shredded pork on a baking tray and slide under the broiler.
- Broil for 5 minutes or if you like it really crispy leave it a bit longer but keep an eye on it.
Carnitas are so versatile because you can use them for tacos, tostadas, burritos, tamales, and even nachos. Wow! Tonight we're enjoying carnitas with tortilla shells, and all the fixings.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Can I freeze the pork carnitas for later use? Yes, set aside and portion the amount you want to freeze before you get it crispy under the broiler. Allow the pork to completely cool and store in air tight freezer containers for 1-2 months. If you vacuum pack it will last over 12 months.
- How long will the pork last in the refrigerator for leftovers? If properly stored in airtight containers the pork should be used in 3-4 days.
- Can I make this in the oven? Yes, you can place all the ingredients in a roaster or large oven safe Dutch oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F and cook covered for 3 hours then flip the pork over and cook for 2 more hours. It should be fork tender and separate easily when done.
- What else can I make with the pork carnitas? Our favorite dishes to make are tacos with lettuce, cilantro, tomato and onion. You can also make quesadillas, tostadas and burritos with your choice of fillings.
- How do I adjust the recipe up or down? You can simply click on the number right next to: Servings: Change to adjust. Increase or decrease this number to your desired number of servings.
If you love Latin food then you have to try some of my all time favorite dishes or bookmark them for later. Here are some of the most popular ethnic dishes, their history and ingredients to make at home.
Cuban Ropa Vieja: A true comfort food of slow cooked beef served over rice.
Recaito: This is the cilantro based ingredient used in many Latin soups, stews and black beans.
Sofrito: You need to have this tomato based ingredient for Latin style beans and shredded chicken.
Latin Style or Cuban Black Beans: If you have never tried these you are missing out and they are so easy!
Tilapia Ceviche: A citrus cured fish or shrimp appetizer with some kick.
Before I run, don't forget to share this recipe with your friends and family. If you have time leave me a comment, or tweet it! Spread the blog love! Gracias!
Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Recipe Card
Slow cooker tender and delicious with a nice crispy finish! You will love these authentic Mexican pork carnitas! Super easy to make in the slow cooker and then crisp up in the oven.
- In a small bowl place oregano, cumin, black pepper, salt, chili powder,and cinnamon, then mix thoroughly.
- Put the pork shoulder in the slow cooker and add the onion, garlic, limes, bay leaves, water and spice mixture.
Cover and cook for 6 hours on high. Flip over every couple hours in the slow cooker. Check after 5 hours or so and cook until it separates easily with a fork.
Heat oven on broiler.
- Move meat to a large cutting board and using two forks begin the shred the meat.
Place the meat in a single layer on a baking tray, and broil for about 5 minutes.
Serve with flour or corn tortillas, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and hot sauce.
Q: Can I freeze the pork carnitas for later use?
A: Yes, set aside and portion the amount you want to freeze before you get it crispy under the broiler. Allow the pork to completely cool and store in air tight freezer containers for 1-2 months. If you vacuum pack, it will last over 12 months.
Q: Can I make this in the oven?
A: Yes, you can place all the ingredients in a roaster or large oven safe Dutch oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F and cook covered for 3 hours then flip the pork over and cook another 2 hours. It should be fork tender and separate easily when done.
Q: What else can I make with the pork carnitas?
A: Our favorite dishes to make are tacos with lettuce, cilantro, tomato, queso fresco and onion. You can also make quesadillas, tostadas and burritos with your choice of fillings.