Slow Cooker Carnitas {PALEO}

My husband loves carnitas.  When we lived in San Diego they were his go-to order at our hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint, and every time I tried his food I was left thinking, “What’s the big deal; why do so many people love carnitas??”  Since moving to the East Coast I took it upon myself to come up with the perfect carnitas recipe; for both of us.

So needless to say, coming to this carnitas recipe has been a labor of love.  I’ve tried half a dozen different recipes, used different cuts of pork, and experimented with multiple cooking techniques until finally turning out a real winner.  In the process I’ve learned a few things:

Pork tenderloin works well for carnitas, but it’s pricy.  Instead, pork shoulder roast makes a good choice and is more economical.  I used blade steak as well but found it to be too fatty (I could have trimmed excess fat a bit more I suppose).  The take home message here is: if you find a decent size piece of pork on sale you can turn it into carnitas.

My recipe requires you to first brown the meat then cook it in the slow cooker and finally, finish it in the broiler.  Maybe that’s more steps than is completely necessary, but browning the meat deepens the flavor and broiling gives you that crispy carnita goodness that makes carnitas THAT MUCH BETTER.  So do what you want, you can toss your meat into your slow cooker and walk away, but, in my opinion, the extra steps pay off in huge flavor.

Lastly, I found that keeping the ingredients simple and fresh makes all the difference in the outcome; fresh squeezed lime and orange juice, garlic instead of garlic powder, lots of salt…  I hope you enjoy these as much as we do: Slow Cooker Carnitas {PALEO}.

Paleo slow cooker carnitas that are easy to make and taste great!

Slow Cooker Carnitas {PALEO}

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 pounds pork shoulder roast, cut into steaks about 1 1/2 inches in thickness
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • coconut oil


  1. Heat a large skillet to high heat.  Add about a tablespoon of coconut oil.
  2. Grab your pork.  Remember to cut it into 1 1/2 inch thick steaks.  Liberally salt and pepper the pork then add the steaks to your pre-heated pan making sure not to crowd the pan.  You may have to work in batches depending on the size of your skillet.  Cook about 4-5 minutes on each size until brown.  Repeat if you need to.
  3. Place the browned pork into the bottom of your slow cooker, set aside.
  4. Working with the same skillet, turn the heat down to medium.  If there isn’t much fat left from cooking the pork, add a little more.  Then add your sliced garlic to the pan.  Keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t burn.  You’re looking for the garlic to get a touch of color and start to shake and sizzle in the pan.
  5. Add the lime and orange juice to the pan, scraping up any burnt bits from the meat.
  6. Reduce the heat all the way to low, add the cumin.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
  7. Dump the juices and garlic into the slow cooker.  Don’t worry if the pork isn’t completely covered.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours, high for 2-4 hours.
  8. When the meat is finished cooking, shred it.
  9. Turn your broiler on high.  Place the shredded meat into an oven safe skillet, or you can use a baking sheet.  Do your best to keep the liquid in the slow cooker before your broil the meat.
  10. Place the meat in the oven, broil for about five minutes, or until the meat gets crispy around the edges.  (I think my broiler might be a little on the slow side, so make sure to check on the carnitas regularly.)
  11. Serve and enjoy!

We eat our carnitas over cauli-rice or as tacos.  Garnish with fresh cilantro, tomato, avocado, onions, salsa…  Whatever you like!

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