Crock Pot Carnitas

I usually make my carnitas in my beloved dutch oven–searing and braising in one pot. But it’s been too long since I used my crock pot and I want to do this the easy way. And truth be told, I think it would be a more convenient prep method for many of you who are juggling families, 9 to 5’s and gym time! I know I was wearing that hat last week and sure appreciated a nearly done dinner at the end of a busy day. Crock Pot Carnitas helped me eat well when it was really tempting for me not to.

Carnitas has to be hands-down my favorite meat dish. I love everything about it, but particularly the different ways it can be used. There’s so much more to this flavorful shredded pork than tacos. Last week, I used mine in two ways: my ode to Chipotle’s Burrito Bowl and served with sautéed peppers and onions over Spicy Lime Sweet Potato Mash! I was hoping to have a little bit more leftover so I could sneak in a frittata, but I guess I’ll have to do that next time.

Crock Pot Carnitas on


  • 4-5 lb pork loin roast
  • 1 tsp of each: garlic powder, chili powder, ground cumin, kosher salt
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 lime
  • 2 cups organic or homemade chicken stock
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 TBSP Adobo
  • 3-4 crushed garlic cloves
  • Paleo-friendly fat of choice

Slice the roast into 2″ steaks, going across the grain. Leave all of the fat in place on the roast.

Prepare the spice blend in a large bowl–large enough to easily toss the pork steaks. In fact, let’s do that now. Once the spices are brought together, add the steaks a couple at a time and coat evenly in the spices. At first sight, it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough seasoning to coat, but it will. Let rest while a skillet comes to temp.

Heat a skillet or large thick-bottomed pan to medium-high. Add your fat of choice.

Work in batches to ensure a quick and quality sear. Add 2-3 steaks, depending on the size of your pan and sear both sides.

Move the browned pork to the slow cooker to rest. Repeat until the pork is done.

When the last batch of meat is searing, bring together the stock, tomato paste, adobo and crushed garlic cloves. Use this to deglaze the pan once the final round of pork is removed.

Let this seasoned broth simmer for a few minutes in the skillet, bringing up all the leftover bits from the pan, but also warming up the spices and garlic before it joins the pork.

While the broth simmers, juice two navel oranges and one lime and set aside.

Crock Pot Carnitas on

After a couple minutes of simmering, pour the broth over the seared pork in the slow cooker. Add the citrus juices as well. I like to repurpose my cocktail strainer and pint glass for the citrus juice.

Crock Pot Carnitas on

Cover and set the timer for 5 hours on low.

If your slow cooker turns off after the timer dings, this is fine to hang out and keep warm for a little bit. If your cooker goes to a “keep warm” setting like mine does, the meat will not hold long. Ironically though the pork is full of fat and sitting in broth, it is possible to dry out if it stays at that “keep warm” temperature after it’s been cooking for 5 hours.

Here’s my advice for handling the pork at this stage. I like to make enough to cover a couple of meals. When it comes to the portions I need for later meals, I find that storing the meat whole at this stage is better than storing fully prepared carnitas. So for right now, let’s figure out what we need for tonight’s dinner and set the rest aside for another meal. Also, don’t toss the juice! We need the broth for rehydrating the meat. That stuff is flavor gold!

Onto making the carnitas…

Shred the meat using forks or even the handy trick of using a pastry cutter (we don’t need those anymore, right?). That’s step one. Step two is caramelizing the newly shredded meat in order to get those perfect browned edges we have come to love about carnitas. This can happen two ways. Either put the shredded meat back into that skillet with some fat and brown or put the meat under a broiler for a few minutes… whatever works for you.

Crock Pot Carnitas on

It’s ready to go–Crock Pot Carnitas! Pile this on top of my Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice and make a Paleo Burrito Bowl!

* * * * *

The key tools to make this recipe are a crock pot, of course, but a good skillet and the tools for fast and easy citrus juicing are also handy:

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  1. Janell says

    I am gearing up to do a 21 day sugar detox and cannot have the orange in this recipe. Do you think I could substitute lemon juice or do you think it would change the flavor profile too drastically?

  2. Emily Skvarla says

    This are off the hook. We portion the left overs into freezer bags and have for quick surprise dinners. Seriously good.

  3. Zoe McKenzie says


    I am actually making these right now… I spaced and poured in all 4 cups of organic chicken broth, should I scoop it out because it will greatly affect the cooking process and end result or is it fine and will just end up being more juicy than desired?

    Thank you!

  4. Stephanie says

    Amazing! My husband, father-in-law, and kids all raved about it! And it lasted for days tasting just as good, if not better than the first!!! It was a bit more prep work than I like or am used to with a slow cooker recipe, but more than worth it. Now that I know the process, it’s not that big a deal. The only thing is that I used tablespoons on accident for the spices (just realized) and I ended up having to double it to coat all of my meat. Oopsie. Don’t know why. But the flavor rocked; I’ll use that much again.

    • says

      Glad you liked it! Yeah, I’m with you that the prep work is a bit extra, especially when we think about the ultra-convenience of the slow cooker. It’s totally worth it though! :-)

  5. Martin says

    What temperature should I set the crockpot to? Low isn’t very specific!

    Thanks and can’t wait to try this recipe!

    • says

      Funny thing about that actually… Both high and low on most slow cookers are actually the same temperature (212°F). They differentiate by the rates at which they cycle that same temp. So high will go at full wattage to cook at a consistent 212°F, whereas low will cycle to reach that temperature in a longer amount of time. However, there are some models that have moved away from that method and are set to specific temperatures, all of which vary by brand. Clear as mud, right?

      My slow cooker is the kind of cycles at 212°F.

  6. Lydya says

    Made this last night! Absolutely delish, went a bit crazy with my cayenne pepper though haha and added a bay leaf too. It was perfect! Only problem though it was supposed to be last night’s dinner but forgot to turn on the crockpot before leaving for work so… :-) thank you for the fabulous recipe!

  7. says

    Made these yesterday and they were delicious! I’m not fully paleo, so I melted some cheese on the meat and served it in a bowl with lettuce and pico de gallo. Will definitely make again.

  8. Shellee says

    Thank you for this recipe! I made it yesterday (I had to google adobo, found a recipe and made my own. I’ve never seen it here in Australia). This is just the most flavor-filled, delicious, scrumptious …etc. recipe I think I have ever made! My husband loved it, he wants it again for dinner tonight. And so easy too! Thank you!!!!

    • says

      Thanks Shellee!!! :-) How great! We do big batches of pulled pork or carnitas every week and I just love the added convenience that comes with using a slow cooker. Glad you found it to be tasty and easy to make!

  9. Kyle says

    Fantastic!! I made this weekend before last. It came out so delicious I can’t explain. My wife and I made this with a 4lb butt and used it all week for our work lunches. Packed two small flour tortillas (I know, not paleo), green leaf lettuce, pickles, baby carrots and cherry tomatoes. Followed your recipe, stored the meat (un-shredded) in one container and saved the liquid in another in the fridge.

    Each morning I’d grab some of the meat and shred it with forks (which was easy even cold out of the fridge). I’d heat a pan to med-high, add some of the liquid stock from cooking, and add the shredded meat. I’d sautee it up (and sometimes add a very tiny dash of Thai hot sauce for fun) and put it in our lunch containers (stored in fridge at work).

    At lunch time: warm tortillas in micro for 15 secs, warm the meat for 1 minute, add pickles to each tortilla, add lettuce, top with heated meat from micro, and eat eat eat! Snack on the baby carrots and tomatoes on the side…yum! We’re doing this recipe again this week and will make dinners with it this time. Getting avacados, scallions…. Can’t wait…

    • says

      Love the meal planning action! Isn’t bulk meat prep the best? Makes it so much easier to navigate healthy meals when you’re short on time. And pickles?? I’ve gotta try that!

      • Kyle says

        Dill pickle chips to be exact. Goes great with the flavor of the meat and adds crunch texture (along with the bit of lettuce) to the small ‘fajita’ style servings we made.

  10. Connie Z says

    We’re moving so the crock pot has been packed away… For the Dutch oven version, do I just basically follow the same instructions?

    • says

      That’s always a tough question for me to answer… it really depends on who’s sitting down to dinner or where/how you’re serving it and what’s on the side.

  11. Jessica says

    This may be a silly question, but I don’t have a ton of experience working with different cuts of meat- the only pork I’ve used in a slow cooker is a shoulder roast. Would that work as a subsitute if needed? I am also curious about the science of why the loin roast wouldn’t get dry, since from my understanding, it would! But what do I know? I trust your methods :) just would like to learn more!

    • says

      Great question! You’re hunch is right on. I think I happened to have a lot of pork loin at the time that I made this recipe, so that’s what got written up :-) Shoulders, butts, loins — it’ll all work fine so no worries there. The trick with pork loin is not overcooking it–which can happen even when bubbling away in a pot of juices. There’s that sweet spot of cooked enough to shred but not overcooked so that it becomes dry and powdery. Also the braising liquid is fantastic for rehydrating the lean meat and incorporating added flavor.

  12. Norman says

    I’ve made this twice now. Reduced the cumin slightly the second time, the flavor was very dominant in the first batch.

    Absolutely LOVE this recipe. But…

    It’s very very salty. I just drown it out with some German vinegary cole slaw (krautsalat), but by itself, it’s very salty.

    Any suggestions?

    • says

      The recipe uses a teaspoon of kosher salt, which for that volume shouldn’t be overpowering. But I can see how if a finer grain salt was used that it may become a bit dominant. I would try scaling back the salt and maybe reviewing any other ingredients for added salt that may have snuck into it.

  13. says

    I am making this today using leftover pork chops. I dreaded slicing the dense chops, so I decided to try food processing item. I had shredded pork on seconds. I’m looking forward to making the spicy mashed sweets to go with the carnitas. Thanks!

  14. Brittanie says

    Do you have an easy way to print your page and/or just a recipe? When I print, your ads cover up quite a bit of the ingredients and recipe…

    On a better note, can’t wait to try it! :)

    • says

      I’m so sorry, Brittanie! I’m just wrapping up production of my first book and hope to integrate a user-friendly printing feature within the next month. I want to make it as easy as possible for you guys to make these recipes! Thanks for being patient with me :-) And if you do manage to get these made, I promise it will be worth the effort. This is recipe is a favorite!

    • J Westlund says

      Don’t know what OS you use but in Windows you can copy(ctrl-C)/paste (ctrl-V) the text to Word. Then edit and print or save.

  15. Diana says

    Hi there,

    I am looking at the CArnita recipe and was curious what is a pale approved fat that you speak about adding to this recipe?
    Just curious I am new to this paleo thing :)

    Thank you for your help and wonderful recipes!

  16. Jen says

    I’m on an ipad going threw Pintrest to see the recipe (not sure if it matters) but the popup add to the left completely covers the ingredient list. Just thought I’d let you know.
    I made it and now it’s my husbands favorite. Thank you!!

    • popularpaleo says

      Thank you!!! I still need to format my site to be better optimized for mobile devices, so thank you for letting me know this! I will do my best to fix it quickly!

  17. Alyssa says

    This sounds so good, and I can’t wait to make it! One question though, what size crock pot did you use for this? I’m in a small apartment and I only have a 2 quart crock pot, so I want to make sure I downsize the recipe correctly!

  18. says

    Oh my goodness, I am so embarrassed! I must have had mole on the brain because I actually use ADOBO in this!!!! I am so sorry! In any event, I’ve corrected the recipe so hopefully I don’t confuse more people… When it comes to the adobo, I usually just pick something up at the store since I don’t follow Whole9 (I’m more on the nuanced Paleo side of the spectrum most days). However, here are some resources to help you make the right decision for your plan:

    Adobo is really just a blend of spices: garlic, paprika, oregano, salt and vinegar. You could whip this up yourself from local, organic ingredients and feel 100% confident in your seasoning. Plus, you can tweak this a little bit more for additional flavor control, if you are particular about your carnitas :-) I like to save my spice jars and containers and reuse them for this exact purpose.

    If you’re not up for whipping up your own blend, order it from Penzey’s. I’ve heard a lot about these Penzey’s people though I have never ordered from them. I believe they fully disclose their ingredients and only select quality–the kind we would choose for ourselves. Here is a link to their adobo:

    I’m lucky to live in an area rich with Farmer’s Markets and there is a spice lady that comes to sell her handmade blends. In the spring, I’ll be buying mine from her. Til then, I “forage” if you will, for the brand that gets me closest to my preference of sugar, gluten and chemical free.

    So sorry for the confusion!!!

    • says

      Hi, this recipe looks FANTASTIC! Going to try and do it this weekend- love a crock pot meal on a Saturday night!

      Btw, the word “mole” is still in the directions here: “When the last batch of meat is searing, bring together the stock, tomato paste, mole and crushed garlic cloves.” Lol. :) Just thought you’d like to know!

  19. Kelsea says

    Sounds yummy – can’t wait to try it! Do you make your mole homemade or buy it? Can’t find any that’s not loaded with crap! Thanks!

  20. Amanda says

    Looks like an awesome recipe, though everything that I have read thus far suggests that coconut oil is far superior for high heat cooking than olive oil. Something to do with free radicals that occur when heating olive oil. Just food for thought.


  1. […] 9. Crock Pot Carnitas They’ve created a taste sensation here, and they’ve done it all with Paleo friendly foods. Pork loin always comes out tasting great from the slow cooker, and the use of oranges and limes means the citric acid is going to help tenderize the pork even more. They even manage to add some healthy fat to this, so it’s going to taste even better and give your body what it needs to maintain a lean physique. They provide pretty detailed instructions for how to properly handle the ingredients to make this come out just right. […]

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