Have a fiesta any night with slow cooker pork carnitas

"Home with the Lost Italian" food columnist Sarah Nasello says this tasty dish is inexpensive, easy to make and delicious to eat.

Sarah's Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas are full of delicious flavor and the perfect dish for a Cinco de Mayo fiesta.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum
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FARGO — If you are looking for an easy, yet delicious dinner idea to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this week, my Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas are the perfect choice for a weeknight fiesta. Packed with a savory blend of citrus and spice flavors, these pork carnitas are fall-apart tender and yet still delightfully crispy on the edges. It is a good thing they are easy to make, because they have become a crave-worthy favorite in our home.

Until I started my home bakery business, SarahBakes, I had only used my slow cooker to keep dishes warm while entertaining. But, when faced with the challenge of producing dinner for my family while the oven was tied up with baked goods, I finally succumbed to the temptation of easy cooking and have zero regrets about it. Now, on busy baking days, I can simply pop a piece of meat into my slow cooker at noon and forget about it until dinnertime.

Sliced yellow onion and chopped jalapenos and garlic add flavor and heat to the pork carnitas.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Slow cooking is a terrific way to transform inexpensive, tougher cuts of meat into a dish that is mouthwateringly succulent — and, affordable. I used a nearly 3-pound, bone-in pork shoulder roast for this recipe, which I found at Hornbacher’s last week for just $1.79 per pound. Round out that bill with one orange, onion and jalapeno pepper, two limes, five garlic cloves, some chicken stock (or even just water) and a sprinkling of pantry spices, and this humble dish can easily feed a family of four for about $10.

The prep for this recipe is simple. First, I rinse the roast and pat it dry with a paper towel so that the spices will adhere to its surface. I will trim the top layer of fat if it is thicker than half an inch, but I rarely have to.

Sarah coats the pork roast with a dry rub of chili powder, ground cumin, dried oregano and cayenne pepper and follows that with orange zest and juice, lime juice and chicken stock.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Next, I generously season the entire roast with kosher salt and fresh black pepper, and then I prepare the aromatics. I cut the onion in half and then cut each half into half-inch slices, and I only rough-chop the jalapeno and garlic cloves so that they will infuse, but not overpower, the pork with flavor. I fill the bottom of my slow cooker first with the cut veggies, and then I place the seasoned pork roast on top.


For the spices, I use a blend of dried oregano, chili powder, ground cumin and cayenne pepper. To ensure that no spice is left behind, I wait until the roast is in the pot before adding the spice rub. Once the roast is coated in the mixture, I add the juice and zest from the orange, but just the juice of the limes as the zest can turn the meat bitter.

Cook the roast in the slow cooker for several hours until the meat falls from the bone and is tender enough to easily shred with forks.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Finally, I add enough chicken stock (or water) to fill the pot up to the top inch of the roast, and then I cover the pot, turn the slow cooker on and walk away. These pork carnitas will cook on high for about four to five hours, and on low heat for eight to 10 hours. Once the pork roast is pull-apart tender, I use two forks to shred it into bite-size hunks and then I pop it all under the broiler to create the deliciously crisp edges.

I serve my Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas in tacos, nachos and tostadas, and they are a weeknight dinner winner every single time. Enjoy.

Once shredded, place the carnitas on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until the edges are browned and crispy. The juices from the meat are added in intervals to keep the carnitas moist and tender.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

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Serves: 4 to 6

3 pounds bone-in pork shoulder, or 2 ½ pounds boneless
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, coarsely chopped
5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 ½ cups chicken broth or water

Pat the pork roast dry and season generously with salt and pepper on all sides; set aside.


In a small bowl, combine the oregano, cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper; set aside.

Place the onion, jalapeno and garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the pork roast and rub half of the spice mixture over the top and sides. Turn the roast over and repeat with the remaining spices. Turn the roast over again until evenly coated. Add the lime juice, orange zest and juice, and chicken broth. The liquid should come up to the top inch of the pork, so add more broth or water if needed, but not enough to submerge the roast.

Cover the crock pot and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours, until the meat is very tender and easy to pull apart. If the liquid appears to be reducing too much, add more broth or water by the quarter-cup as needed.

Preheat the oven broiler to high heat and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove the pork roast from the pot and place it on the baking sheet, reserving the juices in the pot.

Use 2 forks to pull the meat into shreds and discard the bone if present. Spread the shredded meat out on the baking sheet in an even layer. Place the baking sheet under the broiler for 5 minutes until the edges of the pork start to brown and become crispy. Remove the pork from the oven and pour ¼ cup of the reserved liquid over the shredded meat, tossing with tongs to evenly coat.

Return the pork to the broiler for 5 minutes and repeat this process. After adding the second ¼ cup of the liquid, broil for another 3 minutes and then remove from the oven and transfer the pork to a serving dish. Add another ¼ cup of the reserved juices and toss to combine.

Serve immediately in tacos, sandwiches and salads, or atop a crispy tostada. The cooked pork can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. The reserved juices can also be refrigerated for several days or frozen for later use.

Sarah's Pork Carnitas are tender, juicy and delicious, with just a touch of spicy heat.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum


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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at
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