Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos
Traditional carnitas exemplify the gloriousness of slow cooking pork in its own fat — they’re so simple yet so, so flavorful. This version builds on that inherent delectability with freshly squeezed orange and lime juice, as well as a hodgepodge of aromatics: garlic, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, and a pinch of cloves. The citrus and herbs give the pork summery brightness and a little levity; the spices some gentle, aromatic warmth.
After the slow cooker has worked its magic, we remove the fat and shred the meat. Then, we spread it onto a sheet pan with some of the cooking liquid and broil it. The result? Lush, savory carnitas with nice, crispy edges. Contrast is a beautiful thing, people!
We like to throw the slow cooker carnitas in a big bowl or on a platter and serve it family-style, with all the taco toppings spread across the table. The whole fam can grab a soft, sweet corn tortilla and pile on any combination of diced onion, fresh cilantro, pickled jalapeño, salsa, and any other bright, punchy, slightly spicy toppings that tickle their taco fancy.
Our tip: Slow cooker carnitas can be made ahead! After slow cooking, save the cooking liquid, shred the meat, and then wait to do the broiling until right before you eat.
Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos
For the carnitas:
For the quick-pickled jalapeños:
For the tacos:
To prepare the carnitas: In a small bowl, stir together the oregano, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, and a pinch of cloves.
Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels, then rub the salt, black pepper, and spices into the pork, coating all sides.
Drizzle the vegetable oil inside the base of a slow cooker and add the pork. Add the white onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, water, orange juice, and lime juice.
Cover and cook on high heat for 8 hours, or until the pork is quite tender and easily shreds with a fork.
Using tongs, transfer the pork to a large bowl. Strain and reserve 2 ½ cups of the cooking liquid. Shred the pork and discard any excess fat. Note: The shredded pork and cooking liquid can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for one day before broiling. Warm the cooking liquid and whisk to combine before using.
To make the pickled jalapeños: In a small bowl, stir together the jalapeños, orange juice, vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
To broil the carnitas: Place an oven rack in the highest position and preheat the oven to broil. Line 1 rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil.
Spread the shredded pork in a thin layer across the pan, and drizzle it with 1 ½ cups of cooking liquid. Broil, checking the meat every 1 minute, until well browned and crispy, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and flip the carnitas over. Broil for about 2 to 4 minutes more, until well browned and crispy.
Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the carnitas to a serving platter. If desired, drizzle with warm cooking liquid to taste.
Serve the carnitas hot with the corn tortillas, pickled jalapeños, minced white onion, cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and your favorite salsa or hot sauce.
Recipe adapted from: Patijinich