Crispy Carnitas (Slow Cooker)


Crispy Carnitas
Crispy Carnitas

The secret to perfect carnitas: a crispy crust on one side and tender meat on the other side. You need two tools to achieve this – a crock pot and a cast iron skillet. Together, these two can make magic happen on your taste buds. Make my 3-ingredient Paleo Naan – use it as a tortilla – and you’ve got one tasty taco.

carnitas-cast-ironI make carnitas all the time and they’re always a huge hit. This recipe though is by far my favorite. I think the it’s the combination of orange and lime juice mixed with spices like cinnamon and bay leaf that make it extra awesome. This is a great dish to make when you have guests visiting – because the crock pot does all the cooking. Once you’re ready to serve, just fry the meat on high heat in your cast iron skillet and then squeeze a little fresh lime juice on top. Perfection.

I recently made these carnitas when my in-laws came to visit us in Morgantown. They’re not paleo-eaters but they loved the dish! Roby and I took the fam to Coopers Rock and to Fallingwater in nearby Union Mill, PA. It was such a lovely weekend.


When we first moved to West Virginia, we weren’t sure what to expect. We had heard all these negative things – ‘there’s nothing to do,’ ‘just a bunch of rednecks’, etc. To all our friends who have and continue to make jokes… West Virginians are the brilliant ones – they’re probably starting these rumors to keep people like us from invading this beautiful and breathtaking state.

Coopers Rock
Coopers Rock

I’m looking forward to having more friends/family visit, so that we can show them around the area and also so that we can eat these carnitas again.

Crispy Carnitas

Crispy Carnitas

5 from 8 reviews
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  • 3 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
  • ½ teaspoon pepper adjust to taste
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 onion coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic minced (I used my garlic press)
  • 1-2 serrano peppers minced
  • 2 oranges juiced
  • 1 lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons ghee or as much as you need to fry your meat


  • Put the pork in a crock pot and add salt, pepper, oregano, cumin and chili powder to both sides of the meat.
  • Add the onion, garlic, serrano pepper, bay leaf and cinnamon stick on top.
  • Squeeze the oranges and lime on top and then cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8.
  • Shred the meat with two forks. Heat ghee in a skillet and fry the meat on one side until golden and crispy.
  • Reserve the juices in the crockpot and pour some on top of the meat. Squeeze lime juice on top and serve.
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Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


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  1. Marcel Lawson says

    5 stars
    I have served this countless times for many years and WE LOVE IT! Fried OR unfried, with pork, beef or chicken….it is SUCCULENT!

  2. Amanda says

    This is my favorite! I usually just make it as pulled pork rather than frying for traditional carnitas. And most of the time I don’t have the Serrano on hand. It’s always delicious no matter what! I’ve been making it a couple of years and I’m finally here to let you know it’s a winner in my book. Everyone I’ve made it for loves it as well. It is my go to recipe and I could eat it daily…multiple times a day…. and I usually do. 🙂

  3. Monica Cole says

    5 stars
    This is seriously one of the best meals i have ever had. Everyone i have recommend them to agree. Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. Megan says

    5 stars
    I adore this recipe and have made it many times! I intended to put it in the slow cooker before work but time ran out. If I were to cook this in the oven, what temp and time would you suggest? We love this for lettuce wraps with typical taco toppings.

  5. Ricky says

    Thank you for the recipe! It looks incredible. I’m thinking about serving it in a taco bar at a party we are hosting. Do you have any recommendations on how we could keep the carnitas both fresh and crispy, without having to fry separate servings?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Ricky, I suggest frying the carnitas and then putting them in the oven on your lowest setting to keep them nice and crisp. I’d try to do this close to party time so as not to dry out the meat. Even if it does get a little dry though, you can always just drizzle the sauce from the meat overtop before serving. Let me know how this turns out!

  6. Mitchell says

    5 stars
    So I’ve made this before with the Pork roast and it was amazing! This morning I decided to get a butt roast from the store to make more (seeing as three pounds wasn’t enough to feed my hollow legged boyfriend). However, upon inspection of the meat, which I had already unwrapped, I noticed it was 10 POUNDS of butt! This is a butt of Kardashian proportions! So, I figured that a rough multiplying of the ingredients by three would work, but now I’m wondering about the cooking time. Any thoughts?

  7. Nancy says

    5 stars
    This is the first time I’ve ever commented on a blog recipe. I wanted to make sure to give this recipe 5 stars. It’s delicious! Thanks so much for sharing it.

    ps I used to live in West Virginia. It’s a beautiful state.

  8. Joy Chadwick says

    Just made this recipe, absolutely delish! I added an extra Serrano chili, a little more salt and garlic but my goodness, super great recipe!
    Joy ❤️❤️❤️

  9. Sarah says

    5 stars
    Hi Ashley,

    I made this last week and it turned out fantastically! I needed to cook it longer than the recommended 6-8 hours on low, but that could either be my slow cooker or the pork shoulder cut I had.

    I have a slightly off-topic question that I haven’t been able to find an answer to elsewhere, and I thought you might know. After the cooking process there is quite a bit of solidified fat along with the meat, and I was curious if it is at all like rendered pork fat/lard. Do you know? The process of rendering fat into lard produces something that looks very similar to the fat left in the slow cooker (according to photos on various websites), but I can’t find any discussions on whether pork fat from roasts is akin to lard and can be used for cooking or if it is something “different”.

    Do you do anything with the bones and fat such as making pork stock or lard?


  10. jenny says

    I just have to come back here and let you know how much my family loves this recipe. I’ve probably made it ten times and each time it is a huge hit. Tonight I quadrupled the recipe for my large family. We ate it tonight, and if there is enough left over we will freeze it unfried.

    I use Boston Butt because the bone and fat really impart a ton of flavor. Tonight I didn’t have any ghee so I went ahead and used the fat I had skimmed off the juices for frying. I always keep to your recipe but there have been times when I have been out of onions, garlic, serranos, or oranges, and I’ve substituted the dried equivalent (minced onions, garlic powder, red pepper flakes) or frozen concentrate (OJ) and it turned out fine.

    We serve ours with tortillas, homemade salsa or pico de gallo, and mounds of fresh cilantro. Tonight we had yellow rice too. I love that when I’m doing low carb or Whole30 I can eat this meal right along with the rest of the family and no one feels left out.

    This is long, but I wanted you to know how much I appreciate your great recipe. Thank you!!

  11. Erin says

    Excited to try this!
    I also live in Morgantown and love that you are doing this! My husband and I have been eating paleo for nearly a year now and it has made a huge difference in our life. As a Crohn’s patient for several years, I was amazed at how much better I felt after the switch! Morgantown needs a paleo restaurant! Keep it up!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Erin, that’s awesome! I agree, Morgantown does need a paleo restaurant! I think Atomic Grill is probably the closest thing we’ve got to it. Have you been to Street Meatz (food truck near Ace hardware) yet? They sell grassfed burgers and they’ll make them into a salad for you.

  12. Janet says

    I just made this recipe, and it was amazing. Worth the bit of extra time to crisp it on the cast iron. I used coconut oil as I didn’t have ghee, and that worked great too. Keep the recipes coming!

  13. GreenMonkey says

    Hello Ashley,
    Just wanted to follow up on my experience with this recipe. I am still enjoying the roast I made using this recipe. I had never used the orange and lime juice in past recipes and I found it tended to brighten the flavor profile. I do not take the extra step to crisp the meat after it has roasted; I just partially shred it and eat it that way. I like the juices that are produced from a slow and low roast and store them with the shredded meat.
    This recipe will be a keeper; I am thinking of trying it with a beef roast sometime.

  14. GreenMonkey says

    I have a great carnita recipe but I think I want to try yours tonight. I just took the pork butt out to thaw.

    I love Cooper’s Rock; my brother arranged to have his wedding there and I photographed the event. What a beautiful experience all around. I spend many hours tromping around in those woods and climbing the rocks. Sounds like you and your family got a kick start on the Fall season in Morgantown. But we won’t talk about how beautiful the area can be at this time of the year… it could attract others.

    Do you know the story of how Cooper’s Rock got it’s name? Legend has it a man who was a cooper (barrel maker) by trade was wanted for some crime and hid out in that area to elude the authorities. You can imagine it took some time to find him (if they ever did).

    I am excited to try this recipe and will report back.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Coopers Rock seems like the perfect place for an outdoor wedding! I’m sure it was a beautiful event. I can’t imagine how gorgeous it’s going to look in the fall when the leaves start changing colors. I think we’ll have to start going to Coopers on a regular basis. I’m already looking forward to going back and hiking some of the trails. I’ve heard the Rattlesnake trail is a fun one – are there any you suggest?

      Also, I hadn’t heard how Coopers Rock got its name. Thanks for sharing – that will be a fun story to tell when we have visitors come over!

      I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of the recipe. I hope you like it!

  15. My Heart Beets says

    Hi Sarah, we usually just eat it with paleo naan and top it with lettuce, salsa and avocado. If I do make something to go along with it, it’s usually just a salad. Hope that helps!

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