Simple Slow Cooked Carnitas

Pork Carnitas with tortillas
I don’t love the slow cooker for many meals: it seems like meat that goes into this incredible invention somehow comes out tasting very similar to any other meat that goes into it. For texture and flavor, it often disappoints. So, I’m always a little wary of recipes for the slow cooker (I know, there’s millions of recipes that could potentially prove me wrong, but every time I go to try a new one, I feel like I’ve reached the same conclusion, again).

However, whenever I find a recipe that wants me to bake something at a low temperature in a dutch oven for several hours, I immediately just want to use a slow cooker instead. So, I pulled mine out while pulling together these pork carnitas yesterday, used some ideas and techniques from both Williams-Sonoma Taco Night and America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution, and came up with a recipe I will definitely use again. This would be another great taco for Cinco de Mayo, or any old Taco Tuesday, or any day of the week!


Simple Slow Cooked Carnitas

1-3 lb. pork shoulder (Boston Butt)
1 onion, thinly sliced, lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, skins removed and smashed
2 t. vegetable oil
2 oz. (60 g) achiote paste (essential ingredient! get from a Mexican market or AmazonPrime)
1/2 c. pineapple juice
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (only use if you want heat–my kids won’t eat it if I do! but the flavor is fantastic.)
salt and pepper

Prepare slow cooker by spraying it with nonstick oil (a tip from Beth Hensperger–it helps with clean-up).

Place sliced onion, smashed garlic, and oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Toss to coat, and then cover with plastic wrap and microwave at high for five minutes. (This initial cooking helps eliminate the raw flavor of the onions and garlic by quickly cooking them. If you would rather, you can also do this step by sautéing over medium heat.)

In another small bowl, combine the achiote paste, chipotle chiles, and pineapple juice. Whisk to combine, although some bits of paste will not mix entirely–this is fine!

Rub the entire pork shoulder generously with salt and pepper, then place in the slow cooker, at high heat. Add the onion mixture, and then pour the pineapple juice mixture over the onions and pork. Toss to combine, if needed, then place the lid on top and cook at high for four hours. Turn the heat down to low, and continue to cook at least 2 hours, or up to four.

Once the meet is finished cooking, shred it with two forks. If desired, place in a shallow dish and put under a hot broiler for 3-4 minutes, to blacken the tips of the meat (or in a hot frying pan for about the same amount of time). I just think it looks prettier this way!

Serve with pineapple-jicama salsa, corn tortillas, sour cream, and cilantro. Enjoy!

Cilantro-Pineapple-Jicama Salsa

Pineapple Jicama

Salsa in the front right, photo by Melissa Gallup

I love this quick, fruity, and bright salsa. I’ve had it with chips, beans, and shrimp tacos. Great every time! Definitely try it with the Chili-rubbed Shrimp Tacos! This recipe is from McMillan’s Taco Night.

Cilantro-Pineapple-Jicama Salsa

  • 1/3 c. finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 peeled pineapple, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3 cups)
  • 1 cup jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 jalapeño—stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine the red onion, lime juice, pineapple, jicama, cilantro, and jalapeño to the bowl and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Let the salsa stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Serve right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.