Sit back and let this flavorful lean protein steal the show of your next meal prep! This slow cooker carnitas recipe is fantastic in a bowl or in my personal favorite: tacos.
Many carnitas recipes are made with pork shoulder or pork butt – a higher fat cut of meat. I like to go with pork tenderloin to keep the fat content lower. Plus it tends to go on a BOGO sale at my local grocery often. Win/win! Slow cooking lean protein and reserving some of the juices helps to keep this recipe tender and juicy.
I like to use fresh oranges, but the same amount of orange juice would definitely be an appropriate substitution.
In this recipe, I keep it simple with a fresh onion and garlic as well as some salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano.
I like to add a little bit of vegetable broth to increase the liquid for slow cooking…but water would likely work fine too!
Tips for making slow cooker carnitas
This recipe uses 2 packs of pork tenderloin – that’s 4 pieces and about 5lb. Keep in mind that I meal prep for several meals during the week…and Greg and I don’t miss a meal – ha! This would also be a great protein to prepare for a gathering. Taco bar, anyone?
To help with easy shredding, I cut each tenderloin into smaller chunks. I also like to season the meat before adding it to the slow cooker. Then I add the sliced onion and mix the garlic, orange juice, and vegetable broth to gently pour on top. Before replacing the lid, I also add a few extra orange slices. I cook on low for 8 hours in a slow cooker with at least a 6 quart capacity. I use the Beautiful 6 quart programmable slow cooker by Drew Barrymore – linked here! It adds a little decor to the kitchen if left out on the counter. 🙂
After cooking, discard the orange slices, add the tenderloin pieces to a large bowl. Shred with a fork. If stopping here…add 2 cups of the juices back to the shredded pork to help retain moisture when storing.
This final step is optional…but trust me and do it! Add your shredded pork to a half sheet pan. Its okay that it’s crowded – that will help retain moisture. Pour those 2 cups of juices on top and broil on high in 1-2 minute increments until the tops of the shredded pork become a bit crispy and charred. Squeeze one last orange (and lime) on top and serve or divide into shallow containers to cool and store in the fridge.
Slow Cooker Carnitas Meal Ideas
Carnitas tacos or bowl
For tacos: warm corn tortillas in a skillet over medium-high heat on the stove.
For a bowl: prepare brown rice for a whole grain base.
Add slow cooker carnitas. Top with a sprinkle of black beans and corn, sliced avocado, pickled red onions and/or pico de gallo, fresh jalapeño, and chopped cilantro.
For another easy, but delish shredded protein…try my fiesta shredded chicken next!
Slow Cooker CarnitasPrint Recipe
- 5 lb pork tenderloin 4 pieces
- 2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp pepper or to taste
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 3/4-1 cup orange juice ~3 oranges
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 medium onion yellow
- 1 lime
- 2 fresh oranges
- Cut pork tenderloins into smaller chunks. I usually get 5-6 chunks out of each tenderloin piece
- Season generously with salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin
- Place seasoned tenderloin chunks into slow cooker (at least 6qt capacity)
- Slice onion and add to slow cooker
- Mix the juice of 3 oranges (or 3/4-1 cup orange juice) with 1 cup of vegetable broth and the minced garlic
- Gently pour mixture on top of pork tenderloin. I try not to "wash" off the seasoning
- Add orange slices (from 1 fresh orange) evenly on top (optional)
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours
- Remove pork tenderloin from juices and shred. Discard orange slices
- Add shredded pork to a half sheet pan. Its okay if its crowded…that will help retain moisture
- Collect 2 cups of juices from crockpot and gently/evenly pour over pork tenderloin in the sheet pan
- Broil on top shelf in oven until the top layer is slightly charred/crisp. I monitor closely in 1-2 minute intervals
- Remove from oven and drizzle with the juice from one final orange and one lime
- Serve immediately or store in shallow containers to cool before storing in fridge