These Pork Carnitas Street Tacos are as effortless as they are delicious. Slow-cooked to perfection in a crockpot, these carnitas tacos are delightfully savory with bright citrus flavors and are the perfect combination of tender, succulent and crispy.
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Making Pork Carnitas in a Crockpot
Carnitas translates to “little meats” in Spanish. It’s traditionally cooked low and slow in a large pot of lard until tender.
This reliance on slow cooking makes pork carnitas perfectly suited for the crockpot.
Crockpot carnitas reach maximum tenderness through slow cooking without the need to babysit a simmering pot on the stovetop.
The result is wonderfully tender and juicy pork that’s packed with flavor.
Because most of the prep occurs before adding everything to the crockpot, these carnitas tacos are an excellent option for busy families. This recipe allows you to have an easy, home-cooked meal without sacrificing flavor.
Ingredients for Pork Carnitas Street Tacos
Cooking the Carnitas
- Boston Butt/Pork Shoulder/Pork Butt: Boston Butt, pork shoulder and pork butt all reference the same cut of meat originating from the top shoulder of the pig. A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, am I right? This cut is ideal for pork carnitas due to the high-fat content. Pork shoulder is also a very affordable cut of meat making this meal economical for family meals. I’ve used both bone-in and boneless pork shoulder with great success so feel free to utilize what you can find or what is on sale at the time.
- Seasonings/Spices: To season the pork, I keep things pretty simple with a blend of Kosher salt, cumin, chipotle chili powder, Tajin and cracked black pepper.
- Citrus Fruit: I love the brightness added by the citrus fruit in this recipe. The acidity and sweetness add balance to the fat in the dish. I use a mixture of limes and oranges, but lemons and/or grapefruit would be welcome additions as well.
- Beer: Beer acts as the braising liquid for these citrus pork carnitas. I generally use whatever I have on hand but have found light beers with hints of citrus are particularly well-suited to this recipe. Some beers I’ve tried with positive results are Blue Moon, Pacifico, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, Corona and Coors Light. I recently picked up some Michelob Ultra with Lime and Prickly Pear Cactus, and I’m happy to report that it is an outstanding option for carnitas. You can substitute the beer for chicken or beef broth, ginger ale, apple cider or even soda.
- Onion: I like to use yellow onions when cooking the pork, but any onion variety will do.
- Garlic: I add whole cloves of garlic when cooking the pork carnitas for added flavor.
Assembling the Pork Carnitas Tacos
- Tortillas: I prefer to use street taco-sized tortillas for carnitas. Corn tortillas are more traditional, but flour tortillas are delicious as well. When using corn tortillas, you may want to use two tortillas per taco since corn tortillas sometimes tear easily.
- Cilantro: Serving the pork carnitas street tacos with roughly chopped cilantro adds freshness.
- Cotija Cheese: I love cotija cheese in these carnitas tacos. It’s mildly tangy and slightly salty. It also crumbles beautifully. Queso fresco also works wonderfully in this dish.
- Citrus Fruit: I serve these tacos with both lime and orange wedges. I love the fresh citrusy flavor they impart when squeezed over the assembled tacos.
Crockpot Carnitas are the Gift That Keeps On Giving
All of my favorite meals have one thing in common – I cook once, and my effort is rewarded with multiple meals.
And crockpot carnitas fit this bill perfectly.
Our family of four easily gets 2-3 meals out of this carnitas recipe depending on the exact size of the pork shoulder used and the other sides served with the main course.
While I always make carnitas for the sole purpose of devouring Pork Carnitas Street Tacos, I do one of several things when it comes to the leftovers:
- Make more Pork Carnitas Street Tacos: I could honestly and easily eat these tacos several days in a row.
- Use carnitas in soup or stew: Carnitas are delicious in pozole, tortilla soup and pork-vegetable stew.
- Make Carnitas Bowls: Loaded with rice and veggies, these Carnitas Bowls are my second-favorite way to eat citrus-pork carnitas.
- Use in quesadillas: Carnitas make stellar quesadillas.
- Freeze for a future meal: Transfer the cooled carnitas to a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze. Frozen carnitas will keep well in the freezer for 4-6 months.
Because this recipe makes so many servings, it’s a great way to affordably feed a small gathering or get-together as well.
What to Serve With Pork Carnitas Tacos
- Rice: Rice is a classic side dish for Mexican cuisine. My version of Cilantro-Lime Rice is especially well-suited to serve with these tacos.
- Quinoa: Quinoa is a pretty incredible whole grain. Rich in both protein and fiber, it’s a super nutritious alternative to rice.
- Cauliflower rice: Another rice alternative, cauliflower rice is nutritious and low in calories and carbs.
- Beans: Black beans and refried beans are both easy, affordable options.
- Mexican street corn: Mexican street corn is packed with flavor and can be served on or off the cob.
- Chips and salsa/guacamole: You can’t go wrong with homemade salsa or guacamole. Of course, there’s also nothing wrong with keeping it simple with store-bought versions.
- Mexican cole slaw: Mexican cole slaw is similar to classic cole slaw in that the base consists of shredded cabbage. However, Mexican cole slaw also boasts other veggies such as radishes, jicama, carrots, etc. It’s also traditionally made with a vinaigrette instead of a mayo-based sauce.
Add the pork, spices, yellow onion, garlic, beer, one lime and one orange to a large crockpot. Stir to combine.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours until pork is tender.
Shred the pork with a fork.
Place some shredded pork on an aluminum foil-lined sheet pan in a single layer.
Drizzle with some of the braising liquid and broil for about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven. Drizzle with more of the braising liquid and broil for another 5 minutes or until the pork begins to crisp.
Repeat the broiling process with the remaining pork. Note: I only broil as much pork as I intend to use for that meal. If there are any leftovers, I broil them before serving with the next meal.
Place some of the crispy carnitas meat in a street taco shell and top with diced red onion, cilantro and cotija cheese.
Serve with lime and orange wedges.
Pork Carnitas Street Tacos
To Cook Carnitas
- 5 lb pork shoulder
- 12 oz light beer of choice
- 1 large yellow onion, julienned
- 1 small head of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 orange, halved
- 1 lime, halved
- 1 tbsp Tajin chili lime seasoning
- 2 tsps chipotle chili pepper powder
- 2 tsps cumin
- 2 tsps Kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 pack of street taco tortilla shells
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
- 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- 1 orange, cut into wedges
- Add the pork, spices, yellow onion, garlic, beer, one lime and one orange to a large crockpot. Stir to combine.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours until pork is tender.
- Shred the pork with a fork.
- Place some shredded pork on an aluminum foil-lined sheet pan in a single layer.
- Drizzle with some of the braising liquid and broil for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven. Drizzle with more of the braising liquid and broil for another 5 minutes or until the pork begins to crisp.
- Repeat the broiling process with the remaining pork.
- Place some of the crispy carnitas meat in a street taco shell and top with diced red onion, cilantro and cotija cheese.
- Serve with lime and orange wedges.
Did you make this recipe? Be sure to share your experience in the comments below!
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