Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos Recipe

Tacos for Cinco de Mayo are a very good idea. Our easy Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos recipe will get you in the spirit of celebrating this fun holiday and incredible Mexican culture!

  • By Jackie Sun
  • May 3, 2018

Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner, and we’re looking forward to the festivities! This annual holiday is to remember the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French Empire on May 5, 1862. In the United States, we also use this special time to celebrate Mexican culture, and with it comes a deep appreciation for the delicious foods of Mexican cuisine. Here at Cook Smarts HQ, we just can’t wait to break out some taco recipes to celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

We have an incredible amount of taco recipes in our meal plan repertoire, but one that we continuously come back to is our easy Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos recipe. We’re talking tender shredded pork that is infused with flavor, with edges crisped to perfection, and topped with punchy onions, buttery avocado, and fragrant cilantro.

In other words, every bite of these slow cooker pork tacos will have you coming back for more.

“Oh my yes. I can make carnitas now. I didn’t even know I liked carnitas until [this recipe]. I don’t make a lot of pork anything. So I probably didn’t actually make enough. That’s my only complaint.”

— Tricia R.

The flavor of these carnitas tacos is absolutely incredible, but there’s a lot of other reasons why you need to make this recipe right now. Let us count the ways!

1. Set It and Forget It

First off, this recipe utilizes the slow cooker, one of our all-time favorite kitchen gadgets. All you have to do is put everything in the slow cooker, and it does all the cooking for you. Your hands are free to tend to other Cinco de Mayo goodies, like this Chipotle-inspired Lime Cilantro Rice and these vegetarian Black Bean & Chard Enchiladas.

2. Easily Customizable

Everything about tacos makes them the best. They’re hand-held, they hold the best ingredients, they’ve got the best combo of flavors and textures, and . . . you can do taco bars! Set out a variety of taco toppings, and let everyone assemble their own tacos to their liking. It’s a win-win situation all around. 😉

3. Top Meal of 2017

These easy slow cooker carnitas tacos are one of our Top 10 Meals of 2017, as rated by our cooking community.  That means that out of the hundreds of recipes we created last year, these tacos surpassed them all!

4. Crispy Pork

What makes these tacos really stand out are the crispy edges of the slow cooked pork. Restaurant-style carnitas is usually braised and deep-fried for tender pieces of pork with crisp edges. To get those crunchy bits in this slow-cooker version, we include an optional (but highly recommended) step to pan-fry the pork carnitas for that crispy texture.

5. Make it in the Instant Pot

Due to the popularity of this recipe, we’ve converted it to be Instant Pot-friendly. With the Instant Pot, you can have tender cooked pork in an hour (versus 7 to 8 hours in the slow cooker). Get the recipe here.

We can literally talk about the greatness of these carnitas tacos all day, but we think you should try them for yourself and let us know what you think the in the comments below!

Need more ideas for a Cinco de Mayo feast? Try these recipes:

Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Zucchini (cheesy, low-carb, and gluten-free!)
Shrimp Fajita Salad (with an addictive creamy paprika dressing)
Black Bean Quesadillas (a vegetarian delight served with spicy guacamole)
Mexican Breakfast Torta (hearty and classic)

Prepping Smarts

  • Get your pork in the slow cooker first thing! You can continue with the rest of the prep while it cooks. (For a simple cooking formula for slow cooking meats, check out the video below.)
  • Knowing how to properly chop produce will make cooking a whole lot more efficient and easy. Learn how to prep the produce in this recipe with the videos below.

How to Slow Cook Meats

Slow cooking meat is a great way to turn tough cuts into tender goodness.


How to Dice Jalapenos

Jalapeños have great flavor and can add heat to anything. See how to easily dice them here.


How to Mince or Crush Garlic

Garlic adds great flavor and aroma to any dish. Learn how to impart the flavors of garlic to any dish with this short video.


How to Chop & Dice an Onion

Learning how to dice an onion correctly will save you so much time in the kitchen.


How to Chop Cilantro or Parsley

Learn how to chop parsley using the 'pivot-and-fan' chopping technique with this short video.


How to Slice Avocados into Wedges

Learn how to peel an avocado and chop it into wedges.

Equipment Smarts:

  • Slow cooker – ensures tender meat every time, and it does all the cooking for you!
  • Cutting board – used to shred or chop the carnitas; its non-skid edges are really helpful to keep the cutting board from sliding all over the place
  • Skillet – use this to pan-fry the pork for the crispy edges (we really suggest doing this step!)

For more kitchen and equipment and tool smarts, visit our Essential Kitchen Cookware and Tools

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Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos Recipe

Carnitas is Mexican pulled pork that is braised and deep-fried. Our recipe utilizes the slow cooker for tender pork that goes perfectly topped with avocados, onions, cilantro, and salsa.

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 8 hr

Total time: 8 hr 15 min

Serves: 8


  • Jalapenos - 1, chopped
  • Garlic - 6 cloves, chopped
  • Onions, medium - 1/4, finely diced
  • Cilantro - 1/4 cup, leaves torn
  • Stock, any type - 1/2 cup
  • Pork, boneless shoulder roast - 2 1/2 lbs (sometimes labeled pork butt; if using bone-in, purchase a slightly heavier cut)
  • Oregano, ground - 3 tsp
  • Cumin - 2 tsp
  • Salt - 2 tsp
  • Black pepper - 1 tsp
  • Avocados - 1, sliced
  • Lettuce, romaine hearts - 1, chopped
  • Tortillas, taco-sized corn or flour - 8
  • Sour cream - 1/3 cup (sub plain or Greek yogurt)
  • Salsa, any type - 1/3 cup



  1. Jalapenos / Garlic / Onions / Cilantro – Prep as directed and store separately. (Can be done 1 day ahead)
  2. Slow cook pork – Combine jalapenos, garlic, and stock in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add pork. Rub pork on the top and sides with oregano, cumin, salt, and black pepper. Cook pork until tender and easily shredded with a fork, low for 7 to 8 hours (or high for 4 to 5 hours).
  3. Avocados / Lettuce – Prep as directed.


  1. When pork is finished cooking, transfer to a cutting board (reserve the cooking liquid) and roughly chop.
  2. [Optional step:] If you’d like your pork crispy (like traditional carnitas), heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add some oil and then the pork. Cook, without stirring until dark golden brown on the bottom. Stir and continue cooking until pork is crisp and golden brown in spots.
  3. Drizzle the shredded pork with some of the cooking liquid (you likely won’t not need all of it, but this will add some of the great flavor from cooking back in). Season with some salt and pepper.
  4. Warm tortillas according to package directions.
  5. Assemble tacos by topping tortillas with carnitas, lettuce, avocados, onions, sour cream, and salsa (or set it all out on the table and let everyone assemble their own). Enjoy and happy Cinco de Mayo!

A little note: Some of the above links are Amazon affiliate links, which means we earn a small percentage from those sales. We use this affiliate revenue to support the continued growth of Cook Smarts. Thank you!

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