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Posted on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 1:33 p.m.

Crockpot carnitas - easy slow-cook method yields tender results

By Jessica Webster


These crockpot carnitas take very little effort and are incredibly tasty.

Jessica Webster |

A few weeks ago I shared my family's chocolate chip recipe in this column. In the write-up, I mentioned my lack of recipe organization skills; revealing that my aborted attempt at a recipe journal contained only three recipes: the chocolate chip cookies, my grandmother's brownie recipe, and a recipe for crockpot carnitas.

The response to this cookie column has been tremendous. Several of you wrote to share your favorite approach to chocolate chip cookies, but by far the majority of the emails were seeking my crockpot carnitas recipe.

I’m happy to share this recipe, but it’s almost embarrassingly simple. Just stuff the pork shoulder roast with garlic and place it in the crockpot with cilantro, a hot pepper, salt and pepper and beer. Cook it low and slow while you’re at work. When you come home, your whole house will smell amazing. Serve it with some warm tortillas, and your family will thank you.

When preparing this column, I checked out other carnitas recipes online. A couple of the recipes I looked at suggest trimming the fat from the roast before cooking it. That sounded counterintuitive, so I asked my butcher. I was right; he reacted in horror. Traditional Mexican carnitas are cooked in lard (manteca). You want your pork to slowly cook in its own fat, creating delicious, moist, fork-tender chunks of meat.

I find that the meat cooks just the way I like it in the crockpot, but if you like some crispier bits in your carnitas, try spreading the meat out on a rimmed cookie sheet and stick it under the broiler for about 5 minutes.

Crockpot Carnitas adapted from a recipe by Diana Rattray

  • 2 to 4 pound pork shoulder roast
  • 4 garlic cloves; each clove cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can beer (12 ounces)
  • corn tortillas

With a knife, cut several small slits into the roast. Insert pieces of garlic cloves in roast; place in crockpot with whole pepper and half bunch of chopped cilantro. Season to taste. Pour in beer. Cook on HIGH 4 to 6 hours until fork tender (LOW 9 to 11 hours). Remove meat; shred. Serve with warm tortillas, with your choice of garnishes. Suggested garnishes: lime, diced tomatoes, onions, shredded lettuce, sour cream, cheese, salsa, guacamole and cilantro.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Grocery section for You can reach her at

Did someone mention manteca? Here's a great 1959 clip of Dizzy Gillespie performing his song "Manteca." It doesn't get much better than this.


Julie Lavrack Stetten

Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 1:19 p.m.

I have this simmering in my crock pot as I type--threw it together before I left for work this morning-so thanks! But I wanted to tell everyone that Country Market in Dexter has the Pork Shoulder on sale for $1.69 Lb. So it was a perfect storm of a meal! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

You can do this with a small beef brisket. Basically cooking it using the same the same time &amp; heat. I use the jalapeno; but I remove half the seeds &amp; veins. Reduces the heat a bit. My recommendation for a beer is a rich dark beer with a hint of chocolate in the taste. e.g. a stout or porter.

Peggy Lampman

Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 2:05 a.m.

Does this super easy carnita recipe accompanied by super slick dizzie get any better than this? thank-you, jessica...for creating the perfect storm!

Jessica Webster

Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

BikerMatt: Thanks for catching the typo. I removed the unnecessary "by" from the instructions. You're right that I copied and pasted the recipe from, as that is the recipe that I stumbled across a couple of years ago. But you missed the edits I made. What I endeavored to do when altering this recipe to share with readers was twofold: make the recipe a little more clear (adding salt and pepper to the ingredients and reducing the listed amount of cilantro); and editing the list of accompanying ingredients to what I have found works well with the carnitas. I am very careful about giving credit to recipe originators in this column, even when I have changed the recipe a lot over the years. In this case, the changes weren't drastic, but are worth noting.

Ron Granger

Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

Fwiw, IMHO... You provided a citation to the original recipe, and a link. I think that is adequate and fair, especially in the case of such a simple recipe. If this had been a very complex recipe from a hardcopy book, it gets more murky. But it wasn't (I'm not sure how fair-use works in that case).


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

Jessica, how is this recipe &quot;adapted from&quot; the one by Diana Rattray? It's a direct cut-and-paste from her post on, including the typo. I can't see a single alteration to the recipe. If you're gonna use it verbatim, fine, but at least give full credit to the original poster.


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 1:35 p.m.

Do you have any recommendations/suggestions for kind of beer?

Jessica Webster

Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

I just use what I've got in my fridge. This time I used a pale ale and it was especially good, so I will probably try that again. (The specific beer I used was Shorts Brewing Diabolical Pale Ale)