Slow Cooker Smoked Carnitas - Cooking Up Clean

Slow Cooker Smoked Carnitas

Oh man, you guys are in for a treat! These may not be one-hundred percent authentic Mexican but dang are they good. You will NOT be disappointed. This recipe originally comes from my sister so I have to give her credit for the basic rub ingredients in these carnitas. From there, I subbed in coconut sugar instead of the more traditional brown sugar and added in juniper berries, bay leaves and lime juice during slow-cooking.

The first step is mix up the spice rub and massage it into the pork loin. I like my carnitas to have a little smokiness to it so I’ve used smoked salt in this rub but you can certainly use a fine sea salt or pink himlayan as well. I then sear the loin on a hot grill for about 5 minutes per side before placing in a slow cooker. Alternately, you could sear this in a large cast iron pan or under a broiler. This gives the outside a nice brown color and you’ll end up with a few intensely delicious crusty bits in each bite.

After searing the loin, slow cook for about 6-8 hours on low until it is easily shreddable. If you prefer it chopped, take it out a little sooner and chop it into bite size pieces of awesomeness. I always do the shredding right inside the slow-cooker so the carnitas can re-absorb all of the juices. This creates a super tender and never dry shredded meat that is so unbelievably perfect!!

For those of you who are masters with a barbeque smoker, I’ve also made this in a smoker on occasion and it turns out amazing. The only change is to skip the juniper berries and bay leaves and add lime juice after shredding to taste. Shred it, chop it, stuff it in your mouth. These carnitas are a tender tasty morsel in fajitas, tacos, salads, nachos and huevos rancheros. The options are endless. Top it with black bean and corn salsa, a fresh pico, shredded lettuce, and queso fresco to complete the meal. Whatever way you choose to eat these carnitas, you can’t go wrong. Serve it up authentic style with a honey margarita on the side!

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Mexican
  • 3-4 pound pork loin or shoulder roast
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano (regular will also work)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons smoked salt or pink himalayan salt
  • 2 teaspoons juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  1. Combine all spices except the juniper berries, bay leaves and lime juice in a small bowl and stir until mixed.
  2. Rub this spice mixture on all sides of the pork loin. You may have extra rub leftover. Save it until after meat is cooked for additional seasoning if desired.
  3. Heat a grill to high heat.
  4. Sear meat about 5 minutes on each side. Alternately, sear in cast iron pan or under a broiler.
  5. Place meat into a slowcooker and add the juniper berries, bay leaves and lime juice.
  6. Slow cook on low 6-8 hours until meat is easily shreddable.
  7. Shred meat with a fork inside the slow cooker to allow the meat to re-absorb the juices.
  8. Taste and add more of the spice rub if desired.
  9. Serve in tacos, fajitas, on a salad, or with huevos rancheros!
Any leftovers can easily be stored in the fridge for a few days or frozen for easy heat and eat meals!



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