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Traditional Pulled Carnitas Recipe in Slow Cooker for Tacos

Chef Danielle Miele , On January 15, 2023

Traditional Pulled Carnitas Recipe in Slow Cooker for Taco Filling

Slow cooker, spice-rubbed instant pot carnitas recipe for tacos is touted as the star ingredient for your wrap filling along with brown rice, beans, guacamole, salsa verde amongst others. Since everyone seems to have their own proprietary carnitas spice blend to create their own slow cooker recipe for taco carnitas meat, here is a solid variation of an instant pot pulled carnitas recipe that requires less time and is a bit easier. To prepare this instant pot pulled carnitas recipe a pork shoulder or Boston butt as they’re often referred to is used. This pork cut of meat has wonderful marbling (fat content distributed throughout the meat) that when combined with a longer cooking time literally results in the meat becoming fall apart tender. At your favorite barbeque joint, they have equipment to smoke and roast this cut of meat overnight. This instant pot pulled carnitas recipe for tacos is developed for a quicker cook and can be prepped and cooked in the morning before work, or even later in the afternoon. When you use this pulled carnitas recipe for tacos, butcher a bigger piece of meat into chunks and use the high setting on your slow cooker, this mouthwatering pulled carnitas recipe will be done in just under 3 hours.

Ingredients for this Slow Cooker Spice-Rubbed Instant Pot Pulled Carnitas Recipe for Tacos

pulled carnitas recipe ingredients

Instant Pot Pulled Carnitas Recipe Ingredients

  • 4-6 lb boneless pork shoulder or butt, trimmed of most fat, and cut into large chunks

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 3 C broth (chicken or vegetable) or 1 bottle of your favorite beer

  • 1/4 to 1/2 C spice rub (use your favorite store brand or see the recipe below)

For the spice rub:

pulled carnitas recipe ingredients

Spices for our Instant Pot Pulled Carnitas Recipe

  • 1/2 c brown sugar

  • 1/4 c ground cumin

  • 1/4 c red pepper powder of your choice, paprika, Korean Gochugaru, or even chili powder

  • 2 tbsp salt

  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper

  • 1 tbsp adobo seasoning or granulated garlic

  • 1 tbsp onion powder

  • 1 tbsp ground mustard

  • 1 tbsp dried oregano

  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika

  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions for this Slow Cooker Instant Pot Pulled Carnitas Recipe

  1. Trim some fat off and liberally sprinkle each chunk of pork with the spice rub and set aside. Then cut down the pork into smaller, more digestible pieces.

    Clean and sprinkle with seasoning

    Clean Pork Loin and Sprinkle With Seasoning

  2. Heat the olive oil on medium high heat in a sauté pan. Sear the pork pieces, literally browning the meat to caramelize on each side which adds depth of flavor and is the secret step for making this instant pot pulled carnitas recipe. You can make this recipe without searing, but this step takes only 2-3 minutes per side and makes a palatable difference to the outcome of the slow cooked spice-rubed pork recipe. (See image 5 below)

  3. Preheat your slow cooker. Add the browned pork pieces, the broth, cover and cook on a low setting if you have all day, or on high if you’ll be ready to eat in a few hours.

    Add the pulled carnitas

    Sear the pork and then add to the instant pot

  4. Test the pork meat for doneness by removing a piece and pulling it apart with two forks. While your hands make shredding pulled carnitas easy I don’t recommend hand shredding hot meat. Instead, used two forks to hold the pork chunk and pull with the over fork. If the piece shreds this instant pot pulled carnitas recipe is ready.

  5. Transfer the instant pot pulled carnitas recipe meat to a serving plate, sprinkling with a last dash of spice rub, and drizzling some of the luscious cooking liquid. Serve over pasta, rice, potatoes or on a roll. Be sure to strain some cooking liquid and present for service so that your guests can add extra au jus if they’d prefer.

  6. Note: You can store the remaining spice rub in an air-tight container in your pantry the next time you want pulled carnitas, but it’s also great in a sandwich, over rice or with a salad.

    Chef Danielle Miele

    Chef Miele started in the industry as a chef's assistant back in the early 1990s at a New England style seafood shack. After several stints in the industry she earned a formal chef's degree with honors from Le Cordon Bleu. When she is not cooking for her husband and teenage son, she enjoys researching techniques and ingredients from different cultures, with a focus on enhanced flavor and nutrition.