Home Nutrition Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas – The Real Food Dietitians

Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas – The Real Food Dietitians

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These Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas makes killer tacos or burrito bowls that the whole family is guaranteed to love. 

This recipe was created in partnership with our friends and farmers at the MN Pork Board.

Weeknight dinner winner coming right up!

If you’re anything like me, nothing brings such a huge sense of accomplishment to my day than having dinner almost done at the end of a long workday. 

By almost, I mean the bulk of the work is done and there’s just a little assembly required. When I need a meal that’s 95% done and is guaranteed to please even my pickiest eater I make these Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas. Here’s why:

  • Everything can be prepped ahead.
  • It’s a set-it-and-forget-it kind of recipe and because it takes 8 hours to cook (undisturbed), I don’t have to worry about being home to check on it.  
  • It has just the right amount of spice to be flavorful, but not so much that you can’t use the leftover meat for something other than tacos or burrito bowls. 
  • It makes enough to serve my family of 4 for at least 2 meals. 
  • Leftovers are super freezer-friendly and great to have on hand when you need a quick reheat & eat meal. 
  • It’s perfect for parties and potlucks. 
  • It’s Whole30-friendly so provided you make proper substitutions for rice or tortillas, you can enjoy it even when you’re on a Whole30. 

Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas are a weeknight dinner game-changer for tacos, burritos and more. Sponsored by @MinnesotaPork Click To Tweet

Obviously, I have a lot to say about these easy slow cooker carnitas. But before I launch into the recipe, I want to thank our sponsor, the Minnesota Pork Board, for bringing you the second recipe in our four-part recipe series featuring pork. Here’s a cool fact that I didn’t know about pork production that I wanted to share with you:

The nutrients found in swine manure are used as natural fertilizers for Minnesota crop production, thus reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers. Research has found that the organic compounds in pig manure:

  • Produce better yields for corn when compared to using synthetic, commercial fertilizers
  • Help build and maintain soil structure, which aids soils’ ability to hold water (thus helping to conserve water)
  • Improves soil aeration
  • Reduces soil erosion

About those easy slow cooker carnitas…

Though I’m a nerd when it comes to farming facts, I know what you came here for…the carnitas. So let’s talk about how you can make this dish as easy as possible so it’s 95% done when it’s time to get the meal on the table. You have a few ways you can do this:

  1. Make the slow cooker carnitas on the weekend or overnight, then refrigerate the meat until ready to reheat and eat. 
  2. Prep everything you’ll need – spice rub, chopped onions, minced garlic, orange, and lime juices – up to 3 days in advance, then just toss it all into the slow cooker in the morning and let it go low and slow all day. 

Tacos vs. Burrito Bowls

Talk about a tough decision. I’d choose both if I could! These slow cooker carnitas can be used for tacos or burrito bowls depending on what your family likes best. 

For tacos, might I suggest:

  • Corn or cassava flour tortillas (or lettuce wraps for a Whole30-friendly option)
  • Guacamole or thinly sliced avocado
  • Salsa, pico de gallo or your favorite hot sauce 
  • Quick-pickled onions 
  • Dairy-Free Cilantro-Lime Sauce (see recipe below)
  • Crumbled cotija or feta cheese (optional, omit for Whole30 option)
  • Fresh cilantro and lime wedges

Remember, the key to a great taco is to keep it simple and use tasty fillings, of course. 

If you’re looking for something more substantial or just want to change up taco night, try a burrito bowl instead using:

  • Cooked rice or quinoa (or cauliflower rice for a Whole30-friendly option) 
  • Refried, black or pinto beans
  • Chopped romaine lettuce, spring mix or ‘power’ greens salad mix
  • Chopped tomatoes, pico de gallo, salsa and/or your favorite hot sauce (this one is my personal favorite)
  • Guacamole or diced avocado
  • Quick-pickled onions
  • Dairy-Free Cilantro-Lime Sauce (see recipe below)
  • Crumbled cotija or feta cheese (optional, omit for Whole30 option)
  • Fresh cilantro and lime wedges

Prep the fixin’s ahead to make it even easier.

It takes less than 20 minutes to assemble everything you need for tacos or burrito bowls. Even the rice can be prepped ahead and reheated when it’s time to eat. I like to put everything out on the kitchen island and let my family build their own using the easy slow cooker carnitas and their fixings of choice – that way we all get what we like. 

Oh wait, let’s talk about those crispy bits. And that sauce.

I almost forgot to talk about those crispy bits of carnitas. Aren’t they just lovely? Spreading the shredded pork onto a rimmed baking sheet and placing it under the broiler for a few minutes makes the edges all golden brown and crispy which, somehow, makes your tacos or burrito bowls 110% better. So if you’ve got the time, don’t skip this step!

 

And about that sauce… I mentioned it above in the list of possible fixings and toppings for topping your easy slow cooker carnitas, but I should say that if you’re looking to keep things Whole30-friendly or dairy-free, or you just like a drizzle of something creamy on your tacos or burrito bowls, then this cilantro-lime sauce is it. It takes just minutes to whip it up and it will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. It’s great on tacos and burritos, of course, but also makes a great salad dressing.



 

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Let’s Get Cookin’

Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas

These might be the easiest solution to taco night yet with just 10 minutes of prep and a low and slow, hands-off cook time. Perfect for tacos or burrito bowls or even stuffed into a baked sweet potato.

  • Author: Jessica Beacom
  • Prep Time: 10 mins.
  • Cook Time: 8-9 hrs
  • Total Time: 8-9 hrs.
  • Yield: Serves about 810 1x
  • Cuisine: Whole30, Paleo, Dairy-Free

Ingredients

For the Carnitas:

  • 3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder or butt roast, patted dry (about lbs. bone-in)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced (about a 1 heaping cup)
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • Pinch of cinnamon (about ⅛ tsp.)
  • Pinch of chipotle powder (about ⅛ tsp.), more if you like it spicier
  • 2 tsp. salt + more to taste 
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • Juice of 2 limes (about 2 Tbsp.)
  • Juice of 1 large orange (about ¼ cup)

For the Cilantro-Lime Sauce:

  • ¾ mayonnaise (such as Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Mayo)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ½ tsp. salt + more to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 1 Tbsp.)

Instructions

  1. Pat pork shoulder dry with paper towels. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, cinnamon, chipotle powder, salt, and black pepper to make the spice rub.
  3. Rub spice mixture onto the entire surface of the pork shoulder. This can be done up to 3 days in advance and the pork stored, covered, in the fridge until ready to cook.
  4. Place pork shoulder in the slow cooker, fat cap facing up (the ‘fat cap’ is the thick layer of fat). Place onions and garlic on top of the pork.
  5. Pour lime and orange juice over all and place lid on the slow cooker. No stirring necessary!
  6. Set slow cooker to LOW and cook for 8-9 hours or until pork shreds easily with a fork. 
  7. When pork is done, remove pork from the slow cooker to a bowl or baking dish and shred pork with two forks, adding a little of the liquid from the slow cooker as needed to moisten and season the meat. Taste and season with additional salt, if needed. 
  8. Optional: Spread shredded pork on a baking sheet and broil for 3-4 minutes until edges of pork are crispy. Alternatively, you can place pork in a hot, preheated cast iron skillet and allow it to sit, undisturbed, for  5-6 minutes to allow pork to get crispy. Stir and cook an additional 2-3 minutes or until edges are crispy.
  9. Serve with desired toppings.

To make the Cilantro-Lime Sauce:

  1. Place all sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until well-combined, add a few drops of water to thin it if needed.
  2. Taste and adjust salt to taste. Store in a covered container in the fridge up to 5 days.

Notes

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Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4 oz.
  • Calories: 199
  • Sugar: 2g
  • Sodium: 327mg
  • Fat: 9g
  • Carbohydrates: 4g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 25g

What’s your favorite weeknight set it & forget it meal? Share in the comments.

Pin it now & make it later!

 


This post was made possible by our friends at Minnesota Pork.  Although we received compensation for this post, the opinions expressed here are – as always – 100% our own. Thank you for supporting the great companies we work with thereby allowing us to continue creating great recipes and content for you.

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About Jessica Beacom

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living in Boulder, CO with her hubby and two daughters. She’s been described as a ‘real food evangelist’ and loves sharing her knowledge with others to help them break free of the diet mentality and find their own food freedom. In her spare time she enjoys CrossFit, telemark skiing, mountain biking, teaching herself how to play the banjo and camping out under the stars.





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