This Carnitas Chipotle copycat recipe makes luscious slow-cooked pork that is so tender and juicy, it melts right in your mouth. Enjoy your favorite Chipotle Mexican Grill carnitas burritos and bowls without ever leaving home!
So many traditional Mexican cuisine recipes would have you standing over a stove for hours — but who has that kind of time?
My simple carnitas Chipotle recipe creates tender, perfectly seasoned meat with robust flavors.
The secret is a quick sear on the stovetop to lock in all of those succulent flavors and juices.
After that, carnitas Chipotle style are slow cooked for up to 12 hours until fork-tender and falling apart.
Tips for Making Chipotle Carnitas at Home
- Sear the pork shoulder first.
Doing so adds another layer of flavor that really puts these Chipotle carnitas over the top.
While you could skip this step, I highly recommend taking the extra 15 minutes and doing it. Trust me the flavor is worth it!
- Use the right cookware.
Nonstick pans are never a good idea for searing — they just aren’t able to get hot enough.
If you don’t have a Dutch oven, regular cast iron or stainless steel are the best alternative.
And make sure your crockpot is large enough for the meat! I use a 6-quart model for this carnitas Chipotle recipe.
- Place fresh rosemary on the bottom of the crockpot.
You’ll get more of the flavor into the pork this way! If using dried rosemary instead, you can simply sprinkle it over the meat.
- Save the juices!!
After removing copycat Chipotle Mexican Grill carnitas from the slow cooker, ladle the cooking liquid into a jar. You can use a strainer to remove any solids if desired.
Drizzle this liquid over leftovers before reheating — you’ll add moisture and flavor at the same time! Keep the jar in the refrigerator for up to a week.
This Chipotle carnitas recipe is also great to make ahead of time. Use the meat in tacos and burritos, on nachos, and even on a sandwich.
Chipotle Carnitas Recipe FAQ
They are essentially the same — pork shoulder or pork butt that’s slow cooked until tender and falling apart.
Carnitas traditionally has one extra step, which is roasting or broiling the shredded meat until crispy before serving.
You’re free to do so with this crockpot Chipotle carnitas recipe if you’d like! Simply spread the shredded pork onto a foil-lined baking sheet and broil in the oven for a few minutes.
Either will work for this carnitas Chipotle recipe — just adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Bone-in cuts of meat tend to need a bit more time. You’ll know it’s done when the pork falls off the bone and shreds with ease.
This typically happens once it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 195°F.
Each Chipotle bowl starts with a base of their cilantro lime rice or brown rice and either black or pinto beans. You can also add fajita veggies if desired.
Obviously, the protein is Chipotle carnitas. Then, choose from guac, queso blanco, salsa, sour cream, and cheese for your toppings!
Storing and Reheating Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas
Once cooled, leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days. You can also freeze pulled pork for 2 to 3 months.
Reheat smaller portions of carnitas from Chipotle in the microwave or on the stovetop. Larger batches are best warmed in the oven
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
More Of Our Favorite Copycat Recipes
Slow Cooker Carnitas (Chipotle Copycat)
- 5- pound pork shoulder, also known as pork butt
- 2 tablespoons extra light olive oil
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
- 4 dried bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, or 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs
- 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1/2 cup water
- Rinse pork roast under cool water. Pat dry with a paper towel (do not skip this step, patting it dry helps create less steam and creates a better sear).
- Preheat a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place pork on a plate and sprinkle on all sides, with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Once the oil is shimmering and hot, carefully place pork in a Dutch oven (do not wait or the seasoning will begin to draw out moisture). Sear each side. Allow pork to sizzle in the pan without touching it for at least 2 minutes.
- The pork will naturally release from the pan once it is properly seared. If it is sticking to the bottom of the pan, it is most likely not seared yet. It will take 2-5 minutes per side. Reduce heat if the pan is getting too hot.
- Add bay leaves to the bottom of your crockpot (I use a 6-quart slow cooker), place pork on top of bay leaves and carefully pour remaining cooking liquid from your Dutch oven over the pork. Add 1/2 cup water to Dutch oven, return to medium-high heat. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the stuck browned bits from the bottom. Once the mixture is boiling, pour it over the pork in the slow cooker. Sprinkle rosemary, thyme and remaining salt and pepper into the slow cooker and over the pork. Flip the pork once to season the other side.
- Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours (alternately cook on low for 10-12 hours). When the pork is tender, use 2 forks to shred meat. Taste for seasoning, if necessary add salt to taste (mine did not need salt).
- Stir to coat pork in cooking liquid. Cover and cook for 30-60 minutes to help the pork absorb the juices. Serve and enjoy!
You can use bone-in or boneless pork, but watch your cook time. Searing the meat before placing it in the slow cooker adds another layer of flavor. While you could skip this step, I highly recommend taking the extra 15 minutes and doing it. Trust me the flavor is worth it! If making this with fresh rosemary sprigs, I place them on the bottom of the slow cooker and put the pork roast on top.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published August 2016, updated and republished September 2023
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