Slow Cooker Carnitas (3-Ingredient Pork Recipe) + Video

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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!

Titled Image: Slow Cooker Carnitas (Chipotle Copycat)


These slow cooker pork carnitas are literally the best. If you like fall-apart tender meats, this pork recipe is the best.

It’s a great recipe that you can make taste a lot of different ways. 

It’s my go-to recipe when I need a simple cooking process and an easy way to not have a ton of meal prep.

The tender meat makes dinner time the best, and it’s so good as leftovers the next day! 

Use this delicious recipe to make the easiest carnitas, ever.

The printable recipe card below gives all the simple steps to create the best carnitas for the whole family to enjoy. 

ingredients for slow cooker carnitas

Carnitas Chipotle

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.

Can’t wait? I have an easy cheater recipe that’s ready in a fraction of the time. And if you’re short on spices, you can still make this dish with a jar of green salsa instead.

searing pork in large pot

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.

adding pork, seasoning and cooking liquid to slow cooker

Serving Suggestions

You can enjoy carnitas Chipotle style in so many ways! Incorporate it into meals or alongside your favorite Mexican side dishes like rice and street corn salad.

Personally, I love to pile crisp lettuce with this shredded pork, plus pinto beansguacamole, cheese, and a huge spoon of fresh salsa as my dressing.

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

What is carnitas vs pulled pork? 

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.

Should I use bone-in or boneless pork for carnitas? 

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.

What’s in a carnitas bowl at Chipotle? 

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!

How do I use leftover carnitas? 

If you’re asking me, I just toss leftovers together and make an epic burrito bowl. I love Mexican food and all the fun flavors that come with it. I’ll add large chunks of meat, green chilis, black beans, red onions, refried beans, and some spices like black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and even some hot sauce. 

You can make a small bowl, or a large bowl – and enjoy every single bite. Once you make this crockpot pork carnitas recipe, you can enjoy the tender pork any way that you want! 

shredding pork in slow cooker

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

shredded pork in slow cooker

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slow cooker pork carnitas

closeup of slow cooker carnitas

Slow Cooker Carnitas (3-Ingredient Pork Recipe) + Video

Donna Elick
This Carnitas Chipotle copycat recipe makes luscious slow-cooked pork that's tender and juicy — and there's enough to feed a crowd!
5 stars from 4 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 15 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Mexican
Method Stovetop
Servings 10


  • 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!

Donna’s Notes

Do not use non-stick pans for searing. Cast iron or stainless steel are great alternates to the dutch oven.
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.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 231cal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 571mg | Sugar: 1g | Fiber: 1g | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 2mg

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.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Slow Cooker Carnitas (Chipotle Copycat) - PIN

Originally published August 2016, updated and republished April 2024

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    1. Hi Colleen, I prefer to use boneless pork because that is what I find most easily. But bone in would work as well too. Watch the pork with bone-in as it may cook faster. Enjoy and let us know how it goes.

  1. I think bone-in would actually mean it takes longer to cook. That being said, I loved Chipotle when I was able to try it in the states, we don't have it in the UK. I can't wait to try this!

    1. In my experience the bone-in shoulders/butts cook faster as the bone conducts heat. Either way, enjoy it and let me know how it goes!

    1. Yes. This recipe freezes and reheats very well. I scoop my left overs in plastic wrap or foil and place in a freezer bag. Then I remove and reheat. If you do not have a chance to defrost, add a tablespoon of water to your bowl that you are reheating in and cover your bowl before placing it in the microwave. It will help keep it moist. Enjoy and let me know how it goes.

  2. This was delicious. Added some Pico De Gallo and some avocado crema for my tacos. Thank you for the recipe.

  3. I created a bowl with your Chipotle rice/lime as the base and added layers going upward. Beans, salsa, chopped lettuce and cheese. You can use sour cream too. Sprinkled cilantro on top. Easy and so satisfying with all the diff textures and flavors and never feel stuffed.

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe from The Slow Roasted Italian website is a real winner. The Carnitas Chipotle copycat turned out to be absolutely delicious and easy to make!

  5. 5 stars
    donna’s recipe for Slow Cooker Carnitas is a real winner! I followed the recipe exactly, and it turned out amazing. So close to the restaurant version!

  6. 5 stars
    Donna and Chad’s recipes never disappoint, and this Slow Cooker Carnitas recipe is no exception. It’s a 5-star dish all the way!

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