Amazingly simple and delicious dinners like these pork carnitas restore faith in my ability to actually get dinner on the table during this hectic time of year without pulling my hair out or saying bad words.
School has started in our area and combined with sport schedules, scout schedules, work schedules, nap schedules (I wish it were mine!), and every schedule in between, dinner time begins to feel like an impossible reality.
Some nights need a super quick 20- or 30-minute meal. Done and done.
But other evenings call for a dinner with very minimal prep the minutes before eating (we’re talking run in the door and have 5 or 10 minutes max). That’s where this meal is perfection.
The work (if you can call throwing everything in a slow cooker work) is done hours before dinner and the pork simmers in the delicious flavors all day long freeing you up for more important things like pursuing that nap schedule (ha!).
When dinner time rolls around, the pork is removed, shredded and if you have a few extra minutes, crisped and browned on the edges under the broiler (note: I’ve made this several times without browning and it’s equally yummy).
Pull out some tortillas, simple toppings and you have dinner.
Don’t even get me started on how versatile this pork is. Cooked and cooled, it freezes beautifully.
And while the flavors lend themselves wonderfully well to tortillas + toppings, I’ve made enchiladas out of the leftover pork, tossed some of the defrosted pork with BBQ sauce for sandwiches, and used the tender meat for quick quesadillas, tacos, and even pizza.
The flavors are astounding. Fresh and citrusy and smoky and seriously yummy. We love this one; a keeper for sure.
Simple Black Beans and Rice
Fresh fruit and vegetables
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
- 3-4 pounds boneless pork butt roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into large chunks
- 1 white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 3 (2-inch) strips orange zest (see note)
- 1/3-1/2 cup orange juice
- 3 (2-inch) strips lime zest (see note)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- Place the pork in the bottom of a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker. Add the onion, orange zest, orange juice, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Turn the pork pieces a bit so the spices are evenly distributed.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours (or high for 5 to 7 hours).
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork from the slow cooker to a 9X13-inch or similar-sized oven-safe pan. Use two forks to shred the pork.
- Pour everything (solids and liquid) from the slow cooker into a strainer set over a bowl to catch the liquid. Discard the solids and reserve the liquid.
- To crisp the edges of the pork (this is optional but delicious), preheat the broiler to high and position an oven rack about 6-8 inches away from the heating element. Pour about 1 cup of the reserved liquid over the pork in the pan. Broil the pork (watching closely!) for a couple minutes until it is brown and crispy in spots. Give the pork a good stir/turn and broil again until some of the edges crisp up a bit. You still want the pork to be nice and tender so don’t overcook it here – and keep an eye on it as a broiler can take food from beautifully browned to burned in seconds.
- Season the pork with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a serving plate or platter, if desired. Use additional liquid from the slow cooker to moisten the pork as needed. Serve with lime wedges, tortillas, fresh cilantro and other toppings of your choice.
To get those long strips of zest from the orange and lime, use a sharp paring knife to cut away the top layer of peel from the fruit – trying not to get too much of the white, pithy skin underneath since it can be bitter. Just do your best – it doesn’t have to be perfectly rectangular 2-inch strips. Mine usually come off more in squares and large ovals. The reason you don’t want to just zest the orange and lime is because the pieces of zest are removed at the end of cooking before serving (otherwise the pork mixture can develop a bitter or overpowering citrus flavor).
The leftover cooked and cooled pork freezes great for future meals.
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Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Cook’s Country August/Sept 2015 (after my cousin, Mel, sent me a similar recipe alerting me to it’s deliciousness – thanks, Mel!)