Tender and juicy apple cider slow cooker carnitas are topped with a fresh apple salsa. A twist on the Mexican classic with new fall-inspired flavors!
The slow cooker works absolute wonders on tough cuts of meat like a pork shoulder. We love making crock pot pulled pork, or slow cooker honey garlic beef. These slow cooker apple cider carnitas are perfect as well, and are a fun take on a Mexican classic.
Why is the slow cooker best friends with tough cuts of meat? Because of the long and slow cook time, tough collagen fibres have time to break down into the meat producing a melt-in-your-mouth result.
For these slow cooker apple cider carnitas, we swap out the traditional orange juice for apple juice, giving this a subtle and unique flavor. For even more of a fall twist, we’re adding a cinnamon stick.
Reasons you’ll ♡ slow cooker apple cider carnitas
- they are simple to prepare
- the heavier pork is balanced out with a fresh apple salsa
- it’s a fun remix on a classic Mexican recipe
The best cut of pork for carnitas
For this recipe, I recommend a pork shoulder cut as it is well marbled with fat and connective tissue; bone-in or boneless work well. Depending on where you live, your grocery store or butcher may have more precise names for the pork including:
- pork butt- higher on the shoulder, uniform in size and great for cooking in the slow cooker
- pork shoulder or picnic roast- lower down on shoulder and may contain part of the leg and skin
If you have a choice, I would recommend the boneless pork butt, as it is more uniform in size, and the boneless cut makes the pork easier to shred after cooking. With that being said, the picnic roast works fine for pulled pork, so I believe it would work for these carnitas as well.
Making apple cider carnitas
This is such a simple recipe to get on to cook as no sautéing is required. Simply add to a 6 quart slow cooker: apple cider, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, one cinnamon stick, one bay leave and salt. Stir to combine, then add the pork shoulder, turn to coat, and cook on low for 8 hours.
After 8 hours, transfer the pork to a large bowl and shred using an electric hand mixer (my favorite hack for shredding meat!).
Crisping it up
While I haven’t done it for this recipe, you are welcome to crisp up the pork after cooking. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spread the shredded pork out on the sheet. Spoon a few cups of the cooking liquid over top.
Place the baking sheet under the broiler (if you live outside of North America, it may be called the ‘grill’) for 5 minutes, until the edges of the shredded pork get crispy.
Fresh Apple Salsa
Since carnitas can be on the heavy side, we are topping ours with a fresh apple salsa.
The fresh apple salsa is the perfect fresh, crunchy topping: Granny Smith apples, cucumber, jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, and pomegranate arils, tossed in a squeeze of lime.
Prep ahead and storage tips
This recipe works well for meal prep in a couple of different ways.
1. freezer crock pot meal
You can assemble all cider carnitas ingredients ahead in a freezer bag, reusable silicone bag or large meal prep container, squeeze out the air, and freeze for up to 3 months. This will save you from having to measure out any ingredients prior to cooking.
To cook- thaw completely before cooking on low for 8 hours.
You can also store in the fridge or freezer after cooking:
- fridge– store shredded pork with some of the cooking liquid in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days
- reheat– rewarm in a frying pan, or on a baking sheet at 350°F for 10 minutes
- freezer– cooked, shredded pork may be portioned out in a freezer bag, reusable silicone bag, or meal prep container for up to 3 months.
Check out my favorite freezer containers.
One more thing- while I haven’t tested this recipe in the Instant Pot, it should work perfectly fine. I’d advise cooking for 90 minutes at high pressure followed by a 10 minute natural pressure release. At this point, release the remaining pressure. The pork should be fall-apart-tender.
Leave me a comment if you give this a try!
More slow cooker recipes
- 7 No Sautee Slow Cooker Chicken Recipes
- Slow Cooker Whole Chicken + Vegetables
- Slow Cooker African Peanut Stew
- Slow Cooker Honey Lime Chicken
- Smoky Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
Apple Cider Slow Cooker Carnitas with Fresh Apple Salsa
Slow Cooker Cider Carnitas (serves 8)
- 1.5-2 lb Boneless Pork Shoulder
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup packed brown sugar (200 g)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp salt
Fresh Apple Salsa (serves 4)
- 2 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored, and diced into small cubes- 1/2 inch or so)
- 1 jalapeno (de-seeded- leave some seeds in if you want it spicy)
- 2 cups cucumber (diced into small cubes - 1/2 inch or so)
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves (torn)
- 2 tablespoons red onion (diced finely)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 16 small Tortillas
Slow Cooker Cider Carnitas
- Place pork shoulder in bottom of slow cooker.
- Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over the pork.
- Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
- Remove pork from slow cooker and place in a bowl. Using an electric hand mixer or two forks, shred the meat, then toss with ¼ cup (or more) of juices from slow cooker.
To Crisp Up (optional)
- Line a baking sheet with foil, and spread the shredded pork out on the sheet. Spoon a few cups of the cooking liquid over top.
- Place the baking sheet under the broiler for 5 minutes, until the edges of the shredded pork get crispy.
Fresh Apple Salsa
- Combine all ingredients and toss in lime juice.