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Slow cooker spicy, crispy, shredded beef carnitas

Make these shredded spicy and crispy beef carnitas at home, in your slow cooker.

After a week's vacation in South Florida, I have tacos on the brain. Fish tacos tempted us everywhere (have you ever tried corvina?), and every menu offered chicken, beef, and carnitas tacos, too. I love the idea of carnitas -- long-cooked shredded pork, crisped up at the end of the cooking -- but I don't eat pork. And then it occurred to me that I could make my own slow cooker carnitas out of beef or chicken, and I could enjoy those burnt edges, too.

Use your favorite cut of beef, or meaty chicken thighs, for this recipe; I love brisket, so of course that's what I used here. Give the meat a dry rub, then cook it on low heat in the slow cooker. At the end, shred the meat and spread it on a baking sheet for a few minutes under the broiler, just long enough to brown the tips. Voila! Your very own carnitas!

Top your own homemade beef carnitas tacos with cheese, tomatoes, and cilantro.

Slow cooker spicy, crispy, shredded beef carnitas {gluten-free}

From the pantry you'll need: cumin, coriander, oregano, kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, salsa.

Serves 8.


3 lb flat-cut beef brisket, cut into 4 pieces
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp chipotle powder
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp fresh black pepper
2 Tbsp brown sugar
12 oz green salsa (use your favorite; I like Trader Joe's Hatch Valley Salsa, which is very hot, or Herdez, which is milder)

Optional toppings: grated cheese, shredded lettuce or cabbage, chopped tomatoes, onions, sour cream, fresh cilantro.


Dry the pieces of meat with a paper towel.

In a mixing bowl, combine the spices and sugar. Dredge each piece of meat in the spice mix, being sure to get a good coating on all surfaces. Pat the spice mix to make sure it sticks to the meat.

If you have a Ninja Cooking System or other 5- or 6-quart slow cooker that allows you to brown the meat in it, heat your cooker to high, and brown all sides of the meat. If not, brown the meat on all sides in a dry, nonstick frying pan, and transfer the pieces to your slow cooker.

Pour in the green salsa. 

Cook on LOW for 8-1/2 hours, or until the meat is soft enough to shred.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Preheat the broiler.

Remove the meat from the cooker, and shred with two forks (or, if it cools enough, use your very clean hands). Spread it in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Broil for 8-10 minutes, or until the tips of the meat are brown and crispy. Remove from the oven.

If you wish, drizzle on some of the reserved liquid from the slow cooker. Serve hot over rice, or let cool a bit and fold meat into a tortilla along with toppings of your choice.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More tacos:
Turkey tacos, from The Perfect Pantry
Slow cooker tomatillo chicken and black bean tacos, from The Perfect Pantry
Smoky chicken tinga tacos, from Serious Eats
Sweet potato black bean tacos, from Cookie + Kate

Slow cooker spicy, crispy, shredded beef carnitas you can make at home.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I make pulled pork frequently but never thought to broil it at the end to add crispness. I LOVE brisket at well so will definitely try this recipe soon!

This sounds like a perfect dish to make in the Ninja Cooker, and I love carnitas in restaurants so I'm sure I'd like it. And I haven't had breakfast so I could eat some right now!

Janice, it was a real "aha" moment for me!

Kalyn, I made mine in the Ninja (my favorite slow cooker). And if I had any leftovers in my fridge, I'd eat it for breakfast, too.

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