Slow Cooker Carnitas Taco Bites
Crispy slow cooker carnitas taco bites! Homemade mini tortilla cups filled with carnitas and topped with guacamole, onion, and cilantro!
This post is in partnership with Sabra.
Somehow, January completely flew by and the Super Bowl is next weekend. We all know that Super Bowl Sunday is an excuse for us to eat our favorite foods. Truthfully, it’s the only thing that can convince me to sit still and watch a football game in entirety. Snacks, dips, and appetizers. Lots of them.
For whatever reason, I crave Mexican food without fail whenever football is involved. Guacamole? Yes, please. Tacos? Preferably both, thanks. Tacos have been on my mind, I know.
I couldn’t decide between the two, so I combined them into the cutest little carnitas taco bites! They’re topped with Sabra guacamole, chopped onion, and fresh cilantro. Also, also! The carnitas are made in a slow cooker. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it (for like 12 hours) situation. How have I lived without a slow cooker for 27 years of my life?
Why bite-sized tacos? Well, I have a slight obsession with all things mini (remember these falafel bites?).
I think this fascination stems from my old days working in the restaurant, where I was responsible for putting together platters of hor d’oeuvres for special events. It never got old to see tiny forms of my favorite foods. Mini BLT’s, mini nori chips, mini marshmallows, the list went on and on.
Mini foods have an instant wow factor.
Plus, you can assemble these onto a platter and hand them out to all of your friends and family – and they are significantly less messy than normal sized tacos.
The actual mini tortilla cups are created by pressing corn tortilla discs into a standard muffin tin and baking them in the oven until their crispy and golden brown.
Be sure to buy extra thin soft corn tortillas for this, as standard tortillas a are a bit too thick for this application.
If you don’t feel like going to the trouble of doing this, you could use those scoop tortilla chips (although those are significantly more tiny and might be slightly obnoxious to assemble – in all honesty!).
Or…skip the mini stuff and set up a regular taco bar. No judgement.
Since the pork shoulder has to cook for at least 10 to 12 hours, I recommend preparing and cooking the carnitas in your slow cooker the night before you wish to serve this dish. Yep, run your slow cooker overnight.
Not only do you wake up to the mouth-watering smell of carnitas (it’s a fairly convincing wake-up call), but almost all of the work is done while you’re sleeping.
If you’re still not convinced, read this article. It might change your slow cooking strategy from this point forward.
Slow Cooker Carnitas Taco Bites
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas:
- 3 lbs (1.3 kg) bone-in pork shoulder see notes
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- juice 1 navel orange
- 1 medium onion thinly sliced
- 2 jalapeno peppers seeds removed and finely diced
- 4 large garlic cloves smashed
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
- 24 (6-inch) extra thin, soft corn tortillas or use scoop tortilla chips
- 1 (8-ounce) container Sabra Classic Guacamole or homemade guacamole
- 1 medium white onion finely diced
- fresh cilantro leaves finely chopped
- lime wedges for serving
- The Night Before: Rub the outside of the pork shoulder with the ground cumin. Season liberally on all sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the pork shoulder, with the fat cap facing up, in a 4-quart slow cooker. Add the orange juice, sliced onion, diced jalapeño peppers, garlic cloves, and bay leaf. Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours, or until the meat is very tender and begins to fall off the bone. See notes for prepping tips.
- Before Serving: Make the mini tortilla cups: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) with a rack in the center position. Set aside two 12-cup muffin tins (if you only have one muffin tin, you will need to make the tortilla cups in batches).
- Warm the corn tortillas until they are pliable. Stack 6 tortillas at a time. Use a biscuit cutter, mug, or small bowl (4-inches in diameter) as a guide, cut the corn tortillas into 4-inch-diameter circles. Discard the scraps. Spray both sides of the tortilla discs with cooking spray. Gently press each disc into the cups of the muffin tin, and sprinkle them lightly with salt. If the tortillas crack or tear, it is because they have not been warmed sufficiently. Bake for 12 to 18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, or until the tortilla cups are completely crisp and golden brown. Allow them to cool before removing.
- Preheat the broil to high and set an oven rack about 4 to 5 inches below the broiler element. Once the pork is tender (and nearly falling apart), use two forks to shred it. Discard any large pieces of fat and bay leaf. Use a large slotted spoon to transfer the meat and any onions/garlic cloves to a half sheet pan. Spread into a thin layer. Drizzle the meat with the tablespoon of olive oil. Place the sheet pan under the broiler for 3 to 7 minutes – watching carefully – or until the carnitas are crispy and caramelized. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Before serving, fill the tortilla cups with carnitas, top with a spoonful of guacamole, and garnish with chopped onion and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately with lime wedges.
Tips for Success:
- To save time on the big day, prep and cook the carnitas the night before you wish to serve this dish.
- Prep and turn on the slow cooker and let it run overnight (if you feel comfortable). You’ll wake up to the smell of carnitas cooking in your kitchen and 99% of the work for this recipe will be done ahead of time.
This recipe post is in partnership with Sabra. I am proud member of the Sabra Tastemaker program! Thank you for supporting brands that I love.
32 Comments on “Slow Cooker Carnitas Taco Bites”
These look so good! How many of these would you consider a serving?
They’re definitely intended to be more of an appetizer, so it would depend on how you’re serving them. For a main meal, you’d probably want like 5-6 with toppings?
Curious if you have an adaptation for the instant pot. We love any excuse to be at tacos!!
Unfortunately I don’t have an adaptation for this recipe, as I haven’t made this particular recipe in the Instant Pot yet! Sorry about that. I would maybe recommend googling another method/recipe, and you can use similar flavors in this recipe to adapt it.
Thanks! this looks amazing! One question – have you tried making the shells in advance (like a couple hours)? Will they get chewy? Or maybe they can be reheated?
It really depends on the quality of the tortillas that you use I think, but these don’t hold up quite as well to long preparations ahead. If you’re looking for something like that, I might go with a scoopable corn tortilla chip to be safe.
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I happen to have a 4lb pork shoulder in my fridge. Luckily, I was lazy this weekend and didn’t get around to cooking it so now I can make this recipe!!! Also, I was super lazy and didn’t put my slow cooker back where it belongs either so it is waiting for the pork on my kitchen table hahaha. I will def share this on social media when done!!!!
Carnitas are the best. And everything just tastes better in mini, doesn’t it? Plus using the slow cooker makes it so easy. Basically this recipe is perfect
Serious droolage over here. I need a napkin and 115 of these taco bites, stat.
So, we’re doing the regular taco version, + with a sick babe, didn’t get them started last night, + are a bit late getting them going this morning – about 8, our time. What do you think about doing the first 1/2 of cooking on high (5ish hours), then turning it to low for the second half? Also, our shoulder is slightly bigger, @ 4 pounds. Thanks!
Hmm..I think you could do high for like 2-3 hours (although I definitely think low is ideal) and do low the rest of the time? Also, I think 10 hours could still be fine, so you might still be able to have them finished at a reasonable time. It’s so hard to say without testing it! I wish I could be more helpful!
These look amazing! Thanks for the great idea! Your pictures look like you used two tortillas for each cup? Did you fold two over each muffin tin cup? Is that recommended to make them more sturdy? Thanks!
No! It was just one tortilla. For whatever reason, the edges on some of them had that look (I think it was the air and heat of the oven with the brand that I used for the photos for this post). I did try it with other brands of tortillas as well and it varied! I would just use extra thin tortillas (and definitely just one per cup!) because any thicker than that and they won’t have as nice a texture. Hope that was helpful and not too confusing!
Oh yes I see now, thanks!
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this looks sooo good!!! 🙂
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Snacks are the only reason I care about the Super Bowl at all! 🙂 These look delicious, and I am a slow cooker fanatic. Makes life so much easier — and more relaxing — when you come home to dinner already made!
Yes! Snacks pretty much make football tolerable 😉 I love the slow cooker too! Nothing better than prepping everything in the morning and having dinner ready to go.
Oooookay. Carnitas are the way to my heart! These look so good. I think I’m going to make a full recipe and eat it all myself.
Yes to that plan!
Too bad I don’t have a slow cooker!!! But I really don’t have space. These still look delicious.
Yummy! If we cook everything overnight, + wouldn’t be eating until the afternoon/dinner time of the following day, would you recommend taking everything out + storing in the fridge until then? I’m thinking if you cooked overnight, then left in the slow cooker all day (even just on “warm”), it’d dry everything out too much, don’t you think? Thanks!
Yes! I recommend taking everything out (or storing it in the juices) in the fridge until then. Then you can rewarm them in the oven just before you prepare them! Does that help? Thanks for the question Shelley! Alternatively, if you were making these into normal tacos – which you totally could – you could start it at 6 AM and it would be ready just in time for dinner, that’s just less ideal for this appetizer application.
Thanks! Yes, that totally helps! We’ll likely do the normal taco version this weekend as a test run, then do the appetizer version next weekend for a Super Bowl party. Thanks for the recipe – with a 10 month old, anything delicious that involves a slow cooker is like gold these days. 😉
Oh man, so many YESSSSSESSSS to this recipe. Just too good and I love the use of Sabra!
I WANT TO COME TO YOUR PARTY! Packers lost, but I think we still need a good reason to eat all the football food!
You are welcome to come over anytime!!! xo