Sometimes the simplest recipes can be the most satisfying! Slow Cooker Pork Tacos require only 3 ingredients for the filling and this recipe includes a twist on the usual dollop of sour cream. In about 10 minutes of effort, you can cook a large batch of savory shredded pork to serve for several meals!
What is the difference between pork tacos and carnitas?
Pork tacos and carnitas are very similar styles of pork dishes since both types of meat are slow-cooked in a sealed container with a liquid ingredient. Both carnitas and the taco-pork come from pork shoulder or pork butt – the same cuts used for pulled pork.
So, what’s the difference? Carnitas, or “little meats,” is a style of serving pork by searing it first, then cooking it in a combination of acidic juices from lime, lemon, or orange. In this recipe, slow cooker pork tacos will utilize pork that is slow-cooked and flavored with a beer (much lower acidity) and a mild taco seasoning.
Carnitas usually have an extra veggie, pepper, or onion added as well. Both meats are used in tacos, so it may be a matter of semantics, but I would sum it up by saying the flavors can be quite different!
*Check out my take on Street Tacos with Slow Cooker Carnitas here!
All you need for tasty, fall-apart shredded pork? A pork shoulder roast, taco seasoning, and a light beer. Plus, a unique sour cream mix!
For the pork:
- Pork shoulder roast – Pork shoulder can be interchanged with pork butt and they are often both used for pulled pork recipes in a variety of ways. Pork shoulder is less fatty than pork butt since it comes from a leaner area closer to the leg. I prefer boneless pork shoulder but feel free to use bone-in if that’s what is available to you.
- Homemade taco seasoning – My homemade taco seasoning blend is a wonderful ratio of spices and is so easy to have on hand for recipes just like this! You can also use a packet of your favorite store-bought version.
- Beer – 1 can or bottle can make such a flavorful difference in everyday cooking! I prefer to use a lighter beer or a pale ale. You can choose the style of beer that you like, and if you’d prefer NOT to use beer, swap with a chicken or veggie broth instead.
And for the sour cream, you’ll need:
- Sour cream – Choose regular, light, fat-free, etc., or even look for a non-dairy option if you like.
- Adobo sauce – Adobo sauce is made from chili peppers and includes some sweetness and spice from sugar, garlic, vinegar, and other herbs. You can purchase a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and use 2 teaspoons of the canned sauce. If you find that it is a bit too spicy for your liking, reduce the amount of adobo sauce.
How To Make Slow Cooker Pork Tacos
Start by placing the pork in the slow cooker (should be at least a 5-quart size). Rub in the taco seasoning to cover only the top half of the pork. Then, pour in the beer around the bottom of the slow cooker making sure it doesn’t fill higher than halfway up the pork.
Note: Beer adds additional flavor and helps break down the pork to make it tender. However, you can swap the beer with broth instead.
Cover and cook on low for at least 8 hours. If you need the pork to cook faster, cut it into smaller chunks before adding it to the slow cooker. For easy shredding, use an instant-read thermometer to be sure it reaches an internal temperature of 205 ℉.
After cooking, remove the juices from the slow cooker and reserve about ½ a cup.
Shred pork with two forks and add back a little bit of the juices at a time. You will want the pork to be juicy, but not completely soaked in liquid.
Finally, with a spoon, mix together sour cream with adobo sauce from the canned chipotle peppers. Serve the shredded pork on your favorite taco shells and drizzle with adobo sour cream. Top with a few slices of jalapeño, a squeeze of lime juice, or any of your other favorite toppings!
Best Pork Taco Toppings
Slow Cooker Pork Tacos are a twist on classic tacos and I like to keep the toppings simple! Here are a few options for quality, fresh toppings:
- Sour cream – In my opinion, the adobo sour cream is the perfect blend of spicy and creamy. You could use plain sour cream as well.
- Jalapeño slices – A great little “kick” to the pork tacos!
- Fresh cilantro – If I have this on hand, you can believe that I will be using cilantro for pork tacos. It’s the best fresh ingredient to sprinkle over a filling serving of meat and contrast with a bit of sour cream.
- Lime juice – A squeeze from a lime wedge is the perfect touch to top pork that has cooked in the distinct flavors of a light beer.
- Avocado slices – Avocado also provides a nice creamy richness to the taco.
- Shredded cheese – Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or a fiesta blend are all options to follow the more traditional taco serving. Cotija cheese or a sprinkle of feta are also great light-tasting options to bring a little extra flavor to your taco!
- Chopped fresh tomatoes – Sliced cherry or grape tomatoes are a great size for handheld tacos.
- Tortillas or shells – Most importantly, you need a taco shell or tortilla! I love to serve mine in soft flour shells, but corn tortillas served street-taco style would work too! You can warm tortillas in a skillet for a few seconds on each side right before serving.
Pork Tacos FAQs
- Can you put raw pork in a slow cooker? Yes, the slow cooker is the perfect appliance to cook raw pork low and slow, resulting in tender roasts and easily shredded meat.
- What cut of meat works best for this recipe? For the best flavor, I recommend using either a pork shoulder or pork butt. You could use a pork loin roast, but it has a much lower fat content and therefore will not have as much rich flavor. I have also found that pork roast is not quite as tender once it is cooked.
- Can this recipe be made in the InstantPot? – Yes, you can also easily make pork tacos in the Instant Pot! Add pork, beer, and seasoning to the Instant Pot. Set to high pressure for 40 minutes (adjust to a longer time if you are using a larger piece of pork). Allow for a natural pressure release, then remove and shred the pork.
- What else can I use the leftover pork for? Leftover pork from this generous recipe is amazing for leftovers. Use the shredded pork on southwest-style salads or in burritos. Serve in grilled quesadillas with leftover adobo sour cream as well!
Slow Cooker Pork Tacos
- 5 quart slow cooker
- instant-read thermometer
- 2 pounds pork shoulder roast
- 1 tablespoon homemade taco seasoning or use one store-bought packet of taco seasoning
- 8 ounces beer (vegetable broth can be substituted)
For Sour Cream:
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from can of chipotle peppers (or less depending on your preferred spice level)
- Place pork in slow cooker and rub in taco seasoning to cover top half of pork
- Pour beer around the bottom making sure it doesn’t fill higher than halfway on the pork
- Cover and cook on low for at least 8 hours
- Remove juices from the slow cooker and reserve about ½ cup
- Shred pork with two forks and add back a little liquid at a time until juicy
- With a spoon, mix together sour cream with adobo sauce
- Serve pork on your favorite taco shells and desired toppings
- Pork should reach an internal temperature of 205 degrees ℉ in order to shred easily.
- Serve with warm flour tortillas or your preferred tortilla variety.
- Pork Taco topping options: jalapeño, cilantro, lime, avocado, chopped tomatoes, and cheese.
- Cool leftover pork completely, then store in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 3 days or freezer for up to 3 months. Warm up leftover pork in the microwave or in the oven.
- To prep ahead, add pork and seasoning to a freezer-safe container or zipper bag. Store in fridge up to 3 days or freezer up to 3 months. Thaw completely and add beer to cook.