Steak Carnitas Meat in the Crock-Pot

5 from 1 review

Smoky and hearty Steak Carnitas Meat in the Crock-Pot is one of the best set-it-and-forget-it meals that’s exquisitely flavored and makes some tender and rich tacos.

Smoky and hearty Steak Carnitas Meat in the Crock-Pot is one of the best set-it-and-forget-it meals that's exquisitely flavored and makes some tender and rich tacos.

Steak Carnitas Meat in the Crock-Pot

What’s better than tacos? There isn’t much that I can think of… Maybe my kids and husband and, on a good day, our new puppy. Right below them on my list of favorite things? Tacos. Obviously. This Crock-Pot recipe will take your taco game to a whole new level, too, so get ready. I could eat these over and over and over again — they just don’t get old.

Perfectly seasoned with some hearty veggies to beef it up (pun intended), these steak carnitas bring some serious flavor to all your favorite Tex-Mex dishes, including tacos (of course), as well as quesadillas, nachos, and big-as-your-face burritos. Plus, this recipe is super-duper flexible. For real — I’ve used this method and spice rub on elk steaks, pork, and lamb, and it goes well on all the things. Just give it a try for yourself to see what I mean!

Smoky and hearty Steak Carnitas Meat in the Crock-Pot is one of the best set-it-and-forget-it meals that's exquisitely flavored and makes some tender and rich tacos.

What’s the difference between barbacoa and carnitas?

Barbacoa comes from the same word as “barbecue,” while carnitas means “little meats.” Barbacoa is often braised meat from a cow head, and carnitas are often made of pork and are fried in their own fat. (Although, my rendition, as you know, uses steak!)

How do you make steak carnitas?

Steak carnitas in the slow cooker are easier than you could imagine. Simply rub the flank steak down with your dry spice rub (recipe below), place it in the Crock-Pot, cover with additional veggies (onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno), and cook on low for 7 or 8 hours. When the time is up, remove the meat from the cooker, and shred in a bowl using two forks. Serve on tortillas for tacos, or on your favorite Tex-Mex meal!

Can you make steak carnitas in the Instant Pot?

You can! You’ll want to be sure to add some beef broth so it doesn’t dry out. Use the “saute” setting for a few minutes before pressure-cooking it for about 30 minutes.

Smoky and hearty Steak Carnitas Meat in the Crock-Pot is one of the best set-it-and-forget-it meals that's exquisitely flavored and makes some tender and rich tacos.


Steak Carnitas Meat in the Crockpot

  • Author: Melissa Griffiths - Bless this Mess
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 7 hours
  • Total Time: 7 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 10 1x


Smoky and hearty Steak Carnitas Meat in the Crock-Pot is one of the best set-it-and-forget-it meals that’s exquisitely flavored and makes some tender and rich tacos.



For the Carnitas:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin or smoked cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds flank steak
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

Serving Options:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Grated cheese
  • Tomato
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa


  1. Mix all of the spices together in a small bowl for the spice rub. Rub the spices into each side of the steak, using all of the mixture.
  2. Place the spice-rubbed steak in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the chopped onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno on top of the steak.
  3. Cook for on low for 7 to 8 hours.
  4. After the cooking time has lapsed, remove the steak from the Crock-Pot and shred with two forks. Serve immediately, or return to the Crock-Pot for a few hours until you are ready to eat.
  5. Serve on corn tortillas with your favorite toppings.


  • Flank steak is generally a tougher, and therefore cheaper, piece of meat. It’s a great candidate for the Crock-Pot. I have actually used everything from elk steaks to lamb and pork with this recipe, and loved them all. It’s VERY versatile, so use what you have on hand or what’s on sale — if it’s a leaner cut of meat, you may need to add a bit of beef stock at the end to make sure it doesn’t dry out before it’s done cooking.
  • Category: dinner
  • Method: slow cooker
  • Cuisine: American, Tex-Mex, Mexican

Keywords: steak, carnitas, tacos, slow cooker, beef, tacos

Complete the meal with some of these sides:

This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated and rephotographed in June 2019.

Smoky and hearty Steak Carnitas Meat in the Crock-Pot is one of the best set-it-and-forget-it meals that’s exquisitely flavored and makes some tender and rich tacos.

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38 Recipes for Busy Moms
63 Responses
  1. Becki

    We have been following your 2 week plan for our resolution to eat clean! This is the recipe I’m making today! I love that you use your left-overs for other meals too–thanks for doing the planning for us!

  2. Sarah

    Hi. What’s a crockpot? Is it a cast iron pot that goes into the oven or an electric slow cooker? (I’m from that foreign speaking place- the UK ;)) I am really excited about your 2 week plan. Maybe you could include a shopping list! I know its a cheeky request!

  3. This recipe looks delicious. I am always looking for new healthy slow cooker recipes. I have set some goals to eat healthy and workout and creating this plan has really helped me reach my goals. It is about setting goals and sticking to them and there are some great support tools to help you succeed.

  4. I have to ask, I cook with my slow cooker all the time and always use liquid. Should there be a liquid, or is it really just the meat and veggies? This looks delicious, but I’m worried about that detail.

    1. Melissa

      Great question! That totally depends on your slow-cooker and it’s instructions. I’ve made this at least a dozen more times since posting the recipe and it works great. My crock pot doesn’t need all the liquid… and the meat does make some of it’s own. I say find your instruction manual online and see what it says, but if it’s ok to do, then I know it works! Good luck 🙂

      1. katie

        Awesome! Thanks! I love this blog btw. I stumbled on it via pintrest and I think i pinned almost every recipe I coukd. I love to cook and everything looks amazing!

    1. Melissa

      I used so much elk making this recipe… it’s really such a great use for it! And I made it for so many people and just never mentioned it was game meat! No one could even tell 🙂 So glad you liked it!

    1. Melissa

      I’ve done it both ways… the spices on the outside sink in more when you start with a thawed piece of meat but if you are short on time I’d still do it frozen. And of course the cooking time is a longer with a frozen piece of meat. Enjoy!

    1. Nope, no low the meat will create it’s own juice! If it’s looking try of you think you want a little you sure can, I also like to add a can of diced tomatoes or salsa if my meat is looking extra lean. Let me know how it turns out! Melissa

    1. I think that you could do either… I make it and then freeze the extra already cooked meat to pull out and heat up for a quick dinner! Or you could get it all ready, freeze it, and then dump it in the crockpot on the day you are planning to have tacos. ENJOY!

  5. I just made this tonight and we all love it. I’ve been looking for a great steak/carnitas recipe for awhile and making it in the slow cooker was almost effortless.

  6. Debbie

    since its in the slow cooker could you use a cheap cut roast? Its hard to find flank steak where i live , was thinking maybe eye of round is lean and might work too?

    1. Yes, yes, yes!! I have used all kinds of lamb, beef, and pork roasts with great success! If I think the roast is extra lean that I might add a can of diced tomatoes (with the juice) for a little extra liquid so that it doesn’t dry out or I’ll adjust the cooking time until it is done and tender. I’d for sure make it with whatever you have on hand…. it’s delicious and easy!

  7. Talullah

    This looks great, and I’m totally going to try it, but “carnitas” = pork, so you should probably edit the name of the dish.

    1. Carnitas literally means “little meats”, so steak carnitas are little beef meats! I’m hungry just writing that. Sure they are traditionally pork, but steak is really good too!

  8. I actually managed to cram my 2 lb. roast into my 2 qt. crock pot! It smells great. My only worry is that it may not be done until late. I started the heat at 1 PM. I turned it up to high at about 4.

  9. Clancy

    Hi Melissa 🙂 Could you use chicken or turkey with these spices do you think? I’m loving your two week summer menu plan! Thank you!

    1. Yes, for sure! I have made it with everything from elk and venison to chicken and pork. It works great! If the meat is on the lean side you might want to add a little chicken stock or something so that it doesn’t dry out while cooking. Enjoy!!!

  10. Courtney Alker

    I tried to read through the thread to make sure this isn’t a repeat question…So, when buying meat, provided you are choosing store bought for the occasion, do you have any tips? I try to buy organic when i can, but flank steak is harder to find. I’m wondering if you know of farms you trust or anything that can help a girl out with one hungry husband and a growing boy staring back at me every night I try a meatless meal. 🙂 thanks in advance.

    1. I don’t buy much meat at the store anymore, but if I were I’d just buy what is on sale. Pork and beef roasts are both great in this recipe, and I think beef is generally easier to find organic if that’s something you are looking for. I’m not sure if that helps… does it?! Let me know!

    1. I buy corn tortillas from the store (they normally have like 3 ingredients corn, lime, and salt) and just fry them in a bit of oil (maybe a 1/2 inch in the bottom of a skillet), if I want them crunchy like those in the picture I get the oil really hot and then fry them curved (just hold one half down in the oil with a fork and use tongs to hold the other half out. They make this meal a real treat! I highly recommend fresh fried corn tortillas 🙂

  11. I am doing your 2 week clean eating plan and loving the different meal ideas. For breakfast daily I have done oats in mason jars and for lunch i have done salads in mason jars. I am having to google a few things like these carnitas as we have never heard of them before in New Zealand. I have the steak slow cooking now and it smells delish! Roll on 2 hours and we can eat them!

      1. Absolutely divine! Plenty left for tonight’s dinner! Also made the Thai Green Curry last night & I have been to Thailand & i could have sworn I was back there eating it! Thanks again!

  12. Ashley

    My husband is Latino, and a picky eater. It’s hard to find recipes that he really likes. I recently decided to make this for him.

    Let me just say, this recipe is 1000% husband approved–he could NOT stop talking about it and would not hear of me bringing leftovers to work for my friends. I thought it was pretty amazing too. And it doesn’t get much easier to make! Thanks so much for a great recipe. 🙂

  13. Trish

    The picture and recipe are showing up all jumbled. I can’t read the spices, could you reply here with them. I think I can make the rest of it out. Love Carnitas!

    1. Here’s my tip- if you don’t mind frying, do that (an inch of oil in a little skillet, fry for a few seconds on each side). If that isn’t your thing you can get the skillet pretty hot (medium high) and then spray it with cooking spray. Add the tortilla and then spray the top of the tortilla with a little more cooking spray. Flip over and cook about 30 seconds on each side. I do both of these often depending on my mood and how many calories I want to consume. Fried is delicious but the second option is still really good with less hassle and calories. You’ll like it much better than the microwave!

  14. Marianne Rohde

    Does the meat turn out moist?
    I feel like you need some liquid or it is going to yield shoe leather .
    From experience , does it turn out famously with no liquid?
    Thank you .

    1. I don’t think it would been to be cooked as long since they don’t generally have bones. I’d check the meat after maybe 25-30 minutes so that it doesn’t over cook.

        1. Gottach now! Nope, I don’t change a thing and I do make this with chicken occasionally (still just don’t over cook), it’s very good! The chicken gets a little dry in the slow cook so sometimes I’ll add a little chicken stock or even some tomato juice to the bottom of the slow cooker so it has a little liquid to cook in. You are going to love it.

  15. deb c }i{

    You got the puppy!!!!!!!!! I will probably never knowingly eat barbaco again! My brain won’t let me! bahahahaha. PS….I’m gonna try this soon!!!

  16. deb c }i{

    Hey…this stuff is good…really, really, really good! I always slightly panic at the words cayenne pepper and jalapeno…I’m a wimp….but I made the recipe as printed…well, I used a London Broil instead of Flank steak because Flank, Skirt or Flat-Iron do not exist in my store…..and…..the flavors were amazing! Even though we threw the shredded meat into tortillas and topped them like regular tacos, the taste and texture weren’t even similar! Mr. Picky won’t knowingly eat bell peppers, so I chopped them up small and they disappeared into the meat perfectly. If he had spotted a green thing, I would have told him it was jalapeno anyway! This recipe is a 100% keeper! Thanks a zillion!!!

  17. deb c

    We had another night of carnitas. Easily this could be made into enchiladas, burritos or just a pile of yummy stuff on a plate with other sides to compliment it. The remainder has been divided into servings and placed in the freezer for nights I don’t want to cook and of course, I have a serving to run thru the freeze dryer. It looked lean enough to FD ok…..I will test run the first batch and if it turns out amazing, I will cook another batch and skim off any fat hiding in the liquid before adding the meat/veggies back in. Less fat means a longer storage life. This could be another fantastic trail dinner to share with you someday!

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Bless This Mess - About Me

I’m Melissa, and I want to help you feed your family wholesome food.

As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.

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