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Haven’t heard of a thermal cooker? It’s basically a non-electric crockpot. Check out my post about thermal cookers here. You’ll be glad you did. It’s a game changer!

I have zero Mexican Spanish heritage, but boy, we sure love Mexican food. That being said, I’ve never had authentic carnitas. I’m not even sure this recipe can be considered ‘carnitas’ because apparently authentic carnitas are supposed to be braised or simmered in oil…these aren’t. BUT I ran across this crockpot recipe on Pinterest and knew it had thermal cooker potential, so I tried it. Oh. My. Goodness. It was amazing, but a bit spicy for the kiddos, so I’ve tweaked it to make it more family friendly and in the thermal cooker. The trick is crisping the meat in the broiler before serving. Now, I don’t know about you, but my boat oven’s broiler is a bit…finicky. I always feel like I’m going to light my eyebrows on fire, so…I have my husband do it. That being said, I’ve also just put the pan in the oven on max temp and crisped the meat that way, but it takes longer. So, broiler is better, but if yours is persnickety like mine, just use your oven.

Recipe feeds a hungry family of four

What you need:

2 pork tenderloins (~ 3-4 pounds), cut into chunks (I usually have vacuum packed tenderloins in the boat freezer, very versatile)
2 cup water
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 package tortillas (we like the small soft ones for this meal)
Serving options:
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (fresh is best, dried will do)
1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 medium onion, diced
sour cream

What you do:

  1. Add all ingredients to large pot that came with your thermal cooker and put on pot lid, over medium heat, bring to a boil.
  2. Boil for 10 minutes.*
  3. Carefully remove pot off stove and place into thermal cooker. Close lid. Let those flavors meld and ingredients continue cooking for at least 6 hours.
  4. Open lids carefully and pull out pork onto a cookie sheet. It will be very tender. Shred the pork. (I like the 2 fork method.) It should be super easy. 
  5. Light the broiler. Spread the shredded pork in a single layer on the cookie sheet.
  6. Place the pan under the broiler for ~5 minutes, or until edges of pork are beginning to brown and crisp up.
  7. Remove from oven & ladle one full ladle of juices from the large pot onto the meat. Stir around on pan.
  8. Broil for an additional ~5 minutes to get even more flavorful and crispy. (The crispy bits really are the best!)
  9. Remove from oven & ladle an additional full ladle of juices from the large pot onto the meat. Stir around on pan.
  10. Serve immediately in small tortillas with your options of choice.


  • Be sure to chunk the meat in ~3 inch pieces so they’ll cook through faster.
  • You can use chicken broth instead of water & bouillon. (We use bouillon on our boat to save space.)
  • * If you don’t have 6 hours to spare, leave pot on stove to boil an additional 15 minutes before putting into thermal cooker. Everything will now be ready in 3 hours. 
  • If you haven’t taken the meat out to broil within 8 hours of sealing it in the thermal cooker, check temp. If it’s cooled too much, put it back on the stovetop and bring it to a boil before taking out meat.

Check out our other family friendly favorite thermal cooker recipes:

  • Breakfast:
  • Lunch or Dinner:
    • Baked Potato Soup
    • Hamburger Soup
    • Rice 
      • Notice there are 2 different recipes: 
        • when you need a lot of rice = cook it in the big pot (then I usually cook beans in the top pot at the same time)
        • when you don’t need as much = cook it in the top pot (then I usually have soup or something in the bottom pot at the same time)

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