These vegan crockpot carnitas are made by slow simmering hearts of palm, onions, jalapeños, garlic, spices, and fresh orange juice until tender. Simply toss everything into a slow cooker, turn it on low heat, and get on with your day. By the time you return to your crockpot, the hearts of palm will be fall-apart tender and your kitchen will be filled with the savory, smoky scent of vegan carnitas.
Carnitas quite literally means "little meats". The beloved Mexican dish, which originated in the state of Michoacán, is made by braising or slowly simmering pork in oil or lard until tender.
In the most traditional cooking method, pork is placed in a copper pot (to evenly disperse the heat); covered in oil; seasoned with salt, cumin, oregano, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, and crushed garlic; and then slowly cooked for several hours until fall-apart tender. The meat is then used as filling in tamales, tacos, tortas, and burritos.
Having just celebrated seven years of meat-free living, it's been a lonnng time since I've consumed or made carnitas, but I decided to try my hand at creating a vegan version.
While jackfruit works great as a vegan substitute for pork, it can be a bit tricky for those living outside of major cities to procure, and I wanted to come up with a recipe that was as easy and accessible as possible.
Thankfully, hearts of palm are much easier to find and also work great as a meat-free pork substitute. (If you own a copy of my cookbook, then perhaps you've made the Pulled Hearts of Palm Tamales with Chipotle Cream + Pineapple Pico de Gallo on p. 239 and can vouch for this fact.)
So, here you have it. Vegan hearts of palm carnitas made in a crockpot...
Obviously, using hearts of palm results in a texture that is different than (read: much softer and less chewy) the tender-yet-crispy quality of classic pork carnitas, but it's the closest thing I've tasted to the traditional version since going meat-free.
This vegan carnitas is richly spiced, tangy, and satisfying, and it's perfect tucked into warm corn tortillas and outfitted with toppings.
Best part? These vegan crockpot carnitas are made in three simple steps:
1) Add everything to a crockpot or slow cooker. And by everything, I mean: hearts of palm, diced onion, minced jalapeño and garlic, smoked paprika, teensy bit of coconut sugar, dried oregano, ground cumin, sea salt, black pepper, and fresh orange juice.
2) Turn your slow cooker on low, and cook for four hours, or until the hearts of palm are fall-apart tender.
3) Use two forks to shred the hearts of palm like so...
Serve your vegan carnitas tucked into tacos, tamales, burritos, etc.
I recommend spooning a bit into warm corn tortillas and topping with sliced avocado, diced onion, cilantro, and a drizzle of cashew sour cream.
Vegan Crockpot Carnitas
Hearts of Palm Crockpot Carnitas
- 3 (14-ounce) cans hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- Juice of 1 to 2 small naval oranges (or ¼ to ½ cup orange juice, depending on desired level of tanginess)
For Serving (Optional)
- Corn tortillas, warmed
- Cashew sour cream or store-bought vegan sour cream
- Diced white onion
- Cilantro leaves
- Sliced firm-ripe avocado
For the Hearts of Palm Crockpot Carnitas
- Add the hearts of palm to a slow cooker (with the heat off). Drizzle with the olive oil. Then, sprinkle with the smoked paprika, coconut sugar, oregano, cumin, sea salt, and black pepper, and thoroughly toss to coat.
- Add the onion, garlic, jalapeño, and orange juice to the crockpot, and gently stir to combine.
- Cook on low for 4 hours, or until the hearts of palm are fall-apart tender and can be easily shredded.
- Turn off the slow cooker and use two forks to thoroughly shred the hearts of palm. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more sea salt and black pepper if desired.
- I recommend serving the carnitas tucked into warm corn tortillas and topped with a bit of cashew sour cream, diced onion, sliced avocado, and fresh cilantro.
- Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Ashley @ The Naked Food Life says
Genius, Ashley! Carnitas, used to be my go-to for tacos and burritos and your version looks so close to the real deal. I especially love that this recipe is hands-off! I was actually just drooling over the tamales in your cookbook the other day ;)
Hannah De Long says
This looks amazing and I can't wait to make it! I was curious how I could make this if I don't have a crock pot though? Thank you!
Thanks, Hannah! I'm so sorry, but I'm not sure as I haven't tested it that way. I'll be sure to let you know if I do so in the future!
Whitney Whitehead says
HI. These look delicious. I have 3 cans of jackfruit in my pantry. Do you think you would follow the recipe the same way if you are using these rather than hearts of palm?
Thanks, Whitney! The recipe should work just fine with jackfruit, too, you may just need to adjust the cooking time a bit (might take slightly longer). Also, be sure to trim away the tough triangular tips and discard the seeds in the jackfruit before you add it to the crockpot. Enjoy!
I just made these for a dinner party in which none of us our vegans, yet everyone loved it. They were so easy to prepare. I'll be making them again soon! Thank you!
I have never had hearts of palms, do they have a certain taste/texture ? or is it like jackfruit that adapts to any seasoning? Thanks.
Hi, Iris! The taste and texture of hearts of palm is very similar to jackfruit (just a bit softer), and they're typically much easier to find (at least if you live in the US).
Thanks for the reply, have both available in my area I was just curious of hearts of palm since every time I pick up jackfruit hearts of palms is always next to it. I will be trying this, this week. Thanks again :)
You're welcome, Iris! Happy cooking—hope you enjoy the recipe!
Also do you have the cashew sour cream recipe? if so , i can't seem to find it
Hi, Iris! I have a recipe for cashew sour cream in my cookbook, and there are also lots of lovely ones by other bloggers if you search online.
Do you think it'd be fine to use regular sugar for this recipe instead of coconut? (Just trying to use what I have on hand)
Btw, carnitas is something I miss the most since going vegetarian so I can't wait to try out this recipe ASAP!
Hi, Sami! Yes, regular sugar should be just fine. You might just want to start with a slightly smaller amount and taste/add from there since it's a bit sweeter than coconut sugar. Hope this helps and enjoy!
Would you advise against leaving them in the crockpot for more than 4h? I was thinking of starting these in the morning before leaving for work, but that would mean a total of 9h of cooking time. Will they get too soft?
Thank you! Can't wait to try these ;)
Hi, Carolyne! I have a feel they'll become too soft and mushy if cooked for that long. If you substitute the hearts of palm with jackfruit, you can probably get away with a longer cooking time as jackfruit is a bit more fibrous and tough. Hope this helps and enjoy!
Michelle Giroux says
Do you think m there is a sub for orange juice?
Hmm, I don't believe so. Since orange juice is also sweet, other acids (e.g., lemon juice, apple cider vinegar) wouldn't offer the same balance.
I’m going to try these today. I am out of orange juice so I’m using pineapple juice instead.
Celeste Jackson says
These were so easy to make & nice because I was working that day and could walk away. So flavorful too! I'll be making these again soon.
This is a brilliant recipe! I love how simple it was with the use of my crockpot. I used the "carnitas" as part of a taco salad with all the yummy fixings and it was delicious. This is my first time I've tried hearts of palm and I was surprised how flavorful it could be. I may have to try one of your jackfruit recipes and see how it compares. I don't know how you come up with these ideas but you are a fantastic recipe creator. Thank you!
Thank you for the kind words, Shari! So glad you're enjoying this recipe. :)
Ashley, this was excellent! Thanks for this unusual recipe.
Happy to hear you enjoyed it, Sue! Thanks for taking the time to come back and rate the recipe—means a lot. :)
What is the nutritional value & calories for this meal? I want to track it for my macros. This meal was really tasty & first time I’ve tried heart of palm for this I always use jackfruit!
Hi, Lashonda! I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe. I don't calculate macros for my recipes, but there are online applications that allow you to take a blog page link and drop it in and it will automatically populate those details for you. I believe My Fitness Pal is one of them. Hope this helps!