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Take 10 minutes to throw this Coffee-Spiked Beef Carnitas recipe in the slow cooker in the morning, and you’ll come home to endless possibilities for dinner! A smoky spice blend gets a kick from coffee and is balanced with savory herbs and aromatics.

top view of spread for beef carnitas meal

We all have certain meals that we turn to time after time.

Chicken soup when we’re sick or chocolate cake for a birthday celebration. A favorite meatless meal on Mondays or pizza on Fridays. A slow-cooked roast or hearty stew in winter.

Oftentimes I forget what a huge help my Crockpot is when it comes to putting dinner on the table.

This is particularly true in cooler months that call for hearty, comforting, and healthy fare that do so well in the slow cooker. It’s like having a kitchen assistant handling the bulk of the work for you!

close up of tender beef carnitas in white bowl

I’m a big fan of braised beef! With this recipe, I liberally took inspiration from Mexican Carnitas with plenty of my own twists.

Here I went with beef instead of pork, used a non-traditional spice mix (including a generous amount of smoked sweet paprika), and sent it over the top with a spike of coffee. And I used coconut sugar (light brown sugar will also work) to balance out any bitterness from the coffee.

Coffee-Spiked Beef Carnitas Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions

coffee spiked beef carnitas ingredients

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

  • Smoked sweet paprika – This adds a smoky flavor that pairs well with the flavor of coffee here.
  • Cumin – Lends an earthy complexity.
  • Coriander – Gives a citrusy, slightly piquant flavor that goes well with cumin and thyme.
  • Coarse kosher salt and black pepper – These pantry-staple seasonings make sure this dish isn’t bland.
  • Dried thyme leaves – The herby, citrusy, slightly peppery flavor of thyme is a lovely pairing with coffee in this recipe.
  • Paprika – You can use sweet or hot paprika, or a combination of both.
  • Ground coffee – Coffee makes this beef carnitas recipe truly unique! It adds depth and complexity, and pairs well with the rich flavor of beef. In this recipe, we balance out the coffee’s bitterness with a touch of coconut sugar. You can use decaf coffee if you like.
  • Coconut sugar – Here we need a touch of sweetness to balance out the coffee’s acidity and/or bitterness. Use coconut sugar to keep this dish paleo, or use keto brown sugar to make this dish low carb and keto. Alternatively, you can use light brown sugar if that’s what you keep on hand.
  • Beef chuck roast – Look for a roast that has good marbling for the most tender, flavorful meat.
  • Yellow onions – Onion adds complexity and depth to this slow cooked meal.
  • Beef stock – We use a little bit of beef stock as our cooking liquid for this roast.

Slow Cooker Instructions

  1. Make the spice mix. Mix together the smoked sweet paprika, cumin, coriander, salt, thyme, paprika, black pepper, coffee, and coconut sugar in a medium bowl.
  2. Dump it in the slow cooker. Place the roast in the bottom of the slow cooker and sprinkle the spice mix on top (use the entire amount of the spice mixture). Add the onions on the top and sides of the meat, and then pour in the beef stock. 
  3. Set it and forget it. Cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 8 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to pull apart easily with 2 forks. (Avoid the temptation to open the slow cooker while it cooks.)
  4. Shred it and enjoy! Pull the meat apart with 2 forks and serve any way you like (such as tacos, salad bowls, rice bowls, etc.).

Instant Pot Instructions

  1. Make the spice mix. Just mix them all together!
  2. Dump it in the Instant Pot. Place the roast in the bottom of the Instant Pot and sprinkle the spice mix on top (use the entire amount of the spice mixture). Add the onions on the top, and then pour in the beef stock. Reduce the amount of beef stock to 3/4 cup.
  3. Set it and forget it. Cover the Instant Pot, making sure to set the lid to “Sealing”, and cook on “Manual, High Pressure” for 60 minutes. Once it’s done cooking, let it do a natural pressure release for 15 minutes before venting the steam and opening the pot.
  4. Shred the meat and devour! Pull the meat apart with 2 forks and serve it up.

Storage

Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.

coffee spiked beef carnitas

Beef Carnitas Recipe FAQs

What Kind of Meat is Carnitas?

Carnitas is typically a Mexican pork dish made from Boston butt, pork shoulder, or picnic ham. Carnitas means “little meats” in Spanish, and refers to the fact that the meat is so tender it’s easy to shred into little pieces.

This Beef Carnitas is a play on a classic carnitas recipe made with a beautifully marbled beef chuck roast. And similarly, it’s tender enough to shred easily!

What Can I Make with Carnitas?

One of the great things about Beef Carnitas is that once the meat is braised, you can take dinner in any number of directions!

You could go the classic route with tacos, or do a salad bowl (which is my preference), or a rice bowl.

close up top view of beef carnitas served as a salad

There are plenty of non-conventional things to do with Beef Carnitas too. You can use it as an omelet filling, toss it with cooked pasta and cheese sauce for a Tex-Mex take on mac and cheese, stir it into fried or roasted cubed potato and onion for hash (serve with fried eggs!). Or serve it on toasted buns with your favorite coleslaw and a drizzle of BBQ sauce.

You could eat this every night for a week and easily have a different meal each night. With so many uses, what better to become a slow cooker staple in your kitchen, right?!

What Goes Well with This?

More Beef Recipes to Make

shredded beef topped with cilantro in white bowl

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Coffee-Spiked Slow Cooker Beef Carnitas Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time8 hours
Servings: 10 servings
Take 10 minutes to throw this Coffee-Spiked Beef Carnitas recipe in the slow cooker in the morning, and you’ll come home to endless possibilities for dinner!

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Equipment

Ingredients
 

Beef Carnitas:

Optional Serving Ideas for a Carnitas Salad Bowl:

  • Salad greens such as baby kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, etc.
  • Chopped tomato
  • Sliced avocado
  • Chopped red onion
  • Fresh cilantro leaves
  • Crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese see Note

Instructions
 

  • Mix together the smoked sweet paprika, cumin, coriander, salt, thyme, paprika, black pepper, coffee, and coconut sugar in a medium bowl.
  • Place the roast in the bottom of the slow cooker and sprinkle the spice mix on top (use the entire amount of the spice mixture). Add the onions on the top and sides of the meat, and then pour in the beef stock.
  • Cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 8 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to pull apart easily with 2 forks. (Avoid the temptation to open the slow cooker while it cooks.)
  • Pull the meat apart with 2 forks and serve any way you like (such as tacos, salad bowls, rice bowls, etc.).

Notes

  • Net Carbs: 4g per serving
  • Low Carb and Keto Version: To lower the carbs to 2g net carbs per serving, omit the coconut sugar and use 1 tablespoon keto brown sugar.
  • Nutritional Information: Information given for this recipe is for the Beef Carnitas only and doesn’t include the optional serving ideas for a Carnitas Salad Bowl.
  • Crumbled Queso Fresco or Cotija: These Mexican cheeses are fairly easy to find at Mexican grocery stores, specialty cheese shops, and even large grocery stores that have a refrigerated case in their international food department. If you can’t find either of these types of cheese though, you can substitute crumbled goat cheese or a mildly salty feta.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.

How to Make Instant Pot Beef Carnitas

  1. Make the spice mix. Just mix the spices all together!
  2. Dump it in the Instant Pot. Place the roast in the bottom of the Instant Pot and sprinkle the spice mix on top (use the entire amount of the spice mixture). Add the onions on the top, and then pour in the beef stock. Reduce the amount of beef stock to 3/4 cup.
  3. Set it and forget it. Cover the Instant Pot, making sure to set the lid to “Sealing”, and cook on “Manual, High Pressure” for 60 minutes. Once it’s done cooking, let it do a natural pressure release for 15 minutes before venting the steam and opening the pot.
  4. Shred the meat and devour! Pull the meat apart with 2 forks and serve it up.

Nutrition

Calories: 229kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 507mg | Potassium: 489mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 319IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Beef Carnitas, Beef Carnitas Recipe, Crockpot Beef Carnitas, Slow Cooker Beef Carnitas

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beef carnitas recipe pin

This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on February 3, 2017 and updated on December 10, 2021.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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Recipe Rating




10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Wow Faith, what a menagerie of ingredients! Especially the pepper! Your creativity never ceases to amaze me! 👍❤️

  2. Thank you faith for such a great recipe. The coffee is surprising ingredient. The photos are really really really good …

  3. Karen (Back Road Journal) says:

    I didn’t bring my slow cooker when we moved to Florida…certainly do miss it when it comes to a delicious and easy sounding recipe like yours. It looks great!

  4. This is definitely my new favorite meal!

  5. Why have I never made carnitas with beef? And that coffee spike!! This sounds incredible, Faith. Adding it to our menu immediately.

  6. The Food Hunter says:

    I would never have thought to use coffee

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