Instant Pot Carnitas


Instant Pot Carnitas

crispy instant pot carnitas on oven tray

No matter how extensive the taco menu, whenever I have a chance to build my own taco flight, the carnitas taco always makes the cut. Today’s Instant Pot Carnitas taste restaurant-worthy. \

crispy instant pot carnitas on oven tray

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Plus, since this recipe is coming from your own kitchen, you can add as many to your flight as you like!

Thanks to my extensive sampling, the carnitas taco has become my baseline for judging the overall quality of a taco joint. (I do the same thing with Instant Pot Pulled Pork when comparing BBQ establishments.)

  • Put simply, caritas are a Mexican version of pulled pork.
  • Pork shoulder (or pork butt) is the meat typically used for carnitas.
  • The pork is cooked with Mexican spices like chili powder and cumin, oregano, and citrus juice until fall-apart tender.
instant pot carnitas pork tacos on a plate

Freshly shredded, carnitas taste fabulous, but what makes them truly impossible to stop eating is the way the pork is finished off.

Once the pork is cooked and shredded, the meat is fried on the stove top (or my preferred easier and more healthy carnitas method, under the oven broiler) until the edges are tantalizingly crispy.

The contrast of the crispy edges with the juiciness of the meat is a thing of beauty.

It’s why I can’t help but order carnitas any chance I get!

perfect broiled instant pot carnitas for tacos

How to Make Instant Pot Carnitas

Pork shoulder and pork butt are tough, fatty cuts of meat, meaning they traditionally need a long, slow cook time to tenderize (like this Slow Cooker Pulled Pork).

The fat breaks down and turns the pork melt-in-your-mouth juicy.

  • Pros: it’s basically impossible to overcook pulled pork in the Instant Pot or anytime you are cooking it over low heat.
  • Cons: pulled pork can take forever to cook.

SOLUTION: The Instant Pot!

The Instant Pot locks in moisture and makes it possible to cook traditionally low-and-slow cuts of meat in a fraction of the time.

crispy instand pot pork carnitas

How Long to Cook Carnitas in the Instant Pot

Instead of 6 hours or more, this Instant Pot carnitas recipe cooks in roughly 1 hour 25 minutes. Here’s how the total cook time breaks out:

  • 15 minutes: estimated time for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and the timer to begin.
  • 45 minutes: cook the pulled pork on high pressure for 45 minutes. (This might not seem “instant” but remember, you are saving hours here.)
  • 15 minutes: allow the pressure to release naturally prior to opening the Instant Pot.
  • 10 minutes: crisp the pork under the broiler (soooo worth it!).

The Ingredients

  • Pork Shoulder. This tough cut of meat becomes fall-apart tender and cooks in the pressure cooker in a fraction of the time compared to other methods.

Pork Shoulder v. Pork Butt

These two terms are often used interchangeably and you can use either cut in this recipe with success. Your grocery store may label the cut either way.

  • Pork butt and pork shoulder both come from the shoulder of the pig.
  • If you want to get technical, pork butt (also called Boston butt) comes from above the shoulder blades, while pork shoulder meat extends down to the pig’s front hoofs.
  • Pork butt contains more fat and marbling, but both are nicely marbled and make stellar pulled pork carnitas.
instant pot pork tacos on a plate
  • Orange Juice. Freshly squeezed citrus juice will set your carnitas apart from the rest. It balances the spices and gives the meat needed acidity.
  • Garlic + Onion. These aromatics give the carnitas depth. One of my favorite parts about cooking with an Instant Pot is that everything sautés in the same pot, saving dishes.

Equipment Tip

This is the Instant Pot model I’ve owned (and loved!) for years. If you’ve been on the fence about buying an Instant Pot, this list of healthy Instant Pot recipes may convince you.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar. This bright acid helps cut the fat in the pork and makes for extra scrumptious cooking juices.

Substitution Tip

For an additional level of citrus flavor that still provides the necessary acidity, use 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice in place of the apple cider vinegar.

  • Chili Powder + Chipotle Chile Powder + Cumin. This trio of smoky spices gives the carnitas cooked-all-day flavor.

TIP!

This carnitas recipe is spicy in a way that kept us coming back for more. Reduce the amount of chipotle chili powder if your family is sensitive to spice.

  • Oregano. Used often in traditional Mexican cooking, oregano gives a subtle herbal note and one more dimension.
  • Jalapeño. To make sure everyone is awake. Be sure to remove the seeds and membrane or your carnitas will be VERY spicy.
  • Chicken Broth. Combined with the pork’s juices, it makes for a STELLAR finishing sauce to spoon over the juicy pork. (Forget Instant Pot carnitas Dr. Pepper style. Using the pork’s own liquid is a serious upgrade and better for you too!)

The Directions

pork shoulder for instant pot carnitas on a plate
  1. Season the pork and let sit for 30 minutes.
seasoning for instant pot carnitas tacos
  1. Add the liquid and seasoning to a measuring cup.
saute spices for instant pot carnitas
  1. Sauté the oil, onion, and jalapeño in the Instant Pot.
juices in the instant pot for pork carnitas
  1. Add half the broth and scrape any stuck-on bits.
carnitas pork shoulder in the instant pot
  1. Add the pork, then pour in the remaining liquids. Cook on HIGH pressure for 45 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
tender shredded pork in the instant pot
  1. Preheat the oven’s broiler to HIGH, then shred the pork directly in the Instant Pot.
shredded instant pot pork carnitas on a baking sheet
  1. Broil the pork for 3 to 5 minutes, until the edges begin crisping.
broiled pork carnitas on a tray
  1. Lightly toss and return to broil for 3 to 5 minutes more. Enjoy hot, piled into warm tortillas or with toppings of choice!

How to Serve Carnitas

Once the carnitas meat is cooked, you can use it any way you like.

  • Tacos. Our go-to. Try them topped with this Healthy Coleslaw or the avocado slaw from my Shrimp Tacos.
  • Quesadilla. Take a note from this Pulled Pork Quesadilla, but use carnitas meat for an extra layer of Mexican flair.
  • Burrito. Wrap your carnitas up in a tortilla with rice, Instant Pot Refried Beans, and cheese.
  • Nachos. Swap the carnitas for the chicken in these crockpot Healthy Nachos.
  • Salad. Change up this Healthy Taco Salad by using carnitas in place of the ground turkey.
  • Chipotle Bowl. You’ll put the fast-food version to shame!
  • Right off the Pan. You must nibble a few bites of the carnitas meat hot off the pan with your fingers. This Instant Pot pork recipe is that kind of good.
instant pot carnitas for tacos

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate leftover shredded pork in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers on the stovetop in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat or in the microwave.

TIP!

Save any juices from the Instant Pot to use when reheating the pork in the Dutch oven. This will prevent the pork from drying out when reheating, plus make further use of its fab flavors.

  • To Freeze. Freeze pulled pork in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Meal Prep Tip

Prepare the carnitas up to the point of placing them in the oven and refrigerate. Just before serving, rewarm the meat on the stove top, then broil it under the oven to crisp it up.

Pair Carnitas With

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

  • Measuring Cups. Made with thick, durable glass.
  • Tongs. The locking feature is great for no cluttering kitchen drawers.
  • Baking Sheet. This commercial baking sheet is made with aluminum so it won’t rust.

The Best Instant Pot

This 7-in-1 Instant Pot with a dozen programmable settings has proven to be exceptionally durable for me.

crispy instant pot carnitas on oven tray

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

I brought these Instant Pot carnitas over to friends for a group dinner, and I thought we’d have leftovers.

Wrong. The meat VANISHED.

My pals (also taco night regulars) declared this recipe some of the best carnitas meat they’d ever eaten. I can’t wait for you to try it too!

[wrpm-recipe-video]

crispy instant pot carnitas on oven tray
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Instant Pot Carnitas

Wow a crowd with this Instant Pot carnitas recipe with tender, melt-in-your mouth pork shoulder and Mexican spices. Elevate taco night!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8 to 10 people
Calories 262kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 pounds boneless pork butt Boston butt or pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus additional to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice from about 1 large orange
  • 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can low sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 1 jalapeño stemmed, seeded and diced

FOR SERVING:

  • Flour or corn tortillas or cooked brown rice
  • Toppings of choice: chopped fresh cilantro feta or queso fresco, sliced avocado, sliced or diced onion, diced jalapeño

Instructions

  • Season the pork on all sides with 2 teaspoons of the salt. Let sit for 30 minutes to come to room temperature.
    pork shoulder for instant pot carnitas on a plate
  • In a mixing bowl or large measuring cup, stir together the orange juice, garlic, vinegar, chipotle chile powder, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and black pepper. Set aside.
    seasoning for instant pot carnitas tacos
  • Warm the oil in the Instant Pot, using the pot’s sauté function. Add the onion and jalapeño. Cook until the onion is beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
    saute spices for instant pot carnitas
  • Turn the Instant Pot off. Splash in about half of the broth. With a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, remove any stuck-on bits of food (there may not be any, but if there are, they must be removed or the Instant Pot could register a BURN warning).
    juices in the instant pot for pork carnitas
  • Add the pork, then pour in the remaining broth and the orange juice mixture. Turn the pork pieces to combine the ingredients and coat the pork evenly on all sides.
    carnitas pork shoulder in the instant pot
  • Close and seal the Instant Pot. Cook on HIGH pressure for 45 minutes. Once the pressure has built and the time has elapsed, let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
  • Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven’s broiler to high. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  • With two forks, shred the pork directly in the Instant Pot, discarding any large bits of remaining fat. Stir the pork in the sauce to coat it evenly.
    tender shredded pork in the instant pot
  • Use a spoon to scoop the pork onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread the pork into an even layer. Broil the pork for 3 to 5 minutes, until the edges of the pork begin browning and crisping up (don't walk away! It can quickly start to burn).
    shredded instant pot pork carnitas on a baking sheet
  • To warm the tortillas, wrap them in foil and pop them into the oven’s center rack while the pork broils. Or, you can heat the tortillas in a dry skillet on the stove.
  • Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Lightly toss and stir the pork to expose unbroiled sides. Return the pan to the oven and broil for 3 to 5 minutes more (the meat should become nice and crispy at its edges). Enjoy hot, piled into warm tortillas or over rice with toppings of choice.
    broiled pork carnitas on a tray

Video

Notes

  • TO STORE. Refrigerate pork in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
  • TO REHEAT. Rewarm leftovers on the stovetop in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
  • TIP: Save the juices from the Instant Pot to use when reheating the pork in the Dutch oven. This will prevent the pork from drying out when reheating, plus continue to marinate its great flavors!
  • To Freeze. Freeze pulled pork in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 10 | Calories: 262kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Potassium: 678mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 432IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 3mg

Related Recipes

Thanks to its versatility and ease, you can do so much with pork in the Instant Pot or slow cooker. Here are some of my favorite pork recipes:

READ: Instant Pot Carnitas