Meltingly tender, Instant Pot carnitas are ready in a fraction of the time it normally takes to make this traditional braised pork. So flavorful and delicious, carnitas will become an Instant Pot favorite!

Crispy pork instant pot carnitas on flour tortillas (two pictured), topped with pico de gallo. A bowl of pico de gallo is also pictured.

You could say that carnitas are Mexican pulled pork. Literally translated “little meats,” pork carnitas are traditionally braised in lard or oil for three to four hours until the pork is fall apart tender, with crispy bits. Served in soft corn tortillas and topped with pico de gallo, carnitas are so finger-licking good and it’s not surprising how popular they are. 

Maybe you aren’t convinced of the usefulness of your Instant Pot yet. Try these Instant Pot carnitas and you’ll never look back! Instead of braising pork for half a day, these carnitas will be well-done and so unbelievably tender in an hour. Yes, that’s right, an hour (disclaimer: that doesn’t include marinating time). No added oil or lard. 

Serve Instant Pot carnitas at your next get-together. Make the pork ahead and reheat it under the broiler when you’re ready to serve it with your favorite taco toppings. So good!

Overhead view of a sheet pan full of crispy bits of pork carnitas.

About these Instant Pot carnitas:

Instant Pot carnitas are not at all difficult to make. Besides the pork, you probably have everything you need in your pantry. 

Use four to five pounds of boneless pork shoulder or Boston butt to make carnitas. Cut into two inch chunks, more or less. Trim off excess fat and put the pork right into your Instant Pot. 

Mix up a simple marinade of orange juice, lime juice, a few cloves of garlic, a couple bay leaves, and seasonings. The seasonings are a mixture of salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, oregano, and coriander. If you intend to make carnitas on a regular basis, you could mix up a big batch of the seasoning and keep a jar of it on hand. I like to do that with taco seasoning. So convenient!

Pour the marinade over the pork, stir it up, and let it marinate for 30 minutes.

Cover the Instant Pot, and set it for fifteen minutes at High Pressure. It takes mine about twenty additional minutes to come to pressure. Allow the pressure to natural release for fifteen minutes, then release any remaining pressure. 

You may be wondering about the “crispy bits.” Aren’t they what make carnitas so good? That’s why we add one final step.

Close up view of pork carnitas that have become golden brown and crispy under a broiler.

When the pork is cool enough to handle, remove it from the Instant Pot and spread it out on a sheet pan. Shred the pork chunks with a couple of forks, sprinkle on some of the cooking liquid, and broil the carnitas for five to ten minutes until the pork browns just a bit. You decide how brown and crispy you want it.

Alternatively, brown carnitas in a large skillet over high heat. Heat for about five minutes without stirring so the shredded pork browns on the bottom, stir well, and continue until desired brownness. 

Carnitas made in an instant pot, on a corn tortilla with pico de gallo.

Carnitas Serving Suggestions

Serve carnitas with soft corn tortillas, homemade pico de gallo, lime wedges, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded cabbage, guacamole, pickled onions, and sour cream or crema.  

Mexican corn dip, refried beans, and cilantro lime rice would be great side dishes. Don’t forget tortilla chips with salsa and a frosty Dos Equis beer. 

Corn tortillas on a black platter, topped with pico de gallo and pork carnitas.

How to make these carnitas your own:

While you won’t want to change this basic carnitas recipe much, other than adjusting seasonings as desired, there are lots of ways to serve carnitas.

  • Make a burrito bowl. Serve carnitas with rice, or other grain, in a bowl, with desired toppings.
  • Serve carnitas wrapped in flour tortillas with toppings to make burritos.
  • Like loaded chips and cheese? Carnitas would be perfect on nachos. Add carnitas to these Cauliflower Nachos, replacing the chicken.

A black platter with two tortillas filled with pork carnitas and pico de gallo. Additional tortillas and pico de gallo are also visible.

Storage and Reheating Tips

Pork carnitas are great leftover. In fact, they taste a little better the next day.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days, or up to three months in the freezer. 

Make ahead tip

Make carnitas a day or two ahead, but skip the crisping step (broiler or frying pan). Gently reheat them in a slow cooker or Dutch oven, and then crisp them up under the broiler. They’ll be great!

Other Instant Pot recipes:

Leave the oven and stove turned off! Use your Instant Pot to make:

 

Carnitas on a corn tortilla with pico de gallo.

Instant Pot Carnitas - perfect every time!

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Additional Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Meltingly tender, Instant Pot carnitas are ready in a fraction of the time it normally takes to make this traditional braised pork. So flavorful and delicious, carnitas will become an Instant Pot favorite!

Ingredients

  • 4-5 pounds boneless pork shoulder meat, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice (from 1 large orange)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 1-2 limes)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Combine chicken broth, orange juice, lime juice, garlic, bay leaves, salt, cumin, oregano, paprika, coriander, and pepper in small bowl or measuring cup. Put trimmed pork into Instant Pot. Pour marinade over the pork, stir to coat well. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Cover Instant Pot, turn valve to seal, and set for 15 minutes at high pressure (“pressure cook” or “manual” mode, depending on your model). Pork will take approximately 20 minutes to come to full pressure before the cooking time starts. Allow pressure to naturally release for 15 minutes before turning valve to “vent” to release any remaining pressure.
  3. Allow to cool enough to handle pork.  Use a slotted spoon to remove pork, shred on sheet pan, sprinkle with some of the cooking liquid, broil for 5 minutes until tips of pork are slightly crisp. (Or a large skillet over high heat, stirring only once or twice).
  4. Serve with pico de gallo and corn tortillas.

Notes

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days, or up to three months in the freezer. 
  • Make ahead tip: Make carnitas a day or two ahead, but skip the crisping step. Gently reheat in a slow cooker or Dutch oven, and then crisp them up under the broiler. They'll be great!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 of 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 880Total Fat: 63gSaturated Fat: 23gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 34gCholesterol: 268mgSodium: 610mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 71g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Verdict: SO obsessed with these. They are one of my favorite things to make in the Instant Pot.
Husband’s take: Ben has no complaints about these, ever. They’re always a hit!
Changes I would make: None!
Difficulty: Easy!