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!
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 charred 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!
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.
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 Serving Suggestions
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.
- Looking for a crockpot shredded pork recipe? Try Slow Cooker Pork Tacos, pulled pork that cooks all day in your crockpot in a flavorful tomatillo sauce, and is so incredibly tender.
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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Serve with pico de gallo and corn tortillas.
- 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!
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
Husband’s take: Ben has no complaints about these, ever. They’re always a hit!
Changes I would make: None!