Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
This easy Instant Pot Pork Carnitas recipe turns a pork shoulder into tender, juicy shredded pork perfect for creating delicious street-style tacos.
What is Pork Carnitas?
Put simply, pork carnitas is the Mexican version of pulled pork. Traditionally, the meat is slow-fried in pounds of lard and a little bit of water. The final step of the traditional cooking process creates a brown, crispy exterior crust. You would be hard pressed to walk down a street in Mexico and not find a street-side fry stand that doesn’t serve some style of carnitas in tacos and snacks.
Though this recipe doesn’t employ lard, other classic Mexican flavors and ingredients are used to create a delicious version of this tender, pull-apart pork in the Instant Pot.
Best Cut of Pork for Pork Carnitas
Just like my recipes for Instant Pot Pulled Pork, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and traditional Pulled Pork, I think a boneless pork shoulder or pork butt are the best cuts for this recipe. Both cuts are relatively tough and fatty which means that the pressure cooker is a perfect method to cook them.
How to Make Pork Carnitas in the Instant Pot
- Cut the pork into pieces. This will help to ensure that the meat will cook evenly and be pull-apart tender.
- Season the pieces of pork with salt and pepper and sear using the sauté function on the pressure cooker. This is the first step of building the flavors of the dish.
- Add the cooking liquid to the inner pot. I love the citrus in the recipe and think that it adds a balance to the deeper flavors developed by the searing along with the spices. Remember to scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen the tasty bits.
- Add the spices and stir to distribute the herbs and spices.
- Carefully seal the Instant Pot and allow to cook for 30 minutes. When the time is up, allow the pressure cooker to release pressure naturally for 15 minutes, then turn the steam release handle to allow the rest of the steam to escape.
- Remove the pork to a large bowl and shred with two forks. I like to add a little of the cooking liquid to the pork at this time.
- To create that crispy outer crust, transfer the shredded pork to a rimmed baking sheet and broil for about 3 minutes or until a deep, crispy crust is formed. This is an optional step, but I kind of think you should take the extra time to do it ;)
Ways to Serve Pork Carnitas
My favorite way to serve pork carnitas is on corn tortillas with shredded cabbage, lime wedges, and cilantro. If you like, you can use the cooking liquid as an au jus sauce to dip your tacos in. It’s delicious!
Here are some other ideas on how to use pork carnitas:
- In burritos or burrito bowls
- As a topping for nachos
- In a taco salad
- In your favorite chili recipe (or use one of mine)
- On a toasted ciabatta roll with pickled onions. The au jus dipping sauce is great with this option.
- In macaroni and cheese
- On a Nacho Grilled Cheese Sandwich
There are so many options…
This easy Instant Pot Pork Carnitas recipe turns a pork shoulder in tender, juicy shredded pork perfect for creating delicious street-style tacos.
- 4 lbs. pork shoulder or pork butt, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 4 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 Tbsp. cumin
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. paprika
- warm tortillas, for serving (optional)
- shredded cabbage, for serving (optional)
- lime wedges, for serving (optional)
- cilantro, for serving (options)
- Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper.
- Add oil to the inner pot and select SAUTÉ to pre-heat. When the indicator says HOT, work in batches, adding the pork to the pot in a single layer, browning evenly. Continue until all pork has been seared.
- Add all of the pork back into the inner pot. Switch to the WARM setting and add orange juice, lime juice, and water to the inner pot, scraping to loosen the bits and pieces on the bottom.
- Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, coriander, and paprika, stirring to combine.
- Close and lock the lid. Make sure the steam release handle is in the sealed position.
- Select PRESSURE COOK and cook on HIGH, setting the time for 30 minutes.
- When time is up, allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes. Turn the steam release handle to the venting position and allow the rest of the steam to escape. When the valve has dropped, unlock the lid and open carefully. Remove pork to a large bowl and shred using two forks. If you like, you can add a little of the cooking liquid to the shredded pork.
- Serve with warm tortillas, lime wedges, shredded cabbage, and cilantro.
Optional: Place the shredded pork on a rimmed baking sheet and broil in the oven until a crisp crust is formed, about 3 minutes.
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