This easy Instant Pot Carnitas recipe results in tender, juicy pork carnitas with the most perfect crispy texture!
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I’m all about quick and easy Instant Pot recipes. And while the name may imply otherwise, the Instant Pot doesn’t actually make everything in an “instant.” But it does make cooking so much easier and hands-free.
Traditionally, I would make these carnitas in the slow cooker, letting them cook for 10 hours while I’m away at work. That slow cooking process really gets the pork nice and tender, and shred-able, exactly what you want with pork carnitas.
But you know, there are some days when I just don’t make the time to plan ahead for dinner.
That’s usually when the Instant Pot comes out. It can transform a tough cut of meat that would normally take all day to cook, in a fraction of the time.
Plus, while those juicy pork carnitas cook away in the Instant Pot, that’s the perfect time to prep your garnishes for these Instant Pot Pork Carnitas – quick pickled red onion, cilantro lime crema, guacamole, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro and lime wedges.
It’s also the perfect time to warm up some corn tortillas.
Traditional carnitas would take all day in my crockpot. But this instant pot version cooks in only 40 minutes. To that, you’ll need to add about 10 minutes for the pressure to build and 15 minutes for the pressure to release, so you’re looking at just over an hour from start to finish.
But there’s one last step – the most important part to get those pork carnitas nice and crispy at the end – popping them under the broiler with a sprinkle of salt for about 5 minutes to get those beautiful browned bits. Yum!
This is a great recipe for parties, since it makes a lot of carnitas. Or for meal prep, since you can keep the shredded pork on hand for making burrito bowls, tacos, or salad throughout the week.
Instant Pot Carnitas Ingredients
- Pork shoulder – this cut of meat results in fall apart tender carnitas. You can also use pork butt.
- Garlic salt
- Brown sugar
- Dried basil
- Chili powder
How to make Instant Pot Carnitas
- Cut your boneless pork shoulder into large cubes – This helps to cut down on cooking time.
- Season the pork cubes well with loads of yummy spices – garlic salt, chili powder, dried oregano, dried basil, cumin, ground coriander, brown sugar, and sweet paprika. You could also use taco seasoning here.
- Add in the cooking liquids – This is what helps the pressure build in the instant pot, but it also flavors the meat – fresh squeezed orange and lime juice and bit of water to top it off.
- Then just seal the pot and set it to cook on high pressure for 40 minutes.
- For crispy carnitas, arrange the cooked carnitas on a baking sheet and pop them under a hot broiler for a couple minutes to get those delicious, crispy edges.
- Serve them up with your favorite toppings!
I like to serve my Instant Pot pork carnitas in the traditional style of the street taco – dressed simply with cilantro, avocado and some quick pickled onions.
You can make those pretty pink pickled onions up to two weeks ahead of time. In truth, I normally have a jar in my fridge at all times.
What Toppings Do You Put on Carnitas?
- Pickled Onions
- Cilantro Lime Crema
- Chipotle Crema
- Pico de Gallo
- Sour Cream
- Mango Salsa
- Pineapple Salsa
- Salsa Verde
My favorite way to serve carnitas is in the traditional style of the street taco. Dressed simply with cilantro, avocado and some quick pickled onions.
The best part is, you can make those pretty pink pickled onions up to two weeks ahead of time. In truth, I normally have a jar in my fridge at all times.
How to Store
Carnitas will last in the fridge for up to five days. Store them in an airtight container. They can also be frozen for up to three months. I like portion the cooked pork into individual freezer bags and freeze them flat.
Al pastor and carnitas are both pork, however they are prepared differently. Carnitas are slow braised in cooking liquid or fat. Al pastor is marinated (often with pineapple), then put on a hot grill to caramelize.
Carne asada is marinated beef that is most often grilled. Carnitas are made from pork, that is braised until it is fall-apart tender.
Cooking carnitas requires a long cook time for the meat to become tender. If you find that your meat is tough, you may need to cook it a bit longer. Place the lid back on your pot and cook for 5 minutes longer. Repeat the process if you still find that your meat is tough.
Unlike more lean cuts of pork, like the chops and tenderloin, pork shoulder becomes more tender the longer it cooks. So even if you cook it a bit too long, it won’t become dry or rubbery.
You can also use pork butt for this recipe. You want something with a good amount of fat. Lean cuts, like a pork tenderloin, will not become fall apart tender, which is what you want for this carnitas recipe.
Wine Pairings for Carnitas
- If you’d like to pair these tacos with a bottle of wine, a Tempranillo would be an excellent choice to compliment the spices in the pork carnitas.
- An authentic Mexican dish is always excellent with beer. Try a light Mexican lager.
- Margaritas – Try this one, this one, or this one.
Sauces for Carnitas Tacos
- Salsa Taquera
- Chipotle Salsa
- Pineapple Salsa
- Pico de Gallo
- Mango Salsa
- MORE 7+ taco sauce recipes
Did you Make These Instant Pot Carnitas?
If you thought these were the BEST Pressure Cooker Carnitas I would appreciate it so much if you would give this recipe a star review! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished carnitas tacos and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.
Get the slow cooker carnitas recipe here.
Instant Pot Carnitas Recipe
- Corn Tortillas
- 1 avocado (thinly sliced)
- 1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
- 1 lime (cut)
- 4-6 lbs. pork shoulder (slightly trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch cubes)
- 1 Tablespoon garlic salt
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 oranges (sliced in half)
- 1 lime (sliced in half)
- 1 cup water
- 1 red onion halved and thinly sliced (halved and thinly sliced)
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup lime juice (freshly squeezed )
- 1/8 – 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 Tablespoon kosher salt
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- Combine garlic salt, chili powder, dried oregano, dried basil, cumin, ground coriander, brown sugar, and sweet paprika.
- Rub the spice mixture evenly over the pork pieces and place in Instant Pot.
- Squeeze the juice from the oranges and limes over the pork. Place rinds pulp side down in Instant Pot and add 1 cup water.
- Make sure your sealing ring is in place on the lid. Lock the lid onto Instant Pot and set the steam release knob to the “sealing” position.
- Press the “manual” button and set Instant Pot for high pressure for 40 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes for Instant Pot to come to full pressure, then the display will show a countdown timer.
- Once the 40 minutes are up, allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes, then release any remaining pressure. Open the lid.
- Preheat oven broiler. Shred the pork using two forks then use a slotted spoon to remove the pork, and place on a baking sheet.
- Taste the pork for saltiness. You may want to sprinkle some additional salt on top. (I especially like using my homemade citrus salts at this stage of the recipe!
- Place underneath broiler until tips of pork are browned and slightly crisp, about 3-5 minutes. (Don’t walk away from it. Keep an eye on meat to make sure it doesn’t burn or become overly browned).
- Add sliced onions to a medium bowl. Pour enough boiling water over them to fully cover and count to 10. Drain onions and place in jar or bowl.
- Heat vinegar, lime juice, 1/8 cup sugar, chili flakes and salt in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes.
- Taste for sweetness and add more sugar as needed.
- Pour vinegar mixture over onions.
- Allow to stand at room temperature, until fully cooled. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
- Warm up Mission Organics® White Corn Tortillas in oven (best served warm for full flavor)
- Place carnitas in tortillas and serve topped with sliced avocado and cilantro. Pass around extra limes for garnish.
More Favorite Instant Pot Recipes:
- Instant Pot Dal with Split Peas
- Instant Pot Lentil Soup with Sausage & Kale
- The Best Instant Pot Mac & Cheese
- Instant Pot Lentils
- Instant Pot Rice
- Instant Pot Cheesy Southwestern Lentils & Brown Rice
This recipe was originally published in March 2018. It was updated in March 2019 to add instructional photographs and a video. The original recipe remains the same. Enjoy!