by Olena

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

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Olena Osipov
5 from 8 votes

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas is an incredibly flavourful way of making juicy pulled pork with those signature crispy ends topped with quick pickled onions! This Instant Pot carnitas recipe makes having your favourite Mexican street food at home so quick and easy. Perfect for tacos, burritos, salads, and more!

Make all kinds of budget-friendly, healthy Mexican food so easily you’ll never go back to ordering take-out – just check out my Instant Pot chicken tacos, Instant Pot rice and beans and Instant Pot refried beans. These are just three of many ways to use the Instant Pot to create a Mexican-themed party!

Instant Pot Carnitas served on a marble tray with lime

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

These Instant Pot Pork Carnitas are so GOOD! This is one of those dishes that make your mouth water at just the thought. You will become addicted and start to crave this irresistible meat often, so for that, I’m sorry (not even a little sorry).

Translated, carnitas means “little meat”. So essentially, in the end, you’ll have pulled pork but it is the Mexican version of how it is made and the end result that transforms it from everyday pulled pork to a thing of beauty.

Typically it is done through the low and slow method in a slow cooker like my healthy pulled pork except traditional carnitas are cooked in a large amount of lard. No thanks! Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious, but if there’s a way to get delicious Instant Pot carnitas with the same results only faster and healthier, you bet I’m going to find it.

And I did! I’m so excited to share with you this Instant Pot carnitas recipe. It’s made in 1 hour cooked in a liquid of beer and orange and lime juice and a rub of garlic and onion and a seasoning blend that gives it a delicious smoky heat. Once everything is in the pressure cooker, it’s totally hands-off until you toss it in the broiler for the last few minutes to crisp up. Can you imagine all of that seasoning caramelizing the tips of that juicy, flavourful meat?!

You can taste citrusy-garlic-y-spicy juices with every crisp pork taco bite. A total disaster to eat but it’s finger-licking worth it!

You can use this crispy pork carnitas filling for tacos, burritos, tostadas, and more! And for my Canadian friends, you can even add it to your poutine!

Why we Love this Instant Pot Carnitas Recipe

  • The Instant Pot cuts the cooking time to a little over 1 hour, which means you can enjoy these during the week.
  • Pork roast comes out juicy and tender
  • Easy prep and almost hands-off, which means you can make it ahead and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook and serve.
  • The crispy ends that come from roasting the shredded pork are heaven.
  • The quick and easy pickled onions on top just add a whole other layer of fresh vinegar crunch! They’re optional but honestly, are so good you’ll be eating them with your fork.
  • A tasty corn tortilla is used to hold all of that delicious filling and its major comfort flavor in every bite.
shredded Instant Pot pork carnitas with red tongs on a tray

I have to be honest and say that carnitas was a totally new concept to Canadian Ukrainian immigrant me. But I embraced it and perfected the recipe over the years. If I can do it, you can too! 🙂

Carnitas vs Pulled Pork

Carnitas and pulled pork are essentially the same thing, however, carnitas is a Mexican version of it. The signature browning at the end, giving the bits of meat that crispy finish, is what sets this Mexican pulled pork in the Instant Pot apart from your everyday pulled pork. Both are traditionally made using a low and slow method, but both recipes can also easily be made in the Instant Pot!

Mexican Menu Ideas

When thinking about what to serve with your pork carnitas, below are a list of other menu ideas that complement the Mexican theme nicely. They’re all easy to follow, delicious recipes, celebrating the fresh, vibrant and healthy flavours of Mexico. Some with a twist!

Ingredients You Will Need

  • Pork roast: Pork shoulder aka pork butt roast – same thing and is part of the pig’s shoulder. “Butt” goes back to the days when butchers in the Boston area packed the pork shoulder into barrels called “butts.” You might also find it under another name, such as picnic shoulder, shoulder roast, Boston butt roast.
  • Orange: Orange juice from a very large orange or from a carton. About 1/2 cup.
  • Limes: 2 medium limes or even lemons. Please try not to use bottled juice. It’s not the same taste and contains preservatives.
  • Beer: If you absolutely want to make carnitas and don’t have beer use any stock.
  • Spices: Chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper.
  • Garlic and onion
Instant Pot Carnitas ingredients include pork roast, orange, limes, onion, garlic, beer, vinegar and spices

How to Make Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

Still on a fence about Instant Pot? Check out which one I recommend to buy from my experience. Also, Instant Pot guide will answer many questions.

  • Season meat by pouring beer, orange, and lime juice over it. Then rub with garlic and sprinkle with spices. Top with onions and citrus skins.
  • Pressure cook for 1 hour on High pressure. I tried to cook Instant Pot pork shoulder roast for 45 minutes and that wasn’t enough. Meat wouldn’t shred.
  • Make quick pickled onions while the roast is cooking by combining red onion, cilantro, water, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate. If you have time, check out my friend’s Katie from Healthy Seasonal Recipes pickled onions recipe.
  • Do a quick release and shred the meat. Usually, the Quick release method pulls moisture from the meat but with carnitas, it doesn’t matter because pork is fatty. We’ll also pour the liquids back on top which keeps it moist.
  • Broil carnitas until crispy with 1 cup of juices. I actually like to save more and pour over meat later to rehydrate it.

More Tips and Variations

  • Roast can be boneless or with bone-in. Pork tenderloin roast is not recommended because it is drier and harder to shred. Due to the health crisis in 2020, however, I ended up using it in the video and just needed extra muscles for shredding.
  • Coke: Yes, you’re reading that right. IF you’re indulging a bit and you don’t have any beer, using a can of soda can also be used in this – making it a fun Instant Pot carnitas with coke recipe.
  • Smoky: For an additional smoky flavour, add 2 tsp of liquid smoke or rub some minced chipotle in adobo sauce over the roast.
  • Spicy: Add chopped jalapeno pepper to the broth. Leave in as many seeds as you can handle.
  • Chicken: You can totally use boneless and skinless chicken breasts in place of pork. In fact, beef works too!

How to Serve Carnitas

Instant Pot carnitas is super convenient to serve a crowd. Making a big pot serves hungry guests in a totally satisfying way! Especially during summer months, BBQs, office potlucks, baby showers, etc. Everyone loves Mexican!

  • Parties: Place shredded pork with juices back in Instant Pot and keep warm for up to 10 hours.
  • Wrap it up: In burritos, enchiladas, tostadas or for Instant Pot pork tacos.
  • Hearty: Serve on the side of plain brown rice or rice and beans.
  • Low carb: You can top almost any salad with it.
  • Traditional: Guacamole, pico de gallo, and refried beans.

I’m usually “lazy” and quick pickled onions add enough flavour anyway. I like carnitas “clean” – Mexican street food style made from scratch!

Instant Pot Carnitas served on a marble tray with lime

FAQs

Can I use a skillet to brown the shredded pork?

Yes, you can. If you’re not interested in turning on your oven, you can definitely finish them off in a skillet. You’ll want to do this in batches as not to overcrowd the pan. Keep an eye on them because you want to crisp just the ends, leaving the juicy meat intact. You’re just looking to sear all the sides, using some of the juices.

Do I need to broil it?

Technically no, but that really is what makes the entire dish! Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration but it is definitely traditional carnitas to have crispy ends. So, I change my mind, yes you need to broil it 🙂

Can I make this recipe in the oven?

This versatile recipe can be made in the oven as well as a slow cooker and the Instant Pot. If using the oven, cook pork uncovered in the oven at 350 degrees for 3.5 hours. Turn the pork every once in a while and otherwise follow the recipe as directed.

Can I make this Instant Pot carnitas recipe in the slow cooker?

Definitely. It will shred easier if you leave it for 8-10 hours on low, however, if you have time constraints, 5-6 hours on high will work. You may just need to put more muscle into the shredding part.

What drinks go well with Mexican food?

When serving a crowd, whether at a Cinco de Mayo party, a game day party, or a summer BBQ it’s always nice to have drinks available for people who enjoy a cocktail. Because carnitas is fatty, carbonated or acidic drinks are always a good idea. Of course, beer is a good option (organic is even better!) as it will complement the flavours in the meat. Red or white wine, margaritas, tequila, or any cocktail with a citrus kick will work.

How to Make Ahead, Store and Reheat Pressure Cooker Carnitas

Make ahead: This step is great for a party. Keep seasoned roast in the inner liner of the Instant Pot, covered with silicone lid in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just before you’re ready to serve, cook as per recipe.

Store: Refrigerate shredded carnitas for up to 5 days or freeze for 3 months in an airtight container.

Reheat: Pan fry with a bit of oil, juices, water, or stock until warmed through. Using only oil will make carnitas crispier.

More Instant Pot Recipes

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Looking for more dinner ideas? Check out my most popular collection of 40 healthy Instant Pot recipes.

Instant Pot Carnitas served on a marble tray with lime
Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas {Simply THE BEST}

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas is an incredibly flavourful way of making juicy pulled pork with those signature crispy ends topped with quick pickled onions! This Instant Pot carnitas recipe makes having your favourite Mexican street food at home so quick and easy. Perfect for tacos, burritos, salads, and more!
5 from 8 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 14 tacos
Calories: 164kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

  • 3-4 lbs pork shoulder or butt roast
  • 1 large orange juice of or 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 limes juice of or 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 4 garlic cloves grated
  • 1 medium onion quartered
  • 1 can of any beer
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano dried
  • 1 tsp cumin ground
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 14 corn tortillas

Quick Pickled Onions

  • 1/2 cup red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 small bunch cilantro chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white white/red wine or apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Instructions

  • In Instant Pot, place trivet or steamer basket inside. Add pork roast and pour beer, orange and lime juice all over the meat.
    Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
  • In a small bowl, add chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper; stir to combine.
  • Rub pork roast with garlic and then sprinkle with a mixture of spices all around. Top with onions and citrus skins.
    Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
  • Place the lid on top, venting valve to Sealing and cook for 1 hour on High pressure.
  • While roast is cooking, make quick pickled onions by combining red onion, cilantro, water, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir and refrigerate.
    Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
  • After 1 hour, do Quick Release or Natural Release – doesn’t matter.
  • Transfer pork roast onto a baking sheet and shred with 2 forks.
    Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
  • Pour 1 cup of meat juice on top and broil on High at 550 degrees F for 5-10 minutes or until crispy. I would also reserve more juices to rehydrate meat later.
    Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
  • To make tacos, place some shredded pork on a corn tortilla and top with quick pickled onions. ALso can serve with guacamole or pico de gallo. Enjoy!
    Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

Make ahead: Keep seasoned roast in the inner liner of the Instant Pot, covered with silicone lid in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just before you're ready to serve, cook as per recipe.

    Store: Refrigerate shredded carnitas for up to 5 days or freeze 3 months in an airtight container.

      Reheat: Pan fry with a bit of oil, juices, water, or stock until warmed through.

        Video

        Notes

        • In the video I used tenderloin roast because health crisis 2020. It is much harder to shred than butt or shoulder roast but possible. 🙂
        • Substitute beer with any stock.
        • Fresh lime juice tastes better than from a bottle. Lemon juice would work as well.
        • You can save the juice and use it as a soup or stew base. Just discard the onion.
        • Also reserve extra juices to rehydrate meat later.
        See Recipe Post for more Tips and FAQ’s

        Nutrition

        Calories: 164kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 394mg | Potassium: 314mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 93IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 1mg
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        olena osipov in the studio

        Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

        My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

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