Be prepared to have the best ever carnitas outside of Mexico! This easy Instant Pot Carnitas recipe only requires a few minutes of prep for authentic tasting carnitas perfect for any weeknight meal. You will fall in love with these easy Instant Pot Carnitas.
Using my Instant Pot to cook Mexican inspired dishes is one of the main reasons I love my pressure cooker. The meat comes out super tender when cooked in the pressure cooker.
Pressure cooker carnitas and homemade beef barbacoa are two of my favorite dishes. Add some cilantro lime rice, authentic guacamole, lime crema, and Instant Pot pinto beans, and you have a perfect family loved dinner.
What Are Carnitas?
Carnitas are a Mexican specialty that is made from slow roasted pork. The pork comes out delicately tender and then is set under a broiler or in a skillet to give it a bit of crunch. Traditional carnitas are slow cooked in lard and the process can take all day.
These Instant Pot Carnitas are ready much quicker and still have the same flavor combination of the slow cooked version. Prep takes about 5 minutes and after a few minutes under the broiler, you are ready to enjoy homemade pulled pork carnitas.
- Pork Shoulder: The fat content is perfect for making most pulled pork carnitas. Make sure to get one that will easily fit into your Instant Pot whole or when cut into chunks. More on the cut choice below.
- Spices: The cumin and oregano are spices used in traditional Mexican cuisine. I use them often, like in my Mexican Shredded Beef tacos. They give these carnitas a great flavor. Salt, pepper and bay leaves round out the spices. If you want some heat, you can add chili powder.
- Onions, garlic and jalapenos: These are also traditional additions to Mexican style cooking. They always bring out so much flavor in any dish.
- Lime and orange juice: The acidity from the limes and oranges help break down the meat and makes it super tender. Use fresh orange juice and lime juice if possible.
- Beer: You can use any type of beer for your carnitas, and it provides a great depth of flavor to the meat. A Mexican beer such as Modelo is always a great addition to this easy carnitas recipe, but can be substituted with chicken broth or stock.
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
How to Make Instant Pot Carnitas
- Combine the spices to make a dry rub for the pork shoulder.
- Wash and completely dry the pork. Use your spice rub and completely cover your piece of meat.
- Place the meat on a metal trivet in the Instant Pot. If your pork shoulder is too big, you can cut it into chunks after seasoning it.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to your Instant Pot.
- Cook on manual high pressure for 85 minutes. Once the meat is done cooking, allow your Instant Pot to naturally release pressure for 15 minutes and then quickly release any remaining pressure.
- Place the meat on a cutting board and shred with two forks. Put the shredded pork under the broiler for 5 minutes to crisp up the edges. Make sure to spoon some of the liquid over the meat before you broil it to keep it nice and moist.
- Serve your carnitas over nachos or in tacos with cilantro, diced onions, and lime.
What Cut Of Meat Do I Need For Carnitas?
Carnitas means tiny meats in Spanish, which is what you get after you slow or pressure cook a pork shoulder. The meat literally falls apart after cooking.
Pork shoulder, or pork butt, are the best cut of meat for carnitas. The fat content keeps the meet juicy while cooking. You can use boneless or bone-in pork, just make sure that it is skinless. You also want to leave the fat cap intact as that helps with flavor and tenderness when cooking.
How Do I Get Carnitas Crispy?
After you cook carnitas they are not crispy. The meat is super tender and juicy, but not crisp. To get crispy edges you need to either broil your pulled pork carnitas or fry them in a hot skillet. This is the cast iron skillet that I use and love!
To crisp them in the oven, place your shredded pork on a baking sheet. Pour some of the juice from cooking over the top. Broil for 5 minutes under a 500°F/260°C degree oven. Toss as needed.
To crisp your carnitas on the stove top, place olive oil in a hot skillet. Working in batches, add the meat and cook for 5-7 minutes until the edges start to brown.
The slightly hard edges are a great contrast in texture to the soft meat.
Can I Make Carnitas Ahead of Time?
Of course! Just cook the carnitas, shred and store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight. Store the liquid separate. When you’re ready to serve, just reheat and crisp it up under the broiler or in a skillet.
How Do I Make Carnitas in the Slow Cooker?
These carnitas can easily be made in your slow cooker as well! Follow the directions listed below except place your pork shoulder in your slow cooker instead of the Instant Pot, and you should also adjust the amount of the liquid added. Find my Slow Cooker Carnitas recipe here.
What To Serve with Pork Carnitas?
Carnitas are very versatile, and you can add it to many things. My favorite way is to use carnitas as a stuffing with tacos, or in burrito bowls with cilantro lime rice. They’re also great in quesadillas, sliders, enchiladas, or topped on homemade tostada shells!
There are many ways to serve carnitas. You can either make a burrito bowl, and make some Instant Pot cilantro rice to enjoy with the carnitas. Or you can make tacos!
To make tacos, just heat up some flour or corn tortillas, stuff with pulled pork Carnitas, diced yellow onions, fresh cilantro leaves, and a squeeze of lime juice!
Frequently Asked Questions
Although it’s possible to overcook pork in the Instant Pot, when you remove it from the Instant Pot and it’s tough and not easily shreddable it means that it’s undercooked. Just return it to the Instant Pot and pressure cook it for 10 more minutes.
The best cut of meat for Carnitas is pork shoulder due to its fat content. Pork tenderloin won’t work for carnitas as it’s too lean.
Yes, it’s optional but I recommend that you skim off the fat and discard it. Remember you won’t use all of the liquid either.
Best way to store is by shredding the pork, and then storing it in an airtight container in the fridge separate from the juices. Store for up to 3 days. You can also freeze carnitas in airtight freezer bags along with the juices for up to 3 months.
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Instant Pot Carnitas Recipe
- 1 Tablespoon oil olive or vegetable
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano Mexican or Italian
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3.5 – 4 pound pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), boneless and skinless, washed and patted dry
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 2 – 3 jalapeños minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lime juiced
- 1 orange juiced
- 1 14.6-ounce can Mexican beer
- In a small bowl, combine the oil and dry spices to make an herb rub and completely cover the pork shoulder with the herb rub.
- Place the metal trivet in the bottom of the instant pot and set the meat on the trivet.
- Add the onion, garlic, jalapenos and bay leaves. Then add the lime juice, orange juice and the beer.
- Secure the lid and set the vent to SEALING. Select the PRESSURE COOK/MANUAL setting and set the cooking time for 85 minutes at high pressure. The Instant Pot will take around 10-15 minutes to come to pressure and start cooking. When the cooking program ends, allow the steam to release naturally for 15 minutes then do a quick release.
- Remove the meat and place on a cutting board or baking sheet and using two forks, shred the meat.
- Strain the juice and reserve a cup. You can also skim off the fat and discard it (optional but recommended)
- To crisp your carnitas under the broiler, turn on oven broiler to 500°F (260°C) and spread the meat on a baking sheet and spoon some juice over the meat.
- Place under the broiler for 5 minutes, then toss the meat and place back under the broiler for an additional 3 to 5 minutes until meat is crispy on top.
- To crisp your carnitas on the stove top, place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a hot skillet. Working in batches, add the meat, spoon some juice over the meat, and cook for 5-7 minutes until the edges start to brown.
- Before serving drizzle with more juices, and stuff over nachos or stuffed in tacos with onion and cilantro.
- The best cut of meat for Carnitas is pork shoulder due to its fat content. Pork tenderloin won’t work for carnitas as it’s too lean.
- For Mexican recipes I prefer a Mexican beer Modelo, but any beer works fine.
- I used a 4 pound roast for this recipe but have used a 7 pound one as well and it cooks the same, just add an additional 5 minutes to the cook time.
- Best way to store is by shredding the pork, and then storing it in an airtight container in the fridge separate from the juices. Store for up to 3 days. You can also freeze carnitas in airtight freezer bags along with the juices for up to 3 months.