This Instant Pot carnitas recipe takes flavorful pulled pork permeated with smoky and citrus flavors and finishes it under the broiler for those unmistakable crispy edges! A definite upgrade to your tacos, burritos, and so much more!
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Juicy, Tender, and Crispy!
Instant Pot carnitas is a new take on slow cooker carnitas. Seasoned pork cooked under pressure until fall-apart tender makes carnitas in a fraction of the time. In the end, you’re getting the same results in just under 2 hours!
That’s the thing about Instant Pot recipes it tenderizes meat to fall-apart textures faster than other methods. This is great when you don’t have all day!
Instant Pot crispy carnitas are made by adding a dry rub to the pork, searing it until it’s nice and brown on the outside then adding a cooking liquid made from orange and lime juice to cook until it’s melt-in-your-mouth juicy and tender. The shredded meat is broiled for a few minutes in the end to get those signature crispy ends that add so much extra flavor.
We love to use it in corn tortillas or homemade flour tortillas for carnitas tacos, as a topping for nachos, or as part of a meal served with cilantro lime rice and Mexican salad.
That is, of course, if we haven’t eaten all of the Instant Pot carnitas straight off of the baking sheet!
Why We Love This Recipe
- Flavorful. The pork itself is a flavorful meat. We’re adding a smoky dry rub that will caramelize the meat. Combined with the citrus juices that penetrate the meat and the crispy ends that char at the end. There are layers of flavors coming from all angles!
- Fresh ingredients. There’s nothing better than recreating a restaurant-style meal at home using fresh, healthy ingredients!
- Easy. Once the meat is seared and the juices are added, the pressure cooker does all the work. Then it’s a matter of shredding the meat and popping it under the broiler. So simple!
- Versatile. Not only can you double the Instant Pot carnitas recipe if needed, but it can also be used for a variety of different meals. Everything from pork enchiladas, and quesadillas, to salads, and rice bowls.
What Are Carnitas?
Carnitas is a Spanish word that means “little meats” referring to small pieces of shredded meat. In this case pork, but it can be chicken or beef too. Traditionally, good quality pork butt is used (one that has marbling throughout for moisture, flavor, and melt-in-your-mouth textures) and is cooked on low heat in lard for a really long time.
Then, once the meat is fall-apart tender and shreds easily, the heat is turned up so the crisping can happen on the tips and edges of each piece.
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- For the dry rub: Taco seasoning, salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin.
- Boneless pork: Pork shoulder or butt can be used. Cut it into 3 pieces.
- Olive oil: Used to sear the pork until brown on all sides. Otherwise, it will stick to the bottom of the pan!
- Diced onion & finely chopped jalapeno: Both of these are optional and add even more flavor. The jalapeno is spicy, but if you remove the seeds as I do then you get just a bit of heat.
- Cooking liquid: Water, orange juice, freshly squeezed lime juice from about 2 limes. You can swap the orange juice for apple juice if that’s what you prefer.
There are plenty of ways to switch up the flavors in your Instant Pot carnitas recipe.
For starters, you could use different spices in your dry rub. Paprika, chili powder, cinnamon, brown sugar, and garlic powder are a few options. You can also use chicken broth instead of citrus juices if you prefer the taste.
Last, you can use chicken thighs or breasts instead of pork.
How to Make Instant Pot Carnitas
- Brown all sides of the pork. Once you’ve trimmed the excess fat off the cuts of pork, pat them dry with paper towels. Then, rub the combined dry rub all over the meat until well coated. Once you’ve set the Instant Pot to saute and the oil has been heated, add the pork along with the onions and jalapenos if you’re using them. Sear the meat on all sides locking in the moisture and getting a nice crust on the outside.
- Add cooking liquid and pressure cook. Pour in the water, orange juice, and lime juice. Close the lid and set the valve to sealing. Pressure cook on high for 45 minutes and once the timer goes off, leave it alone and let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. Move the valve to the venting position to release any remaining pressure then carefully remove the lid.
- Shred the meat. Use a pair of tongs to transfer the meat to a cutting board. Trim any excess fat you may have missed earlier, then use two forks to shred the pork into smaller pieces.
- Allow meat to absorb the juices. Place the shredded meat back into the Instant Pot and allow the juices to soak into the meat for about 5 minutes. You can serve it just as is, or take the extra step to broil the meat.
Take it one step further and make it just like your favorite Mexican restaurant does!
Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and turn on the oven broiler. Line a large baking sheet with foil. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to the baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and toss with 2 Tablespoons of juice from the Instant Pot. Return to the oven another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the meat has reached your desired crispiness. Enjoy while hot!
- Look for plenty of marbling inside the meat, but trim any excess fat surrounding it. Pork butt will usually have more to trim than pork shoulder, but both are great.
- The total time accounts for the pot coming to pressure as well as the cooking time.
- It’s much harder to overcook the meat in the Instant Pot, but you still want to be mindful of this. It’s especially true when you’re broiling, don’t walk away!
- Serve hot and serve immediately. Once you’ve crisped up the edges, the longer it sits the drier it will be.
- For extra tips and tricks on how to use the Instant Pot, especially if you’re just starting out, check out my post for additional information.
How to Serve Pork Carnitas
These “little meats” can be enjoyed as a main protein with rice and veggies and just as easily in carnitas tacos, burritos, and burrito bowls with your favorite toppings like guacamole, refried beans, and cilantro lime crema.
Use them as nacho toppings, and salad toppings, or replace BBQ pulled pork in a bun and make an Instant Pot carnitas sandwich. The same goes for pulled BBQ pork quesadillas!
A side of Mexican street corn is one of my favorites to serve with any of my Mexican food recipes.
There’s really no right or wrong way to use up your Instant Pot pork carnitas. Go ahead and meal prep a big batch and use them for all kinds of meals throughout the week.
It all starts with the type of pork you use. You want to look for cuts that have plenty of marbling because that’s what gives the meat its moisture and tenderness once cooked.
You also want to leave it under pressure long enough, so do not do a quick release. Allow it to naturally release so that it gets the maximum time needed to create tender fall apart shredded meat.
One is not better than the other, however, there are a couple of differences to consider. Cooking low and slow means the meat never has a chance to toughen up.
Some people find this leads to a more melt-in-your-mouth texture. Pressure cooking is faster, which is great for a quick meal. Using a crockpot works if you want to set it and forget it for hours during the day.
They are both a version of shredded meat, however, pulled pork is usually doused in a sauce and slow-cooked. Carnitas have signature crispy ends and are seasoned with Mexican-inspired flavors.
It not only adds flavor depth to the cooking liquid but the acidity in orange juice helps break down the pork so it results in tender meat that shreds easily.
Keep leftover Instant Pot pork carnitas in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge. Don’t throw away the liquid, keep it in the fridge too! When you reheat it, you can add some of it to the pork to keep it from drying out.
This makes a great freezer meal, especially if you make much more than you can use in a few days. Once completely cooled, transfer it to a freezer-safe bag or container and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then reheat as directed.
To reheat it, you can use the stovetop over medium-low heat, or pop it in the microwave.
Looking for more Instant Pot shredded meat recipes? Check out this shredded beef, kalua pork, and Mexican chicken all done in the pressure cooker!
More Instant Pot RecipesBrowse all
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Instant Pot Carnitas Recipe
- 1 Tablespoon taco seasoning
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder/pork butt , excess fat trimmed (cut into 3 pieces)
- 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ½ yellow onion , diced (optional)
- 1 jalapeno , deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup orange , or apple juice
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 2 large limes)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the taco seasoning, kosher salt, oregano, cumin, and black pepper. Rub all over the pork until well coated.
- In the bottom of an Instant Pot set to Sauté function, heat the olive oil. Add pork, onion, and jalapeno, if using. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes, flipping the pork every 2 minutes, until browned on all sides.
- Add the water, orange juice, and lime juice.
- Close and seal the Instant Pot. Cook on HIGH pressure for 45 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes before carefully removing the lid.
- Transfer pork to a cutting board. Remove any excess fat and shred into smaller pieces. Return to the Instant Pot to let the juices soak into the meat. Let sit 5 minutes.
- Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and turn on the oven broiler. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Transfer pork to the baking sheet and broil 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with 2 Tablespoons juice from the Instant Pot. Return to the oven another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the meat has reached your desired crispiness. Enjoy while hot!
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!
After making this recipe I am OBSESSED with carnitas! The meat was so flavorful and I loved the crispy edges of the meat. My new favorite way to eat tacos!