Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

updated May 19, 2020
summer
Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

Thanks to the Instant Pot, you can enjoy flavorful, impossibly tender carnitas in a fraction of the time.

Serves6 to 8

Prep20 minutes

Cook1 hour 15 minutes

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Instant pot pork carnitas on flour tortilla
Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

If you’ve been dreaming of a satisfying dinner that magically cooks itself, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with your Instant Pot. Of all its impressive functions, the Instant Pot is perhaps best adept at breaking down fatty cuts of meat in record time. (Under pressure, the fat melts and tough tissue softens, resulting in easily shreddable and impossibly tender meat that you can enjoy all week long.)

Today our focus is on carnitas, a Mexican dish of braised pork that’s typically cooked low-and-slow in the oven or the slow cooker. Our Instant Pot version speeds up the process without sacrificing flavor, and requires little more from you than the push of a button. As it cooks, the pork is infused with citrus and smoky spices, and a quick stint under the broiler gives you the crispy tips you crave. To serve, pile the carnitas onto warm tortillas with chopped onion and cilantro, or spread atop salad greens to keep it keto or Whole30-compliant.

The Best Meat for Carnitas

Pork shoulder — also referred to as pork butt and Boston butt — is the perfect cut for crispy-tipped carnitas. Given the choice, bring home a boneless roast, which will make the work of cutting it into large pieces easier. If your grocer only carries bone-in pork shoulders, ask them to remove it for you (no sense in paying for the bone if you don’t need it!) or make sure to buy a larger, four- to five-pound roast to account for the bone’s weight.

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Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

Thanks to the Instant Pot, you can enjoy flavorful, impossibly tender carnitas in a fraction of the time.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4

    medium limes

  • 1

    medium navel orange

  • 4 cloves

    garlic

  • 1

    (3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless pork shoulder or pork butt

  • 1 tablespoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons

    dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon

    vegetable oil

  • Serving options: warm tortillas, chopped onion, fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, lime wedges

Instructions

  1. Juice 4 limes until you have about 1/2 cup juice. Juice 1 orange (about 2/3 cup juice). Smash 4 garlic cloves. Trim off any large pieces of fat from the surface of a 3 1/2 to 4-pound boneless pork shoulder. Cut the pork into 3 pieces. 

  2. Season the pork with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

  3. Heat an Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker on the Sauté setting. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add 1 piece of pork and sear on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. If the pressure cooker registers a burn warning, remove the pork from the pot, pour in 1/4 cup water, and scrape up any burned bits. Return the pork to the pot and continue cooking until browned. Transfer the pork to a plate, and repeat with the remaining pieces of pork. 

  4. Turn off the pressure cooker. Add the lime and orange juices and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Return the pork to the pot in an even layer. Add the garlic.

  5. Lock the lid on and make sure the pressure valve is set to seal. Cook on HIGH pressure for 55 minutes. It will take 7 to 10 minutes to come up to pressure.

  6. Once the cook time is done, let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the top third of the oven and heat the broiler to high.

  7. Quick release any remaining pressure. Transfer the pork to a rimmed baking sheet, and use 2 forks to shred the meat into bite-sized pieces. Discard any large pieces of fat. Spread the carnitas into an even layer. Broil the carnitas until the ends are browned and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes.

  8. Spoon some of the cooking liquid over the carnitas and serve on warm tortillas with desired toppings. 

Recipe Notes

Storage: Store leftover carnitas in the cooking liquid in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days, or freeze for 3 months.