This fall-apart-tender Instant Pot carnitas recipe can be served in so many ways. It’s delicious in lettuce wraps, tacos, salads, or served over rice.
Try this Mexican shredded beef, too!
Instant Pot carnitas
Pork carnitas is essentially a Mexican-style pulled pork. The pork is quite tender and juicy, and easy to shred with two forks. In a perfect world, the meat is crisped at the edges.
The trick to getting that crispiness with this Instant Pot carnitas recipe is to transfer the tender cooked pork to a tray and run it under the broiler for a few minutes. This is, however, an entirely optional step.
Carnitas are traditionally made with pork shoulder, also known as pork butt. The pork is combined with the seasonings that give this dish its flavor.
Two different kinds of citrus — lime and orange — give a depth of flavor to the meat, while several kinds of pepper provide spice.
What can I make with carnitas?
This tender pork is so versatile! You can serve it as taco meat, of course, topping those tacos with shredded cabbage, avocado, and a dollop of sour cream.
But this flavorful meat is excellent in a variety of other meals, as well:
- Wrap it up in a burrito with refried beans and some of this chimichurri sauce.
- Make cheese and carnitas quesadillas
- Top a salad with this tender pork and drizzle on a chipotle salad dressing
- Use it as a surprise pizza topping
- Saute some onions and spread the carnitas and onions in a hard sandwich roll
- Add them to nachos
- Stir into scrambled eggs
- Serve alongside these avocado quesadillas.
I mean, I think a better question is what can’t I make with it?!
Chicken broth – You can use canned chicken broth or homemade, whichever you prefer. I opt for organic broth if I need to buy it.
Orange juice – Adding a slight sweetness to the pork, orange juice provides a delicious flavor. Use freshly squeezed juice or your favorite brand.
Lime juice – The acidity of the lime provides a punch of bright flavor. Use freshly squeezed juice or your favorite brand.
Olive oil – Use a good quality extra virgin olive oil. The recipe doesn’t call for much, but the flavor of the oil will shine through.
Pork shoulder roast – Also called pork butt, this cut becomes quite tender when cooked under pressure.
Onion – You can use any kind of bulb onion you have on hand — white, yellow, or red.
Jalapeño – Here’s where the heat comes in. Finely dice the jalapeño pepper to add some kick.
Seasonings – The recipe calls for spices that are familiar if you’ve done any Mexican cooking. Chile powder, smoked paprika, Mexican oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper combine to give this dish its rich flavor. [Go here to learn about the difference between cumin and caraway.]
How to make pork carnitas
Mix the chicken broth, orange juice, lime juice, chili powder, and other seasonings into an Instant Pot and press the “Sauté” button. Be sure not to use a lid for this feature, then add the pork in. Wait until the pork is browned on all sides, then pour the rest of the mixture over top.
Add the lid on the pot and press the “manual” button. After the time is up, leave the pot for around 20 minutes to release the natural steam. Transfer the pork to a baking sheet and then shred with two forks.
Place the pork under a broiler for around five minutes and wait until the meat is crispy. Finally, add the last of the sauce and serve with the rest of the chopped vegetables.
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What are carnitas?
Carnitas are a Mexican-inspired version of pulled pork, seasoned with hearty spices and shredded. The flavorful meat is often served in tortillas or as a sandwich filling.
What’s the difference between carnitas and carne asada?
Carne asada is mainly thin stripes of beef that are soaked and then grilled. Carnitas consist of pork that has been seasoned and marinated.
How long do pork carnitas last?
You can store leftover Instant Pot carnitas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.
What cut of pork is carnitas?
Carnitas are usually made from pork shoulder, which contains higher fat content and helps the meat stay tender for longer.
- ¾ cup chicken broth, preferably organic
- ¾ cup fresh orange juice (approximately 2 large oranges)
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoons chili powder
- ½ t. smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3½ - 4 pounds pork shoulder roast, trimmed and cut into 6-8 chunks
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 medium jalapeno, diced
- 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
- In a medium bowl, whisk together chicken broth, fresh orange juice, and lime juice with the chili powder, smoked paprika, Mexican oregano, and ground cumin. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste, and set aside.
- Push the “Sauté” button on Instant Pot. Once the display reads “on,” add 1 tablespoon olive oil and half the pork shoulder pieces to the container. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste, and cook until pork is browned on all sides, approximately 1-2 minutes per side.
Note: DO NOT use lid while using the “sauté” function on an Instant Pot!
- Once browned, transfer seared pork to a plate and repeat this process with additional olive oil and the rest of pork. Remove browned pork from the Instant Pot and set aside.
- *Optional Step: Add remaining tablespoon olive oil to the container, along with onion, jalapeno, and fresh garlic. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, approximately 3-4 minutes.
- Add browned pork back to the pot and pour chicken broth/orange juice mixture over top. Add lid and seal, making sure the steam release handle is positioned toward “sealing.”
- Press the “manual” button and set the time to 30 minutes at high pressure. Once the cooking time is up, allow 20-25 minutes for the “natural release” of the steam inside the Instant Pot. After that time, perform a manual “quick release” to vent any remaining steam to release lid, if necessary.
- *Optional Step: A few minutes before the steam is fully released, preheat oven broiler to high and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Transfer pork to the prepared baking sheet and gently shred with two forks. Drizzle with ¼ cup juices from the Instant Pot and toss to combine before spreading into a thin, even layer.
- Place pork under broiler for 4-5 minutes, then remove from oven and add a little more juice before turning the meat to brown the other side. Place back under broiler for another 4-5 minutes or until the pork is nice and crispy on the edges.
- Once pork is under the broiler, press “sauté” on the Instant Pot to reduce the cooking liquid by one half while the pork is broiling.
- When finished broiling, remove baking sheet from oven and serve immediately with the reduced cooking liquid, fresh lime, and chopped cilantro if desired.
Important Note: Different Instant Pot models offer different features and buttons. (These instructions are for the IP-Duo series).
The instructions for this recipe include a couple of optional steps that can be omitted to save time. For example, the aromatic blend of onion, jalapeno, and garlic does not need to be sautéed before cooking the pork, but doing so deepens and releases more flavor.
The pork can be shredded and served as soon as it is done cooking. However, the extra step of tossing it with some cooking liquid and broiling under high heat delivers the delicious, crispy edges found in traditional carnitas recipes.
Originally published in September 2020, this page has been updated.