Instant Pot Carnitas – Perfectly seasoned pork carnitas cooked in your Instant Pot pressure cooker until mouthwatering tender and juicy are then broiled to golden crispy perfection. This restaurant style carnitas recipe is made in a fraction of the time thanks to the pressure cooker.
Carnitas are one of the tastiest and most popular Mexican pork dishes. Pork Carnitas are delicious eaten by itself, served with some rice and beans and they make the best tacos, burritos and tortas (Mexican sandwiches).
Carnitas are quite easy to make at home. Usually on days I need to run errands or when I volunteer at my kids’ school, I make Carnitas in the crockpot. There is nothing like coming home to the aromas of a meal cooked effortlessly in your slow cooker. On busy days, when I just want a delicious home cooked meal made quickly, my pressure cooker delivers the best, tastiest, most tender and succulent Mexican pork.
What are Carnitas?
Think of carnitas as a savory Mexican pulled pork. Traditional carnitas are usually seasoned with spices, citrus juice and onions and then cooked slowly in lard. When the pork is fork tender, it is crisped up in a skillet with some more lard. The crispy edges and bits are as tasty as fried pork while some parts of the shredded pork remains juicy and tender. Seriously delicious!
What Type of Meat To Use To Make Instant Pot Carnitas?
Carnitas are made from well-marbled pork – that is pork that has enough fat to either be braised for a long period of time or be cooked in a pressure cooker while retaining it’s moisture. Pork shoulder/pork butt, also known as Boston butt is the ideal cut for any carnitas recipe.
Should I Buy Boneless Pork Shoulder or Bone-In Pork Shoulder To Make Carnitas?
Bone-in or boneless pork shoulder are readily available, budget friendly and they feed a crowd! This pork recipe asks for boneless pork shoulder, however bone-in pork shoulder can be used. If you have a choice between the two, get the boneless roast. The bone-in roast has a Y shape bone that can be a bit tricky to remove. The best approach is to cut around the bone the best you can using a sharp boning knife. You really don’t have to scrape off the bone clean! Since we are using an inexpensive cut of meat, having a tiny bit of waste is not as critical – in my opinion.
Is Picnic Ham the same as Pork Shoulder/Pork Butt?
Not really. Here are the differences:
PICNIC HAM: Comes from the lower part of the pork shoulder (that is the lower part of the hog’s leg). This part of the leg has more muscles and more connective tissue hence is a bit tougher and requires longer cooking. Picnic Ham is sold with the shank and sometimes the skin.
PORK BUTT/BOSTON BUTT: Comes from the upper part of the shoulder. This area is fat marbled and less used by the animal so it hasn’t developed a tough muscle.
Ingredients to Make Instant Pot Carnitas
- Pork Shoulder/Pork Butt –Trim excess fat from the fat cap, if needed. It is not necessary to remove every little piece of fat from the meat. The fat adds flavor and keeps the meat juicy. Usually any remaining fat can be removed after the cooking is done – while shredding the meat. I cut the meat in big chunks (about 2-inches). There is no need to be neat and cut the meat into perfect cubes. The meat will be shredded at the end.
- Beer – If you have any blond Mexican beer that is the way to go. Any pilsener or lager beer works.
- Orange Juice – Fresh orange juice is best as bottled juice has a high sugar content and tends to make the dish a bit sweet.
- Lime Juice – Freshly squeezed.
- Oil – Canola, vegetable or olive oil. Very little oil is used as it is just to sear the pork.
- Garlic – I highly recommend using fresh garlic however, in a pinch you can use 2 teaspoons of garlic powder instead.
- The Spices and Seasonings- Chili powder, onion powder, dried oregano, cumin. Salt and ground black pepper.
How To Make the Best Instant Pot Carnitas
This recipe has 3 easy steps. Seasoning and searing the meat, pressure cooking and broiling. It may sound like a lot but trust me most of the time is inactive time that doesn’t require much attention.
- STEP ONE – Season and Sear the Meat:
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Click the SAUTE function and heat the oil. Sear the pork until it browns on all sides. You may need to do this in 2 batches not to overcrowd the pot. Remove the pork from the instant pot and click CANCEL.
- STEP TWO – Cook on High Pressure:
Pour all your liquids (beer, orange juice and lime juice) into the pot. With a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any brown bits. Add the spices and return the meat to the pot. Close the lid and cook on HIGH pressure for 60 minutes. Do a natural release for 15 minutes.
- STEP THREE – Broil:
With a slotted spoon, remove the pork from the pressure cooker and click SAUTE. Reduce the cooking liquid for about 5 minutes while shredding the pork. Click CANCEL and return the shredded pork to the instant pot. Toss the meat so it is all coated with the cooking liquid.
Turn the broiler to high. Transfer the pork to a baking sheet and spread the meat into an even layer. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of cooking liquid over the meat. Broil for a few minutes until the edges of the pork begin to brown. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and turn the pork. Broil for a few minutes or until the pork is crispy on the edges and golden brown.
Tips, Notes and Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I Make Carnitas Ahead of Time?
Absolutely! Let the meat sit in the cooking liquid overnight and heat and broil when ready to serve.
- Can I Freeze Pork Carnitas?
Yes you can. Divide the meat into smaller portions and place it in resealable freezer bags with some of the cooking liquid.
Defrost in the refrigerator. To reheat, microwave for a few minutes or preheat the oven to 325 degree Fahrenheit, spread the meat on a baking sheet, cover it with aluminum foil and reheat until warm through (it may take about 12 – 15 minutes). Remove the foil and turn on the broiler. Broil for a couple of minutes or until crispy.
- Carnitas are a great recipe to feed a large group of people. Set up a taco bar next time you have a fiesta and have everyone create their own taco. A good taco bar includes – corn tortillas, pico de gallo, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, some taqueria style pickles, your favorite salsa, lime wedges, shredded cheese or crumbled cheese (like Cotija), sour cream, chips and guacamole. Of course, don’t forget the margaritas!
- I love this recipe because cooking carnitas in the pressure cooker reduces the cooking time without sacrificing the texture or the flavor. You also don’t need to marinate the meat – yet the result is juicy and tender pork bursting with the flavors of the citrus, garlic and spices.
- Take a look at these other Instant Pot recipes:
Instant Pot Pot Roast with Potatoes
Creamy Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
Instant Pot Shredded Chicken Mexican Style
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Instant Pot Carnitas
- Baking Sheet
- Pressure Cooker
- 1 (4-pounds) boneless pork shoulder roast trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
- 1 (12-ounces) Mexican beer (Pilsner or lager beer)
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Chopped cilantro to garnish (optional)
Suggestions for Serving (optional)
- Warm corn tortillas, chopped onions. chopped cilantro, salsa, crumbled Queso Fresco, lime wedges.
- Season the pork with salt and pepper.
- Click the "Saute" setting on the instant pot. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and working in 2 batches, add the pork pieces and sear until evenly brown, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the meat to a bowl or plate and proceed with the remaining oil and pork. Remove the browned pork from the instant pot and press "cancel" to turn off the heat.
- Pour the beer, orange juice and lime juice into the pressure cooker and using a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and return the pork and any collected juices to the instant pot.
- Close the lid and make sure the valve is in the sealed position. Cook on HIGH pressure for 60 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes before fully releasing the pressure. Then remove the lid.
- Remove the pork from the pressure cooker and shred the meat. Meanwhile turn the pressure cooker to "Saute" mode and reduce the liquid for about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
- Return the shredded pork to the instant pot and toss to get the meat all coated with the cooking liquid. Press "cancel" to turn off the heat.
- Turn on the oven broiler to high. The oven rack should be at about 6 inches from the heat source.
- Transfer the pork to a baking sheet and spread the meat into an even layer. Spoon about 2 - 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid over the pork and broil for about 4-5 minutes or or until the edges of the pork begin browning. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and with a spatula, flip the meat over. Broil for an additional 4 -5 minutes to get the meat browned and crispy on the edges. Remove from the oven. You can pour some extra cooking liquid over the pork or serve as is sprinkled with some chopped cilantro (optional).
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