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Instant pot carnitas produces juicy, tender, flavorful meat in less than half the time of a slow cooker. It’s perfect for tacos and more!

Use the shredded carnitas meat to top a Burrito Bowl, Taco Bowl, Loaded Nachos, or salad.

Close up of instant pot carnitas in a flour tortilla with toppings.

We love Carnitas!

“Carnitas” translates to “little meats” and are made from tender and succulent pork that is typically shredded or pulled apart. It is often served for dinner as Carnitas Tacos, added to burritos, or as a filling in other Mexican dinners.

Instant pot carnitas produces succulent tender meat in half the time. This is one of our favorites to serve at family potlucks! It is easy and feeds a crowd.

Why we love it:

  • Cook from frozen. Unlike crock pot dinners, you can cook frozen meat in a pressure cooker.
  • Saves time. It’s tender in only about 90 minutes, making it a perfect quick dinner idea.
  • Fall-apart tender pork. The result is juicy meat loaded with Mexican flavor.
  • Makes a variety of meals. Cook extra to save for other dinners! Use the meat in everything from tacos to Loaded Nachos.
A pork shoulder covered in seasonings.

Ingredients

  • boneless pork shoulder The pork shoulder, also known as pork butt or Boston butt, should have a good amount of marbling and connective tissue, which contributes to the tenderness, juiciness, and flavor of the carnitas. If you can’t find this cut, then pork loin is a good alternative. Avoid pork tenderloin as it is too lean.
  • oil – vegetable, canola, or olive oil
  • medium onion
  • chicken broth – or vegetable broth
  • orange juice fresh squeezed or bottled
  • lime juice about 2 tablespoons of fresh or store-bought lime juice. You can also use lemon juice.
  • minced cloves garlic you can also add chopped onions or jalapenos for a bit of extra flavor
  • ground cumin other spices that taste great include oregano or bay leaf
  • salt
  • black pepper

How Much to Make

Estimate about ½ pound (or 8 ounces) of cooked meat per person. If serving other main dishes then you may only need ⅓ pound per person

Shredded pork shoulder in a white baking dish.

How to Make Carnitas

  1. PREP. Heat the Instant Pot in sauté mode. Trim the excess fat from the pork shoulder and cut into large chunks.
  2. BROWN. Add the oil to the instant pot and brown all sides.
  3. SEASON. Add the onion to the pot and cook until slightly translucent, 2-3 minutes.In a small bowl, whisk together seasonings.
  4. COOK. Return the pork to the Instant Pot, and pour the sauce over the top. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and cook at high pressure for 30 minutes, then let naturally release for 15 minutes.
    • Remove the pork from the pot using a slotted spoon and shred. Strain the cooking liquid over a bowl, discarding any solids that are strained out.
  5. BROIL. Preheat the broiler. Spread the shredded pork on a foil-lined baking sheet, and pour about one cup of the cooking liquid over the top of the meat. Broil 5-10 minutes, watching closely for crispy edges.
  6. SERVE. Eat instant pot pork carnitas on its own or use it to create other Mexican dishes. Use corn tortillas to make tacos or large Flour Tortillas to make delicious burritos or quesadillas. Top with Guacamole, salsa, Pico de Gallo, cilantro, or sour cream.

Cook Pork From Frozen

Unless the pork was cut into chunks before you froze it, you most likely have a large solid piece of pork. No problem! You will just need to pressure cook it longer.

  • Place the pork and other ingredients into the instant pot.
  • Seal the lid and close the valve. Set the meat/stew button for 22 minutes per pound of pork and then allow it to naturally release.

Instant Pot Troubleshooting

If your pulled pork is turning out tough in the pressure cooker there could be a few possible reasons:

  • Undercooking. If the pork is undercooked, it can result in tough meat. 
  • Insufficient liquid. The liquid in the instant pot helps to create a moist cooking environment that helps to break down the collagen in the meat, resulting in tender meat. Use enough liquid, such as chicken broth, orange juice, and lime juice, as indicated in the recipe.
  • Lack of natural release. Always allow for a natural pressure release after cooking the pork. This helps the meat retain its moisture and tenderness. If you perform a quick release, it can cause the meat to become tough.
Close up of shredded carnitas topped with cilantro.

Storing Tips

  • STORE. Store cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Pro tip: pour some of the juices from the instant pot into the storage container to help keep them moist.
  • FREEZE. Cool, place in a freezer container or bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge when you’re ready to use it.
  • To reheat. Use the microwave to reheat instant pot carnitas recipe quickly, but reheating in the oven is the best way.
    • Preheat the oven to around 325°F. Place the carnitas in a baking dish, cover with foil to retain moisture, and heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until heated through. Remove the foil for the last few minutes to crisp up the edges, if desired.
Instant pot carnitas served in a small tortilla topped with cilantro, onion, and cotija cheese.

For More Mexican Recipes:

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Instant Pot Carnitas

By: Lil’ Luna
Instant pot carnitas produces juicy, tender, flavorful meat in less than half the time of a slow cooker. It's perfect for tacos and more!
Servings: 8
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 3-4 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • juice from one lime
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • Heat the Instant Pot in sauté mode.
  • Trim the excess fat from the pork shoulder and cut into large chunks.
  • Add the oil to the instant pot and add half of the pork shoulder, turning to brown all sides. Remove to a clean plate and repeat with remaining pork.
  • Add the onion to the pot and cook until slightly translucent, 2-3 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, orange juice, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper. Return the pork to the Instant Pot, and pour the sauce over the top. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and cook at high pressure for 30 minutes, then let naturally release for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the pork from the pot using a slotted spoon and shred. Strain the cooking liquid over a bowl, discarding any solids that are strained out.
  • Preheat the broiler. Spread the shredded pork on a foil-lined baking sheet, and pour about one cup of the cooking liquid over the top of of the meat. Broil 5-10 minutes, watching closely, until the edges of the meat are crispy and brown.
  • Serve warm in tortillas to make tacos or burritos or serve over salad.

Notes

STORE. Store cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Pro tip: Pour some of the juices from the instant pot into the storage container to help keep them moist.
FREEZE. Cool, place in a freezer container or bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge when you’re ready to use it.
To reheat. Use the microwave to reheat them quickly, but reheating them in the oven is the best way. Preheat the oven to around 325°F. Place the carnitas in a baking dish, cover with foil to retain moisture, and heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until heated through. Remove the foil for the last few minutes to crisp up the edges, if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 241kcal, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 39g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.03g, Cholesterol: 103mg, Sodium: 493mg, Potassium: 708mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 35IU, Vitamin C: 9mg, Calcium: 22mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
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About Kristyn

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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