These instant pot carnitas are so tender they fall apart with one fork, while the outside is seared to a crispy golden brown. Serve this flavorful and juicy pork over rice or inside tacos with your favorite toppings.
Salt, fat, acid and heat (the cornerstone of a good recipe) are all happening in this pork carnitas!
You may think they have to be cooked low and slow for HOURS when you think of tender, juicy carnitas. But did you know the Instant Pot achieves the same result in less than half the time!?
Juicy, crispy pork carnitas you can cook from start to finish on a weeknight.
Why You'll Love Instant Pot Carnitas
- The same tender shredded pork in a fraction of the time.
- Every bite tastes like traditional carnitas.
- Tender juicy pork with crispy edges every time.
- Great for meal prep (carnitas bowls!).
- It's an easy recipe to make a big batch and freeze for later.
Grab These Ingredients
Here are the simple ingredients for this Instant Pot Carnitas recipe. Most of these are fresh ingredients and easy to find in grocery stores. Jump down to the recipe card for exact measurements.
- Seasoning: a mixture of cumin, oregano, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and black pepper give the carnitas the classic Mexican flavors. We have more tips on this recipe for carnitas seasoning.
- Citrus juices: a mix of fresh lime juice and fresh orange juice add acid and flavor to the cooking liquid.
- Pork shoulder: this is often called pork butt and you can find it in the meat section of the grocery store. It will either be in the pre-packaged section or behind the butcher counter. It's the same cut of pork you use to make Instant Pot Pulled Pork.
- Garlic and onion: these aromatic ingredients and a base flavor to build off of.
Tip: This recipe calls for about 3 lbs of pork shoulder, but you can cut it and freeze the pork to make carnitas another day or try these tacos al pastor too if you can only find a larger cut.
Making these for a crowd? You need ⅔ lb of raw pork shoulder for each person. Multiply your guest count by .66 to get the amount of pork shoulder to purchase then adjust this recipe.
Are carnitas healthy? While we're on the topic of ingredients, let's talk about just how healthy these crispy carnitas are! They're whole30, gluten free, dairy dairy free, sugar free and and a great source of protein.
How to Make Instant Pot Carnitas
The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through the steps with some photos so you have a clear idea of what to expect. These pressure cooker carnitas are so easy and these step-by-step instructions will make sure they turn out every time.
Watch How to Make Instant Pot Carnitas
Cover the pork in the dry rub and use your fingers to rub it into all sides of the pork. Warm olive oil over high heat in the Instant Pot on the saute setting.
Working in batches, sear 4-5 pieces of pork shoulder for 2-3 minutes on each side, until crispy and brown. Transfer the seared pork to a cutting board.
Add a bit more oil to the bottom of the pot and soften the onions for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Pour in the broth and add the bay leaves then place the pork back in the pot.
Close the lid and turn the pressure valve to the sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 55 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes for Instant Pot to come to pressure before it counts down. When the timer goes off, naturally release the Instant Pot (do nothing) for 10 minutes then turn the pressure release valve to quick release (release the remaining pressure).
Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked pork pieces from the Instant Pot onto a sheet pan. Shred the pork with two forks. It should fall apart easily.
Spread it out evenly onto the sheet pan and place it under the oven broiler for 3-5 minutes, turning the pan once or twice to crisp it evenly. This extra step makes such a difference! You can't beat the tender pork with crispy edges.
The main reason your pork is tough is that it's undercooked. Unlike other cuts of pork, the pork butt (pork shoulder) needs time to render out the fat and tenderize the meat. It benefits from a long cook time. We've tested this recipe 5+ times with varying cook times and anything under 50 minutes resulted in tough pork. Pressure cooking for almost an hour with a natural release will give you the most tender shredded meat.
Pulled pork is a general term for slow-cooking pork shoulder for hours until it falls apart. It's often served with BBQ sauce, like in this Instant Pot Pulled Pork recipe. Carnitas (translated to little meats) slow cook for hours as well, but they're broiled at the end for a crispy outside. They also include Mexican spices like chili powder and cumin.
The orange juice, along with the lime juice, adds acidity to the dish, balancing out the flavor, but it also helps break down the meat.
I've made this recipe in the slow cooker and the Instant Pot several times with very similar results. I love the crock pot because you can set it and forget it for hours! You're guaranteed tender pork every time. The upside to the Instant Pot is that it you can sear the pork directly in the pot rather than in a separate pan. You can also achieve the same fall-apart texture in just over an hour.
Unlike beef, pork will fall apart and get more tender the longer you cook it in the Instant Pot. You can overcook it, but cooking it longer won't hurt!
Ways To Serve Instant Pot Carnitas
Once you make this tender meat, you can serve it up in several ways to keep things exciting. here are our favorite ways to enjoy this recipe.
- On top of burrito bowls. Serve them over cilantro lime rice with toppings like roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, red onion, pico de gallo, guacamole, fresh cilantro, jalapeno ranch, avocado crema, or cashew queso.
- Make carnitas tacos. Heat up flour or corn tortillas and add a helping of carnitas and your favorite toppings.
- Roll it in a burrito. Just like Chipotle, roll them up with rice, beans, and toppings.
- Put them on nachos with your favorite toppings and creamy avocado dip.
Store leftover carnitas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or in the oven on a baking sheet until heated through.
To freeze: allow the pork carnitas to cool completely then store them in a freezer bag and, remove as much air as possible. Lay flat to freeze to save space. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat large batches of carnitas in the slow cooker.
Similar recipes you'll love:
- Carne asada tacos
- Sheet pan burrito bowl
- Healthy chicken enchiladas
- Instant pot salsa chicken
- Mexican beef and rice skillet
Crispy Instant Pot Carnitas
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon EACH: smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 lb pork shoulder (pork butt) cut into 3-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
- 6 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 1 medium white onion cut into large chunks
- 2 bay leaves
- ⅓ cup fresh orange juice (about 1 large orange)
- ⅓ cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- For serving: fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, avocado crema, jalapeño ranch, cashew queso, lime juice, diced red onion, cilantro lime rice
- Instant Pot
- Large sheet pan
- Mix all of the spices in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into all sides of each piece of pork, using your fingertips to rub it in until the outside turns a red hue from the paprika and chili powder.
- Drizzle the olive oil into the bottom of the Instant Pot and turn it to the saute function until it's hot and shimmering. Working in batches, sear 4-5 pieces of pork shoulder for 2-3 minutes on each side, until crispy and brown. Transfer the seared pork to a cutting board.
- Pour in a bit more oil in the bottom of the pot and add the onion and cook to soften for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Add the pork shoulder back to the Instant Pot. Pour in the lime juice, orange juice, broth, and bay leaves. Stir it together, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cancel the saute setting close the lid and turn the pressure valve to the sealing position.
- Cook on high pressure for 55 minutes. It will take about 10 minutes for Instant Pot to come to pressure before it counts down. When the timer goes off, naturally release the Instant Pot (do nothing) for 10 minutes then turn the pressure release valve to quick release (release the remaining pressure).
- Preheat the oven to broil. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked pork pieces from the Instant Pot onto a sheet pan. Shred the pork with two forks. It should fall apart easily.
- Spread it out evenly onto the sheet pan and broil it in the oven for 3-5 minutes, turning the pan once or twice to crisp it evenly. Serve warm in tortillas, a burrito, or in a burrito bowl.