This instant pot carnitas recipe is a take on the traditional. The pork is seasoned to perfection, pressure-cooked, then grilled. A process that results in very tender, juicy, pull apart meat with a crispy exterior. While carnitas is most often added to tacos, it’s very versatile. Try it in burritos, sliders or my favourite – nourishing bowls. It’s a great dish to include in your Cinco de Mayo menu too!
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Carnitas originated in Michoachán, Mexico and literally translates to “little meats”. And that’s exactly what this dish becomes after it’s been cooked. It’s essentially pulled pork; however, the traditional recipe is cooked more like confit. The pork is placed into big copper pots filled with lard and slowly braised for hours until it’s very tender. Meat falling to the bottom of the pot becomes extra crispy and is served as burnt ends. The skin is also utilised and becomes very soft after cooking in the lard.
While that is thoroughly delicious, it’s perhaps not as easy to replicate in your home kitchen. That makes this instant pot carnitas a great everyday alternative. No copper pot, or huge amounts of lard needed for this. It’s definitely worth watching how an authentic carnitas recipe is made. Episode 1: Los Angeles, California on Street Food USA is a good place to start.
Ingredients For Pork Carnitas
There is no standard recipe for carnitas though seasonings are often similar. Some favour just the standard salt and pepper letting the pork and lard add extra flavour. However, in the absence of lots of lard here, I’ve gone the other route and added plenty of seasonings.
- Boneless pork shoulder – the fat content in this cut makes it excellent for slow cooking. It results in very tender, perfectly pull-apart meat every time.
- Spice rub – The combination of cumin, oregano, chipotle, and a little clove gives the meat a slightly smokey flavour.
- Chicken stock – Helps to keep the meat nice and moist while cooking. Beef stock can also be used if preferred.
- Orange juice – Helps to tenderise the meat and add flavour.
- Garlic and onion – Also used to add extra taste to the final dish.
- Olive oil – This is used to help sear the pork before pressure cooking.
After looking right into the history of carnitas I found that the seasoning can vary quite a lot across recipes. Those used here stay as loyal to the traditional recipes as possible.
How To Make Instant Pot Carnitas
Cooking carnitas in the instant pot is a very easy way to make this dish. It takes less time means less clean-up and you don’t need to keep a constant eye on it. Don’t skip on grilling the pulled pork at the end either. That’s what will give the meat the deliciously crisp exterior.
- Chop the onion into wedges and crush the garlic. Set both aside.
- Mix the spices together to form the spice rub. Also set this aside.
- Cut any skin off the pork, pat dry with paper towel then sprinkle the spice rub all over. Rub it in as you go so it sticks to the meat.
- Press sauté on the instant pot and set the timer for 8 mins, then pour in the olive oil. Add in the pork and brown well on all sides.
- Add in the chicken stock, orange juice, onion, garlic, and salt and pepper. Put the lid on and set to pressure cook for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
- Release pressure naturally for 20 minutes. While this is happening – switch on your oven grill and line a large baking sheet with baking paper. If the pressure valve hasn’t dropped after 20 minutes hit the manual release button to release the rest.
- Remove the pork, place in a large bowl then shred with two forks.
- Pour 2/3 cup of the liquid from the pot over the pork. Mix well then put it all onto the lined baking sheet.
- Grill the shredded meat for 5 – 10 minutes to get the pork nice and crispy. Only grill one side so the meat stays moist when serving.
To serve – there are lots of ways to enjoy this dish. The most traditional is in tacos. But it’s also great in burritos and nourishing bowls too.
This generally occurs if the meat hasn’t cooked long enough for it to be shredded. If this happens, you can always cook for another 30 mins. Also ensure you allow the pressure to release naturally. This drops the internal temperature slowly and continues to gently cook the pork.
The acidity in the orange juice helps to tenderise and break down the meat. It also adds extra flavour.
Both pulled pork and carnitas are made via slow or pressure cook method. The difference though, is that carnitas is finished off under a grill to make the exterior crisp. The other difference is that carnitas, traditionally anyway, is slow cooked in lard.
Watch How To Make This Recipe
Instant Pot Carnitas
- Instant pot
- 2 kg pork shoulder boneless and without the skin (see note 1)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ¾ cup chicken or beef stock
- ½ cup orange juice (roughly 2 oranges)
- 1 white onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 3 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp ground clove
- ½ tsp dried chipotle
- Chop the onion in half lengthways, then chop each half into quarters to make wedges. Crush the garlic then set both aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, oregano, chipotle, and clove to make the spice rub. Set this aside too.
- If the pork has skin on it, cut this off and keep to make cracking then pat the meat dry with paper towel. Sprinkle half the spice rub evenly over the top and rub it in so it sticks to the pork. Flip it over and repeat with the other half of the spice rub. Set aside.
- Put the instant pot on sauté for 8 mins then pour in the olive oil. Once it's warmed through (about one minute) add in the pork and brown it well on all sides.
- If the meat is browned before the timer has finished hit cancel. Add in the chicken stock, orange juice, and salt and pepper. Then add the onion and garlic pushing them down into the liquid. Put the lid on and set to pressure cook for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
- Once cooking has finished, hit cancel and let the instant pot release pressure naturally for 20 minutes. While this is happening – switch on your oven grill and line a large baking sheet with baking paper. If the pressure valve hasn't dropped after 20 minutes hit the manual release button to release the rest.
- Remove all the pork and place in a large bowl then shred with two forks. The pork should be falling apart as you lift it from the pot.
- Take 2/3 cup of the liquid from the pot and pour it over the pork in the bowl. Mix well to completely coat the meat then put it all onto the lined baking sheet. Don't discard the liquid either (see note 2).
- Place the baking sheet under the grill for 5 – 10 minutes to get the pork golden and crispy. I only do the one side so the meat stays very moist when serving.
- To serve – add the meat to tacos, burritos, or nourishing bowls. Pour a little extra pot juices over the top for lots of added flavour.