Instant Pot Carnitas: A Flavorful Mexican Classic Made Easy

When it comes to Mexican cuisine, few dishes can match the delightful flavors and textures of Carnitas. These succulent, slow-cooked, and crisped-up pork bites are a beloved Mexican classic. Traditionally, Carnitas involve hours of braising in lard, but thanks to the Instant Pot, you can enjoy this mouthwatering dish in a fraction of the time without sacrificing taste. Today, we’re diving into the world of Instant Pot Carnitas and discovering how to make this iconic Mexican dish effortlessly.

What is Instant Pot Carnitas?

Instant Pot Carnitas is a Mexican-inspired dish made with tender, flavorful, and crispy shredded pork. It’s a beloved and versatile recipe that can be served in a variety of ways, such as in tacos, burritos, bowls, or alongside rice and beans.

The word “carnitas” means “little meats” in Spanish, and the dish traditionally consists of seasoned and slow-cooked pork, typically simmered in its own juices and often lard, until it becomes tender and crispy on the outside. The result is succulent, seasoned pork with a satisfyingly crispy texture on the edges.

In the context of the Instant Pot, a modern electric pressure cooker, making carnitas has become much quicker and easier without compromising on taste. This method involves searing chunks of pork shoulder, seasoning them with a mix of spices and citrus juices (commonly orange and lime), and pressure cooking the meat until it’s fall-apart tender. The Instant Pot Carnitas can then be shredded and, for a crispy finish, broiled in the oven.

How To Make an Instant Pot Carnitas

Instant Pot Carnitas Recipe

Instant Pot Carnitas Recipe

Recipe by Ethan HarrisCuisine: Mexican recipe


Prep time


Cooking time






  • 2-3 pounds of boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 orange, juiced

  • 1 lime, juiced

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon oregano

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste for spice)

  • 1/4 cup chicken broth

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  • Searing the Pork:
    Begin by turning your Instant Pot to the “Sauté” mode. Add the vegetable oil and, once it’s hot, sear the pork cubes in batches until they’re browned on all sides. Set the seared pork aside.
  • Aromatics and Spices:
    In the same pot, add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Sauté for a few minutes until they become softened and fragrant. Then, stir in the ground cumin, chili powder, dried oregano, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Sauté for about a minute to toast the spices and release their flavors.
  • Deglaze the Pot:
    Pour in the freshly squeezed orange juice and lime juice, using them to deglaze the pot by scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. This infusion of citrusy goodness is key to the Carnitas flavor.
  • Pressure Cooking:
    Return the seared pork to the Instant Pot and add the chicken broth. Give it all a good stir. Close the Instant Pot lid, ensuring the vent is sealed. Set the Instant Pot to ‘Manual’ or ‘Pressure Cook’ mode on high pressure for 35 minutes.
  • Natural Release:
    Once the timer goes off, allow for a natural pressure release for about 10-15 minutes before manually releasing any remaining pressure.
  • Shredding and Crisping:
    Using a fork, shred the tender pork directly in the Instant Pot, incorporating it with the flavorful cooking liquid. If you crave that crispy Carnitas texture, transfer the shredded pork to a baking sheet and broil it in the oven for a few minutes until it crisps up on the edges.
  • Serve and Savor:
    Your Instant Pot Carnitas are now ready to be enjoyed. Serve them as taco fillings, in burrito bowls, or any way you desire. Garnish with fresh cilantro, chopped onions, a squeeze of lime, and your favorite salsa.

Possible Variations

Spice It Up: Adjust the level of heat by adding or reducing the amount of chili peppers. Whether you prefer the mild warmth of jalapeños or the fiery kick of habaneros, you can tailor the spice to your liking.

Herb-Infused: Incorporate fresh or dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, or bay leaves for an aromatic twist. These herbs can add depth and complexity to the flavor profile.

Crispy Cheese Topping: After broiling, consider sprinkling grated cheese over the carnitas and returning them to the broiler for a few moments. This adds a delicious layer of crispy, cheesy goodness.

Tortilla Varieties: Instead of standard flour or corn tortillas, explore different types like plantain tortillas, jicama wraps, or lettuce leaves for low-carb options.

Veggie Fusion: Enhance the carnitas with a medley of sautéed vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and zucchini. This creates a wholesome, all-in-one dish.

Dipping Sauces: Provide an array of dipping sauces, from classic salsa verde to smoky barbecue or creamy avocado cilantro lime dressing. Dipping adds an extra layer of excitement.

Way To Serve Carnitas

Here are some ways to enjoy this delectable dish:

Taco: Carnitas are a taco lover’s dream. Fill warm tortillas with a generous portion of carnitas, and top with diced onions, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. A dollop of salsa or guacamole adds an extra kick.

Burrito Bliss: Wrap your carnitas in a large flour tortilla with your choice of rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Roll it up for a hearty and satisfying burrito.

Nachos Nirvana: Load up a plate of tortilla chips with carnitas, melted cheese, jalapeños, diced tomatoes, and black olives. Bake until the cheese is bubbly, then garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with your favorite dips.

Carnitas Salad: Create a hearty salad with a base of fresh greens. Top with carnitas, diced avocado, corn, black beans, and a drizzle of your favorite dressing.

Enchilada Elegance: Make enchiladas by rolling carnitas in corn tortillas, placing them in a baking dish, covering them with enchilada sauce, and baking until heated through. Top with cheese and garnish with fresh herbs.

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