Instant Pot Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

April 6, 2019 (Last Updated: April 12, 2019)

Instant Pot Carnitas! An easy dump and start pressure cooker recipe for this juicy, tender and flavorful Mexican pulled pork. Crisped before serving along with instant onion pickle, this shredded pork goes great on tacos, burritos, nachos, salad bowls and with Mexican rice & Beans.

Four corn tortillas filled with crispy carnitas, garnished with onions, cotija cheese and cilantro

What is Carnitas

Carnitas, is Mexican spiced pulled pork that is cooked with citrus and spices till it is fall-apart tender. It is then shredded and broiled in the oven, or in a skillet, so the sugars caramelize and give it an amazing crust. Each bite of this shredded pork is a perfect balance of juicy-tender and golden-crisp!

A corn tortilla stuffed with pork carnitas and pickled onions

What Goes with Pork Carnitas

Some popular ways to enjoy Carnitas is in tacos and burritos. Salad bowls and lettuce cups work great for a low-carb option.

Another way I like to serve Carnitas is with a side of Mexican Rice and Beans along with an assortment of condiments like salsa, guacamole, sour cream and pickled onions (recipe included 👇).

Pork carnitas served with mexican rice and beans
Pork Carnitas with Mexican Rice and Black Beans

Instant Pickled Onions

Pickled onions are the most commonly served condiment with Carnitas. Here is a real simple way to make instant pickled onions.

I sliced white onions, or shallots and marinate them in red wine vinegar, sugar and seasoning, and refrigerate it for 15-20 minutes.

In the time that it takes for the meat to be done, the pickled onions are ready and absolutely delicious! They absorb all the sweet and tangy flavors and still retain a nice bite! Here is how I make them:

Marinating sliced onions in vinegar, sugar and spiced to make Instant Pickled onions
Marinating onions in vinegar, sugar and spices for Instant Pickled Onions

What Cut of Meat do you use for Carnitas

Pork Shoulder, also called Pork Butt, is the ideal cut of meat for Carnitas. It has just the right amount of fat that melts and keeps the meat most while it cooks.

I cut it in about 2-2.5 inch pieces, which allows the meat to soak in all the flavors, and also reduces the pressure cooking time considerably. As for whether to buy bone-in or boneless, both work. I buy whichever one is available.

Four corn tortillas filled with crispy carnitas, garnished with onions and cilantro

How to Make Instant Pot Carnitas

Traditionally, carnitas is slow cooked with aromatics and spices to get that fabulous intense taste. By cooking it in an Instant Pot I reduce the cooking time considerably, plus the meat absorbs all the aroma and flavors and tastes like it has been slow cooking for hours .

This recipe will work with any electrical pressure cooker. Here is how I make Carnitas in the Instant Pot:

Step 1: Gather the ingredients for this easy dump and start recipe – meat, spices, orange, lime, crushed garlic and 7up.

Ingredients for making Carnitas in Instant Pot

Step 2: Cut pork in to 2- 2.5 inch pieces. This allows the meat to absorb all the flavors and reduces the pressure cooking time considerably.

Add pork meat pieces in the Instant Pot

Step 3: Add spices over the meat. You can also use your favorite taco seasoning blend here.

Add spices in the Instant Pot

Step 4: Crushed or grated garlic goes in next.

Adding grated garlic to the meat

Step 5: Pour in fresh orange juice along with the rinds. The rind releases oils while cooking, which add a delicious taste and aroma to the pork.

Adding orange juice to the pot

Step 6: Fresh lime juice goes in next along with rinds.

Squeezing fresh lime juice

Step 7: Add a small can (7.5oz) of 7up or any Lemon-lime soda. Soda adds a great combination of sweet and tang to the meat. If you don’t drink soda, simply double up the orange and lime juice.

Adding lemon soda to the Instant Pot

Step 8: Stir everything and gently push down the meat so it is submerged in the seasoned liquid.

Pushing down the meat so it is covered in liquid

Step 9: Pressure cook 45 mins on Meat mode or Pressure cook mode and wait for a natural pressure release after that (NPR). Open the lid after the pin drops.

Pressure cooking in Instant Pot

Step 10: Remove the meat and shred it using two forks. The meat should be fall-apart tender at this point. You can eat it as-is, or go to the next step and crisp it up (highly recommended).

Remove pork pieces to shred

Final Step: Heat a skillet on medium-high heat. Add a layer of shredded pork along with a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Let it caramelize for 3-4 minutes, till it forms a crips crust. Repeat in batches and you’re done!

Crisping shredded pork in a skillet for carnitas

Pro-Tip for the Tastiest Pork Carnitas Ever!

  • The one tip that I always recommend for this recipe is DON’T SKIP THE LAST STEP of crisping the meat! That allows the sugars from the citrus and lemon soda to caramelize and gives the meat a nice golden crisp exterior.
  • Lemon-lime soda adds a great combination of sweet and tang to the meat in this dish. But, if you don’t drink soda, simply double up the orange and lime juice.
  • If making this for a bigger crowd, you can crisp the meat in the oven. Spread the meat evenly on a lined baking sheet. Add a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid over it. Pop it under the broiler for 2-4 minutes, till the top caramelizes.
  • Sometimes, I skip the individual spices and use Trader Joe’s Taco Seasoning blend to flavor the meat. For 4 lbs. of pork, I use 1 packet, which is about 4 tbsps.
Four corn tortillas filled with crispy carnitas, garnished with onions and cilantro

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Four corn tortillas filled with crispy carnitas, garnished with onions and cilantro

Instant Pot Carnitas

Instant Pot Carnitas, an easy dump & start pressure cooker recipe for juicy and flavorful Mexican pulled pork. It goes great on tacos, burritos, nachos, salad bowls and with Mexican rice and beans.
5 from 1 vote
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs pork shoulder/pork butt cut in 2-2.5 inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 orange (juice + rind) about 3/4 cup juice
  • 1 lime (juice + rind) about 1.5 tbsp
  • 1 cup 7-up or any lemon-lime soda/ginger-ale (1 small 7.5 oz.can)

Spices (see notes for using Taco Seasoning instead)

Pickled Onions

  • 1.5 cups white onion or shallots, sliced thinly (about 1 large onion, or 6-8 shallots
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (1/2 a lime)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt adjust to taste)
  • 1 pinch cayenne adjust to taste

Garnishes that Pair Well with Carnitas

  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Cotija Cheese
  • Cilantro

Instructions

Pressure Cook Pork

  • Whether you are using boneless or bone-in pork butt / pork shoulder, cut it roughly in to 2-2.5 inch pieces and add it to the cooking pot. 
  • Spread the spices over the meat. Add crushed garlic, orange juice, orange rinds, lime juice, lime rinds and 7-up. Stir everything and gently push the meat down in the liquid. 
  • Close the lid. Pressure cook on Meat mode or Manual/Pressure cook mode for 45 minutes at high pressure.  Set the vent to sealing position if using the DUO model. After cooking, let the pressure release naturally.
  • Open the lid after the pressure has been released. Remove the rinds and discard.  Remove the pork pieces and shred them using two forks.  The meat should be super tender at this point. 

Pickled onions

  • While the pork is cooking, add thinly sliced onions to a mixing bowl.  Add salt, sugar, cayenne, vinegar and lime juice and toss the onions well. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.  Cover and refrigerate till you are ready to serve! Done!

Crisp the Carnitas

  • Heat a skillet on medium-high heat. Layer the shredded pork and pour a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid over the meat.  Heat till the sugars starts caramelizing and form a crisp crust on one side of the meat. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Remove the meat and it’s ready!
  • Alternatively, you can do this step under the broiler in the oven.  Spread the meat on a lined baking sheet , pour a few tbsp of the cooking liquid, and broil for 3-5 mins, till the top looks crisp.  Remove and serve!

How to Assemble Carnitas tacos

  • Heat a corn tortilla in a skillet, oven, or over direct flame using tongs.  Put about 1/2 cup of Carnitas on top. Add pickled onions, cilantro leaves and crumble Cotija cheese on top.  Ready to eat! 
  • Low-Carb Tacos: For a low-carb option, instead of corn tortillas, use iceberg lettuce leaves, or any lettuce of your choice.  Load them with carnitas, add toppings, and enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • The one tip that I always recommend for this recipe is DON’T SKIP THE LAST STEP of crisping the meat! That allows the sugars from the citrus and lemon soda to caramelize and gives the meat a nice golden crisp exterior.
  • Lemon-lime soda adds a great combination of sweet and tang to the meat in this dish. But, if you don’t drink soda, simply double up the orange and lime juice.
  • If making this for a bigger crowd, you can crisp the meat in the oven. Spread the meat evenly on a lined baking sheet. Add a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid over it. Pop it under the broiler for 2-4 minutes, till the top caramelizes.
  • Sometimes, I skip the individual spices and use Trader Joe’s Taco Seasoning blend to flavor the meat. For 4 lbs. of pork, I use 1 packet, which is about 4 tbsps.
  • Estimated Time includes pressure build-up time.  Cook time = Time to set for pressure cooking.
  • This recipe has been tested in a 6qt Instant Pot. If making this in an 8Qt size, adjust the liquid quantity to meet the minimum requirement.  Add a large can of lemon soda instead of a cup.
  • If you are new to the Instant Pot, please read my FAQ on Instant Pot Terminology and Accessories to learn more.
  • These nutrition values are for carnitas only, they do not include rice, tacos or any condiment.
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates.  If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Instant Pot Carnitas, Mexican Pulled Pork, Pork Carnitas
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