This Instant Pot Carnitas recipe makes flavorful pulled pork with Mexican spices. Ready in one hour, these carnitas are just as juicy and tender as the slow cooked version–with a fraction of the cooking time!
Table of Contents
Why this Recipe is Best
Carnitas are a Mexican style pulled pork with a juicy interior and a crisp finish. The name literally translates to “little meats” because of the way the pork shreds into bite sized pieces after cooking.
The crispy edges on the otherwise fall-apart tender meat make this dish stand out from other pulled pork recipes!
- Faster than slow cooking with just as much flavor!
- Pork is cooked in an orange juice marinade for even more tenderness.
- Broiled after pressure cooking for carnitas that are crispy AND juicy.
- Delicious in tacos, burritos or over rice.
Typically, carnitas are best cooked over a long period of time to allow the lard in the pork to soften. I’ve been making carnitas in the crockpot for years with delicious results.
But what happens when you don’t have hours upon hours to wait for dinner?
Enter: the Instant Pot!
This method for cooking carnitas in the Instant Pot is a game changer. The results are every bit as tasty as the slow cooked version but they’re ready in just about an hour.
- Pork shoulder – Also called “pork butt roast” the high fat content of this cut of meat makes it ideal for carnitas recipes. It can be bone-in or boneless for this recipe.
- Orange juice – Fresh squeezed or out of a carton, orange juice adds zesty flavor to carnitas while tenderizing the meat.
- Jalapenos – Remove the seeds and stem for mild carnitas–or leave them in if you like your pork on the spicy side!
Making Instant Pot Carnitas is a cinch. First, cut the pork into sections and place it in the bottom of your Instant Pot.
For the marinade: Place the orange juice in a blender or food processor. Add onion chunks, garlic, jalapeños and all of the spices. Blend until the mixture becomes a sauce.
Pressure cook: Pour the marinade over the pork in the instant pot. Seal the lid and cook for 50 minutes.
Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. Release the remaining pressure from the Instant Pot, then carefully remove the lid. Shred the pork with two forks.
Broil: Now we turn the tender shredded pork into crispy carnitas!
Transfer the shreds of pork to a baking sheet. Place under a broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the edges of the pork is browned.
Serve: From here you can serve the Instant Pot Carnitas as they are OR mix them with leftover marinade for even more flavor!
Tips and Tricks
- Serve in tortillas with all your favorite toppings, including our homemade pico de gallo and guacamole. Carnitas are delicious in bowls with cilantro lime rice too!
- We cut the pork into sections to allow it to cook faster. If you prefer not to cut up the pork before cooking, increase the pressure cook time to 60 minutes.
- Store leftover carnitas covered in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze the carnitas for up to 3 months.
- Don’t feel like taking the extra step to broil the carnitas? You can leave it out for a more traditional pulled pork taste. It’s delicious either way!
- We love eating carnitas with this Mexican Street Corn Salad. Our Roasted Corn Salad would make a delicious side dishe for carnitas too.
- Accidentally bought pork chops? Make our Instant Pot Pork Chops recipe instead. So hearty and flavorful.
We do not pre-brown the pork for this recipe. The Instant Pot does the work of breaking down the meat. Then we brown the cooked pork in the broiler to give it the quintessential carnitas crisp!
Do not trim the fat off the pork for this recipe. The fat makes the carnitas more tender, and prevents the pork from drying out when broiled.
No, it is not. Pork loin is a leaner cut of meat than pork shoulder (or pork butt roast). The two cannot be used interchangeably and it definitely won’t give you the same results in this recipe.
More Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot Potatoes
- Instant Pot Shredded Chicken
- Instant Pot Crack Chicken
- Bourbon Chicken – in the Instant Pot
- Instant Pot Cheesecake
Instant Pot Carnitas
- 4 pound pork shoulder roast pork butt roast
- ½ cup orange juice
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ onion roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 teaspoon smoky paprika
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 jalapeños stems removed
- Cut the pork roast into sections to fit neatly in the bottom of the instant pot.
- In the bowl of a blender or food processor, combine orange juice, pepper, salt, onion chunks, garlic, paprika, cumin, oregano, pepper, and jalapeños. Blend until sauce forms.
- Pour the blender sauce over the pork pieces in the instant pot.
- Secure the lid and make sure the valve on top is set to "SEALING." Cook on the manual setting (or high pressure) for 50 minutes. When cook time ends, allow pork to release pressure naturally for 10 minutes, then turn the valve to "VENTING."
- Carefully release the pressure from the instant pot and remove the lid.
- Using two forks, shred the meat (it should fall apart easily).
- Transfer the meat to a sheet pan and broil on high for 3-5 minutes until crisped and brown.
- Serve as is or incorporate the meat and remaining juices from the instant pot.
- Serve carnitas on tortillas with your favorite fixings, or in a bowl with cilantro lime rice.
- Pork shoulder is often called a pork butt roast. Can be bone in or boneless.
- Storage: Leftover carnitas can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- No pre-browning required. We also do not recommend trimming the fat from the pork before cooking. A little fat in the meat helps the carnitas to crisp and brown without drying out during the final broil in the oven. Broiling isn’t necessary, but it sure adds a lot of flavor and great texture.
- For more spice, include the jalapeño seeds in the blender sauce.
- You do not have to cut the roast into pieces. However, cutting it helps it cook a bit more quickly. If you’d like to leave the roast whole, increase the instant pot cook time to 60 minutes to ensure it is “fall apart” tender.
- See blog post for more recipe tips and tricks. Recipe tested in 6 quart Instant Pot.
Whether you wrap them in tortillas or serve them over rice, these Instant Pot Carnitas are a must-try meal. Grab your Instant Pot and get ready to enjoy perfectly seasoned Mexican shredded pork!