Make juicy and flavorful Mexican pulled pork in your pressure cooker! Instant Pot carnitas are perfect for tacos, burrito bowls, taco salads, and more.
Juicy Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
My slow cooker pork carnitas is one of my most popular pork recipes. With so many requests for an Instant Pot version, here it is! This method is much quicker than the oven or slow cooker, and perfect for weeknights and making ahead.
These Instant Pot carnitas come out of the pressure cooker unbelievably juicy and tender. Every bite of this Mexican-style pork melts away in your mouth, while the zesty flavor from chipotle peppers combined with seasonings lingers long afterward.
Why You’ll Love This Instant Pot Recipe
I love having a big batch of carnitas ready in the fridge during the week, and I’ll freeze the extras for even more delicious meals down the road. Here are more reasons to love this recipe:
- Quick and easy. Instant Pot carnitas needs simple ingredients and only 20 minutes of hands-on prep before your pressure cooker takes over.
- Full of flavor. I brown the pork and then season it with a mouthwatering blend of spices and aromatics. The Instant Pot concentrates all that delicious flavor, and the result is juicy, caramelized, and tender pulled pork that you’ll want to eat right out of the pot.
- Make-ahead friendly. This recipe makes a big batch of carnitas. It’s perfect for feeding a crowd or freezing leftovers for easy meal prep.
- Versatile. Use your pork carnitas in all sorts of Mexican dishes, and reheat leftovers to add to sandwiches, taco bowls, and more. See further on for easy serving ideas!
What Are Carnitas?
Carnitas is Spanish for “little meats”, and it’s exactly that: small pieces of pork that are slow-cooked until juicy and tender. Basically, it’s a variation of pulled pork, Mexican style. Carnitas are a staple all throughout Mexico, where recipes are traditionally made from pork shoulder cooked in lard.
Carnitas are used to fill everything from tacos to burritos and as a topping on bowls and nachos. They’re also irresistible on their own as a main dish or plucked straight from the pot. This homemade version skips the excess fat. These Instant Pot pork carnitas come out flavorful and juicy without it!
Ingredients You’ll Need
Let’s have a quick look at the key ingredients in this zesty pork carnitas recipe. Don’t forget to scroll to the recipe card for the full ingredient amounts and recipe details.
- Pork: This Instant Pot recipe works best with a boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed and quartered.
- Garlic: You’ll need about 6 fresh garlic cloves, sliced into slivers. I stuff these right inside the pork to help distribute the flavor.
- Seasoning: We’ll season our pork shoulder with a combination of cumin, homemade sazon seasoning (or your preferred store-bought blend), dried oregano, dried adobo seasoning, garlic powder, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.
- Broth: I like to use low-sodium chicken broth and adjust the salt levels to taste.
- Chilies: Chipotle peppers in Adobo bring the heat to this Mexican pulled pork recipe.
Can I Use a Different Cut of Pork?
Pork shoulder (or pork butt) is the traditional choice. You can try this recipe with other cuts if you’d like. However, when choosing your pork, remember that leaner cuts (like pork loin or pork tenderloin) may not cook up quite as tender or juicy as fattier cuts.
How to Make Instant Pot Carnitas
There’s no need to preheat the oven or slow-cook this carnitas recipe for hours. This Mexican pulled pork comes together in a fraction of the time in the Instant Pot:
- Brown the pork. Give your quartered pork shoulder a liberal sprinkle of salt and pepper. With your Instant Pot set to saute, brown the pork with a bit of oil until it’s seared on all sides, then take it out to cool.
- Add garlic. Next, using a sharp knife, make 1-inch cuts all over the pork. Stuff these small holes with your garlic slivers.
- Season. Afterward, rub the pork all over with a combination of cumin, sazon, oregano, adobo seasoning, and garlic powder.
- Combine. To the Instant Pot, add broth and chipotle peppers, followed by the seasoned pork and bay leaves. Seal the pot and pressure cook the pork on high for 80 minutes.
- Shred. Once the pressure has been released, open the IP and use a pair of forks to shred the pork into small pieces. Then, stir everything together with the juices that have accumulated in the pot. Finally, pluck out the bay leaves, and season to taste.
Tips for Success
The Instant Pot makes this recipe practically fool-proof. Keep these tips in mind for the perfect pork carnitas:
- Don’t trim away all the fat. I keep this recipe lean by trimming the pork shoulder before pressure cooking. I recommend trimming the skin but leaving some fat intact, though, as it adds flavor.
- Always brown the pork first. Don’t skip this step! Browning the meat brings out the flavor and helps seal in the juices.
- Crisping up these carnitas is optional. You can serve this recipe straight from the Instant Pot. However, if you’d like to crisp up your carnitas, spread the shredded pork out on a baking sheet and pop it under the broiler for a few minutes. Keep an eye on the meat so that it doesn’t burn.
- Brown and season the pork the night before. Follow the recipe as directed, right up until you would add everything to the IP. Instead, cover and refrigerate your seasoned pork shoulder overnight. It will be all ready to go the following day.
Ways to Serve Pork Carnitas
Wondering what to serve with carnitas? There are plenty of ways to turn this flavorful Instant Pot pulled pork into a meal. Try these ideas:
- Tacos. Carnitas tacos are one of our favorite ways to enjoy Mexican pulled pork. Serve carnitas over corn tortillas topped with guacamole and pico de gallo salsa, or your choice of taco fixings.
- Quesadillas. Juicy pork makes a tasty filling for homemade quesadillas (swap the chicken for carnitas instead) or baked enchiladas.
- Bowls. Serve carnitas over a bed of cilantro lime rice, along with diced avocado, corn salsa, and crumbly cotija cheese or shredded Monterey Jack.
- Rice and beans. Pair with Mexican rice and refried beans or authentic frijoles con todo.
- Salad. Leftover carnitas are great to serve over a fresh green salad drizzled with creamy tomatillo dressing.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
This carnitas recipe makes a huge batch, so there’s a good chance that you’ll have leftovers! Carnitas are wonderful for meal prep because you can cook this up over a weekend and have lunches for days. Use leftovers in tacos, sandwiches, or as a topping for taco salads and nachos.
- Fridge: Store leftovers airtight in the fridge for 4-5 days. Reheat your carnitas in a skillet on the stovetop, in the microwave, or under foil in the oven until warmed through.
- Freezer: Freeze carnitas in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
More Mexican-Inspired Recipes
- Ropa Vieja
- Instant Pot Chicken Taco Chili
- Carne Guisada (Latin Beef Stew)
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
- Shrimp Tacos
- Salsa Verde Chicken
Instant Pot Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)
- 2 1/2 pounds trimmed, boneless pork shoulder blade roast, cut into 4 pieces
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- black pepper, to taste
- 6 cloves garlic, cut into sliver
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon sazon, I used homemade
- 1/4 teaspoon dry oregano
- 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
- 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon dry adobo seasoning, I used Goya
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Season pork with salt and pepper.
- Press saute on the instant pot, spray with oil and brown the pork on all sides for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Using a sharp knife, insert blade into pork about 1-inch deep, and insert the garlic slivers, you’ll want to do this all over.
- Season pork with cumin, sazon, oregano, adobo and garlic powder all over.
- Pour chicken broth, add chipotle peppers and stir, add bay leaves and place pork in the Instant Pot, cover and cook using the pressure cooker setting on high pressure for 80 minutes.
- When the pressure releases, shred pork using two forks and combine well with the juices that accumalated at the bottom.
- Remove bay leaves and adjust cumin and add adobo and mix well.