Step-by-Step Guide on how to make Instant Pot Carnitas with healthy pantry ingredients. Easy Pork Carnitas Instant Pot recipe makes irresistibly delicious Crispy Mexican Pulled Pork. Juicy, tender, flavorful pork with browned crisped crust. Great for pork tacos, burritos, tamales, and nachos, serve it with rice and beans, and more!
Mexico is one of the beautiful countries that holds a dear place in our hearts.
Every time we taste Mexican food, it transports us back to the sweet memories from our honeymoon trip. Our stay was way too short and there’s so much more to explore!
Carnitas is a popular classic Mexican pulled pork. Often made with marbled pork shoulder seasoned with herbs, spices, flavorings, and lard.
Traditionally, the seasoned pork is braised or simmered in lard for hours over low heat until it’s juicy and tender. Then the pork is crisped up before shredding.
Pork carnitas is a very versatile dish you can enjoy in many ways. Make carnitas tacos by wrapping crispy carnitas with a warm crisped tortilla, topping it with refreshing pico de gallo, and a squeeze of zesty lime. A mouthful of exciting and satisfying sensations!
Instant Pot Carnitas is great for: Mexican fiesta celebrations (e.g. Cinco de Mayo), BBQs, Picnics, Potlucks, Holidays, Dinners, Parties, Game Days, and more.
What cut of meat is best for carnitas? It’s most common to use Boston butt, pork butt, or pork shoulder to make carnitas. An inexpensive cut of pork that’s heavily marbled with fat. It yields tender juicy carnitas with rich porky flavors.
How to Make Instant Pot Carnitas
This flavor-bursting, juicy, tender, crispy pork carnitas Instant Pot recipe is easy to make yet irresistibly tasty to eat!
5 Steps to Make Carnitas in Instant Pot:
We designed this pork carnitas Instant Pot recipe to be easier and much quicker than traditional or slow cooker methods. Yet it doesn’t skim on flavors and crispy deliciousness!
- Cube Pork Shoulder
- Marinate Pork
- Pressure Cook Marinated Pork
- Crisp Pressure Cooked Pork
- Shred and Enjoy~
Ingredients for Making Carnitas in Instant Pot
Pork Shoulder (Pork Butt)
Pork Butt Meat or Boston Butt is one of our favorite cuts of pork. It’s the upper part of the pig’s shoulder, above the picnic shoulder cut in the front legs. It’s beautifully marbled with enough fat to keep the meat moist and juicy while cooking. So try your best to use a pork butt with some nice marbling and fat.
- Bone-in Pork Shoulder: You can use bone-in pork shoulder for this carnitas Instant Pot recipe. Keep in mind it may be harder to cut into 2.5-inch cubes.
- Substitute with Pork Tenderloin, Pork Sirloin Roast, or Pork Loin: These cuts are quite lean and lack the marbling and fat needed to make tender juicy carnitas. For best results, we don’t recommend using these cuts for this Instant Pot carnitas recipe.
1) Our goal is for our pork to have a crisp crust on the outside and juicy tender on the inside. So, be careful not to overcook the pork shoulder in Instant Pot or oven/air fryer. Or else they’ll come out dry.
2) Pork Shoulder (already a budget cut) is usually quite a bit cheaper in Asian markets. They’re usually labeled as “Pork Butt Meat” or “Char Siu Meat”. So if there are Asian markets nearby that sell fresh meat, go check them out.
Cinnamon: One of our secret ingredients for making Instant Pot carnitas! A touch of cinnamon adds a unique taste that enriches the carnitas’ flavors. Keep in mind different brands or types of cinnamon vary in intensity, flavors, aroma, and heat. So if your cinnamon is very strong or has a richer taste, you may use less cinnamon powder. You may also omit it if you wish, the carnitas will still be tasty.
Orange Juice: Best to use orange juice squeezed from a fresh orange.
- Substitute with Bottled/Carton Orange Juice: It’ll change the carnitas’ flavor profile, and it may come out too sweet.
- Substitute with Lemon Juice: If you don’t have an orange, you may substitute it with lemon juice. You may need to balance the flavors by adding a bit of sugar to compensate for losing the orange juice’s sweetness.
Unsalted Chicken Stock: We develop recipes with unsalted ingredients so we can better control the flavors. If you’re substituting it with salted chicken stock, keep in mind that the sodium level can vary a lot between different brands. Always taste and adjust accordingly.
Regular Soy Sauce: Soy sauce isn’t a traditional carnitas ingredient. But it’ll add a boost of tasty umami flavors to the carnitas. Give it a shot!
Tools for Making Carnitas Instant Pot Recipe
- Instant Pot Pressure Cooker (6 qt)
- Baking Tray
- Wooden Spoon
Pyrex Measuring Cups
- For Crisping the Pork: Toaster Oven, Oven, Instant Pot Duo Crisp, Instant Pot Air Fryer Lid, or Air Fryer
Cut Pork Shoulder
Remove the rind and bone from the pork shoulder. Then, cut pork shoulder into ~2 – 2¼ inches cubes.
1) Try to cut each piece as uniformly as possible with similar thickness. Or else the pork shoulder won’t cook as evenly and won’t be as juicy.
2) Don’t throw away the excess fat! We’ll be pressure cooking the pork shoulder with its’ fat.
3) Don’t trim off the fat from cubed pork shoulder because they help retain the juiciness and add flavors to the carnitas. If you like, you can trim them off after pressure cooking.
Marinate Cubed Pork Shoulder
Inactive Marinating Time: 20 minutes
Place cubed pork shoulder and excess fat in Instant Pot’s inner pot.
Season pork shoulder very generously with kosher salt and ground black pepper.
Add 4 crushed garlic cloves, chopped onion, 1 teaspoon (2g) ground cumin, ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon (1g – 2g) cinnamon powder, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon (15ml) regular soy sauce, and 55ml orange juice (from 1 orange) in Instant Pot.
Mix well, then let the pork shoulder marinate for 20 minutes.
Pressure Cook Pork Shoulder
Pour ~⅘ cup (200ml) unsalted chicken stock in Instant Pot.
Close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to Sealing Position.
Instant Pot Carnitas Cooking Time: Pressure Cook at High Pressure for 30 minutes, then Natural Release for 15 minutes.
After natural releasing, turn the Venting Knob to the Venting position to release the remaining pressure. Open the lid carefully.
Crisp Pork Shoulder
Take a bite and see if the pork is salty enough. If the pork cubes are not salty enough, add more kosher salt to the cooking liquid. Taste and adjust accordingly.
Transfer the pork shoulder in Instant Pot to a baking tray.
Brush some of the cooking liquid on each piece of pork before crisping.
Place pork shoulder under a broiler or the top rack of a preheated 450°F toaster oven until the surface is crisped. Roughly 8 to 10 minutes.
Flip the pork shoulder cubes, brush each piece with more cooking liquid, then place them in the oven again until the surface is crisped.
Optional – Heat Corn Tortillas
If you’re making carnitas tacos and serving them with corn tortillas, heat up the corn tortillas when the pork is browning in the oven.
If you’d like to serve it with homemade Pico de Gallo, here’s our Fresh Salsa Recipe.
Serve Instant Pot Carnitas
You can shred the pressure cooker carnitas with forks or leave them as chunks.
For Carnitas Tacos: Place piping hot Instant Pot pork carnitas on top of the warmed corn tortillas with a spoonful of salsa (Pico De Gallo). Finish off with a squeeze of lime.
Ta da! Serve carnitas immediately and enjoy! 🙂
What to Serve with Carnitas
This carnitas Instant Pot recipe is very versatile, and you can use it for many tasty Mexican dishes. Like pork tacos, burritos, tamales, enchiladas, nachos, quesadillas, huarache, burrito bowls, gringa, and more.
You can also enjoy a Mexican meal and serve pressure cooker carnitas on a plate with Mexican side dishes. Like Instant Pot Black Beans, Instant Pot Mexican Rice or Instant Pot Rice, Instant Pot Refried Beans, Instant Pot Pinto Beans (Frijoles Charros), Instant Pot Mexican Street Corn (Elote), fresh guacamole, salsa, salads, or soups.
Don’t forget to wrap up the delicious meal with some sweet Mexican desserts like Instant Pot Flan, Instant Pot Arroz con Leche, or churros with ice cream.
Enjoy Best Instant Pot Carnitas!
Instant Pot Carnitas
- 3 ¼ pounds (~1475g) pork shoulder meat (pork butt meat) , cut into 2 – 2 ¼ inches cubes
- 200 ml (~⅘ cup) unsalted chicken stock
- 4 (13g) garlic cloves , crushed
- 1 (200g) medium onion , roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon (2g) cumin seed , ground
- ½ - 1 teaspoon (1g - 2g) cinnamon powder (or 1 cinnamon stick)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) regular soy sauce
- 55 ml orange juice from 1 fresh orange
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 8 - 12 corn tortillas
- Salsa (pico de gallo)
- 1 lime
♥ Share this Recipe so We can create more yummy recipes for you. Thank you 🙂
- Cut Pork Shoulder: Remove rind and bone from pork shoulder. Cut pork shoulder into ~2 – 2¼ inches cubes as uniformly as possible. Keep the excess fat. Amy + Jacky's Tip: Don't trim off the fat from cubed pork shoulder.
- Marinate Pork Shoulder Cubes: Place pork shoulder cubes and excess fat in Instant Pot. Season very generously with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Add 4 crushed garlic cloves, chopped onion, 1 tsp (2g) ground cumin, ½ - 1 tsp (1g - 2g) cinnamon powder, 2 bay leaves, 1 tbsp (15ml) regular soy sauce, and 55ml orange juice (from 1 orange) in Instant Pot. Mix well, then let the pork marinate for 20 minutes.
- Pressure Cook Pork Shoulder Cubes: Pour ~⅘ cup (200ml) unsalted chicken stock in Instant Pot. Close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to Sealing Position. Pressure Cook at High Pressure for 30 minutes, then Natural Release for 15 minutes. Release the remaining pressure. Open the lid carefully.
- Crisp Pork Shoulder: Take a bite and see if the pork is salty enough. If the pork is not salty enough, add more kosher salt to the cooking liquid. Taste and adjust accordingly.Transfer the pork shoulder to a baking tray. Brush some of the cooking liquid on each piece of pork before crisping.Amy + Jacky's Basting Tip: The cooking liquid should be mostly fat. If not, mix ¼ cup (63ml) cooking liquid with 2 tbsp (30ml) vegetable oil, then drizzle over each piece of pork. The fat & oil will protect the pork from drying out and the surface will crisp faster.Place pork shoulder under a broiler or the top rack of a preheated 450°F toaster oven until the surface is crisped. Roughly 8 to 10 minutes. Flip the cubed pork, brush each piece with more cooking liquid, then place them in the oven again until the surface is crisped.
- (Optional) Heat Corn Tortillas: If you are serving the carnitas with corn tortillas, heat up the corn tortillas when the pork is browning in the oven.
- Serve & Enjoy: Place piping hot Carnitas on top of the warmed corn tortillas with a spoonful of salsa (Pico De Gallo). Serve immediately!
- Substitute with Pork Tenderloin, Pork Sirloin Roast, or Pork Loin: These cuts are quite lean and lack the marbling and fat to make tender juicy carnitas. For best results, we don’t recommend using these cuts for this recipe.
- Our goal is for the pork to have a crisp crust on the outside and juicy tender on the inside. So, be careful not to overcook the pork in Instant Pot or oven/air fryer.
- Can I marinate it overnight? You can if you like. The marinade will penetrate a little more into the meat overnight. But the acid in the orange juice can make the pork’s surface a little mushy after marinating for about 18 hours.
- Can I skip the marinating step? We don't recommend skipping this step. Marinating the pork will make a difference in the final results.
- Substitute with Bottled/Carton Orange Juice: It'll change the carnitas' flavor profile, and it may come out too sweet.
- Substitute with Lemon Juice: You can substitute it with lemon juice. You may need to balance the flavors by adding a bit of sugar to compensate for losing the orange juice’s sweetness.
Other Instant Pot Tacos Recipes
All Our Pressure Cooker Recipes
*Disclosure: We are an Amazon Influencer/Amazon Associate. This means that if you decide to purchase items or services on Amazon through our links on Pressure Cook Recipes to Amazon, Amazon will send a small commission to us at no additional costs to you. Thank you!