Easy carnitas anyone? This pressure cooker carnitas recipe combines savoury pork that has been infused with oregano, cumin, smoked paprika and citrus. Garnish to taste with toppings like red onion, hot peppers and cilantro. So yummy!
I’ve been obsessed with all types of Mexican cuisine for as long as I can remember, but even more so in recent years. I love the uniquely rich flavours and the way that anything can be customized to taste with garnish.
It’s been unbelievably cold here in Newfoundland this winter so I’ve been making a bunch of soups and brightly-coloured recipes.
So, today I’m sharing my second Instant Pot® recipe on the blog. This electric pressure cooker carnitas recipe is really yummy!
What Are Carnitas?
Carnitas are a popular Mexican dish, and for good reason! Basically, it’s small pieces of pork cooked until tender and delicious.
The process of preparing the pork usually takes hours by braising or simmering the pork over low heat in lard or oil. Once the pork has broken down, it is then crisped. The shredded pork is used for tacos, burritos and the like. It’s essentially Mexican pulled pork and is so good!
Fortunately, with the help of the Instant Pot (or pressure cooker) what would normally take hours, takes way less time. I’m all about that.
I especially enjoy meals like this on the weekend while chilling and catching up on our fave shows, but these carnitas tacos come together so quickly, it’s super do-able for weekday dinners. Taco Tuesday anyone?
One of the great thing about this Mexican pork carnitas recipe it that it uses pretty simply pantry staples (which I love). Basically (aside from the pork itself), you’ll need:
- Chicken broth
- Smoked paprika
- Cayenne pepper
- Orange juice and peel
You’re also gonna want some cornstarch and water to thicken the pork broth (if you like) at the end of cook time for drizzling over the carnitas.
What Kind of Meat Is Carnitas?
Pork is the meat of choice for carnitas and typically one would choose a marbled pork shoulder or butt.
What Cut of Pork Should I Use?
Ideally, you would choose a boneless cut of meat to get the most bang for your buck, meat-wise. However, if you happen to have a bone in piece of pork, throw it in the Instant Pot like I did for an extra punch of flavour. Discard when the pork is cooked.
Though I did use a pork shoulder here and it did have a heavy fat cap, I trimmed if off. For the pork chunks, I trimmed any excess fat as well, leaving just a little on. Because the pork was pressured cooked, it broke down beautifully.
Note: I prefer to remove a lot of excess fat or skin (even from other proteins that I enjoy such as chicken), which is why I prefer to use oil (instead of lard) when searing the pork and crisping it after in a cast-iron pan. If you want to leave a little more fat on the protein, that’s okay. You do you!
How To Make This Pressure Cooker Carnitas Recipe
Full details on how to make this pressure cooker carnitas recipe are in the recipe card below, but here are the basics:
- Trim any excess fat and silver skin from pork.
- Cut pork into 1.5-inch to 2-inch chunks.
- Pat pork chunks with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.
- Season pork with salt and pepper.
- Sear pork in the Instant Pot in batches (don’t overcrowd the pot because you want a sear, not a sweat.
- Deglaze with some stock and get all those yummy brown bits. That’s goodness right there!
- Return the seared pork to the Instant Pot, along with spices, onion, garlic, stock, orange juice and orange peel.
- Pressure cook for 30 minutes and let steam naturally release for 10 minutes before fully releasing steam.
- After pressure valve has gone down, carefully unlock and remove pork chunks from liquid and shred.
- Next, to get those crispy bits, heat some oil in a cast iron skillet and place the shredded pork on top in an even layer. Let cook a couple of minutes before removing.
- Serve, garnish and enjoy!
The Pork Broth
The braising liquid after the pork has been cooked is really good! I mean, you can discard, but why?
I adjusted the seasoning by adding a little more salt (season to how you like it), and turned the Instant Pot to “Sauté” to reduce the sauce a bit.
To further thicken, add a cornstarch slurry of equal parts cornstarch with water, using about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons each.
Then, the reduced braising liquid can be served over the pork or mixed into the pork after it has been crisped.
Do I Have to Crisp the Pork?
Traditionally, the pork is crisped in fat. However, if you are in a rush and really want to get these pork carnitas right in the ol’ pie hole, just shred the pork right after it’s cooked and enjoy. No judgement.
What To Serve With Pork Carnitas
I like to keep this pressure cooker carnitas recipe simple. For me, I used jalapeno, red onion and cilantro. But, if you want to go wild with the garnishes, I suggest any of the following:
- Diced white onion, thinly sliced red onion or pickled red onions
- Sliced hot peppers
- Sliced red cabbage
- Avocado or guacamole
- A smear of refried beans
- Hot sauce
- A squirt of fresh lime juice (a must for me)
Other Ways To Enjoy
Aside from enjoying the shredded pork on a tortilla, there are other delicious ways to enjoy:
- Serve over creamy polenta
- Make enchiladas
- With some rice, veggies and a drizzle of hot sauce
- Serve with scrambled eggs and beans for a hearty breakfast
- Cheesy pork quesadillas are never a bad idea
- The possibilities are pretty much endless with this pressure cooker carnitas recipe!
More Recipes You May Enjoy
If you make this carnitas recipe, be sure to leave a comment below!
Pressure Cooker Carnitas Recipe (Mexican Pork)
- 2.5 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch cubes (see "Notes" below)
- 4 to 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1.25 teaspoons salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5 cups unsalted chicken broth, divided
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- 3 to 5 slices orange peel
- 1 to 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch, optional (to thicken sauce)
- 1 to 1.5 tablespoons cold water, optional (to thicken sauce)
- flour tortillas, for serving and warmed per package instructions
- Pat pork chunks with paper towels to remove any excess moisture, then season with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper.
- Turn Instant Pot to "Sauté."Note: Settings may vary on your Instant Pot, depending on the model. Please refer to the manufacturer's guide on how to use your Instant Pot.
- Adjust the [+] or [-] button to set the timer to 20 minutes (adjust, as necessary, to complete searing of pork).
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the Instant Pot. When oil is hot, add chunks of pork (about ⅓ of it, as it will be browned it batches, replacing the oil with each batch). Brown for about 4 to 6 minutes per batch; you want a little colour all around the chunks of pork. As each batch is browned, transfer to a plate and set aside. Repeat the process with remaining pork.Note: Pork is not cooked at this point, we're just adding a little colour.
- Deglaze pot with ½ cup of chicken broth, using a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits on the bottom of the pot.
- Add onion and garlic to the pot and top with browned pork chunks and any reserved juices that's on the plate. Stir in oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt. Add remaining 1 cup of broth, orange juice, and orange peel. Stir. If there is any time left on the timer, press "Cancel."
- Close and lock lid. Set the vent on the lid to "Sealing" (steam valve in closed position). Ensure you follow the manufacturer's guide for closing and locking the lid.
- Next, select the "Manual" or "Pressure Cook" (high setting) button (depending on which model you have). Adjust the [+] or [-] button to set the timer to 30 minutes (it may take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to come to pressure before the 30 minutes starts to count down).
- Once pressure cook cycle is complete, follow the manufacturer's guide for the 10-Minute Natural Release method.
- Once 10 minutes is up, follow the manufacturer's guide for Quick Release and wait until the Quick Release cycle is complete. Unlock and remove lid, being careful of any remaining steam (ensure you follow the manufacturer's guide for unlocking and removing the lid).
- Transfer cooked pork chunks to a large bowl. Shred with two forks.
- Optional: if you want to reserve the sauce for use, turn Instant Pot to "Sauté" and adjust the [+] or [-] button to set the timer to 10 minutes. Stir cornstarch with water in a cup until smooth. Stir into sauce. When it reaches the thickness good for you, stop cooking. You don't have to cook the full 10 minutes. Sauce can be used on carnitas.
- To crisp pork: heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a cast-iron pan over medium heat on the stovetop (may have to do two batches, replacing oil, as necessary). Spread shredded pork into pan and allow to brown/crisp slightly for a few minutes.
- Serve pork on warmed tortillas and garnish to taste (if desired) with your favourite taco toppings (there are also some garnish ideas in the body of the post above). Enjoy!
- The quantity of pork I used in this recipe was 2.5 trimming. So, you may have to get a slighter larger piece of pork to account for that.
- Ensure you are familiar with the manufacturer recommended operating instructions and know how to properly/safely use your Instant Pot (or any kitchen appliance/device/tool you are using).
- For more recipe tips, see body of post above.
- Nutrition information (estimate only) does not include tortilla or garnishes.
Nutrition (ESTIMATE ONLY)
Nutrition estimate (if provided) is based on 1 Serving.
Nutrition information (if provided) is provided as a courtesy and should be considered an estimate only. Ingredients can vary and Girl Heart Food makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
A note on times provided: appliances vary, any prep and/or cook times provided are guidelines only.
Tried this recipe?
If you do make this recipe, thank you!! It would mean so much if you could leave a comment below. Love to know how you enjoyed it, and it helps other readers too!