These flavorful pork carnitas are made in an Instant Pot and pressure cooked until tender and juicy, then they're crisped in a hot oven for added flavor and a crispy texture. They're perfect for tacos, burritos, bowls, and more!
Why this recipe works
Traditional Mexican pork carnitas are slow cooked for hours in lard and a citrusy mojo sauce to tenderize. To finish they are fried in lard to crisp the meat. By pressure cooking carnitas in an Instant Pot and then transferring to the oven to broil we can achieve that same melt in your mouth tender, juicy pork with a crispy exterior in a fraction of the time!
The star of the show is around 4 to 5 pounds of well marbled pork butt or pork shoulder. A citrusy mojo sauce adds the flavor with a combination of chicken broth, citrus, garlic, herbs, and spices. See the full list of ingredients, with amounts, further down in the recipe card.
How to make the mojo sauce
Squeeze the juice of 1 orange and 1 lime into a bowl. Add chicken broth, minced garlic, cumin, and oregano to the bowl and stir to combine.
How to cook carnitas in an Instant Pot
Note: this recipe was developed on a 6 quart Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus.
- Set the Instant Pot to saute mode. While it preheats cut the pork into 2 inch cubes, then season with salt and pepper.
- Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the pot, then sear the pork on all sides until well browned. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Transfer the seared pork chunks to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onion and jalapenos (if using) to the pot and saute for 3-4 minutes until softened then turn off the Instant Pot.
- Pour around ½ cup of the mojo sauce into the pot and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon to help prevent a burn warning. Add the pork chunks back to the pot along with the citrus rinds and bay leaves, then pour in the remaining mojo sauce.
- Lock the lid and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes, followed by a 10 minute natural pressure release. Carefully vent any remaining steam before opening the lid.
- Preheat your oven broiler with a rack in the top portion of your oven. Remove the pork from the Instant Pot using a slotted spoon and transfer to a sheet pan. Shred the pork by pulling in opposite directions with two forks.
- Add around ½ cup of the cooking liquid to the shredded pork and stir to coat the meat, then spread the meat into a thin even layer on the sheet pan. Place in the oven and broil for 3-4 minutes, then flip the meat and broil for another 3-4 minutes until the edges are well browned and crispy. Remove from the oven and serve.
How to serve carnitas
These Mexican pulled pork carnitas are versatile and great for meal prep. I love to make a big batch on Sunday and use them in different ways throughout the week. Some of my favorites are:
- Tacos - keep it simple by serving your carnitas with small tortillas and toppings such as diced red onion, sliced jalapeños, chopped cilantro, and cotija cheese.
- Burritos - add rice, black beans, and your favorite burrito toppings to a large tortilla for tasty homemade carnitas burritos.
- Burrito Bowls - skip the tortilla and add the carnitas to a bowl with rice, black beans, lettuce, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, and a scoop of guacamole. This is my go to at Chipotle!
- Nachos - spread a layer of chips on a sheet pan, then add your carnitas, cheese, and other toppings and broil for 3-4 minutes. Add cold toppings such as guac and pico de gallo and serve.
- Salads - Carnitas are yummy on top of a southwestern salad. I like to top mine with roasted corn, diced avocado, tortilla strips, and chipotle ranch dressing.
- Quesadillas - simply add a tortilla to a pan over medium heat and sprinkle on a layer of shredded cheese, then add your carnitas. Top with more cheese and another tortilla. Cook for around 2 minutes then flip and cook until browned and the cheese has melted.
What sides to serve with carnitas
- Homemade Guacamole
- Easy Pico de Gallo
- Corn and Avocado Salad
- Mexican Street Corn Salad
- Instant Pot Spanish Rice
Storage and Reheating Tips
Leftover carnitas can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Add some of the cooking liquid to your leftovers to keep them moist when reheating.
These carnitas can be frozen in freezer bags or containers for up to 3 months. Allow them to thaw overnight in the fridge when you're ready to use them.
Reheat the carnitas on the stove in a pot set over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until warmed through. Smaller portions can be reheated in the microwave.
For the crispy texture of fresh carnitas, you can also heat in a 425°F toaster oven for around 10 minutes or until warmed through.
More pork recipes
- Pulled Pork Barbecue
- Smoked Pork Tenderloin Wrapped in Bacon
- Instant Pot Pork Roast and Potatoes
- Instant Pot Pork Chops with Gravy
- Herb Crusted Pork Loin Roast
- Grilled Pork Chops
Instant Pot Pork Carnitas Recipe
- 4-5 pounds pork butt, cut into 2 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped jalapeño, optional
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup low sodium chicken stock, or Mexican beer
- 1 large orange juiced, around ½ cup. Reserve the rind
- 1 lime juiced, around ¼ cup. Reserve the rind
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Add all of the sauce ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine.
- Set the Instant Pot to Saute mode and preheat. Season the pork with salt and pepper then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pot. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pot, sear the pork cues on all sides then transfer to a plate.
- Cook the onion and jalapeño (optional) for 3-4 minutes until softened then turn off the pot.
- Add around ½ cup of the sauce to the pot and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the pork, bay leaves, the rinds of the orange and lime to the pot then pour in the remaining sauce.
- Seal the lid and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes, then carefully vent any remaining pressure before opening the lid.
- Preheat your oven broiler, then remove the pork chunks using a slotted spoon and transfer to a sheet pan and shred by pulling in opposite directions with two forks. Pour about ½ cup of the cooking liquid over the shredded pork, then spread it out on the sheet pan to an even layer.
- Broil the pork for 3 to 4 minutes until browned, then flip the meat and broil for another 3 to 4 minutes until the edges are well browned and crispy. Remove from the oven and serve.
* All nutrition information we provide are estimates based on third party calculators. We encourage you to calculate these on your own for accurate results.
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