The intense flavor of Instant Pot carnitas is the perfect base for a meal with Southwestern or Mexican flavors. The Instant Pot does many things well and carnitas is definitely one of those things. I love being able to make my favorite foods at home with the Instant Pot.
Carnitas is a spiced pork cooked so that it is tender and shreds easily. It is often served over rice with sautéed vegetables but works well as a low carb meal sans rice as well. Carnitas is an excellent dish by itself, but also the star of other dishes, like fajitas, tacos, chimichangas, or quesadillas.
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How to Choose Pork for Carnitas
A boneless or bone-in pork shoulder is the best choice for carnitas, but you can also use a boneless or bone-in pork butt as well. If you choose bone-in, which is sometimes cheaper, I definitely recommend cutting the meat off of the bone into chunks before using it in this recipe.
Look for pork with a nice pink or red color, not dull looking. The pork shoulder or pork butt should have a nice marbled veining of fat. The fat adds so much flavor! Avoid meat that has darker areas on the fat, as that’s a sign of spoilage.
Spices for Carnitas
The Instant Pot Carnitas recipe uses a variety of spices, and you will get the best flavor if you use spices that are fresh. You can certainly grind your own, but if you purchase spices in a jar just make sure the jar is less than six months old. I like to replace my spices frequently if I don’t use enough to empty the jar.
Serving Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
Served over rice with sautéed red peppers, onions, zucchini, or yellow squash, Instant Pot Carnitas are a wonderful family meal and also a beautiful dish to serve for guests. Consider serving fresh guacamole and pico de gallo on the side.
If you have leftover carnitas, make quesadillas for lunch the next day and use up that delicious meat! You can also freeze portions of leftover carnitas to use for a variety of lunches in the future.
Stretching the Budget with Carnitas
Pork shoulder or pork butt is very economical meat to serve at large gatherings. Triple this recipe for any time you want to serve a big crowd with tasty food that doesn’t break the bank. When we get together with extended family this is one of the dishes we all love.
Pork shoulder tends to come in very large portions at the grocery store. If you have more than you need, freeze the extra portion uncooked. Dice all of the meat into one inch cubes first and then place the extra in freezer bags or air-tight container.
I like to freeze it in one-pound portions so I can pull out exactly what I need in the future. It can be frozen uncooked for six months. If you like, you can even go ahead and season the pork before freezing it, and place it directly in the Instant Pot from the freezer when you need it.
Ingredients for Instant Pot Carnitas
Do a quick check of these ingredients to make sure you have everything on hand and your spices are reasonably fresh.
- Pork Shoulder
- Spices – Salt, Paprika, Chili Powder, Brown Sugar (use sugar free), Ground Garlic, Coriander, Cumin, Oregano, and Basil. Don’t let this list scare you off. The flavors together are fabulous and most spices are stock items.
- Lime. Did you know you can freeze citrus? If you have limes that need to be used up just toss them in the freezer for later and thaw as needed.
Making Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
Gather the spices and mix them together. I like to put all of my spices in a big bowl and stir it all up with a fork until all the pretty colors are blended perfectly.
To make sure your pork cooks thoroughly and is very tender, cut the pork into 1 inch sized pieces.
Rub the spices all over the pork. I find that letting the pork sit and marinade in those spices for five to ten minutes before cooking helps deepen the flavor.
When the meat is ready to cook, add the juice from the lime and throw the squeezed lime right into the pot.
Add a little bit of water to the pan to allow pressure to build.
Cook the pork in the Instant Pot following the instructions on the recipe card below. Make sure you let the machine vent naturally for fifteen minutes to preserve the moisture in the meat.
Remove from the Instant Pot and shred. For extra flavorful carnitas broil after shredding before serving.
Our Instant Pot Pork Carnitas are a crowd-pleaser! Don’t be surprised if you don’t have any leftovers to use the next day.
Other Pork Recipes to Try
Hawaiian Pulled Pork. A traditional style dish served with pineapple that will make you feel like you are back in the islands on vacation.
Baked Pork Tenderloin with Orange Marmalade. The marmalade creates a divine sauce.
Instant Pot Pozole Mexican Soup with Hominy. A tried and true family recipe and the definition of comfort food with all the speed of the Instant Pot.
Pork Medallions and Peach Chutney. The flavors of summer finished with a delightful balsamic glaze.
Instant Pot Carnitas – Small Batch Recipe
- 1 lb Pork
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground garlic
- 1/4 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1 lime cut in half
- 1/2 cup water
- Whisk the spices together in a small bowl and place in a dish with a rim.
- Cut the pork into 1-inch sized pieces. Then, rub the spices into the pork ensuring each side of the pork is seasoned.
- Put the pork pieces in the instant pot before you turn it on. Let sit for 5 minutes to allow the pork to marinate before cooking.
- Slice the lime in half lengthwise and squeeze the lime over the pork.
- Put the squeezed lime into the instant pot with the pork. Then, add the water to the instant pot.
- Close the lid to the instant pot and close the valve so that it is in the sealing position.
- Set the Instant Pot to Manual on high for 40 minutes.
- Let the Instant Pot vent naturally for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven broiler at 500°F.
- Then, using a slotted spoon take the pork out of the instant pot.
- Place onto a silicone mat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Using a fork shred the pork using two forks.
- Let the pork crisp up in the oven for about 5 minutes, but keep an eye on it so it does not burn.
Please note that the nutritional information provided are guidelines and may vary based on the brand of products used. For your specific nutritional goals use My Fitness Pal or Verywell Fit recipe calculators. All content within this site is not intended as medical diagnosis or treatment and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical expertise.
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