Pressure Cooker Carnitas

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Easy pressure cooker pork carnitas are made in the Instant Pot in less than an hour! This easy Instant Pot dinner is great for meal prep and freezer meals too! It’s also a low carb recipe so it’s perfect for Keto lifestyles!

pressure cooker pulled pork salad bowl

I love making a big batch of this authentic Mexican pork carnita meat and freezing some for later meals! It’s one of our favorite things to keep on-hand for an easy pork carnita salad, pork quesadillas, Mexican taco wraps or shredded pork tacos. There are so many things you can do with shredded pork and this carnita recipe is packed with flavor!

We have a restaurant near us that I would happily eat at a few times a week if my budget allowed! Instead, I’ve resigned myself to longingly staring at the Mexican food menu and trying to recreate the dishes at home.

This salad is similar to a Chipotle Salad except I tried to keep mine a low carb or keto version and eliminate the rice, corn and tortilla chips.

How to Make Pressure Cooker Carnitas

I have an Instant Pot 6 quart so my instructions will be specific to that model. You can easily adapt this recipe to work with any pressure cooker, though!

For years I made my shredded pork and pork carnitas in my slow cooker or Dutch Oven. I loved the dump and go ease of using the slow cooker, but would often forget to start it in the morning.

Using the Dutch Oven brings out SO MUCH flavor and produces tender, fall apart meat. But it’s fairly hands-on and I had to be there to transfer it from stove to oven and keep an eye on everything. It also took hours for that slow-roasted goodness!

The pressure cooker gives me the benefits of both of those methods without any of the cons! Using my Instant Pot, I can saute the meat ahead of time, use the same pot to dump all of my ingredients and then set it and forget it. And it’s all done in about an hour! It’s crazy how tender the meat is even after such a short cooking time!

a cookie sheet with pork carnitas made in the instant pot

Step 1:

I start with a pork butt roast that’s about 5 pounds (I’ve gone anywhere from 3-6 lbs, though depending on what’s available at the store). I trim off any large pieces of fat but try to leave small amounts here and there because it really does add to the flavor.

Then I cut the entire roast into smaller pieces. Depending on the size I’m starting with, I might cut it down into about 4-6 smaller pieces. This helps more edges crisp up and caramelize in the next step plus it helps it cook more evenly. My pieces are probably about 2″-3″ each but I don’t worry about it too much. Just cut it down into smaller pieces!

Step 2:

In a large ziploc baggie, add 1/2 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1.5 teaspoon ground coriander and a dash of pepper. Seal the bag and mix it all up until it’s well combined.

Then add your pork chunks to the bag, seal and flip that bag all around to get all the pieces nice and coated. You can use your hands to help make sure the spice mix gets all over each piece. You might have to coat your pork in 2 stages depending on the size of the roast you started with.

Step 3:

Turn on the saute function on your Instant Pot and add about 1 tablespoon of oil. Once it’s hot, add your pork in a single layer (you will need to do this in 2 stages). Brown the pork on all sides. You just want a nice sear on the edges, you aren’t trying to cook it through. Usually about 1-2 minutes on each side is enough to give you that sear.

Once you have all of your pork seared, remove it from the Instant Pot.

seared pork carnita meat in the Instant Pot insert

Step 4:

You want to make sure you deglaze the bottom of your Instant Pot insert so that you can avoid getting the burn error. While you were searing your meat, little pieces probably stuck to the bottom. Add about 3/4 cup of chicken broth to the hot pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot. You want to remove any little burnt pieces or marks entirely.

Step 5:

Once you have the insert completely deglazed, add your pork back to the instant pot with the chicken broth still in it. Add 1/2 cup orange juice, the juice of one lime, 2 tablespoons minced garlic and 1 medium onion that has been sliced.

Seal the lid and set the Instant Pot to 50 minutes and Natural Pressure Release (NPR)

Step 6:

Once your pressure cooker is done and all the pressure has been released, remove the lid and transfer the pork to a baking sheet. Turn on the broiler on your oven.

I use 2 forks to coarsely shred the meat. I like big chunks of pork for my carnita meat and am not a fan of it being overly shredded into small pieces.

Once you have it shredded, spread it out on your baking sheet as evenly as you can. Place the pan under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

a baking sheet with pork carnita meat

I then remove it and toss it with a couple tablespoons of juice from the Instant Pot. Mix it all up and then spread it out again before putting it back under the broiler for another 3 minutes or so. I repeat this about 3 times until my meat is nice and juicy but caramelized from being under the direct, high heat.

I know a lot of people eat their meat straight from the Instant Pot and don’t bother with this last step, but I HIGHLY recommend it! This last caramelizing step is what really brings out the flavor and gives it that authentic carnita taste!

Freezing Pulled Pork

It could not be easier to learn how to freeze pulled pork! And dinner could not be easier down the road then when you’re able to just grab a bag from the freezer and have dinner ready in no time!

The key to freezing pork and having it still be tender and juicy a month or so later, is to freeze it with extra juice from your Instant Pot. I try to portion my extra pulled pork into quart size freezer bags but that obviously will depend on the size of your family (we have 4 people in my family so roughly 1 pound of meat per dinner is good for us).

After I have my meat separated, I add a couple extra tablespoons of the juice from the Instant Pot to each bag. I seal the bag well and then lay it flat to make sure the juice is evenly distributed among the whole bag of meat. Label your bag and stick it in the freezer until you’re ready to use it again.

I usually try to pull it out the night before I want to use it so that it can slowly thaw overnight. If you forgot, you can always defrost it by putting the sealed bag in a bowl of cold water or defrosting using your microwave (my least favorite method, personally).

white oval dish filled with pressure cooker pork carnita and Mexican salad ingredients

Recipes with Pulled Pork

If you’re looking for what to make with pulled pork once you have a large batch made, the possibilities are huge!

These are just a few of my favorite pork carnita recipes:

Hawaiian Pulled Pork Nachos: Seriously my favorite nachos ever! Tender pulled pork is topped with a mango pineapple salsa, covered in melted cheese and drizzled with sour cream. This is the perfect party food and I try to always have a bag of pulled pork in my freezer so I can make these at a moment’s notice!

Arepas with Pork and Avocado: The pictures in this recipe showed a thinly sliced pork loin as the arepa filling, but I’ve often used carnita meat with it instead if that’s all I have on-hand. It tastes just as good!

Fig and Goat Cheese Pork Sandwiches: If you have never tried pork with fig preserves and goat cheese then you need to stop what you are doing right now and run to the store! Topped with fried onions and piled on crusty bread, these sandwiches are absurdly delicious.

But it all starts with this easy pork carnita recipe…

Mexican Pulled Pork Salad

pressure cooker pulled pork salad bowl
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Pressure Cooker Pork Carnitas

This easy recipe for delicious Mexican pork carnitas is made in the Instant Pot in about an hour! You can use this pulled pork in salad bowls, quesadillas, sandwiches, tacos and more!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Instant pot pork carnitas, pressure cooker carnitas
Servings: 20
Calories: 162kcal
Author: Natalie Dixon

Ingredients

  • 5 lb Pork Butt Roast
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Salt
  • 2 tsp. Cumin
  • 1.5 tsp. Ground Coriander
  • 3/4 cup Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 cup Orange Juice
  • 1 Lime juiced
  • 2 Tbsp. Garlic minced
  • 1 medium Onion sliced

Instructions

  • Trim large chunks of fat from pork roast. Then cut roast into about 4-6 smaller pieces, about 2"-3" each.
  • In a large, resealable bag, add chili powder, salt, cumin and ground coriander. Seal bag and mix well. Add pork chunks to bag, seal and toss to coat evenly. 
  • Set Instant Pot to saute function and add about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Once it is heated, add pork chunks in a single layer and sear on each side. About 1-2 minutes on each side until you have a nice golden sear. 
    Remove from Instant Pot and repeat with remaining pork chunks until they're all seared. Remove all pork from the insert.
  • Add chicken broth to Instant Pot to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape along bottom of insert until it is completely deglazed and no residue remains on bottom of pan.
  • Return pork to the insert with the chicken broth. Add orange juice, the juice of one lime, garlic and sliced onion.
    Secure the lid, make sure the vent is sealed and set the timer for 50 minutes. When it is done cooking, use a natural pressure release.
  • Preheat broiler on the oven. 
    Remove pork to a baking sheet and use two forks to coarsely shred into large pieces. If necessary, add a tablespoon or two of the juice from the Instant pot and toss the meat to coat. 
    Broil for 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven and toss with another 1-2 tablespoons of juice then return under broiler. Repeat this until your carnita meat is caramelized and juicy. I usually have it under the broiler for 10-12 minutes total and toss it with extra juice about 3-4 times.

Nutrition

Calories: 162kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 400mg | Potassium: 441mg | Vitamin A: 2.6% | Vitamin C: 6.8% | Calcium: 3.1% | Iron: 10.5%

pressure cooker carnitas

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