These Instant Pot Carnitas are one of the best ways you can use your multicooker—cutting down the cooking time of traditional carnitas by upwards of 8 hours. Topped with flavor-packed, fast cherry tomato pico de gallo this recipe will become a family favorite!
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If you’ve wondered whether or not it’s worth investing in an Instant Pot, the answer is yes—absolutely yes. These carnitas tacos are reason enough, with the Instant Pot making pork shoulder unbelievably tender in just 90 minutes. (Tender enough to shred with two forks or a fork and a pair of tongs—whatever floats your boat.)
Because the Instant Pot is, essentially, an electric, super-safe pressure cooker, it creates a moist setting that transforms tougher or fattier cuts of meat in a fraction of the time it’d take to do so on the stovetop or in the oven. It also makes this Mexican pulled pork virtually impossible to overcook.
While you can (and should!) use these carnitas in tacos made with homemade flour tortillas, the pulled pork is phenomenal in a burrito or rice bowl topped with guacamole, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro and, of course, pico de gallo.
Looking for another way to use your Instant Pot? Try my Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- It’s pretty hands-off. Once you put your pork shoulder, spices and liquids into the Instant Pot, the multicooker does all of the work for you.
- Multi-purpose. You can use the pulled pork in tacos, burritos, grain bowls or quesadillas or on top of nachos or even by itself, eaten alongside Elote Corn Salad.
- Freezer-friendly. Leftover or prepped-ahead full batches of this pulled pork keep wonderfully in the freezer.
- Vegetable oil: A neutral oil like vegetable oil (or avocado or canola!) is ideal for searing the pieces of pork shoulder.
- Boneless pork shoulder: Pork shoulder is a tough cut of meat that usually needs to be cooked for a long time. The high-heat, moist, pressurized environment of an Instant Pot is ideal for getting it tender quickly.
- White onion and garlic: White onion and garlic add aromatics and flavor to the carnitas. You could use yellow or red onion if that’s all you have on hand, though.
- Orange juice: Orange juice adds moisture, but also acidity and sweetness—two things that complement the spices in this recipe.
- Lime juice: Additional citrus also adds acidity and sweetness.
- Chili powder, oregano, cumin and coriander: These spices are what make this Mexican pulled pork sing, adding a ton of flavor.
- Chicken stock: Chicken stock adds moisture, making sure the pork emerges fork-tender. You can swap in chicken broth or vegetable stock if that’s what you have.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- Make it less spicy. If you’re feeding spice-sensitive kiddos (or adults!) you can use half or even a third amount of the chili powder.
- Use a different cut of meat. Both pork shoulder and butt work in this recipe. Pork butt has more fat, but you should be able to use both to make carnitas tacos without having to tweak the cooking time.
- Brown the pork. Select the Instant Pot’s saute setting and set it to high. When the cooking pot is hot, add the oil. Season the pieces of pork with 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. Add the pieces of pork shoulder to the Instant Pot, browning all sides and doing so in batches if needed to avoid crowding.
- Add the rest of the ingredients. Add the browned pork pieces back to the Instant Pot (plus any juices), then add the rest of the ingredients (through the chicken stock).
- Pressure cook. Select the pressure cook setting and a 90-minute cook time.
- Shred the pork. After the pork finishes cooking, transfer it to a cutting board, then use two forks to shred it. Serve with Cherry Tomato Pico de Gallo Salsa.
Pro Tip: If your Instant Pot has a high or low pressure option, choose the high one for this recipe. The low setting will take much longer to turn the pork tender.
- Releasing the Steam: Once the pork’s finished cooking, you’ll want to let the Instant Pot’s pressure naturally release for a bit (about 15 minutes) before manually releasing the rest of the pressure. A lot of Instant Pots now have an easy-to-use pressure release switch, but if yours doesn’t, use a spoon or spatula to poke the release valve, which will keep your hands away from the steam.
- Use Your Stand Mixer: For a hands-free way to shred the cooked pork, place the pieces of pork into a stand mixer’s bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on and the stand mixer will do the shredding for you.
- Have Fun with Toppings: While I love pico de gallo with these tacos, you can use whatever toppings you like. Whether it’s creamy guacamole, fresh avocado slices, diced white onion, cilantro, jalapeños, or even crumbled feta or queso fresco, the choice is yours. Serve these tacos with an array of toppings, tortilla chips, and margaritas, and you’ve got a dinner that’s sure to please a crowd.
Leftover pork carnitas will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.
You can also freeze the shredded pork. The carnitas can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months in an airtight container. Just make sure to thaw them in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Frequently Asked Questions
The pork may have come out tough if you didn’t use enough liquid or cook the pork long enough. Cooking the pork also includes the time it takes for the pressure to release. Manually releasing the Instant Pot’s pressure stops the cooking immediately, whereas naturally releasing pressure allows the pork to continue cooking.
Either pork shoulder or pork butt can be used in carnitas. Carnitas can be described as Mexican pulled pork.
You don’t have to, but a fatty cut of pork (like pork shoulder) does benefit from it. Browning the pork kick-starts the cooking process, but mainly adds a lot of flavor.
- Easy Taco Salad Cups
- Spicy Shrimp Tacos
- Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
- Simple Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Tacos
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 (3-pound) boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and quartered
- 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 Tablespoon coriander
- 2 cups chicken stock
Cherry Tomato Pico de Gallo Salsa
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 small white onion, small diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 jalapeños or serrano chilies, deseeded and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Set the Instant Pot to the “Sauté (More)” setting. Once it is hot, add the vegetable oil.
- Season the pork with 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Brown the pork shoulder in the Instant Pot, searing it on all sides. (If needed, do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot.)
- Add all of the browned pork shoulder, plus any juices, to the Instant Pot.
- Add the chopped onion, garlic, orange juice, lime juice, chili powder, oregano, cumin, coriander and chicken stock to the Instant Pot.
- Set it on the “Pressure Cook” setting for 90 minutes and close the lid.
- Once the pork is done cooking, transfer it to a cutting board, and using two forks, shred it into pieces and serve it with Cherry Tomato Pico de Gallo Salsa.
Make the Cherry Tomato Pico de Gallo Salsa:
- In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Once the pork’s finished cooking, you’ll want to let the Instant Pot’s pressure naturally release for a bit (about 15 minutes) before manually releasing the rest of the pressure. A lot of Instant Pots now have an easy-to-use pressure release switch, but if yours doesn’t, use a spoon or spatula to poke the release valve, which will keep your hands away from the steam.
- For a hands-free way to shred the cooked pork, place the pieces of pork into a stand mixer’s bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on and the stand mixer will do the shredding for you.
- While I love pico de gallo with these tacos, you can use whatever toppings you like. Whether it’s creamy guacamole, fresh avocado slices, diced white onion, cilantro, jalapeños, or even crumbled feta or queso fresco, the choice is yours. Serve these tacos with an array of toppings, tortilla chips, and margaritas, and you’ve got a dinner that’s sure to please a crowd.
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Recipe by Just a Taste. Please do not reprint this recipe without my permission. If you'd like to feature this recipe on your site, please rewrite the method of preparation and link to this post as the original source.