Instant Pot Carnitas are tender, bite size pieces of pork seasoned with savory herbs and spices and cooked in an amazing Instant Pot Sauce from Insat-Meal.
Traditional Carnitas can take hours in the oven or slow cooker. However, the magic that is the Instant Pot makes really quick work of cooking the pork shoulder. Instead of hours, these Instant Pot Carnitas are cooked in under an hour! Not to mention they are tender as can be and the pork literally falls apart.
I love to use this Carnitas recipe for burrito bowls, carnitas tacos or burritos, or just to eat by itself.
Instant Pot Sauce
I have partnered with Insta-Meal Sauces on this post. All opinions are my own! This post also contains affiliate links.
If you love to use your Instant Pot then you should definitely check out these sauces. They take the guesswork out of using sauces and liquids in your Instant Pot.
The sauces come in 3 flavors:
What are Carnitas?
If you have not had carnitas, I am so glad you are here! This is going to be a huge treat for you.
Carnitas is a traditional Mexican dish of braised or roasted pork that is shredded into smaller bite sized pieces. It is then typically served in tacos or burritos. It is similar to the American version, pulled pork, but is seasoned differently.
How to Make Instant Pot Carnitas
You want to start by prepping your pork shoulder (aka. boston butt). Trim all the excess white fat that is around the pork and discard. Then cube the pork shoulder into 2 inch chunks. This will help the pork cook completely through in the Instant Pot. When you cut the pork into chunks if you come across any more large pieces of fat, trim and discard those as well.
In a small bowl blend the seasoning for the pork rub. Then, with clean hands, rub the seasoning all over the pork chunks, covering all sides.
Place the seasoned pork into the Instant Pot and then pour the Insta-Meal Taco Taco sauce over the pork. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime into the pot (I do not recommend adding the whole lime to the pot, I did that in one test and found that it became bitter as it cooked). Crush 3 garlic cloves and remove the paper shell, add those to the pot along with 2 bay leaves.
Pop the lid onto the pot, and lock the pressure valve into the “seal” position. Set the pot to cook on pressure mode, on high, for 40 minutes. At the end of the cooking time, do a 10 minute natural release. (If you are unfamiliar with these terms you can check out this post for Instant Pot Recipes for Beginners). Then release the rest of the pressure by turning the pressure valve to “vent”.
Remove all the pork from the pot. I like to place the pieces on a rimmed metal baking pan. That way the juices don’t run all over the countertop. Discard the bay leaves.
Using two forks shred the pork into the desired size chunks. If you are having burrito bowls, I like a few bigger chunks. If the carnitas will be used for tacos or burritos, you can go a little smaller. You can add a few tablespoons of the sauce left in the Instant Pot to keep your pork moist.
Some people like to put a little caramelization/crust on the edges of their carnitas. To do this preheat your ovens broiler. Spread the shredded carnitas on a rimmed metal baking pan, not over crowding the pan, and place in the oven for 3-5 minutes, making sure they do not burn!
How to Serve Instant Pot Carnitas
Carnitas are delicious just as is… as I am sure you will see if sneak a few tastes when you make this recipe. But you can also add this tender pork to bowls, burritos and tacos. Check out the recipe card below for prep and serving instructions.
Easy Instant Pot Carnitas Recipe
Easy Instant Pot Carnitas
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp each: black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 2.5-3.5 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch cubes, with most of the fat trimmed
- 1 12 oz bottle Insta-Meal Taco Taco Sauce
- juice of 1 lime
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 fresh garlic cloves, whole-crushed
- In a small bowl mix all the Pork Rub ingredients and massage onto the cut and trimmed pork shoulder.
- Place the pork shoulder into your instant pot. Pour the Insta-Meal Taco Taco sauce into the pot over the pork cubes. squeeze the juice of 1 lime into the pot and add the bay leaves and crushed garlic.
- Put the lid on and lock the pressure valve to "seal". Set the pot to cook on pressure mode, on high, for 40 minutes.
- Let the pot do a 10 minute natural release, and then quick release the remaining pressure.
- Pull all the pork chunks out of the pot and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Using 2 forks shred the pork into smaller pieces. You can also take a few tablespoons of the sauce left in the pot and mix with the carnitas.
- OPTIONAL** for a crispier carnita, set the oven to broil and pop the shredded carnitas in the oven for 4-5 minutes. This will give the edges of the carnitas a crispier texture.
Serving Instant Pot Carnitas
- Carnitas Bowl- layer a bowl with rice, cilantro, carnitas, corn, black beans, pico de gallo, sour cream (or Greek yogurt), and avocado or guacamole.
- Carnitas Tacos- warm corn tortillas in an oiled cast iron skillet, fill each taco with carnitas and all your favorite taco toppings.
- Carnitas Burritos- wrap the carnitas, black beans, green onions, and cilantro in burrito size flour tortillas. Place in a 9x13 pan sprayed with cooking spray or oil. Pour a 10 oz can of red or green enchilada sauce over top and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.