These savory Instant Pot Pork Carnitas are so easy to make in under an hour. The spicy, tender, and juicy shredded pork is the perfect weeknight dinner!
What are Carnitas?
Carnitas are a type of Mexican pulled pork dish that’s perfect for TV dinners, house parties, picnics, or game days.
Originally from the West Mexican state of Michoacan, the dish is a mixture of Mexico’s local culture with the influences of the Spanish conquistadors.
Pigs had been imported to Mexico from Cuba by the Spanish in the early 1500s; and looking at the sleepy animal Mexicans named it cochino – the one that sleeps.
Mexicans soon adapted to eating fried foods using pork lard, and also eating chicharron or fried pork rinds. The Spanish conquerors often ate pork meat in tortillas or tacos, and these were called ‘little meats’ or carnitas.
Carnitas were traditionally cooked in a thick-bottomed copper pot by using equal amounts of lard and pork. The lard was first melted, then the pork pieces were added to it, along with a salt-water mixture.
Then it was all cooked till the pork was tender and brown. Back then the pork was chopped further before serving, although now it’s pulled apart.
Also, nowadays, spices such as crushed garlic, basil, cumin, bay leaves, chili, marjoram, oregano, or thyme may be added to the carnitas.
People from other regions of Mexico also add orange juice, chicken broth, coke, or beer to tenderize the pork meat and enhance the brown color.
The carnitas is then either served as is, or with rice, or loaded into tacos, tamales, tortas, burritos, or tortillas. Chopped onions, coriander, salsa, or guacamole can be served along with carnitas.
In the past, because they used the entire pig to make carnitas, they were often had as a festive meal. Nowadays, you’ll find pork carnitas at almost every Mexican street food stall or restaurant. But slow cooker carnitas are just as easy to make at home too. Try this Instant Pot Pork Carnitas recipe!
Pointers For Mexican Carnitas Recipe
- Add more paprika and chili powder if you want it spicier.
- You can serve the carnitas by in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or tamales, or just serve them on plain rice.
- Alternatively, use carnitas as a topping for nachos.
- Carnitas are also great for meal prep for the week because you can serve them with different options on different days.
- If you don’t eat pork, you can use the same recipe with boneless chicken thighs or breasts.
- You can serve the carnitas with tomato salsa, guacamole, or simply diced onions.
- Sprinkle with chopped cilantro or coriander.
- Squeeze some lemon juice on top for added flavor.
Troubleshooting Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
Traditionally, carnitas are made in the same way as pulled pork, by slow cooking for a few hours. (We reduce the time with the instant pot.) But the difference in the carnitas is that after slow cooking, they are broiled in an oven till they are crispy to eat.
The word ‘carnitas’ means ‘little meats’.
You can use either pork shoulder (pork butt), picnic ham, or marbled meat since they contain the most lard (which is vital to this recipe).
You can use either pork, but boneless is easier to shred later.
Yes, you can skip the broiling step if you prefer. However, broiling gives the ends of the pork its crispy texture, which is really tasty and recommended!
Yes, you can cool the carnitas and store in an airtight container for up to a week in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer. Reheat the carnitas in the instant pot, microwave or oven for 12 to 15 minutes before serving.
- 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
Cook in the Instant Pot
- Gather the spices and mix them together.
- Cut the pork into 1-inch sized pieces. Then,
rub the spices into the pork.
- 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.
- 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
- Set the Instant Pot to Manual on high for 40 minutes.
- Let the Instant Pot vent naturally for 15 minutes.
Broil the pork in the Oven
- 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.
- 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.
You can insert the carnitas into your tacos, tamales, put it on the rice - whatever you wish.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 188Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 67mgSodium: 242mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 20g