Why I love this instant pot carnitas recipe
Pork shoulder has never really been my friend. In the past, I’ve had so many bad experiences with un-shreddable meat that I gave up and started using pork loin roast in its place for all my pulled pork recipes. Somehow, I even managed to mess it up in the slow cooker – although I now think I just didn’t cooking it long enough.
Thankfully, my friend Stefanie just published a cookbook – Quick Prep Cooking with Your Instant Pot – that features a killer carnitas recipe. Cooking the pork shoulder under pressure turns the meat into a tender, flavorful masterpiece, and the seasoning in this recipe is spot on.
It’s just enough flavor for tacos, without it overpowering the toppings (and that’s really what tacos are all about anyway). I guess an electric pressure cooker was just what I didn’t know I needed, and I am looking forward to trying more of the recipes from the cookbook.
Here’s what you’ll need to make it
For the cookbook:
How to make pork carnitas in the Instant Pot
Sear the meat.
Cut the pork shoulder into three large chunks, and season it with salt, pepper and cumin. Don’t worry about over salting because you pretty much can’t, and use the full amount the recipe calls for – even if it seems like too much, I promise it’s not.
Turn the Instant Pot on sauté mode and let it get hot. Add the pork pieces and sear until they’re really golden brown on each side. I like to use my favorite kitchen tongs to turn the meat.
When the pork is seared on all sides, remove it from the Instant Pot and set it aside.
Add the flavorings.
Pour the orange juice (about 1/2 cup) into the pot and use it to deglaze the insert and add the sliced onion and chopped peppers to the bottom.
Stefanie’s recipe calls for whole garlic cloves to be buried into the pork shoulder pieces, but I very rarely have enough whole garlic cloves so I used minced garlic mixed with the adobo sauce to this step of the recipe instead.
Place the pork on top of the onions and spread the chipotle adobo sauce mixture over each piece. Toss in a bay leaf and close the lid.
Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook (high pressure) and adjust the timing to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Set the lid to the sealing position and let it cook.
Allow the pressure cooker to naturally release the steam, and don’t be tempted to do a quick release. I know it will be hard to wait, but it’s worth the wait and add is actually part of the cooking time.
Shred the carnitas.
Remove the pork from the Instant Pot and transfer it to a large cutting board. Use two forks (or your favorite kitchen tongs and a fork), to shred the pork.
Discard any remaining pieces of fat and the bone (if you have one). You can serve the pork as is, or pop it under your oven broiler for a few minutes to get nice crispy edges.
Save those onions.
I love, love, love the onions that are left after cooking these Instant Pot carnitas. I remove them from the cooking liquid using a slotted spoon and serve them alongside the carnitas.
They’re seriously so flavorful. I dare you to try not to eat them all.
FAQs and Tips for making Instant Pot pork carnitas
What kind of meat is carnitas?
Carnitas is made with pork. It’s basically the Mexican version of pulled pork and is typically made from tougher cuts of meat such as pork shoulder or pork butt.
What cut of pork is carnitas?
You can use any type of pork for carnitas, but the fattier the cut, the more flavor you’ll end up with. For this recipe, I used a boneless pork shoulder roast.
What is the difference between pork loin and pork shoulder?
Pork loin is lean, but tender cut of meat that comes from between the shoulder and back legs of the pig.
Pork shoulder is a fattier cut of pork and comes from the lower shoulder of the pig. Sometimes, a pork shoulder can also be called pork butt (even though it’s not technically the same thing) so don’t be confused if that’s the case, both will work in this recipe.
Can you pressure cook frozen meat?
Yes. You can cook meat from frozen in the Instant Pot, but I wouldn’t do it for this recipe. It would significantly change the cooking time and probably the texture of the recipe.
What toppings go on carnitas?
You can serve your carnitas with any of your favorite taco toppings, but I love to serve ours with:
What goes with tacos as a side?Print
- 4 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 pieces
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil (I used canola)
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1 yellow or sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 2 chipotle peppers, chopped
- 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the can of chipotle peppers)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- Season each piece of pork liberally with salt, pepper and cumin. Set the Instant Pot to sauté. Add the oil and spread it around the pot. Sear the pork on all sides until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from pot and hit cancel on the Instant Pot.
- Pour in the orange juice and deglaze the pot. Add the onions and peppers, and return the pork to the pot. Coat the pieces of pork with adobo sauce and garlic. Add bay leaf to the pot.
- Close the lid and set the vent to the sealing position. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on high pressure for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
- Allow the pressure to release natural when the timer has finished. Remove pork and shred the meat before serving.
- Category: Mains
- Method: Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 396
- Sugar: 2.2 g
- Sodium: 1046.9 mg
- Fat: 19.9 g
- Saturated Fat: 5.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 4.4 g
- Fiber: 0.6 g
- Protein: 44.9 g
- Cholesterol: 152 mg
Keywords: dairy free, paleo, gluten free, whole 30, easy, quick
Published: May 1, 2019. Updated: January 13, 2023.
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