Instant Pot Carnitas

Back in July I splurged on an Instant Pot. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably been hearing about them for a while. Fans of the Instant Pot are kind of like CrossFitters – they never shut up about it. I had wanted both a pressure cooker and slow cooker for years, so when the shining reviews for this multi-cooker started flooding my newsfeed and the many food blogs I frequent, I set my sights, waited for Amazon Prime Day, and bought my coveted cookware.

And then I waited.

Not for it to arrive (thanks, Prime shipping!), but to cook with it. In the two days it took to arrive, I started to psych myself reading about all the horror stories of pressure cooking gone wrong. And in case you were wondering, no, they weren’t even Instant Pots. But I managed to equate the two in my overthinking.

Finally, in September after quitting my job (more on that soon), I bit the metaphorical bullet and broke the seal.

First up in the great Instant Pot experiment? A recipe I’ve perfected over the years in my heavy, reliable Le Creuset Dutch Oven. CARNITAS.

One 8 lb pork shoulder and six hours later, I had two glistening batches of carnitas. One made in my trusty Le Creuset, one from my new Instant Pot. Several blind taste tests later (thanks A and J for being my guinea pigs!) the verdict was in. Instant Pot, FTW!

It’s hard to argue with a recipe and device that can cut a half-day’s cooking project down to an hour (or less). Since that fateful first round, J has requested IP Carnitas on a regular basis and I’ve made it at least once a month this fall and winter. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

The great carnitas taste test. Instant Pot vs. Le Creuset

Instant Pot Carnitas

Cooking directions for the Instant Pot loosely adapted from Michelle Tam’s awesome blog, Nom Nom Paleo.

Serves 6
Active time: 15 min | Total time: 60 min


  • 3 – 4 lbs boneless pork shoulder / pork butt
  • 1.5 T kosher salt
  • 2 T ground cumin
  • 2 t Mexican oregano leaves, dried and crushed
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 6 – 10 garlic cloves, peeled (to taste)
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 – 3 dried bay leaves
  • Optional: 1 – 3 chiles d’arbol, whole
  • Optional: ½ C pineapple (frozen works well) for an al pastor twist


Cut pork shoulder/butt into 2-inch cubes.

Toss the pork in a large bowl with salt, cumin, and oregano until evenly coated. Transfer the seasoned pork to the Instant Pot insert.

Add the garlic, onion, and bay leaves. If using chile d’arbol and / or pineapple, add it too.

Squeeze the orange, lemon, and lime juices over the pork. Once juiced, add one each orange, lemon, and lime shells to the Instant Pot. Discard the other halves.

Place the insert into the Instant Pot and lock the lid. Make sure the valve on the lid is pointed at the “Sealing” position. Press the  “Manual” button (or “Pressure Cook”) and cook on high pressure for 35 minutes. Then, let the pressure release naturally (about 20 minutes).

If the pressure hasn’t completely released after 20 minutes and you’re hungry, manually vent the pressure by turning the release valve on the lid. Open the lid and discard the citrus shells and bay leaf. Discard the chiles too, if using. You can shred and serve the pork as-is, or store it in the fridge (with all the liquid / fat) for up to 5 days (or in the freezer for up to 3 months).

To Serve

Scoop as much pork as desired, including whatever liquid / fat clings to it, and add to a cast iron pan set over medium heat. Once the meat has warmed through, shred / break apart and fry, stirring occasionally, until it reaches your desired crispness.

I like to serve my carnitas with warmed corn tortillas, crumbled cotija cheese, pickled jalapeños, sliced radishes, and lots of lime.


Make the carnitas ahead of time on the weekend and taco night will be a breeze during the week!

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