Carnitas-juicy, tender, and crispy carnitas made in the pressure cooker. Use this easy carnitas recipe to make tacos, burritos, salads, quesadillas, and more!
Carnitas are the BEST! There’s an incredible blend of spices with just a little bit of pineapple juice to add some sweetness. We make them in the Instant Pot to keep things super simple. Plus, the Instant pot gets them soft in no time at all, and then a quick broil makes them the tiniest bit crisp on the ends. In about an hour you’ll have tender, juicy carnitas to use in all your favorite Mexican dishes!
What Meat is Used for Carnitas?
Carnitas are traditionally made with pork shoulder (also called pork butt). This cut has a higher fat content that helps the meat stay tender and juicy while it’s cooking. I buy 5 lb. boneless and it turns out delicious every time!
How to Make Carnitas
- First, make the sauce! In a medium bowl, whisk together broth, pineapple juice, lime juice, brown sugar, garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, and cinnamon. Set aside.
- Did you know your Instant Pot has a sauté setting? It’s true! Find that setting, heat it up, and add the olive oil. We’re going to sear the 2” pork pieces in batches. Use tongs to turn the pieces until they’re browned on all sides, moving them onto a clean plate to make more room in the Instant Pot. Repeat until the pork pieces are all browned.
- Cancel the sauté setting, pour the liquid mixture in, and add the browned pork pieces!
- Get your Instant Pot ready to rock. Make sure the sealing ring is in place, lock the lid, and set the release knob to “sealing” position. On the manual setting, adjust the pressure to high and set the time for 35 minutes.
- Once that time is up do a natural release. That means you’ll just leave everything as is! The pressure will release slowly on its own. After 20 minutes, carefully release the remaining pressure and remove the lid. Hooray!
The Instant Pot did it’s job, now it’s time to make crispy carnitas. Soft, falling-apart carnitas straight out of the Instant Pot are going to be delicious, but do you know what’s one step BETTER? Carnitas with a little crisp! They just taste a little more authentic.
Preheat the oven to broil. Remove pork from the Instant Pot and place on a large baking sheet. Use two forks to shred the pork. Drizzle a little bit of the juices evenly over the pork. You will have plenty of juice leftover.
Broil the pork until the tips are crispy, about 5 minutes. Watch closely so the pork doesn’t burn. Remove from oven and get ready to enjoy crispy carnitas!
How to Serve Carnitas
Our family loves to eat carnitas taco style! I put out all the fixins and everyone assembles their plates. My Pineapple Salsa is always the favorite topping. The fresh and colorful salsa is perfect with carnitas! You could also make Pico de Gallo or Restaurant Style Salsa to go with the carnitas. And don’t forget the guacamole and pickled red onions.
If you don’t want to do tacos, here are a few more ways to enjoy carnitas!
- In burritos
- On top of nachos
- Rolled into enchiladas
- Melted with cheese on quesadillas
- On a salad
- With scrambled eggs
- With refried beans
- Over Cilantro Lime Rice or Mexican Rice
How to Store Leftover Carnitas
This recipe makes a lot, which is a good thing because the leftovers are the best!
Pork carnitas can be refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze, place the cooled carnitas in a freezer bag or freezer container. Add a little bit of the liquid from the Instant Pot so the carnitas don’t dry out. Label and freeze!
More Mexican Recipes:
- Easy Chicken Tacos
- Beef Enchiladas
- 4-Ingredient Instant Pot Chicken Chile Verde
- Steak Tacos
- Chicken Enchiladas
- Our Favorite Quesadillas
For the Carnitas:
- 5 lbs. boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 2-inch pieces, excess fat removed
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Tortillas, pineapple salsa, avocado, lime wedges
- Season the pork pieces with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together broth, pineapple juice, lime juice, brown sugar, garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, and cinnamon. Set aside.
- Set the Instant Pot to the Sauté setting. When hot, add the olive oil and sear the pork pieces in batches, using tongs to turn the pieces every few seconds until browned on all sides. Place browned pork on a clean plate and repeat until all pork pieces are browned.
- Cancel the Sauté setting and pour the liquid mixture to the Instant Pot. Add the browned pork pieces. Make sure your sealing ring is in place on the Instant Pot lid. Lock the lid and set the steam release knob to the “sealing” position. Select manual setting; adjust pressure to high and set time for 35 minutes. When finished cooking, natural release for 20 minutes, then release any remaining pressure. Remove the lid.
- Preheat the oven to broil. Remove pork from the Instant Pot and place on a large baking sheet. Use two forks to shred the pork. Drizzle a little bit of the juices evenly over the pork, about ½ cup.
- Broil the pork until the tips are crispy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Watch closely so the pork doesn’t burn. Remove from oven.
- To serve, place carnitas in tortillas and top with avocado, pineapple salsa, or your desired toppings. Serve warm.
Have you tried this recipe?
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Photos by Dishing Out Health