These easy five-ingredient Instant Pot carnitas are tender and juicy, with a great citrusy flavor. They are wonderful over rice, in tacos, in lettuce wraps, with an egg on top, or just plain!
These slow-cooker carnitas lettuce wraps are one of my favorite dinners, and ever since getting an Instant Pot, I’ve been working on converting the carnitas recipe so it can be made more quickly. It’s not necessarily weeknight quick because it takes about an hour and a half to make, but that’s a lot less than the 8-10 hour slow-cooking time. This is perfect for whipping up on a weekend afternoon to have a stockpile of delicious meat for the days ahead.
To make this recipe extra easy, I’ve streamlined the ingredients list. You only need five things (not counting salt, pepper, and water). Also, this recipe is made start to finish in the Instant Pot, without any broiling at the end or any other dirty pans.
Carnitas are traditionally made on the stovetop like this, where they cook low and slow, often with spices and citrus juices. Eventually, all of the juices cook off, and the carnitas begin to caramelize and crisp up a little in the dry pan. When I make carnitas in my crockpot, I have to discard most of the juices and broil the carnitas after slow cooking to crisp them up and get that characteristic carnitas texture. With the Instant Pot’s saute feature, though, I can cook off all of the liquid pretty quickly without using more than one pot. That means Instant Pot carnitas are just as easy as the original stovetop version, but much quicker.
Here’s a breakdown of how easy these Instant Pot carnitas are: first you toss pork chunks with Mexican seasoning, salt, and pepper right in the pot, then you add orange juice, lime juice, and a little water, and then you set the pot to pressure cook on high for 50 minutes. Finally, once it’s done and the pressure has released, you hit the “saute” button and let the sauce reduce until it’s almost gone, stir in a little ghee, and wait as long as you can stand it for the meat to develop those extra delicious browned bits.
No Instant Pot yet? You can totally make this is in the slow cooker–just see the note below the recipe. You will have to either broil the carnitas or crisp them up in a skillet if you want browned bits, though.
- 2½-3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into two-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon Mexican seasoning*
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of 2 oranges
- Juice of 1 lime (or substitute lemon)
- 1 tablespoon ghee
- Put the pork chunks in the Instant Pot and toss them with the Mexican seasoning, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Combine the citrus juices in a liquid measuring cup, then add enough water to reach the one cup line. Pour the liquid into the Instant Pot.
- Put the lid on the Instant Pot and make sure the valve is set to “Sealed”. Press “Manual” and adjust the time to 50 minutes. The Instant Pot will automatically begin cooking and will start counting down from 50 minutes once high pressure is reached. Once the cooking time is over, press “Keep Warm/Cancel” and let the pressure release naturally.
- Remove the lid and push the “Sauté” button. Use two forks to roughly shred the meat while it’s in the pot. (At this point, you can finish the carnitas in the Instant Pot as described here, or finish them in the broiler as described in the Notes section.**) Let the liquid bubble away until it’s almost gone, stirring occasionally; this will take 20-30 minutes. When there’s almost no liquid left, stir in the ghee. Continue to cook until the pork is browned in spots, about 5 minutes more. Press “Keep Warm/Cancel” to turn the Instant Pot off. Serve hot with rice or cauliflower rice, lime slices, and avocado.
**To make these carnitas in a slow cooker, omit the water in Step 2. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Remove the meat and shred with two forks. Spread the meat out on a foil-lined baking sheet and moisten with a little of the cooking liquid. Broil for about five minutes, until browned to your liking. You can also finish these in the broiler after making them in the IP if you'd like.
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