Instant Pot Carnitas Tacos

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Crispy and perfectly seasoned, these Instant Pot Pork Carnitas are a cinch to make and sure to please the whole family!

instant pot carnitas tacos topped with creamy salsa verde and cilantro on a marble surface

Carnitas, or shredded and then crisped pork shoulder, are one of those proteins that really give pork the delicious reputation it deserves. In Texas, there’s no shortage of carnitas, but there’s just something about making them myself that makes them extra special. Plus, they are quite possibly one of the easiest, tastes-a-whole-lot-harder-than-it-is proteins out there, especially when made in the Instant Pot!   

Carnitas Ingredients

With just three main ingredients + a few spices that are likely hanging out in your spice cabinet, the ingredient list couldn’t be simpler! Do note that if you are making the Creamy Salsa Verde to drizzle on your finished carnitas (which we HIGHLY recommend!), you’ll need to add those ingredients to your shopping list as well!

  • Pork Shoulder – we’ll use a 4-5 pound pork shoulder for this recipe. If you’re having trouble finding a pork shoulder, look for a pork butt…it’s the same thing! This cut is preferable because it has enough fat to keep the meat nice and tender once cooked. 
  • Butter – don’t skip the butter! Once the pork has been cooked and shredded, it gets tossed with ¼ cup of melted butter before going in the oven. This is what gives our carnitas that quintessential crisp.
  • Lime Juice – this adds a nice bite of acidity to the carnitas that really brings the flavor out. Use fresh limes if you can!
  • Spices + Seasonings – chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper all contribute to the flavorful carnitas that we know and love. 

crispy instant pot pork carnitas on a sheet pan on a marble surface

How to Make Pork Carnitas in the Instant Pot

The Instant Pot makes this recipe as easy as they come and super hands-off for the cook. That means that you get more time with your family, getting to-dos checked off your list, or doing a little bit of at-home pampering while dinner cooks!

  1. Cut the pork shoulder. Because we want the pork to cook evenly in the Instant Pot, it’s important to cut it into 4-5 equal (just eyeball it!) pieces. Once cut, place the pieces into the Instant Pot.
  2. Season + add liquid. Sprinkle the pork with 2 teaspoons of sea salt and add a cup of water to the Instant Pot. It’s important to add a bit of liquid (water in this case) to the Instant Pot to prevent burning and sticking!
  3. Set the Instant Pot to high pressure. Once you’ve added the salt and water, go ahead and place the lid on the Instant Pot (making sure the pressure valve is set to ‘sealed’), press ‘manual’ and set to cook for 90 minutes on high pressure. Once the timer goes off, manually release the pressure by turning the valve to ‘vent.’
  4. Shred and season the pork. Either with your stand mixer or two forks, shred the pork into 1-inch pieces. Once shredded, toss the pork with the melted butter, lime juice, and seasonings and spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Crisp the carnitas. Place the carnitas into a 425°F oven for 15-20 minutes, until the tops look crispy.
  6. Make the creamy salsa verde (if using). While the pork is crisping, blend together the creamy salsa verde ingredients until smooth.
  7. Assemble + enjoy! Add the crispy carnitas to the tortillas and top with creamy salsa verde and cilantro, and enjoy! 

When making carnitas in the Instant Pot, we choose to season afterward! Why? First, we find that the flavor from the seasonings just doesn’t absorb as well in the Instant Pot as they would using the oven or slow cooker. This is because of the pressure cooking method. In the oven or slow cooker, moisture slowly evaporates as the pork cooks, allowing it to brown, but the Instant Pot typically creates more moisture, which can often dilute the flavor of your food. Don’t worry though, you’ll get plenty of flavor by adding the lime juice and seasonings before the crisping step! As a bonus, keeping the seasoning simple for the pork allows you to use the leftovers however you want!

crispy instant pot pork carnitas on a sheet pan on a marble surface

How do you get the pork crispy?

It’s all about that butter, y’all! Tossing the shredded pork with melted butter not only provides another layer of absolutely delicious flavor, but it also allows the pork to crisp up in the oven. I’ll say it again for those in the back: DON’T SKIP THE BUTTER! If you don’t have butter, toss with a cooking fat that you do have (ghee or avocado oil will both work here).

How to Serve Carnitas

Here we included a recipe for creamy salsa verde to top your carnitas tacos with, but you can also top with sour cream (or the cream from the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk), pico de gallo, or salsa verde (homemade or store-bought). If you aren’t feeling tacos, carnitas are also really yummy in quesadillas, burrito bowls, nachos, salads, or on our Al Pastor Plantain Crust Pizza (YUM!) Leftovers make for a really yummy egg scramble or breakfast hash! 

More Pork Recipes

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Instant Pot Carnitas Tacos

instant pot carnitas tacos topped with creamy salsa verde and cilantro on a marble surface

These carnitas come together quickly in the Instant Pot then are finished off in the oven to crisp.

  • Author: Amber Goulden
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: Mexican
Scale

Ingredients

For the Shredded Pork:

  • 1 (4 to 5-pound) pork shoulder
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt

For the Carnitas tacos:

  • ¼ cup butter, melted (substitute avocado oil for dairy-free)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice, from about 2 limes
  • 12 teaspoons fine sea salt, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Corn tortillas, for serving
  • Cilantro, for garnish

For the Creamy Salsa Verde (optional):

  • 1 avocado
  • ¼ cup sour cream or cream from the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 16 ounces salsa verde
  • ½ cup water

Instructions

For the Shredded Pork:

  1. Cut the pork shoulder into 4 to 5 large pieces and place in the Instant Pot.
  2. Sprinkle with the sea salt and add 1 cup water to the Instant Pot.
  3. Fix lid into place, press “Manual,” and program to cook for 90 minutes on high pressure. Once the timer is finished, release the pressure by turning the valve to “vent.”
  4. Once cooked, shred into 1-inch pieces by using the paddle attachment and the bowl of your stand mixer (on low) or by using two forks to manually shred.

For the Carnitas:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Toss the shredded pork with the butter, lime juice, chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 425 F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are starting to look a little crispy.
  3. If you're making the creamy salsa verde, simply blend all of the ingredients together until smooth.
  4. Assemble the tacos with the carnitas, top with salsa verde and cilantro, and serve!

Notes

If you want to make this in the slow cooker, simply put the seasoned pork in the slow cooker and cook for 5-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low, until it shreds easily with a fork. The pork will release plenty of juice as it cooks so you don't need to add any!

Keywords: carnitas, pork, tacos, instant pot, slow cooker, crockpot

Comments

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  1. Michelle Coletta says:

    I made these carnitas last night and they were delicious! I’ve actually tried several of your recipes and they are ALWAYS on point. Keep up the good work!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      That’s so great to hear…thank you for sharing this with us, Michelle! These carnitas are one of my favorites!

  2. Sunshine Huffman says:

    These are amazing! My family said it was better than any Mexican restaurant we’ve ever had!
    Served with homemade tortillas, delicious! Thank you for always amazing recipes.

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Wow! That’s awesome! We’re so glad you guys enjoyed these! And I bet the homemade tortillas really took it to the next level…YUM!

  3. Celia says:

    Made this last night and it was unreal! Easy to make and SO SO good! Definitely making again next week.

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      SO GOOD, right?! We’re glad you love it!!

  4. Vicki says:

    When do you add the other spices? Cumin, garlic, chili powder?? I’m didn’t see it in the recipe. Thanks!!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Thanks for catching that, Vicki! I just fixed it. You’ll add the spices in at the same time as the butter + lime juice!

  5. Sarahi says:

    Can I make this with frozen pork in the Instant Pot of Crockpot?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Not in the Crock Pot, Sarahi, but using frozen pork in the Instant Pot should be okay. You’ll likely need to add a bit of time since your pork will be frozen and in one large chunk rather than cut into smaller pieces (like you’d do for a thawed pork shoulder). I’d start with 90 minutes still, check it once the time is up and the pressure is released, and then add a bit more time if needed.

  6. Abby says:

    Hey! My butcher box had a pork butt (bone in)… think that would work well for this recipe? I’ve been dying to try this recipe!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Yep! I’d just cut it off the bone into equal size (just eyeball it) chunks before putting it into the Instant Pot!

  7. Bridget Carberry Montgomery says:

    Would the cooking time need to be adjusted for a roast about 2.5-3 pounds?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      The time should stay the same, Bridget!

  8. Brittany says:

    How do I finish this in the air fryer instead of the oven? I have the Duo Crisp + Air Fryer on your rec and I’m loving it! Thank you!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      We haven’t ever tried it, Brittany! Definitely something we’ll put on our list of things to test, though!

  9. Pete Kelly says:

    Should I keep the liquid (the cup of water) with the pork as I shred it? Or should I remove the pork and shred it without the leftover liquid?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Without the liquid, Pete! Enjoy!!