Using an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker/multi-cooker to make this classic slow-braised dish gets dinner on the table fast and makes the meat deliciously tender. These Instant Pot carnitas have a slight citrusy hint of sweetness and are a versatile family favorite. Pictured here, I served the carnitas with tortillas, pickled jalapenos, crunchy Persian cucumbers and pineapple pico de gallo. Carnitas are traditionally served with pickled jalapenos which introduce a fresh, mildly spicy, acidic note. I also always include fresh lime slices with every Mexican meal I serve.
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I am in love with Mexican cuisine. It reminds me of Southern Italian cuisine which I also adore because while different, they both consistently use healthy oils, fresh herbs and spices (particularly garlic, peppers, marjoram or oregano) and citrus. This recipe is inspired and adapted from a traditional braised carnitas recipe from Pati Jinich. Pati’s book Mexican Today is one of my favorite cook books. I highly recommend it. It’s chock full of beautiful photos, delicious recipes, Mexican cook’s tips and information about the areas where the recipes come from. My copy of Mexican Today is actually signed by Pati! About a year ago, I was supposed to take a cooking class from her in downtown Seattle. Unfortunately, I became ill with the flu and missed out. However, I was sent her beautiful cook book. I was thrilled. I like to sit down and relax with a cup of herbal tea and read cook books.
In addition to fresh squeezed orange juice, one of the ingredients that may surprise you in this recipe is to drizzle some sweetened condensed milk on the pork before cooking. This adds a wonderful, lightly caramelized flavor to the dish. You can use any left over sweetened condensed milk as a special creamer for your morning coffee or make a tres leches cake.
Rather than cooking the pork low and slow on the stove top in the traditional braising method, I decided to adapt the recipe by reducing some of the liquid and cooking it in the electric pressure cooker. Other than this, the recipe stays true to Pati’s flavor recommendations for traditional carnitas tacos. I’ve made this recipe both in the traditional braising method (with additional water added to the recipe) and in the electric pressure cooker (as noted below). Both methods yield one of the most tender and amazingly delicious pulled pork I’ve ever had.
I have a confession. And hopefully you’ll forgive me for it. I actually don’t own an Instant Pot. I have a different brand called the Breville Fast Slow Cooker. It has all the wonderful hands off cooking functions that an Instant Pot is beloved for. However, it is a sleeker more intuitive design (in my opinion). In naming this recipe, I decided to go with the beloved “Instant Pot” moniker because it is quickly becoming a household name for this type of product. My experience so far with the electric pressure cooker/multi cooker has been positive. I am learning allot by trying out new recipes. I have had the best experiences with cooking meats that would traditionally take much longer braised or cooked low and slow in an oven. This Instant Pot carnitas tacos recipe is most certainly one of my favorites so far.
Do you own an electric pressure cooker or Instant Pot? What do you think so far? Do you love Mexican food? I think you’ll love, love, love this recipe. Give it a try and let me know how it turns out.
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These Instant Pot carnitas have a slight citrusy hint of sweetness and are a versatile family favorite. Using an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker/multi-cooker to make this classic slow-braised dish gets dinner on the table fast and makes the meat deliciously tender.
- 4 lbs boneless pork shoulder or butt cut into 2 inch chunks
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 generous pinch freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 white onion rough chopped
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp lard or vegetable oil
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 large Naval oranges)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
- pickled jalapenos
- pineapple pico de gallo optional
- fresh Persian cucumber slices optional
Pat the meat down with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Use a large baking tray to spread the meat out. Season the meat with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Combine the onion, garlic, marjoram, thyme, cumin, cloves plus one tablespoon of water into a blender and blend until smooth.
Turn on the Instant Pot pressure cooker/multi-cooker to the sauté function. Heat a small amount of lard or oil until melted. Sear the pork pieces in batches, browning the meat on all sides. Do not crowd the pan. Add additional lard or oil as needed in-between batches. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
Return all the seared meat and any juices back into the multi-cooker. Add the orange juice, bay leaves, sweetened condensed milk and blended onion mixture. Stir to coat the meat.
Cover and make sure the steam valve is in the locked position. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Release the pressure naturally.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to a large clean baking sheet. Remove the bay leaves and shred the meat with a fork. Top the pork with a small amount of cooking liquid to help keep it from drying out.
Serve with tortillas, pickled jalapenos. Pineapple pico de gallo or slices of Persian cucumbers add additional sweetness and crunch.
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These Instant Pot carnitas tacos reheat and also freeze great. I generally reheat them on a baking tray in the oven. Enjoy!