Pressure Cooker Carnitas has to be one of the best meals you can serve your family for Taco Tuesdays. Using a pressure cooker or instant pot saves you so much time and energy!
This carnitas recipe is flavorful, crispy and moist, and you would never believe we took any short cuts. With only 30 minutes of prep, and an hour of pressure cooking, you can have a restaurant worthy meal any day of the week.
This is by no means an authentic recipe, but it’s incredibly delicious. Keep reading to learn my method and some of the toppings I recommend for these tasty tacos!
- Pork – Pork shoulder, aka pork butt, works best for this recipe. It has a higher fat content and stays very moist and flavorful when pressure cooked. Buy it without the bone so it’s easier to cut. I cube it into small pieces before cooking, so that it cooks through more quickly.
- Herbs and spices – This recipe is fairly traditional in that I use oregano, bay leaf and cumin to flavor the pork. Feel free to omit any ingredients you don’t enjoy, or perhaps consider adding red pepper flakes or ground coriander as they would go well with the flavors in this dish.
- Toppings– Salsa verde and raw, chopped white onion are popular toppings for carnitas. I don’t love plain raw onion, so I use pickled red onion. Sliced raw or pickled jalapeno, and cheese, such as queso fresco, queso blanco, cotija cheese, or even feta are great options too.
Step by Step Process
These Pressure Cooker Carnitas couldn’t be easier to make. First, cut the meat into 2 inch chunks and coat in oil, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.
Place the pork in the pressure cooker with chopped onion, minced garlic, orange peel, bay leaf and orange juice (image 1). Pressure cook on high for one hour and natural release (image 2).
While the pork cooks, prepare all of the toppings. To make the quick pickled onions, add onions, vinegar, sugar and salt to a bowl and allow to pickle at room until ready to use.
After the meat is cooked, shred using two forks. You can eat the meat like this, but it’s even better crisped up.
Heat a small, nonstick pan and add in oil. Then, place some meat in the pan and allow it to crisp for several minutes on one side (see image below).
Warm the tortillas, and build your tacos any way you desire!
Recipe FAQs and Tips
Cook pork shoulder or pork butt for 1 hour at high pressure. Cut the meat into 2 inch chunks before cooking, so it cooks through evenly.
It takes approximately 15 minutes to naturally release pressure from a pressure cooker.
- Crisp the meat– For an especially satisfying taco, crisp up the shredded pork in a pan with oil after it pressure cooks. Make sure to add some of the cooking juices from the pressure cooker into the pan so the meat doesn’t dry out too much when you crisp it up.
- Re-purpose leftovers– If you have leftovers, you can serve this meat over rice, in a soup, in a burrito, in a salad or in a sandwich roll. The possibilities are endless.
- Make extra and freeze- You can cook a large batch, and freeze the extra cooked meat in a sealed container for up to three months.
This post is also available as a web story.
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Crispy Pressure Cooker Carnitas Tacos
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: 6–8 servings 1x
- Diet: Gluten Free
These Crispy Pressure Cooker Carnitas take less than half the time of an authentic recipe and no one would know you took any short cuts! You can serve these tacos to your family or friends any night of the week.
- 2–2 ½ lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch cubes
- 3 tbsp olive oil or oil of choice, divided
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 2, 3-inch orange peel strips
- Juice from 1 orange
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
Quick pickled red onions:
- ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 4 tsp sugar
- 4 tsp kosher salt or 3 tsp fine salt
- Mini corn tortillas, for serving
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Salsa verde (green salsa)
- Pickled or fresh jalapeños
- Queso Fresco*
- Season meat: Season pork with oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Pressure cook: Place pork in pressure cooker. Top with onion, garlic, bay leaf and orange peel strips. Squeeze over orange juice. Season with additional salt and pepper. Pressure cook on high for 1 hour with natural release.
- Pickle onions: While pork cooks, add sliced onion, vinegar, sugar and salt to a bowl. Cover and allow to sit out and pickle at room temperature.
- Shred pork: Remove pork from pressure cooker and shred. Season with additional salt and pepper, as desired. Save juices to toss pork in as needed.
- Crisp pork: Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to pan. Add some of pork and 1-2 tablespoons of juice to pan in a single layer. Cook undisturbed for 4-5 minutes or until well-browned and crispy on bottom side. Crisp in batches, if needed.
- Warm tortillas: Heat tortillas over gas flame on stove top or inside the oven until just warmed through.
- Serve: Place pork and desired toppings into tortillas, and enjoy.
Any pressure cooker or Instant Pot will work for this recipe. Adjust as per manufacturer’s instructions.
You can substitute cotija, queso blanco or feta cheese.
If you have leftovers, serve over rice, in a burrito or sandwich, or in a salad or soup.
You can also freeze leftover carnitas in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to three months.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Category: Main
- Method: Pressure cook
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Serving Size: 6 oz meat, three tortillas & toppings
- Calories: 450
- Sugar: 3g
- Sodium: 100mg
- Fat: 13g
- Saturated Fat: 3g
- Unsaturated Fat: 10g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 25g
- Fiber: 3g
- Protein: 50g
- Cholesterol: 140mg
Keywords: pressure cooker carnitas, instant pot carnitas, carnitas tacos
Would you share how to make this in a slow cooker or dutch oven?
Sabrina Russo says
I haven’t tested out this exact recipe in a slow cooker or Dutch oven. I almost never use my slow cooker, but for the dutch oven method, I would keep the meat whole, season and sear it and put it in the pot with the remaining ingredients. Then bring the liquids to a boil over the stove and transfer the dutch oven with a lid on top into a 350F degree oven and cook until tender, adding water as needed to help it braise. I’m not sure how long it would take, maybe 4-6 hours, but I’m sure there are a bunch of good recipes online!
David Nila says
Please, as a Mexican I’m asking everybody: stop calling carnitas what is not carnitas. Carnitas are cooked in lard in big cooper pot for at least four hours. This is the reason that people around the world think that Tex Mex is authentic Mexican food when is not. People in México would never call that dish “carnitas” and you will never find something like that in a Carnitas place. If people want the real deal, they need to go to the state of Michoacán and mainly to the town of Quiroga.
Sabrina Russo says
Hi David! I completely understand where you’re coming from and feel the same way when I see certain recipes that people call Italian that are no where near the traditional version. It probably goes without saying that most of the recipes on my website are inspired by traditional recipes, but are done in my own way. I watched a couple youtube videos in the past of carnitas being prepared in the manor you mentioned, and I’m sure that is the most delicious way, and similar to how great NYC restaurants I went to prepared them. I did not intend to imply this recipe is traditional in any way and apologize for that. For SEO purposes, this is the best title I could come up with, but I will add a sentence to my post to make clear this is by no means an authentic recipe. Appreciate the input!
Nancy Russo says
That meat looks to render! Delicious 🙂
Thank you, Marilou!
Dianna Keeney says
I was just asking my friend if she knew how to make carnitas Thank you so much
Sabrina Russo says
You’re so welcome! Hope you enjoy the recipe!