Use your Instant Pot to make the most amazing carnitas (Mexican pulled pork), in about an hour and a half. Pork shoulder cooked to absolute, fall-apart perfection with a vibrant mojo sauce, this recipe is sure to please a big crowd. It’s really easy to make too!
Carnitas simply means “little meats” and is a traditional Mexican dish. It is commonly made by braising the meat in lard or oil for several hours. But don’t worry! We have an excellent alternative to the lard and the long cooking time – your Instant Pot pressure cooker. We don’t use any lard at all, but rather a mix of spices and juices to create a vibrant flavor that will infuse our tender and juicy pressure cooked meat.
3-4lb Boneless Pork Shoulder Butt
We start with a 3-4lb boneless pork shoulder/butt. This is the most common pork used for both pulled pork recipes and for carnitas. You can certainly use a bone-in pork shoulder/butt, but you’ll need to cut around the bone, which isn’t really that big of a deal. It’s just one more step. The meat gets cut into cubes of about 1 ½ – 2″ in size. No need to be perfect here. You can also trim away the fat and discard as desired.
How do we make simple pulled pork into tasty carnitas? Simple, we add a mojo sauce that gives the pork the most amazing, tangy, vibrant flavor. We do this with a mixture of chicken broth, orange juice, lime juice and grapefruit juice. You can use juice from bottles or squeeze the juice right from the fruit. All are important in the flavor profile, but if you’re missing the grapefruit juice, just increase the orange juice and lime juice. The mojo sauce is then seasoned with cumin, oregano, onion and garlic. Optional ingredients are smoked hot paprika and a cayenne pepper.
Simple Seasonings to Make the Meat Extra Flavorful
The meat is sauteed in the Instant Pot for about 5 minutes. It’s best to work in a couple of batches. Just set aside the first batch on a plate while browning the 2nd batch. Then we press cancel to stop the saute process and add the pork back to the bot and mix with chili powder, salt and pepper. This step helps “bloom” the seasonings when it comes in contact with the residual heat from the Instant Pot, bringing the flavors out more.
Pressure Cook for 30 Minutes
Now we add our mojo sauce to the Instant Pot with the meat and pressure cook on high for 30 minutes. Then we let the pressure naturally release for 15 minutes. Quick release any remaining pressure after the 15 minutes are up.
Crisp The Meat In Broiler
Some may call the step optional, some may call it necessary. Here’s the thing, right now you’re ready to shred the meat and serve. And it will be awesome! But, if you want that classic carnita crisp, spread the meat on a sheet pan and coat it with about a cup of the juices. Then place it under the broiler for 5-10 minutes.
Ready to Serve!
Serve your carnitas on a flour tortilla with a little red onion and fresh cilantro and some additional juice poured over the meat. This a classic way to serve carnitas. Of course, there’s other toppings that go perfectly with carnitas. Pico de gallo and fresh pineapple are excellent toppings. Have you ever heard of watermelon radishes? Pickled watermelon radish sliced thin is an amazing topping for carnitas. And of course you can always just add your favorite salsa and sour cream.
Tender, juicy carnitas (Mexican pulled pork), with a tangy and vibrant mojo sauce, cooked to perfection in your Instant Pot. Ready to serve in a fraction of the time of slow cooking.
Mojo Sauce Ingredients
- 1 cup chicken broth (not low-sodium)
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup fresh grapefruit juice
- 2 tablespoons diced red onion
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon hot smoked paprika (optional)
- 1 cayenne pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
- 1 (3-4lb) pork shoulder butt, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Mix all mojo sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Set Instant Pot to saute mode and add olive oil. When hot, add half the pork and brown on all sides, about 2-3 minutes. Remove pork to a bowl and repeat with remaining pork.
- Turn Instant Pot off (cancel) and add reserved pork back in. Add in the salt, chili powder and black pepper and stir for 1 minute to coat.
- Pour in the mojo sauce and stir well. Secure lid with vent set to seal, and pressure cook (manual) on high pressure for 30 minutes. Then let pressure naturally release for 15 minutes. Release any remaining steam and remove cover.
Option 1: Shred pork and serve on warm tortillas with toppings of choice.
Option 2: Remove pork to a sheet pan, partially shred and drizzle over with about 1 cup of liquid from the pot. Place under broiler for 5-10 minutes. Serve with additional liquid and toppings of choice.
Keywords: instant pot, mexican, pulled pork, carnitas