Pressure cooker, Weeknight dinner
comments 8

Instant Pot Carnitas

Pork carnitas on a bed of shredded lettuce and a tortilla, with text below saying Instant Pot Carnitas |
Instant Pot Carnitas

Carnitas are Mexican pork candy. Cubes of pork shoulder, simmered until tender, and then fried in their own rendered pork fat. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, I’ve tried Instant Pot Carnitas many times, but the results were not what I wanted…until now.

The problem was, I kept trying to make this a one-pot meal, and fry the pork cubes in the Instant Pot by simmering off the liquid. There were two problems. First, the pork would always burn on the bottom of the pot, no matter how carefully I watched it. Second, pressure cooker pots (like the Instant Pot) are not that wide – at best, I could fit 2 pounds of pork in a single layer on the bottom. That’s not enough to satisfy my hungry crowd of kids.

My breakthrough was giving up on the authentic, one-pot approach. Mexican kitchens cook carnitas in wide, shallow pots, so there’s plenty of room to fry the pork. Me? I brought out my frypan, and use vegetable oil or lard instead of the rendered pork fat. The Instant Pot does what it does best – quickly pressure cook the pork, making it tender and shreddable. Then I scoop the pork into the frypan, where there’s plenty of space to brown.

Instant Pot Carnitas – Ready to lock the lid and start pressure cooking

Are you looking for real-deal pork carnitas, crackling browned cubes of pork, tender and shreddable, in about an hour? Get out the Instant Pot and frypan, and get to work.

Recipe: Instant Pot Carnitas

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A pile of pork carnitas on shredded lettuce, piled on a tortilla, on an aqua plate

Instant Pot Carnitas

  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour


Instant Pot Carnitas – crispy cubes of Mexican pork, sped up by pressure cooking


  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 limes, cut into ½-inch slices
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil (or lard)


  • Tortillas
  • Shredded cabbage or shredded lettuce
  • Salsa
  • Diced Onion
  • Guacamole
  • Shredded or crumbled cheese
  • Beans


  1. Everything in the pot: Sprinkle the pork cubes with the salt, then put the pork into the Instant Pot (or pressure cooker pot). Pour 1 cup of water into the pot, stir, and then spread the lime slices over the top of the pork.
  2. Pressure cook for 15 minutes with a natural pressure release: Lock the lid on the pressure cooker. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes in an electric pressure cooker (“Manual” or “Pressure Cook” mode in an Instant Pot), or for 12 minutes in a stovetop PC. Let the pressure come down naturally, about 15 minutes.
  3. Fry the pork and serve: Unlock the Instant Pot lid and open it away from you – the steam is hot. Remove the lime slices and discard. Scoop the pork to a bowl with a slotted spoon. In a 12-inch fry pan over medium-high heat, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Spread the pork cubes in the frypan in a single layer and cook until the bottom is browned and crispy, about 4 minutes. Move the pork to a platter with a slotted spoon, leaving behind as much of the oil as possible. Serve the pork with the tortillas and accompaniments.


  • To double this recipe, double all the ingredients and fry in two batches. (Or use two frying pans.)  Don’t overcrowd the pan, or the pork will steam, not brown. To halve the recipe, halve all the ingredients except for the water.
  • If you have a fat separator, you can fry the pork in its own rendered lard. After scooping the pork out of the pressure cooker pot, pour the pot liquid into the fat separator and wait for the fat to float to the top. Pour off the pork juices and transfer the fat layer to the frypan. (Add vegetable oil or store-bought lard if needed to get a ¼-inch deep layer of oil in the pan.)


  • Category: Weeknight Dinner
  • Method: Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: Instant Pot Carnitas, Pressure Cooker Carnitas

What do you think?

Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

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Filed under: Pressure cooker, Weeknight dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. Ashley says

    I just tried this! I’m new to the whole pressure cooking thing and had pork in the freezer to cook. Will definitely do again! Coming out of pressure cooker it tasted so good and tender. I did do the skillet to amp it up. I diced some up for the kids bc they wanted nachos . They asked for seconds and the rest I made into tacos for myself and husband. I had just 2.5 lbs of pork and still used 1 cup of water. The lime is what makes it.

  2. Jennifer says

    My family loves this so much! I do as another commenter suggested and broil the pork instead of frying it. I place the pork on paper towels and pat them dry, then I drizzle a light layer of oil on a sheet pan and roll the pork pieces on it to coat them before broiling. If there are any large pieces of fat on the raw pork, I will trim it off and–while the pork is cooking–melt it down in the oven on the sheet pan and use that instead of vegetable oil to lightly coat the meat before broiling. So darn good!

  3. Christi says

    Can I cook the pork ahead in the instantpot one day and then fry it the next day?

  4. For the browning stage, especially if doubling the recipe, I would go with Kenji Alt-Lopez’s technique of broiling them in there own fat on an aluminum foil covered sheet pan. Great results, every time.

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