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.
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 CarnitasPrint
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)
- Shredded cabbage or shredded lettuce
- Diced Onion
- Shredded or crumbled cheese
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
Keywords: Instant Pot Carnitas, Pressure Cooker Carnitas
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