Pork Carnitas Recipe made in the Instant Pot

Pork carnitas is one of my favorite Mexican dishes. Carnitas literally means “little meats.” Did you know that carnitas are also known as Mexican pulled pork? And I love making them in the Instant Pot.

You can even make desserts like this flourless chocolate cake in the Instant Pot. It’s so easy and quick. I used to make them in the slow cooker, but I love how quick I can have pork carnitas on the table with the Instant Pot.

pork carnitas

What’s the Best Cut of Meat for Carnitas?

A pork shoulder is the best cut of meat for carnitas. Usually, pork shoulder needs to cook low and slow for the best carnitas but comes out perfect and tender in an Instant Pot, as well.

What’s the difference between Carnitas and Pulled Pork?

You may be asking yourself, “What’s the difference between carnitas and pulled pork? Usually, the difference is that carnitas is finished in the oven until crispy. However, I didn’t do that here because I wanted to use the leftover carnitas as, well… pulled pork.

As I mentioned earlier, pork carnitas is essentially pulled pork, and we generally use the leftover carnitas as such.

You can find a printable version of this recipe at the bottom of this post.

instant pot pork recipes

Pork Carnitas in the Instant Pot

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: about 1 hr 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hr 40 minutes 


  • 2.5 lbs. pork shoulder
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 3 TBSP minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lime juice 
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 3 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil

mexican recipes


  1. Turn your instant pot on the sauté function. Set aside and allow to heat up while you make the marinade.
  2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, add your water, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Mix well until fully incorporated.
  3. Once your instant pot is hot, pour in your cooking oil. Add your onions, and sauté for about 3 minutes until cooked well.
  4. Place your pork in the Pot, pour the marinade over the meat, and top with the minced garlic.
  5. Close the Instant Pot by twisting the lid on and closing the valve by pushing it away from you. Set the instant pot to high pressure for 1 hour. It will take some time to build pressure.
  6. Once your timer is done, allow the instant pot to naturally release for another 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes is done, manually release the instant pot by using a hot pad or towel to twist the valve toward you and open it.
  7. Remove the meat from the instant pot to a cutting board. Shred with two forks, just like you would for pulled pork.
instant pot recipe
In a small bowl or measuring cup, add the water, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Using a whisk mix well until fully incorporated.
pork recipes instant pot
Place the pork in the Pot, pour the marinade over the meat, and top with the minced garlic.

How Do You Serve Carnitas?

pork carnitas

You can serve pork carnitas with rice and a taco topped with cilantro and lime, or just by itself! I enjoy pork carnitas best with pico de Gallo, but since I didn’t have everything I needed to make it on hand when I made these today, I just topped them with cilantro. And they are also good with sliced avocados.

If you like Mexican foods like pork carnitas or Mexican pulled pork, you might want to try another favorite Mexican-inspired recipe of mine because you can make it ahead of time, and it makes a great freezer meal… Chicken Salsa Taquitos.

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