Crispy and tender, Instant Pot pork carnitas cook fast and make tacos that will quickly become a family favorite. The carnitas are also great in burrito bowls, salads, or wraps.
Is it too late for me to join the Instant Pot fan club? I realize that many of you have already been using and loving this thing forever, but I’ve only recently pulled mine off the top shelf. After playing around with some recipes and testing a bunch of new ones, I’m totally sold on the convenience of this machine. I’m also over the fear that it will explode in my kitchen. 😉
Slow Cooker vs. Instant Pot
Part of my resistance to the Instant Pot was that I love slow cooking! I love how the slow cooker makes the house smell great, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever need to cook as fast as the Instant Pot allows. I was SO wrong. I’ll never give up the slow cooker completely, but since the Instant Pot has been in the rotation, I’ve definitely found pressure cooking to have its advantages:
- Instant Pot cooks fast / allows for last minute cooking (obviously)
- The Instant Pot insert is lighter and easier to clean
- Instant Pot is more versatile – it can make more desserts, grains, yogurt, etc. and has functions like “saute” that many slow cookers don’t have
- The Instant Pot insert fits more easily in the fridge (so I can load it ahead)
- It’s easier to adjust recipes in the Instant Pot – add or subtract a few minutes rather than hours
Prefer to make these Crispy Pork Carnitas in the slow cooker? Check out Slow Cooker Crispy Pork.
Last week we decided a couple hours before dinner that we wanted tacos (my girls are way into taco night at the moment). I put a pork shoulder in the Instant Pot while we walked down to the neighborhood block party. When we came back – dinner was ready in 20 minutes! It felt like a serious win.
The key to the crispy + tender combo of these carnitas is these two steps:
1) Cook pork shoulder on high until easy to shred, ~60 minutes. It comes out super tender.
2) Cook shredded pork in a skillet until crisp, ~10 minutes. The edges become super crisp.
The second step makes these so good. Spread all of the pork all in a pan over medium-high heat and let it cook, without stirring (very important), until crisp on the bottom. Flip the whole thing and fry the other side until crisp.
Break it apart and pile it into tacos! The carnitas are so flavorful that I like the tacos simple, topped with avocados, sour cream, cilantro, a few red onions, and a squeeze of lime juice.
Instant Pot Crispy Pork Carnitas
- 3 1/2 lbs Boneless Pork Shoulder (also called "Pork Butt"; see note)
- 1 cup Water
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Tbsp Cooking Oil
- If pork won’t easily fit in the Instant Pot, cut pork into 2-3 pieces. Trim off excess fat.
- Add water and then pork to the Instant Pot insert.
- Season the pork with salt and pepper (go easy on the seasoning at this stage - you can add additional seasoning later).
- Lock the lid and use the manual setting to cook the pork on high for 60 minutes.
- When the pork is done allow the pressure to naturally release for at least 15 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to a paper-towel lined plate. Shred using two forks. If it won’t easily shred, move pork to a cutting board and roughly chop with a knife. (You can reserve the cooking liquid for another use - see note.)
- When you are ready to serve the pork, heat a skillet over high heat. Add cooking oil and then pork (you many need to cook it in batches). Let pork cook on one side until very crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with some salt and pepper as it cooks.
- Flip pork and cook on the other side until crisp. Break pork apart and serve.
To use the reserved cooking liquid, put it in the fridge for a couple hours, skim off the fat, and refrigerate or freeze the remaining broth. It is great in ramen or other soups.
Everyone is getting in on playmat time over here!