Instant Pot Carnitas! This quicker version of a classically slow-cooked dish takes something that’s saved for special occasions, and turns it into an everyday meal. Tossed in an orange-infused sauce that’s lightly flavored with cumin and oregano, these juicy pork carnitas are briefly finished under the broiler to give their edges a slight crisp. 

Overhead image of yellow corn tortillas filled with pork and topped with radish, onion, and cilantro set on brown plates with lime wedges.

What’s the best kind of pork to use for Instant Pot carnitas?

The best type of pork to use for carnitas is boneless pork butt roast. You may also find it labeled as Boston butt in some stores and meat markets.

Boneless pork butt roast is ideal because it’s meaty (if you find good-quality pork), wonderfully marbled, and has quite a bit of connective tissue, making it ideal for slow-cooked or pressure-cooked dishes. The butt roast comes from the shoulder of the pig, which is also one of the more flavorful cuts of meat. 

Instant Pot carnitas with orange

Fresh oranges are a common addition to the braising liquid used for Mexican pork carnitas. Not always, but often fresh orange juice and/or zest is used to flavor the tender meat. The addition of orange enhances the overall flavor of the carnitas, but it doesn’t take over.

How to serve Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

You can use these carnitas in a variety of ways. Here are some of my favorite:

Side angle of pork tacos topped with cilantro, radish and onion on small brown plates set on a gray table

How to make Instant Pot Carnitas

Most carnitas are slow-cooked in a Dutch oven, but for this recipe I’m ditching the slow-cook process and instead opting for a quicker technique, the Instant Pot, aka pressure cooking. 

  1. Trim the fat cap from the pork and cut pork into 2-inch chunks. 
  2. Brown pork in Instant Pot
  3. Add water, onion, lime juice, spices, orange zest, orange juice and spent orange halves to Instant Pot; bring to a simmer.
  4. Lock lid in place and pressure cook 30 minutes. 
  5. Natural release 15 minutes, then quick release remaining pressure.
  6. Transfer meat to a baking sheet and simmer sauce until thick and syrupy. 
  7. Fold sauce into pork then arrange pork on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet. 
  8. Broil pork until browned and edges are slightly crisp. 
image of spices, orange halves, salt and pepper, lime juice, pork and an onion arranged on a gray table

Can I make these carnitas ahead of time?

Yes! Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, these carnitas will keep for up to four days. When you’re ready to use the carnitas, cover them with a damp paper towel and reheat in the microwave on high for two to four minutes. 

You can also reheat them on the stove top over medium heat. If you go this route, I recommend adding a splash of orange juice or water.

Looking to make them farther in advance? You can also freeze them in a resealable freezer bag for up to 4 months. When you’re ready to use them, let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat them on the stove top.

Do I have to make these in the Instant Pot?

If you don’t have an Instant Pot (or don’t want to dust it off) you can also make these in a Dutch oven.

Here’s how to make carnitas in a Dutch oven:

  • Heat oven to 300-degrees fahrenheit with rack set in lower-middle position.
  • Combine the pork, water, onion, lime juice, spices, orange zest, orange juice, and spent orange halve in Dutch oven.
  • Bring mixture to a simmer on the stove top over medium-high heat.
  • Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook pork until it falls apart when poked with a fork, about two hours.
  • Transfer pork to a baking sheet; remove and discard onion, bay leaves, and spent orange halves. Simmer liquid in Dutch oven over high heat until thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes.
  • Toss reduced sauce with pork, then arrange on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet.
  • Follow recipe instructions for broiling.
Overhead image of yellow corn tortillas filled with pork and topped with radish, onion, and cilantro set on brown plates with lime wedges.

Meal prep/ time saving tips

Here are a few tips to help you get dinner on the table faster!

Prep tips:

  • Prep the pork (trim and cut into pieces) up to 2 days ahead of time. Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator. 
  • Combine all of the spices in a small jar and store at room temperature. 
  • Mince the radish and onion up to 3 days ahead of time. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

Cooking tips:

  • The browning of the pork in the Instant Pot prior to pressure cooking adds flavor, but it isn’t necessary for the dish to turn out great. If you want to shave off some time, skip the browning. Instead add everything to the pot, bring to a simmer, lock the lid and pressure cook on high for 30 minutes. The 15 minute natural release is important, so don’t skip that part!
  • The simmering of the sauce takes a bit of time in the Instant Pot. To speed things up, instead of simmering the sauce in the Instant Pot (after the pork has cooked), transfer the sauce to a saucepan and simmer over high heat until thick and syrupy, 8–10 minutes. 
Side angle of pork tacos topped with cilantro, radish and onion on small brown plates set on a gray table

Revamp the leftovers

Overhead image of yellow corn tortillas filled with pork and topped with radish, onion, and cilantro set on brown plates with lime wedges.

Make sure to tag me @ZESTFULKITCHEN ON INSTAGRAM or comment below if you make these carnitas!

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Overhead image of yellow corn tortillas filled with pork and topped with radish, onion, and cilantro set on brown plates with lime wedges.

Crispy Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

  • Author: Lauren
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1½ hours
  • Total Time: 48 minute
  • Yield: 46 servings (4–5 cups) 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

Tossed in an orange-infused sauce that’s lightly flavored with cumin and oregano, these juicy pork carnitas are briefly finished under the broiler to give their edges a slight crisp.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 boneless pork butt roast (33 ½), fat cap trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 orange

To serve:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Minced white onion
  • Minced radishes
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • Cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • Pickled onions

Instructions

Season pork with salt and pepper.

Set Instant Pot to highest sauté function and preheat 5 minutes. Starting with a third of the pork, brown pork on all sides, about 6 minutes; transfer to a bowl and repeat, in batches, with remaining two-thirds pork.

Transfer browned pork, and any residual juices, back to Instant Pot with water, onion, lime juice, oregano, cumin, and bay leaves. Zest and juice the orange; add zest (1 tablespoon), juice (¼ cup), and spent orange halves to pot; gently stir to combine everything.

Bring mixture to a simmer, then lock lid in place and close pressure valve. Select high pressure cook function and cook for 30 minutes. Turn off Instant Pot and lest pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. Quick release any remaining pressure, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.

Transfer pork to a baking sheet; remove and discard onion, bay leaves, and orange halves.

Set Instant Pot to sauté function and simmer liquid, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy, a spatula should leave a trail when pulled through, 30–34 minutes*.

Preheat oven to broil with rack set in lower-middle position. Using two forks, pull each piece of pork in half. Fold in reduced liquid and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread pork in an even layer on a wire rack set in a baking sheet (or on a broiler pan). Broil meat until top of meat is well browned (not charred) and edges are slightly crisp, 5–8 minutes. Using a large spatula, flip pork and continue to broil until top is browned and edges are crispy, 5–8 minutes more.


Notes

* if you want the simmering of the sauce to go faster, transfer sauce to a saucepan and simmer over high heat for 8–12 minutes.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: ⅙ recipe
  • Calories: 419
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Sodium: 514mg
  • Fat: 28g
  • Saturated Fat: 10g
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 32g
  • Cholesterol: 118mg

Keywords: Instant pot pork carnitas, instant pot carnitas, pork carnitas instant pot, pork carnitas

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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  1. I made these for my friend of Monday and we loved them! Already cannot wait to make again, thank you!