Instant Pot Crispy Carnitas (From Fresh or From Frozen!)

By Polly Conner
January 4, 2021

It’s hard to not like Carnitas made in the Instant Pot. In fact, pork shoulder is one of my favorite cuts of meat to cook in electric pressure cookers! Coming from someone who has tested hundreds (yes, hundreds) of Instant Pot recipes, that means a lot. Carnitas can be prepped in minutes, they make a great freezer meal, and they feed a large number of people.

Find our Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas recipe here.

Instant Pot Carnitas

Instant Pot Carnitas | A One Minute Video

Instant Pot Carnitas

These Instant Pot Crispy Carnitas are by far one of my family’s favorite recipes. The seasoning and marinade, plus the Instant Pot cooking method, pack some serious tangy-smoky-citrusy flavor into the meat. After being pressure cooked in the Instant Pot and shredded, you’ll pop the meat under the broiler and broil until it begins to crisp up on the edges. You’ll find yourself going back to this recipe again and again!

Instant Pot Carnitas shredded

How to Cook Pork Carnitas in the Instant Pot

The secret to getting divine Instant Pot Carnitas is cooking the pork just right.

After testing hundreds of recipes for our cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker, I’m pretty convinced that a pork roast (also known as a pork shoulder or pork butt) is one of the best cuts of meat to cook in the Instant Pot.

  1. Cut the pork into 4 equal pieces. Pat dry and rub seasoning over each piece.
  2. Cook in the Instant Pot.
  3. Transfer meat to a cutting board and shred. Broil the shredded meat

It’s worth noting that we’ve tested pork in the Instant Pot a lot of different ways and found that pork roast cooks best in the Instant Pot when it is cut into a few pieces. In all of our Instant Pot pork recipes, we instruct you to cut it into four equal pieces. Not only does this make the cooking time go faster, but the meat gets more evenly cooked and shreds very easily. This is especially true when cooking pork roast from frozen!

Pork shoulder cooked in an Instant Pot

How Long do I Cook a Pork Shoulder in the Instant Pot?

If making a pork shoulder in the Instant Pot, you’ll want to cook it at high pressure for 45 minutes with a 10 minute natural release.

What About a Frozen Pork Shoulder in the Instant Pot?

To prepare a pork shoulder from Frozen: Turn on Saute function. Saute the frozen meal for 5 minutes to release some liquid. Press Cancel. Cook at high pressure for 45-50 minutes with a natural release for 10 minutes and then a quick release. (The frozen meat will cook approximately the same amount of time as from fresh.)

If you want to know how long to cook other cuts of meat, I’d strongly encourage you to download and print off our Instant Pot Cooking Times Chart. Tape it up in your pantry for future reference. You can thank us later. 

Can I make Carnitas is the Crock Pot? What About a Dutch Oven?

You bet! We have all of the instructions written up for you in this post.

The Perfect Instant Pot Freezer Meal

As if our Instant Pot Pork Carnitas weren’t good enough, I have even better news. They make an amazing Instant Pot Freezer Meal. Simply doubling the recipe and freezing a portion before cooking it will set you up for an incredibly easy dinner down the road.

Here are some great tips on making Instant Pot freezer meals if you want to learn more on that. We also have a printable Instant Pot Cooking Times Chart that would be helpful for anyone who uses their pressure cooker regularly.

Pork Carnitas as a freezer meal

How Serve Carnitas Meat

  • One of the beauties of this meal is that it can be easily customized and served in so many different ways. That’s why I love this meal as one for large groups. Here are some ideas:
  • Change up taco night by using this filling instead of ground beef.
  • Top a leafy green salad with it and other toppings like roasted fresh corn shaved off the cob, diced bell peppers, red onion, and crunched up tortilla chips.
  • Throw this shredded pork in a quesadilla or on top of a “burrito bowl” with brown rice, beans, and your favorite Mexican toppings.

So many options! I personally almost always serve it with our Avocado Lime Salsa.

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas in wraps
Print

Instant Pot Crispy Carnitas

  • Author: Polly
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 1012 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Seasoned, marinaded pork roast gets cooked in the Instant Pot and then broiled until crispy in this easy, freezer friendly, and delicious recipe for a crowd. 


Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (4–5 pounds) pork shoulder (also known as pork butt or Boston butt), trimmed of excess fat 
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup lime juice* (juice of about 4 limes)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice* (juice of about 3 oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • chopped cilantro (optional for garnishing)

*Freshly squeezed is the best!


Instructions

Make It Now:

(Find our Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas recipe here.)

  1. Turn on Saute function and heat the oil.  Saute the onion just until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper while it cooks. Stir in the garlic during the last 30-60 seconds. Press “Cancel”. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine the oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. 
  3. On a cutting board, cut the roast into 4 or 5 equal pieces. Pat the roast dry with paper towels and then rub the seasoning all over each piece. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  4. Add the seasoned meat, lime juice, orange juice, and hot sauce into the Instant Pot. 
  5. Lock and seal the lid. Cook for 45 minutes at high pressure. Naturally release the pressure for 10 minutes (or more if you prefer) and then use a quick release.
  6. Remove the pork to a cutting board, and shred with two forks.
  7. Preheat the broiler. Broil the meat on a rimmed baking sheet for 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the meat over and spoon about ¼ cup of the juices from the Instant Pot over the meat. Broil another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the edges of the meat start to crisp up and turn brown. Remove from the oven and spoon another ¼ cup of the juices over the cooked pork.
  8. Serve immediately in tacos, burritos, or salads, or enjoy a la carte. If serving in a corn tortilla, we suggest topping with diced avocado, pico de gallo, Cojita cheese crumbles, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges. If serving on a salad, use those same toppings and try our Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette as the dressing.

Freeze For Later: Follow Steps 1-3. Place the onion/garlic mixture, seasoned pork, lime juice, orange juice, hot sauce into a gallon-sized freezer bag or round freezer container. Seal and freeze. Tip: Set the freezer bag in a bowl in the freezer for a few hours to help it freeze in the shape of the pressure cooker.

Prepare From Frozen: Turn on Saute function. Saute the frozen meal for 5 minutes to release some liquid. Press Cancel. Follow Steps 5-8, except cook at high pressure for 45-50 minutes with a natural release for 10 minutes and then a quick release. (The frozen meat will cook approximately the same amount of time as from fresh.


Notes

You can make this in the slow cooker, too. Find our Slow Cooker Crispy Carnitas recipe here.

Instant Pot Pork Carnitas in wraps

Make sure to swing by and check out our other Instant Pot recipes.

Want More Freezer Meals for the Instant Pot?

We’ve got you covered. Hop over to this post highlighting 20+ Best of the Best Freezer Meals for the Instant Pot. It includes freezer meal instructions for EVERY recipe plus tons of pro tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years.


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13 replies
  1. Eric says:

    Wanting to make this this weekend for a big group. We have the bigger instant pot, can we make this bigger? How much meat can we put in the bigger IP, and do we just adjust the liquid to compensate? Looking for 15-16 servings.

    Reply
  2. Monica says:

    Here’s a question from an instant pot newbie, doesn’t the pot need liquid to be under high pressure? Am I missing something?

    Reply