Ready in just about an hour, these Instant Pot Pork Carnitas will quickly become a staple in your home! They are so easy to make, absolutely loaded with flavor thanks to the homemade escabeche, and they go perfectly with tacos, salads, nachos, burritos, and quesadillas. Meal prep a large batch of these pork carnitas for easy weekday lunches and family dinners.
Do you love Mexican-inspired dinners? Try my Green Chili Chicken Chimichangas or make some Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef for Taco Tuesday!
Pork carnitas street tacos remind me of our trip to the Yucatan Peninsula a few years ago. We went all over rather than just staying in Cancun and enjoyed so much fantastic food! My sister did a study abroad in that part of Mexico and she came with us on that trip. I find that I am ALWAYS craving the flavors and foods we tried there, including the escabeche that is part of the recipe I'm sharing today.
Carnitas are an easy-to-make Mexican dish perfect for all kinds of meals: tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and salads are some of my favorite ways to eat them. The word "carnitas" literally means "little meats" and that's exactly what we're left with at the end of this recipe. Pork meats that is absolutely falling apart into "little bits". It's melt-in-your-mouth tender perfection!
This Instant Pot Pork Carnitas recipe is basically the same as my Crispy Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas recipe, but it's ready in less than a quarter of the time. It also has a homemade escabeche sauce to complement it. Escabeche is an acidic marinade usually found in Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American cuisine, with quick pickled red onions. It is SO good! It is usually made with vinegar and Spanish paprika, but I used red pepper flakes instead - they're so easy to find and I usually already have them on hand!
Ready in an hour, these Instant Pot Pork Carnitas couldn't be easier, and they are perfect for a quick and easy weeknight meal on a busy night. This recipe is ready in just an hour and does not skip on flavor or nutrition at all! Serve them with extra vegetables to make them even healthier!
- Pork: Pork shoulder or pork butt will both work well for this carnitas recipe, and you could also make instant pot pork loin carnitas! Cooking it in the instant pot makes it fall-apart-tender, and full of flavor in such little time!
- Fruit Juice: Lime juice adds a tart kick to this carnitas recipe, and orange juice adds a little sweetness and zesty flavor. I used freshly squeezed limes and oranges and added the rinds into the Instant Pot for even more flavor.
- Brown sugar: Adds just a little extra caramel sweetness, taking the flavor up a notch!
- Onion & garlic: I used one yellow onion and 6 cloves garlic. I LOVE garlic, and it really adds plenty of flavor here, without being overwhelmingly garlicky.
- Jalapeno: Carnitas need a kick of heat! I removed the seeds to make it milder but feel free to leave them in.
- Spices & herbs: The herbs in this recipe are simple: bay leaves and oregano. They add a great, fresh flavor. Ground cumin, cinnamon sticks, and chili powder add warmth and heat as well as even more flavor! They compliment the pork so well!
- Seasoning: Black pepper and salt are much-needed foundation ingredients - you can really tell if they're missing!
- Onion & garlic: I used a red onion this time for some variety, and I also love the sweeter flavor it brings. Just one clove of garlic this time because, unlike the meat, the sauce just needs a hint - not too much.
- Vinegar: Vinegar is a staple in escabeche for that pickled flavor! I used white vinegar, but cider vinegar would work well too for that needed tart kick if that's what you have on hand.
- Herbs: Bay leaves and oregano, just like with the pork carnitas, brings a freshness to this escabeche sauce.
- Spices: Cumin & cloves add a delicious warmth and spiciness, especially the cloves. It feels more like comfort food with these cozy flavors!
- Sugar: Just a touch of white sugar helps to balance the acidic vinegar perfectly.
- Seasoning: Salt brings all of the flavors together, but instead of using ground pepper (like in the carnitas), I used whole black peppercorns this time. They are extremely flavorful, and really add heat if you bite into one! They're completely edible when cooked, although picky eaters may not enjoy them too much.
- Red pepper flakes: Instead of Spanish paprika, I used red pepper flakes as they're much more easily available. Red pepper flakes add a little colour and heat. Feel free to add more to turn the spice level up a notch!
How to Make
- Cut & sear the meat. Firstly, cut pork into 2-inch chunks. Season with salt and pepper, and then set your Instant Pot to the saute function. Place oil in the bottom of the pot. Sear the meat in batches to brown it. When your carnitas meat has seared, remove it from the instant pot.
2. Rinse, load & cook. Secondly, add 1 cup of water or chicken broth to the bottom of the pot and scrape off any browned bits. Return meat to the pot, and then add the remaining ingredients and orange and lime rinds. Seal and cook for 45 minutes, then natural pressure release for 15 minutes.
3. Make the escabeche: While the meat cooks, prepare the escabeche by bringing the vinegar, bay leaf, cloves, sugar, salt, peppercorns, oregano, cumin, garlic, and red pepper flakes to a boil just until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Turn off heat and stir in onions to coat. Let sit, stirring a few times, until ready to serve. This can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for up to 1 week.
4. Shred & Broil. When the meat is done, shred the carnitas and then spread on a baking sheet. Broil until crispy. Toss, then broil again.
5. Serve! Finally, serve these Instant Pot Pork Carnitas with escabeche, sliced avocado, cilantro, queso fresco, flour tortillas, and a squeeze of fresh lime.
What meal ideas can I add these carnitas to?
There are so many options! Here are my favorite ways to eat them:
- Taco Salads
- By itself with sides like these tostones
- Stuffed Peppers (with extra veggies and cheese!)
What can I serve with these Instant Pot Pork Carnitas?
There are plenty of options to turn these pork carnitas into quesadillas, nachos, salads, and instant pot pork carnitas tacos. The pork meat and escabeche sauce is even amazing on its own with a side of rice, beans, and veggies. Here are my go-to Mexican sides and toppings:
- Pico de Gallo
- Easy Mexican Restaurant-style Salsa
- Homemade Mexican Rice (Spanish Rice)
- Black Beans & Cilantro Lime Rice
- Instant Pot Refried Beans
- Charro Beans (Frijoles Charros)
- Grilled Mexican Street Corn Dip
- Grilled Mexican Street Corn
- Churros (for dessert!)
Can I make these Instant Pot Pork Carnitas in the slow cooker instead?
Yes! Cook them on high for 5-6 hours, or on low for 8-10 hours.
Storage & freezing
Store these Instant Pot Pork Carnitas and escabeche in the fridge for up to 4 days. Store the escabeche separately. When you're ready to eat, heat it thoroughly in a pot on the stove or in the oven.
You can also freeze these carnitas for later. Store them in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
More Mexican Recipes You Will Love
- Shredded Beef Chimichangas
- Smokey Chicken Tinga Tacos
- Ground Beef Enchiladas
- Authentic Carne Asada Recipe
- Baja Fish Tacos
- BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos
- Grilled Pork Tacos al Pastor
- Horchata Mexican Drink
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
- 4-5 pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt
- 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 cup water or chicken broth
- 1 cup orange juice
- ½ Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 medium white onion chopped
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 jalapeno seeds removed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 red onion thinly sliced
- ¾ cup white vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 1 garlic clove thinly sliced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Cut pork into 2-inch chunks. Season with the salt and pepper.
- Set IP to saute function. Place oil in bottom of the pot. Sear the meat in batches to brown it.
- Add 1 cup of water or chicken broth to the bottom of the pot and scrape off any browned bits. Return meat to the pan. Add the remaining ingredients and orange and lime rinds. Seal and cook for 45 minutes, then natural pressure release for 15 minutes.
- While the meat cooks, prepare the escabeche by bringing the vinegar, bay leaf, cloves, sugar, salt, peppercorns, oregano, cumin, garlic, and red pepper flakes to a boil just until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Turn off heat and stir in onions to coat. Let sit, stirring a few times, until ready to serve. This can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- When the meat is done, shred, then spread on a baking sheet. Broil until crispy. Toss, then broil again.
- Serve with escabeche, sliced avocado, cilantro, queso fresco, flour tortillas, lime wedges.
Reader questions and reviews
How much water do you add to the Instant Pot in step 3? Do you keep the water or drain it? Can I use something like chicken stock for additional flavor?
It's 1 cup of water, but chicken broth or stock could also be used instead.