This Instant Pot Carnitas recipe features beer-braised pork shoulder flavored with citrus, garlic, aromatics and spices. The end result? Tender, juicy, and oh so succulent pork shoulder made easily in under 1 hour via the Instant Pot! You can quickly transform fall-apart tender carnitas into crispy carnitas with a quick broil or fry in a skillet for restaurant-worthy, homemade tacos. Alternatively, serve up your carnitas in a variety of other tasty ways. Slow cooker carnitas instructions included, too!

instant pot carnitas tacos with onion on platter

Listen, when it comes to my most favorite appliances, an air fryer and the pressure cooker are my top most used cooking besties. It took me a while to get both of ’em, too. I guess I just didn’t want to believe that they could compete with the good old fashioned oven or stovetop, ha. Well, this post is all about that Instant Pot magic and one of my most beloved recipes, carnitas, y’all!!

Easy Instant Pot Carnitas 😛

If you love Mexican cuisine, you’re likely familiar with carnitas.

Super tender and juicy pieces of shredded pork that’s loaded with flavor, whew. This easy, foolproof carnitas recipe whips up like a dream in under 1 hour using a pressure cooker. It’s also a recipe that’s very versatile by giving you options on serving. My favorite? Carnitas are almost always served up via carnitas tacos in my home, yum. However, you can make burritos, nachos, quesadillas, salads, omelettes, and so much more! Carnitas are a crowd-favorite!

⇢ Whether it’s my Cuban-Inspired Picadillo, Fried Sweet Plantains, or my Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken…culture + flavor-filled recipes= 🫶🏾🥰

instant pot carnitas tacos  on small white platter

Back to Basics: What Are Carnitas?

First, carnitas is a well-known pork dish with Mexican roots. Furthermore, it is a Latin word that translates to “little meats.” Traditionally, pork shoulder aka pork butt is usually cut into smaller chunks and seared in oil/other type of fat, then slow-cooked in a variety of aromatics with braising liquid. For example, flavors from citrus, onion, spices, and more is what carnitas gets braised in. After cooking, the pork is fall-apart tender and so mouthwateringly fragrant!

Instant Pot Carnitas Recipe Highlights

Let’s discuss some highlights that are noteworthy for this recipe:

  • EASY & FOOLPROOF: One of my favorite things about this carnitas recipe is how effortless it all is…low-effort, high-reward! The main steps include seasoning, browning, cooking, and shredding the pork and it’s all nearly impossible to mess up, ha. Easy recipes like this one are also perfect for busy weeknights, entertaining, and everything in between.
  • INSTANT POT GOALS: Bringing everything together in a pressure cooking vessel is one of the other reasons why this recipe is so easy. The entire recipe gets done in one singular pot with no extra dishes to be bothered with afterwards. Instead of slow cooking (which is usually 2-3 hours), this recipe gives you succulent, Mexican-style carnitas in under 1 hour!
  • A TON OF FLAVORRR: There’s minimal ingredients in this recipe but it doesn’t mean that we’re compromising on flavor. Nah, not at all. Beer enhances and tenderizes the pork, fresh citrus notes, heaps of garlic, and pantry staple spices add well-rounded depth.
  • PARTY FOOD, EVENTS, GATHERINGS: A good batch of carnitas on hand is perfect for festivities like Cinco De Mayo, other parties, and social gatherings galore. This recipe screams a communal meal to serve up when entertaining, it’s the most epic party food! ♡
ingredients for instant pot carnitas laid out on silver baking sheet

Ingredients Needed For This Recipe:

(Note: the full ingredients list, including measurements, is provided in the recipe card directly below.)

  • Pork shoulder: The star of the show! Also referred to as Boston butt. Aim for pork shoulder that’s nicely marbled and trimmed of excess fat.
  • Salt & pepper: To generously season the pork prior to browning.
  • Oil: For browning pork, any high-heat oil. I use avocado oil.
  • Orange & lime juice: These citrus juices add a lovely citrusy-zing, creating a mojo-style pop of fragrance and flavoring.
  • Onion: Every braise benefits from aromatic onion, check.
  • Ground cumin: Cumin has a warm, nutty, savory, and pungent taste on its own. When used in cooking, it becomes more earthy and aromatic.
  • Oregano: Adds a touch of herbaceous flavor. If you can get your hands on Mexican oregano for this recipe, bonus points for ya!
  • Garlic: Carnitas and plenty of garlicky flavor= 🤤.
  • Brown sugar: A touch of sweetness to provide balance.
  • Bay leaves: They’re perfect for braised dishes, especially when braising meats to help enhance the flavor of “slow-cooked” recipes.
  • Beer: This braising liquid ingredient adds a deeper flavor. Beer-braised meats tend to taste richer and more earthy, enhancing a braise overall. However, if beer is not your thing, you can surely substitute for chicken broth/stock.

How To Make Instant Pot Carnitas:

(Note: please see the recipe card directly below for the complete written instructions.)

  1. Season the pork shoulder with salt and pepper and massage the spices into the pork, ensuring all pork is coated.
  2. Brown the pork: Coat the bottom of the Instant Pot with oil, and set it to the high sauté function. When hot and ready, working in batches (careful not to overcrowd the pot), add seasoned pork into the pot in an even layer. Cook the pork on all sides until a deep brown crust appears, about 1 minute on each side. Then transfer the browned pork to a clean plate/platter and repeat the process with the remaining batch of pork. 
  3. Assemble the braise: Return all browned pork chunks back into the pot. Add the orange juice, lime juice, onion, cumin, oregano, garlic, brown sugar, and bay leaves into the pot. Cover ingredients with beer (or broth/stock) and gently stir to combine all ingredients.

Instant Pot Carnitas- Part ll:

  1. Pressure cook: Cover the IP with lid to seal, and set to the manual high pressure function- set the time for 45 minutes. After the cooking cycle is complete, let pressure release naturally in the “vent” position.
  2. Shred the pork: Remove the tender pork chunks from the pot and place onto a large baking sheet/platter. Then shred the pork into bite-sized pieces.
  3. For crispy carnitas- optional: Achieve crispy carnitas ✌🏾 ways- in the oven under the broiler or on the stovetop until golden brown and lightly crisp!
  4. Serve carnitas as you desire or assemble carnitas tacos (as pictured). Enjoy!
crispy carnitas in white skillet

Serving: Carnitas Tacos (& Much More)

I’d say that the most popular way to serve this dish is to make carnitas tacos, y’all! You know, just like at your favorite authentic Mexican joint or taco truck. Stuff your tortilla with these juicy, flavorful carnitas and enjoy your mf life! It’s truly so dang good, swoon. ⇢ Taco assembly options (as pictured) include tortillas, chopped onion, fresh chopped parsley, sliced radish, and lime wedges.

However, there are endless ways to serve your finished carnitas other than making tacos. For example, you can make nachos, burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, bowls, omelettes, make a salad or sandwich, use on a pizza, and anything else your crafty mind comes up with! Sky is really the limit, I think 😋.

closeup of carnitas tacos on small platter

FAQs & Tips + Tricks For Recipe Success

Here’s more information about this Instant Pot Carnitas recipe:

  • What size Instant Pot?: The minimum size recommended is a 6-quart cooker.
  • Brown the pork: Searing unlocks huge flavorrr during the caramelization process >> aka the Maillard reaction! This is a step you cannot skip.
  • Beer replacement: Great alternatives to using beer include chicken broth/stock or any non-alcoholic beer as an easy substitute.
  • Cooking liquid: The liquid amount written for this recipe (in recipe card below) includes the beer (or broth/stock), orange juice, and lime juice. You might think that that’s not enough liquid, but keep in mind that during the cooking process, the pork will render its own fat and juices, too.
  • Do I have to crisp up the carnitas?: Absolutely not. While crispy carnitas is quite popular to finish them off, you can certainly enjoy the carnitas right outta the IP after shredding in its tender state, no worries.
  • Save some of the cooking liquid: The braising liquid is pure gold! I like to save some of it to pass over the carnitas to keep it juicy when storing + for serving. Additionally, if you’re making crispy carnitas, you want to pass some of the liquid over them to prevent the carnitas from drying out.
  • Can I make this recipe using a slow cooker?: Yes indeed. If your slow cooker has a sauté function, brown the meat in it, otherwise sear the pork chunks on the stovetop until browned. Then place all of the browned meat into your slow cooker vessel along with the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 6-7 hours. Once done cooking, check for pork tenderness and transfer tender pork to a large baking sheet to shred. Follow recipe card instructions below for crispy carnitas. Enjoy!

Storing, Freezing & Reheating Carnitas

  • Refrigerate: First, let the carnitas cool down to room temperature. Then place leftover carnitas into airtight containers with some of the cooking liquid. Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. ⇢ Reheating carnitas from fridge: For best results, gently reheat carnitas on the stovetop over low heat, stirring often, until warmed through.
  • Freeze: Place cooled, leftover carnitas into airtight, freezer-safe containers with some of the cooking liquid. Keep stored in the freezer for 3-4 months. ⇢ Reheating carnitas from freezer: Let the carnitas thaw out overnight in the fridge. Then gently reheat carnitas on the stovetop over low heat, stirring often, until warmed through.
black hand holding carnitas taco on small white platter

These Instant Pot Carnitas are super versatile and extra delicious, plus they’re so easy to make. You’ll love this recipe! Be sure to tag @butterbeready in your BBR recipe creations, I sure love to see it when you do. Until next time! 🤟🏾

More bombtastic recipes to peep:

*This post was originally published on 5/29/2021 and updated as of 7/7/2023.

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instant pot carnitas tacos with onion on platter

Easy Instant Pot Carnitas (So Juicy!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 810 1x
  • Category: Main Courses
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: Mexican-Inspired
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Description

This Instant Pot Carnitas recipe features beer-braised pork shoulder flavored with citrus, garlic, aromatics and spices. The end result? Tender, juicy, and oh so succulent pork shoulder made easily in under 1 hour via the Instant Pot! You can quickly transform fall-apart tender carnitas into crispy carnitas with a quick broil or fry in a skillet for restaurant-worthy, homemade tacos. Alternatively, serve up your carnitas in a variety of other tasty ways. Slow cooker carnitas instructions included, too!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder/Boston butt, cut into chunks
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to season
  • 23 tablespoons high-heat oil, for browning (I use avocado oil)
  • ⅓ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1012 cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle/can of beer- I use Modelo, (or 1 ½ cups chicken broth/stock)
  • for carnitas tacos assemblyoptional: tortillas, finely chopped onion, sliced radish, fresh chopped cilantro, lime wedges, etc.

Instructions

  1. Season the pork shoulder: Place the pork shoulder chunks into a large bowl and generously season pork with salt and pepper. Use your hands (fitted with disposable gloves, if desired) to massage the seasoning into the pork, ensuring all pork is well seasoned.
  2. Brown the pork: Coat the bottom of a 6-quart (or larger) Instant Pot with oil, and set it to the high sauté function. When hot and ready, work in batches (careful not to overcrowd the pot), add seasoned pork into the pot in an even layer. Cook the pork on all sides until a deep brown crust appears, about 1 minute on each side. Then transfer the browned pork to a clean plate/platter and repeat the process with the remaining batch of pork. 
  3. Assemble the braise: Return all browned pork chunks back into the pot along with any residual juices collected. Add the orange juice, lime juice, onion, cumin, oregano, garlic, brown sugar, and bay leaves into the pot. Cover ingredients with beer (or broth/stock) and gently stir to combine all ingredients.
  4. Pressure cook: Cover the IP with lid to seal, and set to the manual high pressure function- set the time for 45 minutes. After the cooking cycle is complete, let pressure release naturally in the “vent” position or according to manufacturer’s instructions, until all steam has ceased.
  5. Shred the pork: Remove the pork chunks from the pot and place onto a large baking sheet/platter. Then use two forks or your hands (fitted with disposable gloves, if desired) to shred the pork into bite-sized pieces. Note: I like to save some of the cooking liquid in the pot to pass over the carnitas to keep it juicy when storing/ not serving right away- highly recommended.
  6. For crispy carnitas- optional: You can crisp up your carnitas 2 ways- in the oven or on the stovetop! For the oven method, set the oven to broil. Add shredded carnitas on a baking sheet or oven-safe vessel. Pass some of the cooking liquid over the carnitas. Broil for a few minutes, until the top of the carnitas are golden brown and lightly crisp. For the stovetop method, add the desired amount of carnitas into a skillet over medium-high heat. Pass some of the cooking liquid over the carnitas. Pan-fry the carnitas, tossing often, until golden brown and lightly crisp.
  7. Serve carnitas: Taste the pork and adjust seasoning to preference by adding more salt/pepper, if needed. Serve up carnitas as you desire or assemble carnitas tacos (as pictured), mmm so good. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Slow cooker carnitas instructions: If your slow cooker has a sauté function, brown the meat in it, otherwise sear the pork chunks on the stovetop until browned. Then place all of the browned meat into your slow cooker vessel along with the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 6-7 hours. Once done cooking, check for pork tenderness and transfer tender pork to a large baking sheet to shred. Follow instructions above for crispy carnitas. Enjoy!
  2. Storing leftover carnitas: First, let the carnitas cool down to room temperature. Then place leftover carnitas into airtight containers with some of the cooking liquid. Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days or store in the freezer for 3-4 months. Reheating carnitas: If frozen, let carnitas thaw overnight in fridge. For best results, gently reheat carnitas on the stovetop over low heat, stirring often, until warmed through.