Instant Pot Carnitas
Carnitas made in the Instant Pot is the perfect no-fuss dish to prepare for a crowd. Meltingly tender, flavorful pork gets crisped up under the broiler and in just over an hour you are ready for a taco party.
My husband and I were on full-on couch potato mode on a recent Saturday night when I received a text from my good friend. She and her husband had decided at the last minute to host a Cinco de Mayo party the next day and would we like to come? “Yes, of course, count us in,” I replied.
The gathering intended to be a potluck, the next thing to do was figure out what I could bring that I’d be able to throw together in the hour and a half I’d have free the following morning before the party that afternoon.
Carnitas sprang to mind almost immediately. Beef and chicken were already slated for the grill and my friend was not at all bothered that I suggested using her and her guests as my guinea pigs for a never-tried-before pork recipe to round out the menu.
My classic carnitas recipe, traditionally seasoned with cinnamon and cumin, is in the archives but I was keen to try a pressure cooker version to see how it would compare.
This time I skipped the cinnamon and cumin and went with whole allspice and ancho chile powder to go with the usual seasonings. I’ve been experimenting with a vegan recipe for pho without much success. My husband has found even my conservative amounts of cinnamon, cloves and star anise–traditional spices for the classic Vietnamese soup–to be too bold for his taste so after a couple of attempts using varying combinations of the spices with still a thumbs down I turned to allspice and was happy to find it lent a mellower quality but still provided a hint of the sweet, spicy and woody elements that the soup calls for. I hoped it would deliver for my carnitas, too.
The vegan pho still needs some adjusting (Update: I finally got it right–click here for my Vegan Pho recipe) but this carnitas recipe was a success at first try though it’s not due to any talent on my part that it was so. Yes, the allspice worked like a charm to impart depth without overpowering the pork and other seasonings but the pressure cooker gets the credit here. One, for making an already straight forward process even easier and two, for giving me fall apart, tender meat.
It still feels a little like cheating when I use the Instant Pot since my stove stays clean but it’s so handy that I look forward to using it (I can’t believe I was ever afraid to use it). In just a little over an hour, including a few minutes under the broiler to crisp up some of the pork bits, I had a platter of carnitas ready for a last-minute party…and my friends ate every last morsel.
PS: Don’t throw away the liquid left behind in the pressure cooker–that flavor-loaded pork stock can be frozen and be used in soup for another time.
Instant Pot Carnitas
- 3 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut in 1 1/2-2 inch cubes (See Note)
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock (See Note)
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- Juice of one lime
- 1/2 teaspoon Soy sauce, Maggi seasoning or Coconut or Liquid Aminos
- 1 – 2 teaspoons whole allspice (about 14-20 pieces, depending on their size)(See Note)
- 1 dried bay leaf
Dry Seasoning Mix (See Note)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder (NOT onion salt)
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika (Hungarian not Spanish)
- 1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
- 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon Ancho Chile powder
Accompaniments for Carnitas Tacos
- Salsa and/or pico de gallo
- lime wedges
- chopped onions
- Sliced Serrano or jalapeño peppers
- Cotija cheese (optional)
- Avocado (optional, not pictured)
Combine all the dry seasoning ingredients from the salt to the Chile powder and toss with the pork pieces.
In the pot of the Instant Pot, add the chicken stock, orange juice, lime juice, allspice and dried bay leaf. Stir to combine. Add seasoned pork pieces and just press down the meat into the liquid so that most of the cubes are covered in the liquid. You don't need to stir so as not to completely dislodge the seasoning from the meat.
Seal the pot and cook on high pressure for 27-28 minutes. It will take 15-17 minutes for the pot to come to pressure in a six-quart IP. Once pressure cooking is complete wait 15 minutes (NPR) before releasing the remaining pressure.
Turn on your broiler. Use tongs to transfer the meat to a baking sheet–reserve the flavorful pork stock for another use if you like. It's okay if some of the stock isn't completely drained from the meat. Taste the meat. There should be ample flavor from pressure cooking but you can sprinkle a little more salt and pepper and onion powder if you feel it needs it and/or drizzle a little more of the pork stock. Shred the meat with two forks before broiling. Broil for two to three minutes, stir once to expose more pieces to crisp up then broil again for another two to three minutes. Serve with accompaniments.
Stock/Liquid and Meat Amount: For 3 1/2 – 4 pounds of pork you can use the same amount of liquid. You get about four cups of pork stock from this recipe and it can be frozen for other uses. Edit 6.29.22 I cook up to 5 1/2 pounds of pork without adjusting the liquid amount and it fits comfortably in my six quart pressure cooker.
Seasonings: Feel free to use your own combination of seasonings and spices for this recipe–I used what I have in the pantry but the allspice is the key here. It adds a subtle, pleasant hint of spice that I really like and the ancho Chile powder a touch of smokiness. My seasoning mix makes about two to three tablespoons. Edit 6.29.22 Using a little extra paprika and ancho Chile powder work well too.
Allspice 6.29.22: I prefer now to use one tablespoon for this recipe because it lends the best flavor.