Pork Carnitas {Instant Pot or Slow Cooker}

March 6, 2018  ·  Published July 5, 2013

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Carnitas are the best!  These are easily just as good as what you’d find in any Mexican restaurant but you get to enjoy them at a fraction of the price in the comfort of your own home!


They’re brimming with those rich, authentic flavors we all love from the classic pork carnitas tacos and they’re much easier to make than you’d think.

Pork Carnitas

Carnitas

This recipe gives you both options of cooking in either the Slow Cooker or Instant Pot so use whichever you own for incredible results either way!

As a matter of fact the slow cooker or pressure cooker does most of the work. You just add everything to the slow cooker or Instant Pot then cook for 8 hours in the slow cooker, or 1 hour in the Instant Pot.

Then once the pork is nice and tender you shred it up and broil it on a baking sheet with some of the juices and a little oil. And you’ll end up with these delicious crispy little pieces of pork that you won’t be able to stop “taste testing.”

Easy as that. Throw the carnitas into tortilla’s, add some cilantro and diced onions and tada. Such a satisfying dinner! All your friends/siblings/boss/grandma/dog will want this recipe!

Carnitas shown here after broiling on a baking sheet

What are Carnitas Anyway?

If you haven’t had Carnitas you are probably trying to figure out exactly what “Carnitas” means. It’s a spanish word meaning “little meats.”  It’s a Mexican dish and generally it’s made by braising or roasting pork then shredding it and simmering in lard or vegetable oil until crispy.

But here we switch that up and use the slow cooker/pressure cooker, and broil the pork it instead of sautéing it in oil to get that same crispy effect. Broiling it takes less time, creates less mess, and requires less oil.

And I go for semi-crispy. I like the ends of the meat to be nice and crispy but I recommend that you don’t overdue it. You don’t want to dry the meat.

Carnitas shown here after broiling on a dark baking sheet garnished with cilantro

How to Make Carnitas in the Slow Cooker

  • Place pork in slow cooker. Pour in chicken broth, orange juice and lime juice.
  • Sprinkle in salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, coriander, chili powder and cayenne pepper, onions and garlic.
  • Cover and cook on low heat 8 hours.
  • Leave liquid in slow cooker, remove pork and shred with two forks.
  • Spray a rimmed 18 by 13-inch baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place pork on baking sheet, pour over 1 cup reserved broth (try and strain out onions when ladling broth out), drizzle with oil and toss and spread into an even layer.
  • Position oven rack near broiler and preheat broiler to high.
  • Broil until pork is browned and crispy in places about 3 – 6 minutes.
  • Serve warm in tortillas with desired toppings.

How to Make Carnitas in the Instant Pot

  • Cut pork into 4 chunks and place pork in Instant Pot, pour over chicken broth, orange juice and lime juice.
  • Sprinkle in salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, coriander, chili powder and cayenne pepper, onions and garlic.
  • Cover and seal lid (make sure valve is set to “sealing” position), press “manual” (or high pressure) and select 60 minutes.
  • Once cooking is done, let pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes then use quick release method to release any remaining pressure.
  • Once steaming has stopped remove pork from pressure cooker while leaving broth in pressure cooker.
  • Shred pork and proceed with broiling method starting at step 5 above.

Carnitas shown here are the charred corn tortillas for serving carnitas on

What About an Oven Option for Carnitas?

If you don’t have a slow cooker or pressure cooker I’ve also made these in the oven.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut pork into 4 portions place in a large pot and cover, then and roast with the broth, juices and spices until it easily shreds with a fork, about 3 1/2 – 4 hours. Then proceed with the broiling method as noted.

And why didn’t I brown the pork first in the recipe? Because you brown it at the end after shedding so why brown it twice?

I’ve made these carnitas all three ways, slow cooker, instant pot, and oven roasted. Each of them works great so use what you have and what’s convenient for you.

Three carnitas tacos shown here on black a plate in corn tortillas

More Mexican Recipes To Try

Instant Pot or Slow Cooker Carnitas
5 from 13 votes

Instant Pot or Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

These Carnitas are just as good as what you'd find in any Mexican restaurant! They have the best flavor and that crispy texture will have you reaching for piece after piece. This is one of those recipes that everyone in the family can agree on, they're just too good!
Servings: 7
Prep10 minutes
Cook8 hours
Ready in: 8 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
  • 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice (about 2 - 3 oranges)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • 2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano*
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (2 Tbsp)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • Warmed corn tortillas, diced yellow onions, cilantro (for serving)

Instructions

Slow cooker method:

  • Place pork in slow cooker. Pour in chicken broth, orange juice and lime juice. 
  • Sprinkle in salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, coriander, chili powder and cayenne pepper, onions and garlic.
  • Cover and cook on low heat 8 hours.
  • Leave liquid in slow cooker, remove pork and shred with two forks.
  • Spray a rimmed 18 by 13-inch baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place pork on baking sheet, pour over 1 cup reserved broth (try and strain out onions when ladling broth out), drizzle with oil and toss and spread into an even layer.
  • Position oven rack near broiler and preheat broiler to high.
  • Broil until pork is browned and crispy in places about 3 - 6 minutes.
  • Serve warm in tortillas with desired toppings.

Instant Pot method:

  • Cut pork into 4 chunks and place pork in Instant Pot, pour over chicken broth, orange juice and lime juice.
  • Sprinkle in salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, coriander, chili powder and cayenne pepper, onions and garlic.
  • Cover and seal lid (make sure valve is set to "sealing" position), press "manual" (or high pressure) and select 60 minutes.
  • Once cooking is done, let pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes then use quick release method to release any remaining pressure.
  • Once steaming has stopped remove pork from pressure cooker while leaving broth in pressure cooker. 
  • Shred pork and proceed with broiling method starting at step 5 above.
  • Instant Pot method will take approx. 80 minutes + 10 minutes prep.
  • Recipe source: Cooking Classy, recipe updated from archives originally shared July 2013.

Notes

1.*Italian oregano can be substituted if you can't find Mexican oregano.
2. For an oven option see notes in post above.
3.Tortillas and toppings not included in nutritional value.
 
Nutrition Facts
Instant Pot or Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
Amount Per Serving
Calories 294 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Cholesterol 108mg36%
Sodium 797mg35%
Potassium 738mg21%
Carbohydrates 6g2%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 30g60%
Vitamin A 145IU3%
Vitamin C 17.2mg21%
Calcium 45mg5%
Iron 2.9mg16%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.

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68 Comments

  • This recipe rivals restaurant carnitas with added benefit of not frying but broiling the shredded pork when it has finished cooking using some of the juice. I served this at a card game with homemade salsa and guacamole on street size tortillas, spanish rice and beans. It was a hit!

  • kat

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe. I’ve been making your recipe for several years now and it’s always a hit. (Usually pulled pork is gross and/or dry so I’m so glad I took a chance on your recipe!) I’m fairly sure you’ve changed it a bit over the years so I still add the cinnamon stick and orange and lime zests. But, regardless, this recipe is a keeper. Tonight I’m making it keto for the first time ever (no orange juice, just chicken broth and a bit of orange zest). I’m always happy to have keto-friendly (for me) and yet family-pleasing recipes for my non-keto family.

    If anybody is on the fence about trying this recipe because, like me, they’ve had so much dry, mediocre pulled pork before, definitely go for it! The pork comes out moist and super flavourful every time (I’ve made this recipe dozens of times over the years).

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Love to know you and your family have been enjoying this recipe for several years Kat! Thanks for reviewing!

  • steven

    you were right about constant taste testing… my 4.5lb pork shoulder is now down to 2, and it’s only been out of the crockpot for 30 mins :(

  • Kristen

    This is an amazing carnitas recipe! I prepared in a pressure cooker- so fast! My family loved it! The meat tends to be dry in carnitas…I had the thought to thicken the sauce it was cooked in and serve that on top next time. The sauce is so savory…perhaps carnitas nachos next time also!