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Instant Pot Mexican Pulled Pork (Carnitas)

When you need pulled pork fast, make it in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker! In about half the time of other recipes, this recipe makes the oh-so-tender carnitas for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and many other Mexican dishes.

Instant Pot Pulled Pork served in tacos on a platter
Coco Morante

Want pulled pork in a hurry? With the pressure cooker, you can have tender, fall-apart pulled pork in just a little over an hour!

Elise's low-and-slow slow cooker Mexican pulled pork is fantastic, but when I forget to plan ahead or want it to be ready a little more quickly, I make this speedy version in my Instant Pot. (New to the Instant Pot? Check out our post How To Use an Instant Pot: A First-Timer’s Guide.)

The Ingredients for Instant Pot Pulled Pork

Elise’s spice rub includes chili powder, salt, brown sugar, and a blend of herbs and spices – this mix is so good that I just left it as is. In fact, the only real change that I made was to add some liquid to the pot – you need some in order to properly cook food in a pressure cooker.

You can use fruit juice, broth, or even water, but I went with pineapple juice for its tangy sweetness. I think this complements the spices in the rub nicely!

Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork Carnitas
Coco Morante

Tip for the Best Pulled Pork

Whether you make this pressure cooker version or the slow cooker version, try to allow some time for the pork to come up to room temperature before you begin cooking. This helps the pork develop a better crust when you sear it, which means more browned flavor in the finished dish. An hour is ideal, but any amount of time you can give it will help.

How to Serve This Pulled Pork

Make tacos! After you're done pulling the pork into shreds, run it under the broiler to give them that signature carnitas crispiness. Then toss with the reduced cooking liquid and serve with all your favorite taco toppings.

I'd recommend all or some of the following:

  • Sliced avocado
  • Sliced radishes
  • Thinly sliced red or green cabbage
  • Thinly sliced romaine lettuce
  • Diced red onions
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Crumbled cotija cheese
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges

Also, I recommend toasting your tortillas to give them a little char. You can do their either over the open flame of a gas stove (use heat-proof tongs!) or in a dry skillet.

Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork Carnitas
Coco Morante

What to Do With Leftover Pulled Pork

One of the best parts of making pulled pork is that you tend to have a lot leftover. Here are some ideas for using up your leftover pulled pork:

  • Pulled pork sandwiches — of course!
  • Make chili — mix your leftover pork with broth, tomatoes, beans, and veggies for a thick stew
  • Toss with pasta or spiralized zucchini noodles, or serve over cauliflower rice
  • Use as a pizza topper
  • Egg scramble — pulled pork is so good with scrambled eggs for breakfast! It’s also delicious in breakfast tacos, topped with scrambled eggs and shredded cheese

Read more! 6 Different Meals to Make with Pulled Pork

Storing and Freezing Pulled Pork

Pulled pork will keep for up to five days refrigerated or up to three months frozen. Freeze the pulled pork in batches in quart-sized freezer bags with as much air pressed out as possible to prevent freezer burn.

More Ways to Love Pulled Pork!

Instant Pot Mexican Pulled Pork (Carnitas)

Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 90 mins
Pressure release 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Servings 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • For the spice rub:
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (if using regular table salt, only use 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Scant pinch of ground cloves
  • For the pulled pork:
  • 3 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into two pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice, orange juice, or water
  • Optional toppings (pick a few!):
  • Sliced avocado
  • Sliced radishes
  • Thinly sliced red or green cabbage
  • Thinly sliced romaine lettuce
  • Diced red onions
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Crumbled cotija cheese
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Warm tortillas, corn or flour
  • Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Salsa

Method

  1. Season the pork:

    In a small bowl, combine the spice rub ingredients. Pat the pork dry with paper towels, then sprinkle with half of the spice rub. Turn and rub the spice into the pork until the pieces are evenly coated.

    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
  2. Let the pork sit 15 to 60 min:

    Leave the pork to absorb the rub and to take the chill off the meat, at least 15 minutes or up to an hour. (Room temperature pork will sear better!)

  3. Sear the pork:

    Select the “Sauté” program on your pressure cooker and add the oil to the pot. (If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat.)

    Use a pair of tongs to lower the pork into the pot so the side with the most fat is facing down. Sear for 5 minutes. Flip it over and sear it for 5 more minutes. Both sides should be browned.

    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
  4. Sprinkle the remaining spice rub over the pork, then pour the pineapple juice over the top.
    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
  5. Pressure cook the pork:

    Place the lid on your pressure cooker. Make sure that the pressure regulator is set to the “Sealing” position. Select the “Manual” program on the pressure cooker and set the time to 1 hour and 15 minutes at high pressure. (For stovetop pressure cookers, cook for 60 minutes at high pressure.)

    It will take about 10 minutes for your pressure cooker to come up to pressure, and then the cooking time will begin.

    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
  6. Release the pressure:

    After the cooking time ends, let the pot sit and naturally release pressure for about 20 minutes, then vent the remaining steam. (For stovetop pressure cookers, perform a quick pressure release.)

    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
  7. Separate the pork and cooking liquid:

    Use tongs to transfer the pork to a large baking dish or sheet pan, but be very gentle -- the pork will be VERY tender and will fall apart easily!

    Then, use heat-proof mitts to lift the inner pot out of the pressure cooker, pour the cooking liquid into a fat separator, then pour the liquid back into the pot. Reserve the fat.

    (Alternatively, let the cooking liquid stand for about 10 minutes until the fat floats to the top, then use a shallow spoon to skim as much fat as possible from the surface.)

    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
  8. Reduce the cooking liquid:

    Return the pot to the pressure cooker, select the “Sauté” program, and let the cooking liquid reduce for 10 minutes. (If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker, do the same thing over medium heat.)

    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
  9. Shred the pork:

    While the liquid is reducing, use a pair of forks to shred the pork.

  10. Broil the pulled pork until crispy (optional for carnitas):

    To make crispy carnitas, place the pan of shredded pork 6 to 8 inches below the broiler and broil for 5 to 10 minutes until the tips and edges of the pork are browned and crispy.

    It's fine to skip this step if you're making a recipe where you don't need the pork to be crispy.

    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante
  11. Toss the shredded pork with the reduced liquid and serve:

    Return the pork to the pot with the reduced cooking liquid and toss to coat the pork evenly. If the pork seems a little dry, add a tablespoon or two of the reserved fat.

    Serve it in tacos with the fixings listed above, or in burritos or rice bowls, or on a tostada salad.

    Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork
    Coco Morante