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.

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Pressure release time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 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

Special equipment:

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 Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork

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 Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork

4 Sprinkle the remaining spice rub over the pork, then pour the pineapple juice over the top.

Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork

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

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

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 Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork

7 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

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

9 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

10 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