Pork Carnitas (Instant Pot and Slow Cooker)

This Pork Carnitas recipe, made either in the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker, is an easy and flavorful dinner or meal prep for a healthy start to the New Year. It’s Whole30, Paleo and Keto friendly and pairs with so many different sides (including this Healthy Cole Slaw recipe) that makes it a no-brainer to put on your cooking list now.

Pork carnitas recipe

Pork Carnitas (Instant Pot and Slow Cooker)

This recipe is a favorite at our Food Editor Kelli’s home. It’s on rotation at least twice a month and served for both dinner and then for lunch a few days of the week. It’s so easy to put together in either the slow cooker or the Instant Pot and with minimal ingredients. It’s also versatile in how you serve it: you can put it in tortillas as a kid-friendly dinner, serve it with cauli-rice if you’re doing the low-carb thing, or as Kelli’s favorite over a simple slaw for a quick meal that can be eaten for lunch over a few days.

Pork carnitas instant pot

We love the simplicity in the flavors here: the pork isn’t inundated with too many spices but really relying on the basics: an onion, a teaspoon of chili powder and a pinch of garlic and cinnamon. Wondering about the cinnamon? There is no sugar in this recipe, but the cinnamon gives it the most subtle hint of warmness that you couldn’t detect what it is, but would surely be missing out if it wasn’t included. Trust us on this one.

We’ve included recipes for both the long method in the slow cooker, or the faster version in the Instant Pot. For the Instant Pot version there isn’t any liquid included in the ingredients. The onion and the pork will release so much liquid that it isn’t needed and will safely come up to pressure.

Pork carnitas slow cooker

After the pork is fork-tender you can do the optional step of broiling the carnitas until they’re nice and crispy. Garnish with a bit of lime and a splash of the cooking liquid and this meal is simplicity at it’s finest. Check out the Healthy Cole Slaw recipe to pair it with!

Shredded pork carnitas

Tools to make this  Pork Carnitas recipe:

If you like this easy meal prep recipe, check out these others:

Pork Carnitas (Instant Pot and Slow Cooker)

Prep Time 00:10 Cook Time 00:60 Inactive Time 00:30 Total Time 01:40 Serves 6-8

Ingredients

For Carnitas

To serve

Directions

For Carnitas (Instant Pot)

  1. Place all of ingredients in a 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot, close the lid and set the vent to sealing.
  2. Cook on Manual High Pressure for 60 minutes, and let it natural release for at least 10 minutes (but you can let it fully naturally release if desired).
  3. Pre-heat broiler to 500ºF. 
  4. Shred the pork and using a slotted spoon place carnitas on a rimmed sheet pan and place under the broiler until nice and crispy, about 5 minutes. Spoon some of the cooking liquid and the juice of 1/2 a lime over the carnitas.
  5. Serve with cole slaw, tortillas or with caulirice.

For Carnitas (Slow Cooker):

  1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.
  2. Pre-heat broiler to 500ºF. 
  3. Shred the pork and using a slotted spoon place carnitas on a rimmed sheet pan and place under the broiler until nice and crispy, about 5 minutes. Spoon some of the cooking liquid and the juice of 1/2 a lime over the carnitas.
  4. Serve with cole slaw, tortillas or with caulirice.

Recipe Notes

  1. Don't throw away the liquid remaining in the bottom of the Instant Pot / Slow Cooker, it's super flavorful and should be spooned over the crispy carnitas! There is some fat in there, so you can store it separate so you can scoop it off when it's cold, but we didn't feel this was necessary we just stored and leftovers all together.
  2. Not it isn't a mistake the no added liquid is included in these instructions! For both the Instant Pot version and Slow cooker there isn't any liquid included in the ingredients. The pork releases so much liquid that it is not needed. We are aware the it states the Instant Pot needs 1/2 cup of liquid at least to work, so we initially tested it with 1/2 cup of liquid but it resulted in an extreme amount of liquid at the end because the pork and onions releases so much that going forward we did not use any added liquid in the beginning and ours cooked up beautifully during testing, with no error in our IP. We tested it in two different Instant Pot's (a 6 qt. and an 8 qt.) with no error. If your Instant Pot has an error message, as we've gotten one comment with that, go ahead and put in 1/2 cup liquid, either water or broth. You may need to reduce the liquid after the cooking time. You are looking for a resulting flavorful broth!
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Instant Pot or Slow Cooker Carnitas

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17 comments on “Pork Carnitas (Instant Pot and Slow Cooker)

  • Hi Lexi! I don’t have a slow cooker or Instant pot…. do you have directions for stove top please????? This looks delicious!

    5.0 rating

    Reply
    • Kelli Avila says:

      Hi Brenda! We don’t have exact instructions written out but if you have a dutch oven you may want to try braising it on the stove top for 3-4 hours! You’ll need to add liquid to it, at least enough to cover it half way so the meat gets cooked! If you give it a try, let us know!

      Reply
  • This recipe is amazing! The meat was tender and delicious, and the coleslaw was the best we’ve ever had. This will definitely be a staple in our home. We’ve made dozens of your recipes and they never disappoint–thank you, Lexi!

    5.0 rating

    Reply
  • Jen Kilgallon says:

    Making right now I’m the instant pot. I did get an overheat message and added some water. Didn’t see water on the recipe- hope i didn’t ruin it

    Reply
    • Hi Jen! As stated in the post we decide on adding no liquid to the pot. Initially we tested it with 1/2 cup of liquid but it resulted in an extreme amount of liquid at the end because the pork and onions releases so much that going forward we did not use any liquid and ours cooked up beautifully during testing, with no error in our IP. I’m interested to hear that you got an error message. Thanks for sharing that. If you find that at the end you have a lot of liquid, remove the meat and boil it down for a bit until it is nice and flavorful. Do let us know how it turned out!

      Reply
  • This was truly a magical meal!! I made the pork in the instant pot and the coleslaw with smashed avocado instead of mayo due to an egg allergy in the bunch and we all LOVED it!!! I served it alongside Siete tortillas and homemade gauc and it was so stupid easy with ingredients that aside from the pork I always have one hand! Thank you for making healthy eating so delicious!!

    Reply
  • Tired this in the instant pit and the meat was not consistent. Some was pulled and some hard as a rock. Didn’t use onions but added 1/4 water and there was plenty of liquid. Let release for 45 mins. Any ideas?

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah! Sorry it didn’t quite work the way intended. Was the meat total 2-3 pounds? And were the pieces you cut even? The only thing I can think of that would make some meat cook and others not would be inconsistent sized pieces of the pork butt?

      Reply
  • Loved these! I had to use pork loin since my Trader Joe’s only had that and it still worked perfectly! We did burrito bowls with the pork, rice, lettuce, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, and ranch. It was amazing! Thx for all the great recipes!

    5.0 rating

    Reply
  • Best carnitas recipe ever! I’ve made this 3 times and each time it comes out better than the last- thank you Lexi!!

    Reply

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