These Instant Pot Carnitas have become a bit of a favorite around here. Especially when we’re hosting guests but also just for meal prep for busy weeks. I love that this recipe is naturally gluten-free, paleo, Whole30, keto and AIP-friendly and yet still simple and tasty-enough to serve to anyone – no matter their preferences! You can serve your Instant Pot Carnitas in lettuce cups or your favorite tortillas, over a big veggie-loaded salad or cauliflower rice and go burrito bowl-style.
I truly love recipes like this that are not only fuss-free while still being super impressive, but that also allow me to eat how I prefer while still serving my guests without any dietary restrictions, so they’ll never feel like I am pushing my “health-food” onto them. I don’t want my closest friends to decline dinner invites for fear of being served liver and sprouts! haha. It’s important to me to enjoy amazing meals with my family and friends, no matter how differently we all eat, I never want anyone to feel like like I am preachy or pushing my agenda on them. I just cook them the food that I know to be healthful and hopefully they see how simple it can be. A focus on real whole foods is truly just a solid baseline / foundation that would do everyone some good.
When serving my Instant Pot Carnitas for guests, I make sure to have a little something for everyone, regular sprouted corn tortillas, grain-free tortillas for paleo and for those that are keto / just avoiding refined carbs or those that just prefer to go green, I have lettuce cups. If we have a large group, we will often make sides like rice and beans, but generally I just make an epic salad with a complimentary salad dressing and other goodies, like avocado, toasted pepitas, pickled red onions and so on.
We get our pastured boneless pork shoulder from Diamond Mountain Ranch so I know I am getting the best quality meat I can. Maximizing the full nutrient-profile of the meat and avoiding all the nasty stuff traditionally raised pork from factory farms is likely to carry with it.
I had been testing this recipe throughout this winter to get the spices to where I was most happy and finally had the opportunity to test it out on friends when everyone came over for the Super Bowl last month. It was the perfect dish for the gathering. I prepped it all ahead of time and I could enjoy my time with our guests. Once the Instant Pot Carnitas was ready, I quickly shredded the meat, gave it a few moments in the broiler to get it crispy and browned – VOILA! Epic. Everyone loved it. (Admittedly I was a tad nervous to serve my Instant Pot Carnitas to our pal Gus, who is Mexican andof course grew up eating carnitas, but with his approval and praise – I knew I nailed it)
Even if you aren’t hosting a party or watching a game, I love these Instant Pot Carnitas as a simple, versatile meal prep food to have on hand for busy weeks. I will make a batch on Sunday, and for the full week the two of us will enjoy a variety of ways, with eggs or in scrambles, as the protein in big f*ckin’ salads, over cauliflower rice burrito bowls, in tacos and wraps, nachos, etc. Then I generally freeze a bunch of it, too. For later.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, I include the instructions below to make your Instant Pot Carnitas in the slow cooker. Super simple. Set it and forget it.
Pro-tip: You can certainly serve your Instant Pot Carnitas right from the pressure cooker, but I highly suggest giving them just a few minutes on a sheet pan under the broiler, to get that nice golden, crispy browned goodness that make carnitas (alternatively you can also crisp up a small amount in a hot cast iron skillet, too)
Definitely don’t forget the quick pickled red onions with your Instant Pot Carnitas, these, in my opinion are a non-negotiable. I like to add some jalapeño to my quick pickled red onion, if you want a little heat and flavor.
- 3 - 4 lbs boneless pork shoulder (aka Boston Butt) - local, pasture-raised if you can find it
- 2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican if you have it)
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 bay leafs
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 large or 2 small white or yellow onion(s), cut into quarters
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- lettuce cups, corn, plantain or other grain-free tortillas
- quick pickled red onions (& jalapeños, if you like)
- hot peppers
- lime wedges
- Cut the pork shoulder into 2-3 inch cubes. You can trim any major chunks of fat, if you want. Or leave it for extra flavor.
- Add the pork chunks to the Instant Pot (pressure cooker) insert. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes, cumin and cloves. Toss the meat really well to get it evenly coated.
- To the seasoned meat, add the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, garlic and onion. Next add the zest of the orange, then juice the zested orange and add all the juice (use two oranges if your orange isn't super juicy) and finally the fresh lime juice.
- Put the lid on the Instant Pot and lock. Make sure the valve on the lid is set to the “Sealing” position. Using the “Manual” feature set to cook on high pressure for 35 minutes.
- Once the time is up, let the pressure release on its own for 20 minutes, then remove lid. (If you are rushing, you can release the pressure manually, but leave it, if you can). Shred the meat and serve as it OR
- Preheat your broiler on high. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat, that should basically be falling apart already and place on a baking sheet. Use two forks to pull apart the meat slightly to shred. Place the baking sheet under the broiler to cook for just a few minutes or until the pork begins to brown and crisp.
- Keep the juices in the Instant Pot but using a slotted spoon remove the onion, garlic, orange zest, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. After serving, store any leftover pork in the juices, in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. Heat up in a skillet or under the broiler.
- Serve as tacos, salads, on bowls, burritos, in scrambles, etc.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
- Remove pork shoulder from the slow cooker and shred the meat before returning to the pot with the juices; season with salt and pepper, to taste, if needed. Cover and keep warm for an additional 30 minutes. Finish same as above.
Use a peeler to get long, wide strips of the orange zest, of just the orange parts, not the underlying white stuff, that's bitter.
For AIP: leave out cumin and red pepper flakes, leave out black pepper, if necessary. Skip salsa and any peppers when serving
For low FODMAP - leave out the onions and garlic. You'll lose some flavor, but to be honest, you get so much flavor from the spices, it will still be absolutely EPIC!
Looks amazing! Can’t wait to try the recipe.
As usual, Beth, I’m head over heels for one of your recipes! Carnitas are hard to beat. I love using up leftovers in a hash for breakfast the next morning.
Amazing! We made this in a pressure cooker the night before, chilled the meat in the fragrant juices, then warmed and broiled it shortly before serving. The subtle combination of citrus and spices, the tender/crispy texture, the flavor… a winner! Thanks so much for the recipe—a keeper!