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Instant Pot

Carnitas with Pickled Red Onions (Fast & Slow)

4-6 Servings

FAST: 1¾ hours
Slow: 5½ to 6½ hours 35 minutes active

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Authentic Mexican carnitas involve slow-cooking pork in lard until fall-apart tender, then increasing the heat so the meat fries and crisps. The fried pork then is broken into smaller pieces for eating. In the U.S., however, carnitas usually is made by simmering pork in liquid, then shredding the meat. The result is moist and tender, but lacks intense porkiness as well the crisping traditional to carnitas. For our version, we cook cubes of pork shoulder with spices, aromatics and a little water until the meat is fork-tender. We then break the pork into smaller pieces and moisten it with its own juices. You can stop there and serve the pork as is or you can crisp it in a hot skillet in its own rendered fat. To do so, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 1 teaspoon of the reserved pork fat until barely smoking. Add the pork in an even layer and cook without stirring, pressing the meat against the skillet with a spatula, until the bottom is browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve carnitas with rice and beans or make tacos with warmed tortillas. Either way, pickled red onions are a must—their sharp acidity balances the rich pork.




Don't trim the fat from the pork. The fat rendered during cooking is essential for flavoring the carnitas. And if you plan to fry the pork after shredding, make sure to reserve the fat you skim off the cooking liquid—it's ideal for crisping the meat.

FAST: 1¾ hours
Slow: 5½ to 6½ hours

35 minutes active


  • 2

    tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 1

    large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced


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Patsy M.
September 20, 2023
Made this and it was GREAT!!!!
Bill O.
May 30, 2022
Great Tacos
I made it fast and then fried it. The Instant Pot took a lot of time off cooking the pork. The onions were fast and simple and a great addition.
margaret K.

Please give instructions for oven or stove top variations. Not everyone owns or wants a “hot pot.”

Lynn C.

Hi Margaret -

You can find the stovetop version of this recipe when you search for "Carnitas" in the recipe search bar. Here is a link to the stovetop/oven version:

The Milk Street Team

Edward A.

Really good recipe. Have made it now 5 times and it will be my go to recipe from now on. Browning the carnitas at the end is not optional it's a must. Great job Milk Street.

Charles T.

2 Tablespoons of each of the spices is way too much. Could it be a typo and “teaspoons” was it intended.

Lisa R.

I was wondering about that also. The stovetop/oven version has the same amount of spices but it calls for a 5-6 pound boneless pork butt, not a 3 lb. Think the spices need to be halved for this instantpot recipe.

Lynn C.

Hi Charles and Lisa -

The amount of spices here is correct. Because the pressure cooker can mute flavors, especially of ground spices, we needed quite a bit more for the Instant Pot version (to quantity of meat) than in the stovetop version to achieve the same flavor. Hope that explains it!

The Milk Street Team

Lisa R.

Thank you for the explanation. Always learning something new here!