A fresh taco filled with shredded pork and topped with pico de gallo.
Instant Pot, Main courses

Instant Pot carnitas tacos


Using an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker/multi-cooker to make this classic slow-braised dish gets dinner on the table fast and makes the meat deliciously tender. These Instant Pot carnitas have a slight citrusy hint of sweetness and are a versatile family favorite. Pictured here, I served the carnitas with tortillas, pickled jalapenos, crunchy Persian cucumbers and pineapple pico de gallo. Carnitas are traditionally served with pickled jalapenos which introduce a fresh, mildly spicy, acidic note. I also always include fresh lime slices with every Mexican meal I serve.

A fresh taco filled with shredded pork and topped with pico de gallo.
Instant Pot pork carnitas

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I am in love with Mexican cuisine. It reminds me of Southern Italian cuisine which I also adore because while different, they both consistently use healthy oils, fresh herbs and spices (particularly garlic, peppers, marjoram or oregano) and citrus. This recipe is inspired and adapted from a traditional braised carnitas recipe from Pati Jinich. Pati’s book Mexican Today is one of my favorite cook books. I highly recommend it. It’s chock full of beautiful photos, delicious recipes, Mexican cook’s tips and information about the areas where the recipes come from.  My copy of Mexican Today is actually signed by Pati! About a year ago, I was supposed to take a cooking class from her in downtown Seattle. Unfortunately, I became ill with the flu and missed out. However, I was sent her beautiful cook book. I was thrilled. I like to sit down and relax with a cup of herbal tea and read cook books.

A long plate with two Instant Pot pork carnitas on flour tortillas.

In addition to fresh squeezed orange juice, one of the ingredients that may surprise you in this recipe is to drizzle some sweetened condensed milk on the pork before cooking. This adds a wonderful, lightly caramelized flavor to the dish. You can use any left over sweetened condensed milk as a special creamer for your morning coffee or make a tres leches cake.

Rather than cooking the pork low and slow on the stove top in the traditional braising method, I decided to adapt the recipe by reducing some of the liquid and cooking it in the electric pressure cooker. Other than this, the recipe stays true to Pati’s flavor recommendations for traditional carnitas tacos. I’ve made this recipe both in the traditional braising method (with additional water added to the recipe) and in the electric pressure cooker (as noted below). Both methods yield one of the most tender and amazingly delicious pulled pork I’ve ever had.

Ingredients: Naval oranges, garlic, cilantro.
Naval oranges add a bright citrusy note to these Instant Pot carnitas tacos

I have a confession. And hopefully you’ll forgive me for it. I actually don’t own an Instant Pot. I have a different brand called the Breville Fast Slow Cooker. It has all the wonderful hands off cooking functions that an Instant Pot is beloved for. However, it is a sleeker more intuitive design (in my opinion). In naming this recipe, I decided to go with the beloved “Instant Pot” moniker because it is quickly becoming a household name for this type of product. My experience so far with the electric pressure cooker/multi cooker has been positive. I am learning allot by trying out new recipes.  I have had the best experiences with cooking meats that would traditionally take much longer braised or cooked low and slow in an oven. This Instant Pot carnitas tacos recipe is most certainly one of my favorites so far.

Image of the Fast Slow Cooker Breville electric pressure cooker and searing the pork meat in it.
Searing the pork

Do you own an electric pressure cooker or Instant Pot? What do you think so far? Do you love Mexican food? I think you’ll love, love, love this recipe. Give it a try and let me know how it turns out.

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Instant Pot carnitas tacos

Recipe by Michelle BarsnessCourse: Instant Pot, Main coursesCuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Intermediate


Prep time


Cooking time



These Instant Pot carnitas have a slight citrusy hint of sweetness and are a versatile family favorite. Using an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker/multi-cooker to make this classic slow-braised dish gets dinner on the table fast and makes the meat deliciously tender.


  • 4 lbs boneless pork shoulder or butt (cut into 2 inch chunks)

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1 generous pinch freshly ground pepper (to taste)

  • 1/2 white onion (rough chopped)

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 1 tsp dried marjoram (or oregano)

  • 1 tsp dried thyme

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 4 whole cloves

  • 1 tbsp water

  • 1 tbsp lard or vegetable oil

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 large Naval oranges)

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk

  • Serve with
  • tortillas

  • pickled jalapenos

  • pineapple pico de gallo (optional)

  • fresh Persian cucumber slices (optional)


  • Pat the meat down with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Use a large baking tray to spread the meat out. Season the meat with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Combine the onion, garlic, marjoram, thyme, cumin, cloves plus one tablespoon of water into a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Turn on the Instant Pot pressure cooker/multi-cooker to the sauté function. Heat a small amount of lard or oil until melted. Sear the pork pieces in batches, browning the meat on all sides. Do not crowd the pan. Add additional lard or oil as needed in-between batches. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
  • Return all the seared meat and any juices back into the multi-cooker. Add the orange juice, bay leaves, sweetened condensed milk and blended onion mixture. Stir to coat the meat.
  • Cover and make sure the steam valve is in the locked position. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Release the pressure naturally.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to a large clean baking sheet. Remove the bay leaves and shred the meat with a fork. Top the pork with a small amount of cooking liquid to help keep it from drying out.
  • Serve with tortillas, pickled jalapenos. Pineapple pico de gallo or slices of Persian cucumbers add additional sweetness and crunch.


  • Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about your experience. Please leave me a comment at northwestspoon.com
  • These Instant Pot carnitas tacos reheat and also freeze great. I generally reheat them on a baking tray in the oven. Enjoy!


  1. 5 stars
    Michelle, I actually have pulled pork I was going to cook and since I was tired of my usual I will try your recipe. I am not at all surprised by the condensed milk as in Italy we also cook pork in milk. Indeed there are a lot of similarities between the two cuisines. I don’t own an instant pot but the classic pressure cooker which I had now for 20 years and I love it. I took it with me into 6 relocations, USA included and since it is not electrical I could use it anywhere.

  2. 5 stars
    I love all the ingredients in this recipe, a breath of fresh delicious ingredients. I love Mexican Cuisine and that pickled jalapeños oh! Superb recipe, thank you for sharing.

  3. 5 stars
    I love Mexican food but rarely cook it! But now I feel inspired to try your carnitas tacos! They look and sound delicious!

  4. 5 stars
    I often make carnitas in my slow cooker and add orange. It adds such a lovely citrusy flavor. I would have never thought of sweetened condensed milk! Holy cow! That is sort of revolutionary! I have to give that a try! Thanks, Michelle!

  5. 5 stars
    The instant pot sure does justice to such meats. cooks them tender but also keeps them juicy. This sounds so delicious. Can’t wait to try..

  6. tacos are an absolute favorite around here!!! i love the addition of all these spices and flavors, yum..

  7. 5 stars
    These carnitas sound amazing! The idea of adding sweetened condensed milk is genius too. I’m so going to give it a try!

  8. 5 stars
    Hellloooooo Instant Pot gold! I just got my IP recently and I’m still discovering all of the magical things it can do. I’ll be making these ASAP. They look so flavorful!

  9. 5 stars
    I just started using my Instant Pot this year and I’m in love! This looks like a great recipe to try! I love citrusy dishes!

  10. 5 stars
    I like the orange juice in this! Such a bright flavor! And I also don’t have the brand Instant Pot, but do use an electric pressure cooker – and have found it remarkable convenient.

  11. 5 stars
    I actually just got my instant pot not too long ago, but I’m still trying to figure out whether I like it or not. It seems easy enough, but it’s not something I automatically think of just yet. I’m going to have to give this recipe a try though in it!

  12. 5 stars
    We have tacos/Mexican food once a week and I’m always looking to change it up. Love that you used the instant pot for this.

  13. 5 stars
    Instant Pot recipes are the best! I love how all of the flavors come together and this sounds divine! Pinned!

  14. 5 stars
    I just got an instant pot and tacos have been on my mind for awhile. I love this meal for a quick dinner idea and I’d totally make extra for leftovers!

  15. 5 stars
    Mexican cuisine is one of my favorites, too, and I love how you’ve made it super-simple and instapot friendly. Can’t wait to break out the instapot and try this one!

  16. 5 stars
    I don’t have an instapot yet, but this recipe is inspiring me to change that. I love all of the flavors in this!

  17. 5 stars
    Yum, I love Mexican, and agree that Pati’s work is lovely! Does the initial searing step get you those great crispy bits that carnitas is known for? That is the main reason I’ve shied away from making them in a slow cooker (or pressure cooker) to date but it would be great to find a solution!

    • Hi Monica, Yes, searing the meat first browns it and gives the dish far more flavor. My Breville pressure cooker is non-stick. So, sticking has not been an issue for me. However, you can (if you’re nervous) sear the meat in a skillet on the stove top first before transferring to the pressure cooker. Some people prefer this, but it will take longer to bring the pressure cooker up to heat. Or once you add the liquids, use a wooden spoon to work out any stuck on browned bits. They do add flavor and are delicious.


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