Citrus Pork Carnitas (Instant Pot)
This Citrus Pork Carnitas Instant Pot recipe makes the most delicious shredded pork. Seasoned to perfection with a pop of citrus, it’s amazing on tacos, taco salad, and nachos.
Want dinner on the table in an hour? You will be amazed at how quickly you can make perfectly pull-able pork using an Instant Pot. The whole family is sure to enjoy this lightened up version of traditional Pork Carnitas made with a fiery spice rub and a host of citrus fruit.
Around here, we love the carnitas in tacos. Taco night can be any night of the week, not just Tuesdays! We love tacos so much that I’ve created my own custom taco seasoning to use with ground beef in hard or soft tacos and in this Cheesy Taco Tater Tot Casserole. It’s a family favourite!
What Is Pork Carnitas?
Traditionally, Pork Carnitas is a Mexican pork dish made with a well marbled cut of pork cooked slowly in a good amount of lard or oil. Seasonings include salt, chili, cumin, Mexican oregano, crushed garlic cloves, marjoram, thyme, and bay leaf.
During the 3-4 hours of cooking time, the connective tissues break down and the pork becomes fall apart tender. Once this texture is achieved, the heat is turned up so that the pork becomes nice and crispy. The pork is then pulled apart and used in a variety of delicious dishes.
My Inspired Citrus Pork Carnitas
I’ve been making this recipe with the intent on sharing it with you for about three years now. Unfortunately every time I make it, it disappears before I can take any photos. I guess that’s my taste testers letting me know the recipe has been perfected!
This recipe is a fair departure from traditional Pork Carnitas because I’ve lightened it up in several ways:
- Instead of large cuts of pork with lots of fat marbling I’ve used thick cut loin chops.
- The loin chops are cooked in citrus juice instead of lard.
- The finished pork is crisped up in the oven under a broiler instead of in lard.
What Cuts of Meat Should I Use in Citrus Pork Carnitas?
If you’re not worried about fat content, go ahead and use cuts of pork with a higher fat content. They will always give you the best flavour and texture for Pork Carnitas. To use boneless pork shoulder (also commonly called Pork Butt or Boston Butt) in this recipe, chop it up into several similarly sized pieces before adding to the Instant Pot.
For this recipe, I’ve used thick cut pork loin chops that I picked up at Costco. I’m not paid to be a Costco affiliate but I love how these chops are at least two inches thick and still have a fair amount of fat on them. I like how using chops increases the surface area for the tasty rub and decreases the cooking time.
What Other Ingredients Are in this Recipe?
To get the maximum flavour in this dish, I like to coat the pork in a spice rub before placing it in the Instant Pot. My husband has become a master of spice rubs since he’s started smoking meat so I had him mix up the rub for this recipe.
For this rub he used chili powder (which is also a mixture of spices here in North America), both smoked and spicy paprika, dry mustard powder, garlic powder, ancho chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.
In addition to the spices, I’ve added a large sliced onion, four minced garlic cloves, and a whole lot of citrus. To get maximum citrus flavour, use both the zest and juice of the citrus.
Other variations I’ve made through the years have included grapefruit (in addition to the lemons, limes, and oranges), sliced poblano peppers, and jalapeños. The peppers add a wonderful spicy layer to the pork carnitas, but are entirely optional.
How to Cook Pork Carnitas in the Instant Pot
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I sure do love my Instant Pot. It’s so handy, especially when dinner needs to be on the table ASAP. On the busiest of weeknights, Instant Pot dinners are king.
Essentially, this is ‘dump and go’ pressure cooker recipe. There’s no sautéing, just spice rubbed pork topped with onions, garlic, citrus zest and juices, and sometimes peppers. If the liquid level looks a bit low, go ahead and top it up with a cup of orange juice. After it’s all in the pot, seal and cook on high pressure for 60 minutes.
Next, remove the meat and shred it right on a baking sheet. Pour about a third of the sauce on top of the pork, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and place it under a hot broiler until it becomes browned and crispy.
The other way I use this handy appliance is to thicken the sauce at the very end with a cornstarch slurry. Mix 1 tbsp cornstarch with 2 tbsp water and add it to the sauce in the Instant Pot. Carefully boil the sauce on the sauté setting for a few minutes until it just begins to thicken. Pour over the crispy pork.
How to Serve Pork Carnitas
I love the flexibility of this tasty pulled pork. It’s delicious when served as tacos, as a topping for baked nachos, in mac ‘n’ cheese, with beans and rice, in burritos, on burger buns, in tortas, and tamales.
How to Make it into Tacos
Our very favourite way to enjoy the carnitas is on tacos. Warm up the tortillas in a frying pan, and spread the hot pork all over. Top with quick marinated cabbage (1 cup shredded cabbage rubbed with 1/2 tsp salt and topped with 2 tbsp of rice wine vinegar), sliced avocados, and fresh cilantro.
Other toppings we love: diced pineapple, hot sauce, cotija cheese, cilantro cream, and sour cream.