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Whether you eat them in on some greens in a bowl, on a baked potato or in a tortilla – these Instant Pot Carnitas are sure to add some spice to your summer (or any time of year, really). Carnitas are a popular Mexican street food that’s so delicious, you definitely do not want to go through life without it! Easily made juicy and tender in the Instant Pot and then crispy under an oven’s broiler, these Instant Pot Carnitas are also Paleo and Whole30 compliant as well as low FODMAP.
Why I Need Carnitas Right Now (and So Do You)
If you’ve never heard of carnitas, you’re probably not alone. I didn’t know about them until I owned an Instant Pot. When looking up recipes, I saw tons and tons of recipes on Pinterest for Instant Pot Carnitas. Intrigued, I had to check them out, and I was floored at how simple yet amazingly good they are. They’re even more delicious than regular tacos, if you can believe that. Carnitas are Mexican comfort food at it’s absolute finest.
Comfort food is what I’m craving right now. You may have noticed that I haven’t posted any new recipes in a few weeks, and that’s because my dad passed away unexpectedly in early July. Although we lived far apart geographically (he in Michigan, where I’m originally from, and I in British Columbia), we were close in just about every other way that dads and daughers can be. His death was very sudden and has really taken me a lot of time to wrap my head around. Additionally, settling his estate from across the continent suddenly fell upon my shoulders. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband and absolutely wonderful, supportive friends and family that have been helping and supporting me in any way they can.
Throughout my life, my dad was a remarkable supporter of anything I set out to do professionally or personally. When I started my food blog, he was very enthusiastic and encouraging even though he wasn’t very keen on cooking. I bought him an Instant Pot and he used it a few times, I think mostly just to humor me. Anyways, I know he would want me to get back to doing what I love and continuing to kick ass. And these carnitas kick some major ass. 😉
The equipment I use to make these Instant Pot Carnitas includes:
Instant Pot Carnitas: Ingredients and Tips for Success
If you’ve already made my Instant Pot Pulled Pork recipe, this one is generally very similar in terms of execution. Also similarly, this recipe is written to be used with a 3-4 lb pork shoulder roast, thawed if frozen. To start, I chop a pork shoulder roast into six square sized equalish pieces. Then, I dry each piece with paper towel on all sides and sprinkle them generously with kosher salt and pepper. The 1 tsp of kosher salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper listed in the recipe ingredients is to be added to the liquid after searing the meat and deglazing the pot; there is no specified amount of salt and pepper that you should sprinkle the pork with before searing. More is better.
Garlic-infused olive oil
Once you’ve cut, dried and seasoned the pork shoulder, press the “Saute” button on the Instant Pot. Add 2 tbsp of garlic-infused olive oil. Add half of the pork pieces and sear for 1 minute per side. Put the seared pieces on a plate and repeat with the remaining pieces.
Pineapple and Lime Juice
I use TONS of citrus juice and zest in my cooking as most citrus fruits are low in FODMAPs and add TONS of fresh, amazing flavour to meats, dressings, and more.
Carnitas are often braised in orange and lime juice. I have substituted pineapple juice for orange juice as I find the FODMAP information on orange juice to be rather confusing. As I typically have pineapple juice on hand anyway due to regularly making my homemade barbecue sauce recipe, which calls for it, I have used pineapple juice instead of orange juice. These carnitas still taste amazing.
Pineapple juice and lime juice are both low in FODMAPs, and although they both contain the FODMAP fructans, this recipe calls for only 1/2 cup of each, so you’re only getting about 2 1/2 tsp per serving of each juice. This recipe makes over 10 servings of carnitas, so there is very little risk of FODMAP stacking here unless you put high FODMAP toppings on or use a high FODMAP tortilla. I suggest Paleo, Whole30 and low FODMAP carnitas toppings and tortilla alternatives later on in this post.
I freshly squeeze and zest two large limes to get the required amounts of lime juice and zest. For the pineapple juice, I purchase it commercially made as I wouldn’t begin to know how to squeeze a pineapple for juice. I buy SunRype Pineapple Juice, which has no added sugar or harmful preservatives and is therefore Whole30 and Paleo compliant. I’m not sure if it’s available in the US, but in British Columbia you can find it at Walmart or Real Canadian Superstore.
Once your pork shoulder is fully seared, press “Cancel” on the Instant Pot and slowly pour in the pineapple and lime juice. Wait a few seconds, and then scrape the bottom of the inner pot clean with a plastic spoon. I use the plastic scraper that came with the Instant Pot.
Lime Zest and Seasonings
After your inner pot is scraped clean, add the lime zest, dried oregano leaves, ground cumin, kosher salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne powder (unless your body reacts poorly to spicy food) to the juice in the pot and stir until combined. Using tongs, add the pork back into the pot, covering the pork on all sides with juice as you put it in the pot (give the pork pieces a nice juice bath). Scrape any juices that remain on the plate from the pork into the pot with a spatula, leaving no flavour behind.
Close the Instant Pot lid, set the pressure release valve to “Sealing.” Press the “Meat” button and set the timer to 60 minutes. When I make carnitas in the Instant Pot, it takes about 15 minutes for the pot to come to pressure. I have included this time in the “Cook Time” in the recipe card as I do with the majority (if not all) my Instant Pot recipes.
Broil and Crisp
Once the cooking cycle has completed, quick release the pressure. While the pressure is releasing, preheat your oven’s broiler and set the top rack to the second position from the top. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork pieces to a cookie sheet. Shred the pork with two forks and spread it out evenly on the cookie sheet. Using a ladle, pour half of the juices in the Instant Pot over the meat. Put the cookie sheet in the oven on the top rack and broil for 4 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning or starting a fire. Remove the cookie sheet, flip the meat over using a large spatula, ladel the second half of the juices from the Instant Pot over the meat, and broil for another 4 minutes or until the carnitas are still moist but crispy on the edges.
Switch off the broiler and remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Using a fresh set of tongs, remove the carnitas from the cookie sheet into a serving bowl or platter. I would not recommend using the large spatula to do this as it will bring more of the juices over with the carnitas, making them too juicy and drippy. You want the meat to be moist but not drippy and messy.
Paleo, Whole30 and/or Low FODMAP Tortillas and Tortilla Alternatives
The tortillas you see above are regular, flour tortillas, which are not low FODMAP, Paleo or Whole30 compliant. Unless I’m doing a Whole30 or my stomach is super bothered at the moment, with tacos and carnitas, I cheat a little bit as making tortillas can be such a hassle. Plus, tortillas are so thin that they typically don’t bother my stomach.
If you’re wanting to stick to Paleo, Whole30 and/or FODMAP friendly options, here are some tortillas alternatives that I suggest:
Paleo, Whole30 and Low FODMAP Tortilla Alternatives:
Here are some suggestions for Paleo, Whole30 and Low FODMAP toppings for your carnitas:
Chopped scallions (green tops only for low FODMAP)
Freshly-squeezed lime juice
Low FODMAP (but not Paleo/Whole30):
Low-lactose sour cream (one of the only dairy products I indulge in)
As long as I’m not doing a Whole30, we eat them on flour tortillas topped with shredded lettuce, scallions (green tops only), tomato based salsa that doesn’t bother my stomach, and lactose-free sour cream. Like I said, I cheat a bit when it comes to these; however, they are delicious served a lot of different ways. Experiment and find the tortilla or alteratives and toppings that work best for your body.
These Instant Pot Carnitas will add some delicious spice to your summer or any time of year! Easily made juicy and tender in the Instant Pot and crispy under a broiler, this Mexican street food recipe is also Paleo, Whole30 and low FODMAP.
½ cup lime juice, freshly-squeezed (about 2 large limes)
1 tsp lime zest
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
½ tsp ground black pepper, plus more for sprinkling
½ tsp ground cayenne powder
Using a sharp chopping knife, chop the pork shoulder into 6 equal square-sized pieces. Dry each piece with paper towels and sprinkle generously with kosher salt and ground black pepper.
Hit the “Sauté” button on your Instant Pot Pressure Cooker and add the garlic-infused olive oil. Once the display reads “Hot,” using tongs, add half of the pork pieces and sear each side for 1 minute. Remove seared pork to a plate and repeat for the remaining pieces of pork.
Once all the pork pieces are seared and removed from the pot, hit “Cancel” on the Instant Pot and slowly pour the pineapple and lime juice into the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot clean with a plastic spoon.
Add 1 tsp lime zest, 1 tsp oregano leaves, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp kosher salt, ½ tsp black pepper and ½ tsp cayenne powder to the pot and stir until combined. Add all the pork back into the pot and cover with the liquid on all sides. Scrape any pork juices left on the plate into the pot using a spatula (leave no flavour behind!).
Close the lid, set pressure release valve to sealing, hit the “Meat” button, and set timer for 60 minutes.
Once the cooking cycle has completed, hit “Cancel” on the Instant Pot and quick release pressure. Preheat the oven broiler and set a rack to the second position from the top of the oven.
Open the Instant Pot lid, and using a slotted spoon, carefully remove pork to a cookie sheet. Using two forks, pull pork apart and spread it evenly on the cookie sheet. Using a ladle, spread half of the juices remaining in the pot over the meat. Put the cookie sheet in the oven and broil for 4 minutes, watching carefully for burning. Remove cookie sheet from the oven and using a large flipping spatula, flip the pork on the cookie sheet. Add the remaining half of the juices on the pork and broil for 4 more minutes or until pork is crispy. Remove from the oven. Using tongs, remove pork from cookie sheet into a serving bowl, leaving most of the remaining juices behind on the cookie sheet.
Serve in a bowl on some greens (Paleo, Whole30 and Low FODMAP), on a baked potato (Paleo, Whole30 and Low FODMAP), on a sweet potato (Paleo, Whole30 and Low FODMAP up to 1/2 cup), in a gluten-free corn tortilla (Low FODMAP up to 2-3 tortillas but not Paleo/Whole30, see above for more information), or in a Paleo/Whole30 compliant tortilla alternative (green leaf or butter lettuce, for example). Top with scallions (green tops only), chopped lettuce, compliant salsa, freshly-squeezed lime juice, lactose-free sour cream (Low FODMAP but not Paleo/Whole30) or any of your favourite toppings.