Pressure cooker Carnita is fast, delicious, and best of all this pulled pork can be used in a myriad of traditional Mexican recipes and modern interpretations, like these lettuce cups.

This recipe is the base for making pulled-pork that to go in a tamale or drip with BBQ sauce between two slices of bread. In that vein, I added an ingredient that is used in Mexican cuisine, but not authentic to Carnitas: bitter chocolate powder.

Spice Mix for pressure cooker pulled pork

Bitter chocolate is one of those ingredients that can either shout out its presence or just add a little “something” while still being stealthy enough to be your secret ingredient!

The cooking liquid in this recipe can be reduced to a spicy and velvety sauce – leaving the pork meat aromatic with a touch of heat.  Save some of this spicy sauce to mix into the masa when making tamales!

close-up of pressure cooker pulled pork carnitas

Pressure Cooker Accessories Pr. Cook Time Pr. Level Open
5 L or larger  none    45-60 min.    High(2)  Natural

4.9 from 10 reviews
Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe - Carnitas
Nutritional Information
(per serving)
  • Serves: 16
  • Serving size: 1/16th
  • Calories: 257.4
  • TOTAL Fat: 17g
  • TOTAL Carbs: 2.9g
  • Sugar Carbs: 1.5g
  • Sodium: 76.9mg
  • Fiber Carbs: 0.9g
  • Protein: 22g
  • Cholesterol: 76mg
Recipe type: pressure cooker recipe
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
To make traditional carnitas, Michoacán style, skip the spice mix and just boil the pork in water with an onion, a bay leaf, cumin, salt and hot pepper.
  • 4 pounds (or about 2 kilos) pork roast, leg or shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 head butter lettuce, washed and dried
  • 2 carrots, spiralized (or grated)
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • water almost to cover
Spice Mix:
  • 1 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon coriander
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  1. The day before cooking the meat, make the spice mix by combining all of the ingredients listed, cut the roast into manageable pieces and rub them with the onion and spices. Then wrap the meat back into the butcher's paper and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Brown the roast on all sides, in the pre-heated pressure cooker, the add enough water to almost cover (2-3 cups).
  3. Close and lock the lid of the pressure cooker.
  4. For electric pressure cookers: Cook for 50-60 minutes at high pressure.
    For stove top pressure cookers: Turn the heat up to high and when the cooker indicates it has reached high pressure, lower to the heat to maintain it and begin counting 45 minutes pressure cooking time.
  5. Open with the Natural release method - move the pressure cooker to a cool burner and wait for the pressure to come down on its own (about 10 minutes). For electric pressure cooker, disengage the “keep warm” mode or unplug the cooker and open when the pressure indicator has gone down (20-30 minutes).
  6. Pull out the meat and place on a platter, and then begin pulling the flesh into strips using two forks. In the meantime, reduce the cooking liquid in the cooker to half strain and de-fat using your favorite method (I leave it in the fridge overnight).
  7. At this point, you can also refrigerate the cooked, now shredded, pork for several days or continue with the recipe.
  8. In a pre-heated large wide saute' pan add vegetable oil, or lard, and fry the shredded pork until it becomes lightly brown. For extra spice, drizzle the cooking liquid on the pulled pork before serving.
  9. To make lettuce wraps, simply prepare the lettuce cups with carrots on a serving platter. Fill with just-fried pork. Finish with a squirt of fresh lime.

Fagor Futuro Pressure Cooker
pressure cooker pulled pork step-by-step

pressure cooker pulled pork carnitas lettuce cups

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  1. I made this yesterday (well, over two days), it was so easy and tasted amazing. Will definitely be making it for friends. London is mad about pulled pork right now. Thanks fot the recipe.

    1. I’m glad to hear that pulled pork is all the rage in London, now!!



  2. Thanks for the pressure cooker recipes. I love the slow cooked flavor. Especially with pork. Yum.

    1. I agree. Someone wrote a pressure cook book with a great title “Slow Food Fast”! Don’t know if the actual book is any good, but I love, love the title since that is what most of pressure cooking is about!!



  3. We made this for dinner last night – rubbed the pork Sunday, cooked and shredded Monday, and defatted, reduced sauce, and sauteed meat Tuesday. . . OH MY GOSH! It was fantastic! We used it for tacos – tortilla, meat, the sauce mixed with sour cream, and some shredded cabbage for crunch, topped with a bit of Monterey Jack cheese – wow!

    I’m very much looking forward to the leftovers!

    Thanks so much, Laura!

    1. Kris, so glad to hear this was a hit at your house!



  4. Hi thanks for the great idea. Found your blog from Mike/DadCooksDinner. I am making it tonight (starting the overnight “marinade”). Hopefully I read this right and the finely chopped onions are supposed to be part of the overnight campout with the pork shoulder and spices. Lookiing forward to day two.

    1. Welcome Dave! Yes, the onions are part of the “dry” rub and are also used the next day in cooking.



  5. Your carnitas look wonderful! I can’t wait to take a look around you site :) I love my pressure cooker and how to get more use out of it!

  6. I’m so excited to finally move beyond the recipe booklet that came with my electric cooker. Made these last week for my dinner swap group & everyone RAVED. And they were soooo easy to make!

    1. Wend, what a fun event to bring your pressure cooked carnitas (and pass the pressure cooking bug! ; ) congratulations on moving beyond the manual and welcome!



  7. I made this for dinner tonight, and it was wonderful! I love that we have so much leftover too. Thanks for the great recipe.

    1. Yay! Glad you enjoyed it.



  8. I am planning to make this for a cookout I am hosting. Would you say I can double everything in the recipe if I want to serve 16 to 20 people? Thanks

    1. You can double it, but you might not get even cooking. Another key to this recipe is having all the meat touching the base of the cooker (where there is the most heat) – if not, the pieces off the bottom could need up to 15 minutes longer in order to be shreddable.

      So, either pressure cook in two batches or open the cooker and pull out the pieces that are done and ready to go and make the rest go for another 10-15 minutes at high pressure.



  9. I really enjoyed this. However, to be honest, I like versions that are cooked with oranges even better. The lettuce cups were a nice touch! One comment, I browned the meat in batches which resulted in a layer of burnt onion in the bottom of the cooker. I scrapped this layer off before adding the liquid.

    1. gbgolfer71, There are many versions of carnitas – including ones made with coca cola, orange juice (is that the one you mean?) or even very plain just boiled with a bay leaf and onion.

      If you like, you can absolutely share your favorite carnitas recipe – by link or comment- it’s always great to read about variations!

      When developing this recipe I made a version with lemon zest and juice in the spice mix – but you could not taste it at all in the final product. The citrus’ delicate acidity did not survive pressure cooking. So, I opted for just adding a spritz of lime at the end – which, in my opinion, added the perfect “tang” to contrast with the umaminess of the chocolate.

      To solve your burnt-on problem. If the onions are well-caramelized, just de-glaze them with the water and incorporate them in the sauce. Instead, if they really are burnt, black and bitter – then do a small deglaze with 1/2 cup of water to lift them off the bottom (cold water, plus hot pan with burnt-on mess, equals very little scraping) and then pour them out so as not to give the whole meal a “burnt” flavor.

      Ciao and thanks for leaving your honest feedback!


  10. This is absolutely the best pulled pork I have ever made/had! I have always had problems getting my roasts to come out tender and juicy. The spices are easy to find (I had all in my cabinet already) and it is so simple. I will definitely make again! Love your site–it’s great for a newby for the modern PC. I am used to the old mirro my mom and I used long ago. My Kuhn Rikon is such an improvement.

  11. thank you i just tried this recipe last week – i am already planning to make again. I love that it can be largely made ahead of time and then quickly put together and served. I first ate it as instructed then adapted the leftovers as follows:

    I took the remaining cooking liquid and blended it with one chipolte pepper in abodo sauce and a few TSP of the sauce, and simmered to cook and meld the flavors and thickened with a few dollops of sour cream once it was off the heat to make a thick spicy tangy sauce. I then roasted some corn on the grill and stripped it off the cobs and added a squirt of lime,salt and chopped cilantro to this. Served the pork, corn, matchstick carrots and radishes for extra crunch all ontop of warmed soft taco sized tortillas with a drizzle of sauce. Go sparing on the sauce it has some real heat from the pepper! This was super good! Cant wait to make it again.

  12. Nanc, so glad you liked it. Yes, newer pressure cookers are so much easier to use!!

    Anonymous, what a great use for the cooking liquid. And I’m so glad you shared it. The sauce is too hot for my kids but the adults in the family really enjoy it, too!



  13. Hi Laura, this recipe looks incredible. I’m really curious if I can follow the same basic idea, but in a slow cooker?

    1. I’m not a Slow Cooker expert, so you’ll want to adjust the minimum liquid requirements and cooking time according to what it requires.



  14. Yum. This was a hit. Love the idea of combining the pulled pork with the lettuce cups. Looking forward to exploring your site!

  15. Your Carnitas were tha bomb! My whole family loved them and I loved that they were an easy-peasy, tasty meal!

    Best regards,


    1. Thanks Mel!



  16. Didn’t have the time to leave overnight but was awesome anyway only after a couple of hours in spices. . I didn’t fry it as I am on a diet. I like that you show it a a lettuce wrap for that reason. It tasted great the way it came out of the pot. I grew up in San Diego and Carnitis is just about my favorite food. I am new with pressure cooking and look forward to more recipes. Thank you!!

    1. Thanks for your comment! Carnitas made in San Diego – on the edge of the Mexican boarder – is a very high bar to meet.

      So glad you found my carnitas recipe delicious as well!



  17. Hi there, thanks so much for your recipes! This site is the reason I got an Instant Pot 3 weeks ago for cooking at 7000 feet in Park City! My questions for you are: I have beef chuck (almost 4 lbs). Can I use the same recipe and cooking time in my Instant Pot? There is a “Meat” button on it – maybe I can just push that?

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Pressure cooking is taking a bit to figure out, but SO well worth it. Everything takes so long to cook up here that it’s been a major time-saver. And wow, the flavor is amazing. Where has the pressure cooker been all my life? :) I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    2. Nicki, so glad you jumped on the pressure cooking bandwagon.

      According to my table, which I will publish on my website in a couple of weeks, your 11.5 psi Instant Pot only operates at 7.3 psi at 7,000 feet. This important information because instead of cooking at 242F (as it would at sea level) it is actually cooking at 233F.

      Due to your high-altitude location, I would tack on a couple of minutes to the recommended cooking time range on this website. So, since electrics should take the high-end of the range (60 minutes of the 45-60 minute time range) your cooker will need a little extra.

      As you’ve seen from my review, I’m absolutely gaga for my Instant Pot as well… but I’m not a big fan of the pre-set programs. I always hit “manual” mode and + or – the minutes from there.



  18. We enjoyed this recipe immensely. We did the original Michoacan style recipe so the pulled pork could be used in several different recipes, Mexican, Italian, Southern…

    My husband can’t wait for me to make the spice rub and letting the pork sit overnight before searing and then pressure cooking. He thinks this recipe will be fantastic wrapped in a burrito.

    Thanks much for posting this recipe! This was my first recipe using my new electric pressure cooker. My only question… why’d I wait so long to try this? LOVE IT!

  19. I love this site. This is how I make carnitas but without the spices. Most carnitas (pulled fried pork) made in the old world authentic Mexican way does not use the spices listed here for making carnitas, however, it appears to be a great list. Hubby would absolutely object to my cooking his carnitas with spices. (This applies to carnitas as it is generally prepared in California and parts of Mexico). After cooking, I fry the carnitas in a dry frying pan to make it crispy or put it under the broiler. I then serve it with pico de gallo (heavy on fresh cilantro) and corn tortillas. Limes are optional but really bring out the flavor of the pork and add a freshness to the carnitas. Other regions of Mexico sometimes use the local tropical fruits in preparing their foods. Citrus fruits, like oranges especially are a good accompaniment to this dish.

  20. Thanks for the feed back! We’re actually pressure cooking another one today and the way you serve the carnitas with pico de gallo and corn tortillas is making our mouth water. Ummm… you wouldn’t have a recipe for tortillas would you?

  21. Thank you for your post. Masa Harina and water is all that a corn tortilla is. Masa Harina is available at most WM groceries. You can use about 2 cups of masa harina and 1 1/2 to 2 cups water and smash those babies down and fry on a super hot griddle. I then fry them in a little oil but many people like them steamed or straight from the griddle. Great if you have tortilla press but making them thin can be done with a rollling pin or your hands! Mmmmmmm homemade tortillas are delicious. Enjoy!

  22. Putting Masa Harina on my grocery list now! Keeping my fingers crossed that Wal-Marts in New Brunswick, Canada carry this. Last night we made flour tortilla’s and again the pork was yummo’s.
    Thanks much, you’re a Sweet Heart.

  23. Well this is a winner absolutely loved it well worth the preparation and waiting all through I had to keep tasting as I was doing it.
    Well surprised with adding cocoa!
    Tried it just as it said with the lettuce leaves but also put it in pitta breads with grated red and white cabbage, carrot, tomatoes and raw beansprouts.
    Will definitely make this again

    1. Andy, what a fantastic pitta combo – sounds very refreshing, too!



  24. I am cooking this as I write. Of course (duh) my seasonings are adjusted a bit and I’m using a 2.5 hunk of pork loin rather than a shoulder cut simply because that is what I have! The method looks great and I know that it will be great. Some of the meat may be used for taco-like carnitas filling, in slightly larger bits. The real reason that I’m making this tonight is to test a friends new BBQ sauce, so that meat will get a slightly finer pull.
    Without prior testing, just reading, I think that the basic recipe has too may ingredients and probably a bit too many competing flavors. I’ll study it in more detail for the second round and see.. Heck yes, I think the addition of raw chocolate powder is brilliant, especially for the secondary carnitas use. (Not so sure about then I intend to make a BBQ sandwich.)
    Thanks for sharing this! It has great potential.

    1. Pork loin is much more delicate cut of meat than a shoulder or a leg and only needs 5-6 minutes at pressure – 9 max to get it to fall apart shred.

      Pressure cooking a pork loin for 20 minutes is really OVER pressure cooking it. When something is over-cooked the pressure cooker “extracts” juices just like what you would want when making a stock. The meat itself will be tough, dry and tasteless because it released all of it’s juice into the cooking liquid.

      In the notes at the top of the recipe there is a simpler version with fewer spices that would be more appropriate to flavoring later.

      You can absolutely use the cut of meat you like, but refer to the pressure cooking time table to adjust the timing, for perfect results!



      1. @Laura, of course! And the loin is far more expensive. With my usual , oh so very often, a ‘fatty’ cut of any meat is far better than the lean stuff, having more flavor and texture.
        That said, I’m still, always on the lookout for functional methods and formulas that do not explode into $20 worth of extra ingredients. Great, appropriate flavors can be enjoyed with primarily simple ingredients and that is what I strive for. Why? It is not that I’m opposed to buying a few extras, I am not. It is the idea that as one living in a rural area, I do NOT ‘rush’ to the grocery store or specialty market for one or two missing components; at best, those vendors are 50-60 miles distant. My policy is to adapt, adjust, compromise and use what is available, perhaps adding something to the shopping list for next time. I do not always get it right or perfect, but my friends and guests don’t walk out and they don’t just push the food around their plates. When I clear the plates, they are empty so I must be doing something – almost close to right . Like you, I enjoy this blog, stop by often and frequently learn new things. Humph, but it sure works for me. Best wishes, -CG

  25. Hi Cedarglen, all the ingredients in this recipe are commonly used in traditional Mexican food together. For instance, I use cocoa powder (commonly used in Mexican cooking) in my enchilada sauce as well. It gives the sauce a bottom “note” that compliments the higher “notes” of the chile. They all work together to produce one uniquely flavored sauce. I don’t use pepper flakes but powdered chile. Once the meat is done, this sauce is the perfect compliment. This is not very many ingredients really. I set mine all out together and mix them in a bowl so they can be added all at once. I don’t season my pork but I am sure this would be delicious but hubby likes his plainly cooked. It would be a shame to introduce BBQ sauce to this particular recipe and lose the great flavors chosen for this recipe. Perhaps for another time.

    1. I second what I_Fortuna said. : )

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