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. Just marinated the meat on Sunday. Had a 12# shoulder butt and cut into three sections, then cut into 3″ cubes. Stored two bags in the freezer naked for other recipes although I’m sure I will make this one at least once more. I have a 6 qt so I browned in two batches making sure that the bottom of the cooker didn’t scorch. Deglazed a little before doing round two. With 4# of cubes and two cups of water I adjusted my pressure time to thirty five minutes….dare I say perfect tenderness and moisture. And the favors where so well balanced. It made a wonderful crust in the skillet at a pretty low temp setting. Wife likes her dairy and bread so she opted for warm tortillas as did my youngest plus a slice of ripe avocado and set down a ram akin of crumbled cotija cheese and served some fresh chopped cilantro for all you fans. I stayed traditional by the recipe until I got to the third and final lettuce wrap then I tried the cheese and a little extra pan juice. Yum! It’s wonderful, it tastes just the way it should and you can do so much ahead of time prior to crisping the pork. Out of the park. Thank you. My wife laughed when I told her what I wanted for Christmas, now she just smiles and I’ve only been using it four times. Ribs are next, then the upside down apple ricotta cake. I never try deserts but what the heck. My 18 year old son and his Crossfit buddies will try anything after two-a-day workouts. Thanks again.

  2. I was wondering if you can make pulled pork with a couple of pork steaks instead of a whole roast? If so, would you need to adjust the time? I don’t want a whole roast, and I have a couple of pork steaks is like to try instead.

  3. Teri,
    Just my thought, the steaks are probably a little more lean so be careful not to keep them in too long. Better under cook and fork test than over cokking. Best of luck. Remember I used 4# of 3″ thick cubes at 35 minutes.

  4. Thanks, I will try it for a shorter time period and check it. I did pick a marbled cut of steaks (not the leaner loin chops). I am really looking forward to the results!

  5. Used some for my first attempt at tamales. More on them over there.
    But the leftovers made for an absolutely fabulous pizza topping. The sauce base was some leftover salsa reduced down. I used queso fresco instead of mozzarella, so it was truly mexican pizza. Except for the preserved lemons of course, but it wouldn’t be pizza without them would it.! ;)

  6. Sounds wonderful Greg. I actually tried a skillet breakfast with diced redskins, red onions and bell peppers. Fry the veggies up nice, then crisp the pork then pour in slightly beaten eggs. Let the eggs firm up a bit, then gently flip. Little hot sauce of choice on top….good eats!

  7. @Sparky119: That sounds great; sort of like a frittata (sp?), mostly precooked veggies, perhaps meat scraps, bulk from potatoes (or even rice?) and held together with an egg or two. Am I close. Nowhere near an egg-dominant omelet, but may look like an over-filled one. Since this is a Pressure Cooking blog, of course the taters are always cooked in the PC. When I cook taters for secondary use, I usually under cook them 1-2 minutes so that the oven or skillet time does not over cook them. When one learns to enjoy the control that the PC method provides, one tends to get fussy about texture. An on-going project perhaps, but eve the errors are pretty darn good. Thanks for sharing your idea with us.

  8. Hi, newbie here, using my Fagor Futuro 10 qt for only the second time tonight. I wanted to try carnitas, but what I have is two slices of Boston Butt (it’s just three of us, so the last time I bought a Boston Butt — pre-PC days — I had it sliced into steak or chop-sized thickness. I figure it’s a quarter of the original Boston Butt, which weighed about 9.5 lbs. Also, they look on the fatty side. So these two slices would weigh a little over 2 pounds, fat and all. Any change in cooking time?

    1. I will throw in my $0.02 worth. I am not familiar with “Boston Butt”. I am guessing it is a term for one of the cheaper cuts. Perhaps neck or shoulder.

      Anyway my KR cookbook suggests 15 min per inch thickness for all pork. But since this needs to be falling apart tender, maybe increase that by 50%. Say 20-25 minutes per inch. I know when I tried this, I cut my pork into 2 inch chunks and cooked according to the recipe. It worked fine. This timing is pretty much in accord with my theory. The first time I cooked it I went over time and the resulting meat was a bit dry. I just added back some stock and all was fine. The second time, it was just right. I used a calculator to work out my altitude correction instead of just guessing.

      Be aware that this cooks a lot of pulled pork. We were eating leftovers for days both times. Just the two of us here.

  9. The Boston Butt as I know it is the front section of the shoulder. Meat is very similar but a little more fat content. Which is a good thing here for moisture and tenderness. I would, if possible cut into uniform sized cubes 2-3″ would probably cook the 2# of meat in under 30 minutes if browned prior. Watch your steam valve, that’s a big cooker and can cook off that broth/water quickly. When making your reduction gravy, please let it cool overnight. The fat that is rendered will all be on top and you can scrape it off with a spoon. Save that fat and carmelize onions with it. Trust me! Even roasting Brussels sprout in this adds huge flavor and mellows the bitterness to a non existent level. Enjoy!

  10. Thanks! When I got the meat trimmed into 2″ chunks less the biggest portion of the fat, it looked more like a pound and a half … I’d found this recipe:

    And decided to try it. I halved it, and wound up with a cup of OJ/lime juice, more than enough to meet the 1/2 cup liquid minimum for my Fagor.

    I browned the meat per the recipe with the bones (I’d bought a bone-in Boston butt).

    Because the meat was cut into “steaks” and was thinner, maybe a half-inch thick at most, I went with a 15 minute time and natural release. I turned the flame down to medium low because I was worried about the liquid … There wasn’t much left!

    Pressure came down in about four minutes — much quicker than I thought it would for such a large pot. The meat was falling apart with the touch of a fork. I shredded it in my Kitchenaid stand mixer and broiled it for five minutes on high.

    DELISH! It would have been a fairly quick supper if I hadn’t bitten off a traditional Mexican rice dish to cook in the oven:

    The Mexican rice was good, but WAAAY too time-consuming for a weeknight meal.

    Question: how long can I successfully freeze carnitas? I’m thinking of making a big batch and packaging it in meal-sized portions. USDA says I can freeze prepared meat for 2-3 months, but will carnitas stay tasty for that long? I’m wondering about it because of the spices.

  11. In our family, Mexican rice is tradtionally made this way.
    In a regular pan, dry roast the rice until it is opaque, add a tablespoon of mild chili powder, some sauteed onion and a little cumin and salt, Add the regular amount of water or broth and cook the usual way.
    Tomato products are rarely ever used in our tradition of Mexican cooking. We use tomatoes for pico de gallo or salads. However, using a few tablespoons of tomato sauce and crumbled bacon are nice tweaks. On the cans of enchilada sauce you will see tomato added, this is not typically traditional either in our family. Tex Mex cooking does often use tomato in cooking.
    Too much tomato product inhibits the rice from cooking because of the acidity.
    Dry roasting makes the rice fluffy. Some people roast the rice in a little oil, but it is not necessary and dry roasting saves on fat calories. Unless the rice is roasted first, the rice will come out mushy and sticky.
    This is so easy and can be done in a short time.

  12. @K8sMom2002
    It is my experience that the big pots cool down quicker than the little ones unless they are full. I think it has to do with all that surface area of the metal. I also find they need a higher heat to maintain pressure.

    You might try the Spanish Rice recipe on this site next time
    It takes about 15 minutes from cupboard to table. The leftover also works brilliantly stir fried with a bit of the Carnitas and a slurp of Thai style sweet chilli sauce.

  13. Both great looking rice recipes! Thanks!

  14. I made this tonight, and this is very good! It will be replacing my previous recipe for Carnitas. I didn’t have a day’s preparation time, so I simply tossed the roast pieces with the seasoning mix immediately prior to browning. I did not add the chopped onion to the spice mix, but rather sautéed them in the pot after browning the meat to pick up the browned bits. Sixty minutes in high in my Instant pot, cool pieces enough to shred whilst the liquid reduced, then tossed altogether. So easy, and so good. My daughter and husband had it in toasted buns as a pulled pork sandwich, and I just had it as-is with a red cabbage/carrot/lime/cilantro slaw. So, so tasty – our new favourite pulled pork, as I try to avoid barbecue sauces with added sugar. Thank y so much for the recipe!

  15. Made this over the weekend. Came out amazing. Followed the recipe precisely. In the end, I didn’t detect too much spice, or too much salt. Just really juicy and tender carnitas.

    I didn’t use lettuce wraps, I decided to try this in warmed corn tortillas.

    For the first time I’ve been able to make carnitas tender, juicy, mouth watering – and once crisped in the pan with some fat, divine. Thanks for sharing!


    1. I had meant to click 5 stars, btw. Thanks again for sharing this great recipe!


      1. Thanks for coming back to tell us how it went, sharing the photo and rating the recipe!!



  16. I love the pork recipes on here but I am not a fan of all the fat in pork shoulder. It would be nice to see some more pork recipes using pork loin. I make BBQ pulled pork loin in the slow cooker and it turns out well but would rather do it faster in my Instapot. I am sure the flavor of pork shoulder is better but based on your recipes so far you will be able to bring in more flavor than I ever imagined. Great site and love my Instapot!

  17. Donn – Hi. I would like to mention that the fat is really what makes this roast tender and most of it cooks down or is rendered. Usually, there is very little fat on the roasts we buy and it all can be easily removed.
    Pork loin, may be tender if it is cooked properly, however, to me it is tasteless unless seasoned and a very wrong cut of meat for carnitas.
    Also, traditionally the shoulder cut of meat is pulled or shredded and then fried crisp or put under the broiler to crisp it up. You simply cannot do this with pork loin. Best to saved the pork loin for another recipe.

    1. I’m sorry, I was new to the site and now I realize I should have put my comment in the forum section. I wasn’t suggesting to make Carnitas with pork loin, that would just be silly. I was hoping for ways I can cook pork loin in the pressure cooker not to make Carnitas with it.

  18. Great recipe and beautiful results! I’ve had my pressure cooker (Fissler 8l) for almost a year and this is the first time I’ve made carnitas. it won’t be the last!

  19. Wow, Laura! This recipe for carnitas knocked our socks off! The flavor was absolutely perfect — with enough spice to make a statement, but not so much that your mouth blisters. Both my husband (a Guatemalan) and I loved it. This will definitely be my “go to recipe” for carnitas from now on. What an easy and delicious filling for tamales!

  20. This was very good. I started out with a nearly 8 lb pork shoulder, I’m not sure how much I had after removing the bone and most of the fat. There was a good amount to get a few meals out of it. I love the lettuce wrap, carrot shreds and lime idea, it was a very light and clean meal. Day two leftovers became burritos with cilantro laced brown rice and the leftover carrot screeds. The last day of leftovers was eaten on rolls with slices of fresh avocados and tomatoes.
    I think the next time I will buy a boneless pork shoulder to save on prep time.

  21. My family loved this! Used boneless pork shoulder. I skipped the step of marinating it overnight and it was fine. I also used the pre chopped onions at Trader Joe’s, because I had them in the fridge and that was a nice little time saver! I fried it in Ghee in the cast iron pan and it got nice and crispy, while staying juicy. It was super easy!!!

  22. I am new to electric pressure cooking. I am also a very good cook but I am not a gourmet cook – just “good ole common foods”. I wish someone would compile recipes for “simple” cooking.

    1. Welcome Oki,
      The problem is that “good ole common food” varies from place to place.
      I am reliably informed that clam chowder is commonplace in New England. To me it is beyond exotic. I cannot even get the ingredients. Likewise chicken adobo is an everyday dish in the Philippines but is regarded as gourmet elsewhere.

      Pulled pork is I believe common in Mexico but I made my first earlier this year. And I have been cooking more than forty years. I had to order some of the ingredients from overseas at great expense to do so. It is certainly not good ole common food where I come from.

      If the spice rub is putting you off this recipe, perhaps you missed the following aside above:
      “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.”
      You can probably skip the bay leaf too. Laura thinks they are compulsory in pretty much everything.

      If there are specific things you want to convert or learn, why not head over to the forum and ask specific questions. If you are thinking about it there are bound to be others lurking who are wondering the same thing. Remember there are no stupid questions except the ones you don’t ask.

      The link to the forum is up in the top left corner. Of the web page

      1. Oops. Sorry. I am forgetting my James Blish. ( “I guess “Okie from Mo” is a description of where you come from and where you are. Not a name.
        I just thought Oki was a Japanese name.

  23. Oki would be a Japanese name but Okie, as I am, is an abbreviation for someone from Oklahoma.

  24. Okie, carnitas were new for me, but pulled pork wasn’t. I sometimes change up the spices and make a more familiar BBQ pork sandwich– very common down here in the south. The technique works well for any sort of pulled meat sandwich.

    Also, you can’t get more common than meatloaf… Lorna Sass’ recipe books are great, and I believe her meatloaf recipe is on this website. Plus, I use my PC for all sorts of things: beans, greens, meats, peas, chicken broth, potatoes… Whatever you cook the traditional way will most likely be adaptable to your PC … Only quicker and cooler.

    Things I’ve cooked in the last few weeks:

    A Penne pasta dish (super quick, and no draining the pasta)
    Gratin of potatoes
    Butter beans
    Black-eyed peas
    Barley risotto
    Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and carrots
    Rice and tomatoes
    Baked beans (from dried, and done in a half hour)
    Chicken and rice soup
    Turnip greens
    Black beans
    Tuscan bean soup
    Turkish bean stew (kind of like rice and tomatoes, but with beans instead of rice)
    Pulled pork
    Chicken broth (from leg quarters)
    Potato salad
    Mac n cheese

    I may not use it to cook my whole meal, but I pick the slow-pokiest part and I use my PC to slash cooking time. I ADORE my PC. Don’t give up… Go to the library and check out cook books featuring PC recipes. And check out the recipes here — I’ve yet to find a bad one, even though some aren’t as familiar as the food I grew up with.

  25. Oh, and I’m not sure where I got this link, but I use it all the time. It’s an exhaustive list of times for all sorts of foods in the PC.

    So you can use your favorite foods and more easily convert them to PC cooking. :)

    Hope that helps!

    1. We have a pretty exhaustive pressure cooking time list of our own (that I’m always refining as I get a chance to test ingredients myself). It also includes adjustments for electrics and non-standard pressure cookers. You can get to by clicking “cooking times” at the top of any page on the website. ; )



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