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Instant Pot Pork Carnitas with Five-Minute Asian Slaw

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

This near-effortless version of Mexican style shredded pork is perfectly seasoned and melt-in-your-mouth fork tender. By using an electric pressure cooker, we can braise it in a cooking liquid containing beer, citrus juices, Mexican spices, and onion in a fraction of the normal cooking time. It is then shredded and placed under the broiler to create the traditional caramelized and crispy edges.


Serve this flavor-packed, stupendously juicy shredded pork tucked into a warm corn tortilla with my simple Five-Minute Asian slaw, in a burrito, for a plate of nachos, or in a bowl with rice and beans.

Recipes adapted from lemon/blossoms and Spend with Pennies


Shredded and slow-cooked is my favorite way to eat and serve pork. I've used many different recipes for pulled pork – from cooking it in the slow cooker with a bottle of Dr. Pepper, to smoked all night on a wood smoker to slow-roasted in the oven all day on a Sunday afternoon.


For me, I base the cooking method on what I am going to use the pork for. If it is for big, pulled pork sandwiches with BBQ sauce, then I would probably lean toward the smoking option or in the crockpot with the addition of liquid smoke.


Carnitas are much different than the American-style BBQ dish. The combination of tender, moist pork, Mexican spices, and the gloriously crispy, bacon-like exterior is perfect for Mexican dishes. It is by far my favorite taco filling. It might actually be my favorite meat period.


Traditional Mexican carnitas are cooked in a copper pot or cauldron because it distributes the heat more evenly. This is usually done over the open fire. The Boston butt (aka pork shoulder) is slowly simmered in a combination with spices, citrus juices, onions, lard, and sometimes milk. The lard and the milk both act as tenderizers. We will not be using lard in this recipe. Omitting the lard, makes this version much healthier. And with the cooking method we are using, it doesn't need it.


Now, let's talk a minute about the meat. The pork shoulder or Boston butt is a fatty cut made of well-marbled pork and lots of connective tissue. It needs a long time to cook. The longer cooking time allows the pork to slowly break down and melt the fat and break down the connective tissue. By rendering and cooking in its own fat, it adds moisture and tons of flavor. I am using a 4-pound boneless Boston butt for this recipe.


To start, place the pork on a cutting board and cut it into 2-inches pieces. Trim off any large pieces of fat. Season with salt and pepper. Press the "Sauté" setting on your Instant Pot. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in the pot. Place half of the pork cubes into the pot. Sear pieces on all sides, until evenly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer the browned meat to a plate and repeat the process for the remaining pork. Press "Cancel" to turn off the pot.


Next pour in the beer, orange juice, and lime juice into the pot. With a wooden spoon, scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. These are your flavor producers! Add the spices and return the browned meat to the pot. Close the lid, set the pot to high pressure, and cook for 60 minutes. After the cooking time has finished, do a natural release for 15 minutes.


Remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on a plate. Press the "Sauté" button. Simmer the cooking liquid until it has reduced by half. Meanwhile, using two forks, shred the pork into large pieces. Place the pulled pork back into the instant pot with the reduced cooking liquid for a few minutes. Transfer the pork with a small amount of the cooking liquid to a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with foil. Spread it into a single layer. Broil for just a few minutes until the edges of the pork begin to get lightly brown and crispy.


If you do not have an Instant Pot, you can make this wonderful pork recipe in your slow cooker on low for about 8 to 10 hours (5 to 6 hours on high). You will just need to brown the meat in a large skillet on the stove before adding to your Crock Pot. Alternatively, you can also roast it in a 300-degree oven covered for 3 hours, then flip the pork over and cook for an additional 2 hours. It should shred easily. If it still has more connective tissue to break down, continue to cook longer, checking every 30 minutes or so. Follow the same instructions for broiling.


Now let's talk slaw. I love this crispy, shredded pork served with my super simple Five Minute Asian Slaw. It is not traditional Carnitas by any means but the flavor combination is so ridiculously yummy. I use a shortcut, precut coleslaw mix, and mix in some fresh chopped cilantro and 2 sliced green onions. To make the simple dressing, in a small bowl whisk together rice vinegar, sesame oil, canola or olive oil, honey, celery salt, and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Just pour it over the slaw mix and stir well to combine. That's it! Place in the fridge until ready to serve. I usually prep this a few hours before serving to let the cabbage breakdown and soften. It will also allow the flavors to marry. Give it a good stir and a few more pinches of salt and pepper when you are ready to serve.


My favorite way to serve this beautiful pulled pork is in a taco. I soften corn tortillas in a skillet with a little oil until soft and slightly browned. Then I fill them with the shredded pork, a scoop of the Asian slaw a dollop of my chipotle lime aioli (recipe below). You can garnish with a few cilantro sprigs if desired.


Oh! One other thing worth mentioning: this makes a lot of pulled pork – about 8 to 10 generous servings if you are counting on 2 tacos per person. It's great for entertaining a large group or when you just want a few nights off from cooking. It will keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days or freeze for up to 1 month (see Pro tip below).


So, no fighting over the leftovers. There should be plenty for everyone!


Let's get cooking!

 

Ingredients


Pork carnitas:

  • 1 - 4-pound boneless pork shoulder roast trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil

  • 1 12-ounce bottle of Mexican beer (Pilsner or lager beer)

  • 1 cup of orange juice

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice

  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • Chopped cilantro to garnish

Slaw:

  • 1 12-ounce bag coleslaw mix

  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves

  • 2 green onions, sliced

  • Sesame seeds for garnish

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon honey

Chipotle lime aioli:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 4 teaspoons lime juice

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

  • 4 canned chipotle peppers, chopped and seeded

  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

How to make

Please be sure to visit lemon/blossoms and Spend with Pennies for the full source recipes and cooking instructions.


Pork carnitas:

  1. Place the pork on a cutting board and cut it into 2-inches pieces. Trim off any large pieces of fat. Season with salt and pepper.

  2. Press the "Sauté" setting on your Instant Pot.

  3. Heat about 1 tablespoon.

  4. Place half of the pork cubes into the pot.

  5. Sear pieces on all sides, until evenly browned, about 3-4 minutes.

  6. Transfer the browned meat to a plate.

  7. Repeat the process for the remaining pork. Press "Cancel" to turn off the pot.

  8. Pour the beer, orange juice, and lime juice into the pot.

  9. With a wooden spoon, scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

  10. Add the spices and return the browned meat to the pot.

  11. Close the lid, set the pot to high pressure, and cook for 60 minutes.

  12. After the cooking time has finished, do a natural release for 15 minutes.

  13. Remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on a plate.

  14. Press "Sauté." Simmer the cooking liquid until it has reduced by half.

  15. Using two forks, shred the pork into large pieces.

  16. Place the pulled pork back into the instant pot with the reduced cooking liquid for a few minutes.

  17. Transfer the pork with a small amount of the cooking liquid to a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with foil.

  18. Spread it into a single layer.

  19. Broil for just a few minutes until the edges of the pork begin to get lightly brown and crispy.

  20. Serve with warmed corn tortillas, Asian slaw, and chipotle lime aioli if desired.

Slaw:

  1. In a medium bowl combine the precut coleslaw mix, chopped cilantro, and 2 sliced green onions.

  2. In a small bowl whisk together the rice vinegar, sesame oil, canola or olive oil, honey, celery salt, and a few pinches of salt and pepper.

  3. Pour the mixture over the slaw mix and stir well to combine.

  4. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

  5. Stir just before serving.

  6. Add few more pinches of salt and pepper, if desired

Chipotle lime aioli:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and the chopped and seeded canned chipotle peppers.

  2. Stir well to combine.

  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Pro tip

You can have these magnificent carnitas any time – in just a few minutes!


Pre-portion the shredded pork into small sandwich bags (snack size bags work great). Add enough pork to the bag to make 2 tacos. Push out as much air as possible then seal the bags.


Place the small bags of shredded pork inside a large 1-gallon freezer bag. Freeze for up to 1 month.


When ready to serve, open the sandwich bag and place it into the microwave.


Microwave the frozen shredded pork for about 1 minute or until it is heated through. Serve on warm corn tortillas.


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