I make some kind of Mexican-style meal at least once a week. Usually more often than that. Anything from basic taco-style ground beef to cauliflower taco bowls to these simple, delicious carnitas. Smokey, juicy pulled pork, with little crispy edges and a zesty punch of lime?
I make these in the Instant Pot and prep my garnishes and veggies while the pork cooks, so it all comes together in under an hour and is mostly hands-off cooking. Totally doable on a weeknight and you can make a huge batch so it’s a great option for meal prep or feeding a crowd.
The broth left after you remove the pork from the Instant Pot makes some delicious rice too, so when I am meal prepping I take full advantage of that. I measure up two cups of the broth from the cooked pork (strained if you’re feeling really on your game. If not, you get little pieces of pork in your rice. You really can’t lose either way.) and about 1 3/4 cup of rice and cook it in the IP for 5 minutes, turn off the cooker, and let it sit 10 minutes, then open the vent to release the pressure.
Speaking of prepping for your future self – these pork roasts tend to come in the 6-8 pound range, but that is way to much for our family of two and a tiny human. So, the last time I made these, I cut a 6 pound pork shoulder into two inch chunks and put half of them into a gallon size freezer bag with an onion that I had cut into slices. Now I’ve just got to add spices and I have dinner ready to go the next time I come running in the door late or I just cant bring myself to do any real work.
One last thing. Do me a favor and please do not put cheddar cheese on these. I’m not here to judge or tell you how to live your life, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. If you cannot imagine meat in a tortilla sans cheese, I would choose something salty and crumbly (I use feta, because, lets be honest, that’s easier to find in small town Iowa than a Mexican variety). Okay. Now go give these a try.
For the pork:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 – 4 pound pork shoulder/butt roast (boneless or bone-in), cut into 2 inch chunks.
(Note: if you are using a bone-in roast, you can just cut the bone out in one big chunk. No need to try to cut all the meat off the bone. Once this cooks, the pork will be so tender, the bone will slide right out.)
1 medium onion – sliced
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
a few grinds of black pepper
cayenne to taste (I’d start with 1/4 teaspoon and go from there or, if you don’t want any heat, just leave it out.)
2 – 4 cups chicken stock (enough to almost cover the pork)
For the tacos
2 bell peppers (any color), cut into strips
1 medium onion, cut into strips
Tortillas (I prefer the street-style flour tortillas, but use whatever you like)
Sour cream or Greek yogurt
Hot sauce of your choice
Set your pressure cooker to the Sauté function. Add oil to the cooker. While the oil heats up toss the pork chunks in the garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, and cayenne (if your using it).
Add the seasoned pork chunks to the hot oil. If you have time and are feeling ambitious, you can brown the pork on each side in batches, removing the browned pieces to a plate as you go. Then, once everything is browned, add it all back to the pan.
If you’re in a hurry because, say, your toddler is clinging to your leg and your dogs are outside barking at the neighbors (hypothetically), you can just put it all in at once in an even layer. Try to get as much pork in contact with the pan as possible so it will get some of that nice browning on the bottom.
Dump the onion on top of the browned pork chunks and add your chicken stock. You want to add enough stock to cover about 2/3 of the pork.
Put the lid on, seal the vent, set the cooker to manual (high), and let it cook for 30 minutes.
Once the time is up, let it rest about 10 minutes, before you release the pressure.
Test your pork for doneness by squeezing a chunk with tongs. It should basically fall apart at this point. If it doesn’t, put the lid back on, seal the vent, and give it another 10 minutes on manual (high).
Once it’s fall apart tender, remove the pork from the cooker (reserving the broth if you are going to use it to make rice) and shred it with two forks.
Pre-heat your broiler on high and set a rack about 2 inches below it (not necessarily in that order).
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
As someone who has set parchment paper slightly on fire under a broiler, I am going to strongly advise against parchment paper for this application.
Spread the shredded pork, sliced onion, and sliced bell pepper in a thin layer on the baking sheet. Don’t over crowd it or you won’t get the crisping effect we’re going for here. You’ll have to work in batches.
Place the baking sheet under the broiler and let it go for about 3 minutes or until everything is starting to get little crispy edges and the veggies are slightly tender. Remove from the oven and immediately squeeze a little fresh lime juice over the top.
Serve in a warmed tortilla with a generous portion of pork and veggies, a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt, hot sauce, cilantro, and a little more lime juice. And not cheddar cheese.
This is also really good over a baked sweet potato or in a rice bowl with the aforementioned left-over-pork-broth rice and all the toppings listed above.
If you don’t have an instant pot, you could make these in a slow cooker by adding the browned meat, onion, and broth and cooking it on high for about 4 hours or low for 6 to 8. Disclaimer: I have not done it this way, because, TBH I haven’t used my slow cooker since I got my Instant Pot.