School has begun along with all the activities, appointments, lists with a million things on them. And we are already tired. If you are like us, we wanted the routine to start up again, but feel a little like we’ve been hit by a truck. The truck of a hectic pace carrying a load of pressure.
Peace in Taco Form
Enter comfort meals – time to slow down just a tiny bit in the kitchen and create something to fill your family, not just physically but emotionally as well. These Instant Pot Carnitas Tacos are just that. Slow-cooked tender and juicy pork is loaded with flavor and just the right amount of spice through a quick sear and a long braise, then crisped up on the edges under the broiler to make the most wonderful Carnitas you have ever had at home!
Carnitas is a Mexican dish, always made with one of the tougher cuts of pork: shoulder or butt. These cuts, when cooked slowly at a lower temperature, break down and become amazingly tender and juicy. They are so good on their own that you barely need any toppings. I can never stop eating those crispy edges right out of the pan! Add a bit of cilantro, queso fresco, and briny pickled onions for the perfect taco experience.
Carnitas are Worth the Effort!
This recipe might look long and a little fussy, but I promise it is so worth it. And it’s not as bad as it looks. Each ingredient comes together to add the flavor you want to the pork.
Follow the process for the Instant Pot and you will end up with almost a one-pot meal. We always love less clean-up, right? We love this Instant Pot and it’s many features.
Your efforts in putting this together will be rewarded well. It is so worth the steps and most of these ingredients are pantry staples.
We’ve got a bonus recipe for you today, too. Pickled onions! These are amazing on tacos of any kind, but pair particularly well with rich and spicy carnitas. You can also use them to top salads and sandwiches. They are so easy and versatile – a great way to add a punch of flavor to so many things!
So, put aside the busy-ness, slow down for just a bit and take a deep breath. Settle into the process and let it calm you. And get these Instant Pot Carnitas Tacos going. The pickled onions too. You and your family are going to love it!
We recommend another dose of comfort and joy in dessert form. I’m pretty sure this means Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies, Dark Chocolate Pecan Cookies, Lemon Bundt Cake, Fresh Blueberry Pie, or Ginger Peach Crisp. So many delicious options!
If you’re feeling ambitious, making your own tortillas is fun and they are so delicious. This does take some time, but is a great way to get the kids involved while the Carnitas is cooking. I love using the recipe from Rick Bayless, which you can find here (it includes a very helpful video).
Instant Pot Carnitas Tacos
For the Spice Rub:
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt or 2 teaspoons table salt
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3-1/2 pound pork shoulder or butt roast trimmed
- 2 medium yellow onions sliced
For the Braising Liquid:
- 1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice from 1 large orange
- 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice from 2-3 limes
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoons minced chipotle chilis in adobo
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the minced chipotles in adobo
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Corn or Flour Tortillas we like the street size
- Pickled Onions or Diced Red Onion
- Cilantro chopped
- Queso Fresco crumbled
- Whisk together the rub ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the braising liquid and set that aside as well.
- Cut the pork roast into smaller pieces, 3-4 inches, then coat with the rub. Reserve 1 T. of the rub for later. Using the Instant Pot saute function (or using a large skillet), heat 1 T. of vegetable oil over high heat. Add the pork pieces, cooking in batches if necessary to not overcrowd the pan, and sear on all sides (approximately 2 minutes per side).
- Remove all meat to a plate and turn the heat to low. Add the onions and cook for one minute. Add a little of the braising liquid and continue to cook the onions, stirring them in the liquid and scraping the bottom of the pan to release all the flavor from the searing meat into the liquid. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the onions have softened.
- Turn off the heat. If using the instant pot, add the remaining braising liquid and nestle the seared pieces of meat and their juices into the pot. Turn on the slow cooker function and cook vented on high for 4 hours or on low for 7 hours. If using a slow cooker and a skillet, place the onions and any liquid into the slow cooker, add the remaining braising liquid, then add the pieces of meat along with their juices. Cook in the slow cooker as directed above. The meat needs to reach 200-205 degrees F, which will break down the fat and connective tissues so it is flavorful, tender, and easy to shred.
- Once the meat has finished cooking, remove it from the liquid and place it on a sheet pan (I used a quarter sheet pan, which ended up being the perfect size). Strain the liquid, adding any solids to the meat and returning the liquid to the instant pot or to a medium sauce pot. Turn the instant pot back to saute on high, or place your sauce pot over high heat, and boil the liquid until it has reduced by half. While the liquid is boiling, shred the meat. Sprinkle the reserved 1 tablespoon of the rub over the shredded meat.
- Heat your oven broiler to high (on my oven, the temperature is 550 degrees F).
- Once the liquid has reduced by half, drizzle approximately 1/4 cup over the shredded meat. Place it under the broiler (4-5 inches away) and cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until the edges of the meat are crispy. Rotate the pan, stir the meat, and add more of the reduced braising liquid as necessary. (There should always be a shallow layer of liquid in the pan, but it should not cover the meat.) If your pan sits closer to the broiler, cook for less time, taking care that the meat does not burn.
- While the meat is crisping up, warm the tortillas by stacking them on a plate and covering them with a damp paper towel and plastic wrap, then microwaving them for 30 seconds to a minute on high.
- When the edges of the meat are crispy, remove it from the oven. Serve in the warmed tortillas topped with pickled onions, guacamole, cilantro, and queso fresco.
- Cool the remaining braising liquid (you should have about 1 cup or more left) to use as the flavor base for Carnitas Soup (recipe coming soon!). Keep it in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Quick Pickled Red Onions
- 2 red onions
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Sliced the onions and put in a 3-cup Ball jar. Add the peppercorns.
- In a small pot, combine water, vinegars, sugar, and salt. Heat on medium-low and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve completely. Remove from the heat and pour the hot liquid over onions. Let cool for 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until cold.