Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork (Carnitas)
Pressure Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork (Carnitas)

Want pulled pork in a hurry? With the pressure cooker, you can have tender, fall-apart pulled pork in just a little over an hour!

Elise’s low-and-slow slow cooker Mexican pulled pork is fantastic, but when I forget to plan ahead or want it to be ready a little more quickly, I make this speedy version in my Instant Pot.

  • Looking for the slow cooker version? Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork (Carnitas)

Whether you make this pressure cooker version or the slow cooker version, try to allow some time for the pork to come up to room temperature before you begin cooking. This helps the pork develop a better crust when you sear it, which means more browned flavor in the finished dish. An hour is ideal, but any amount of time you can give it will help.

Elise’s spice rub includes chili powder, salt, brown sugar, and a blend of herbs and spices – this mix is so good that I just left it as is. In fact, the only real change that I made was to add some liquid to the pot – you need some in order to properly cook food in a pressure cooker.

You can use fruit juice, broth, or even water, but I went with pineapple juice for its tangy sweetness. I think this complements the spices in the rub nicely!


For the spice rub:

  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (if using regular table salt, only use 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Scant pinch of ground cloves

For the pulled pork:

  • 3 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into two pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice, orange juice, or water

Optional toppings (pick a few!):

  • Sliced avocado
  • Sliced radishes
  • Thinly sliced red or green cabbage
  • Thinly sliced romaine lettuce
  • Diced red onions
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Crumbled cotija cheese
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Warm tortillas, corn or flour
  • Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Salsa

Special equipment:

  • 6-quart electric or stovetop pressure cooker, like an Instant Pot
  • Fat separator

1 Season the pork: In a small bowl, combine the spice rub ingredients. Pat the pork dry with paper towels, then sprinkle with half of the spice rub. Turn and rub the spice into the pork until the pieces are evenly coated.

Leave the pork to absorb the rub and to take the chill off the meat, at least 15 minutes or up to an hour. (Room temperature pork will sear better!)

2 Sear the pork: Select the “Sauté” program on your pressure cooker and add the oil to the pot. (If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat.)

Use a pair of tongs to lower the pork into the pot so the side with the most fat is facing down. Sear for 5 minutes. Flip it over and sear it for 5 more minutes. Both sides should be browned.

3 Sprinkle the remaining spice rub over the pork, then pour the pineapple juice over the top.

4 Cook the pork: Place the lid on your pressure cooker. Make sure that the pressure regulator is set to the “Sealing” position. Select the “Manual” program on the pressure cooker and set the time to 50 minutes at high pressure. (For stovetop pressure cookers, cook for 45 minutes at high pressure.)

It will take about 10 minutes for your pressure cooker to come up to pressure, and then the 50 minutes of actual cooking will begin.

5 Release the pressure: You can either perform a quick pressure release by immediately moving the vent from “Sealing” to “Venting” (be careful of the steam!), or you can let the pot depressurize naturally, which takes about 20 minutes. (For stovetop pressure cookers, perform a quick pressure release.)

6 Separate the pork and cooking liquid: Use tongs to transfer the pork to a large baking dish or sheet pan. Use heat-proof mitts to lift the inner pot out of the pressure cooker, pour the cooking liquid into a fat separator, then pour the liquid back into the pot. Reserve the fat.

(Alternatively, let the cooking liquid stand for about 10 minutes until the fat floats to the top, then use a shallow spoon to skim as much fat as possible from the surface.)

7 Reduce the cooking liquid: Return the pot to the pressure cooker, select the “Sauté” program, and let the cooking liquid reduce for 10 minutes. (If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker, do the same thing over medium heat.)

8 While the liquid is reducing, use a pair of forks to shred the pork. 

9 Broil the pulled pork until crispy (optional for carnitas): To make crispy carnitas, place the pan of shredded pork 6 to 8 inches below the broiler and broil for 5 to 10 minutes until the tips and edges of the pork are browned and crispy.

It’s fine to skip this step if you’re making a recipe where you don’t need the pork to be crispy.

10 Toss the shredded pork with the reduced liquid and serve: Return the pork to the pot with the reduced cooking liquid and toss to coat the pork evenly. If the pork seems a little dry, add a tablespoon or two of the reserved fat.

Serve it in tacos with the fixings listed above, or in burritos or rice bowls, or on a tostada salad.


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