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Welcome to the Carnita Party

I first discovered this dream of a recipe in 2011 when I happened upon a retail website selling pressure cookers… huh? A pressure what? Sounds dangerous. Or awesome. Thankfully, there was a video! As I watched, THE Bobby Flay whipped up a batch of carnitas using this mysterious piece of equipment in a fraction of time. Sign me up! Side note: I also observed Bobby season that pork like it won the lottery… this is important and will change your life. Well, your carnitas. I’ll circle back to seasoning once we get cookin’.

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Anyway… that demo ushered pressure cooking into my life AND a love of Carnitas.

Hello there Instant pot, fresh from 2019, where every other home cook everywhere is waving the insta flag. Which is, ready for this? THE SAME THING as a pressure cooker (wiiiiith additional abilities and some safety features…because no one likes exploding pots). I must admit, INSTA Pot does sound less aggressive and scary than PRESSURE cooker. Kind of more like that best friend who just shows up out of the blue, at the exact right time, with your favorite treat VERSUS the obnoxious solicitor ringing your doorbell at dinner time, trying to sell you something else you don’t need.

Ok. Ok. Carnitas… for the love.

Traditionally, carnitas are a Mexican dish of seasoned pork, fried in lard and then slow cooked for hours. Ok, before we all freak out and turn into lardaphobics, let me tell you that it’s making a come back. Like eveeerrry thaaang from the 80’s! For you millennial darlings, who may not have had the opportunity to wake up summer mornings, walk into your grandma’s southern kitchen, and fill up on fried eggs, biscuits and gravy… all featuring lard, click here for a handy little explanation. Listen, I am not saying we need to go all in with lard and start spreading it on our toast, but let’s not cast her out just yet. Moderation sisters. Check out this little gem for some great ideas on how to use it and how to harvest your own lard… breathe… if you cook bacon, you make lard. There, you’re welcome.

Though I am apparently on a lard bandwagon, we are going to swap deep frying in it for our handy broiler in this recipe. We will achieve the most glorious crisp to our pork without sacrificing our arterial souls! Bonus: That Insta Pot will save our sanity by cutting our cooking time by a million. (All the praise hands)!

I first posted this Carnita recipe goddess several years ago when my fellow friend and cooking queen invited me to 37 cooks <——–go check them out.

Since the above appearance in 37 cooks, I have added an essential step to my carnitas process. One that my mom discovered and makes a serious flavor contribution. She’s the mom and has been cooking longer than all of us so we must trust her. Take your pork shoulder or pork butt, that you kindly asked your butcher to debone (because ain’t no one got time for that) and cut into fist sized pieces. Though you may be tempted to cut off that pork fat, resist. Leave the fat on for now so that our precious pork has a little flavor party in the insta pot later while it cooks in that rendered fat. Don’t panic. We will eventually trim it AFTER it’s cooked. Now, here is the step you must not skip: Put those pork pieces into a large sealable container and dump an entire 2 liter bottle of root beer over that pork. Leave it overnight in your fridge to soak up all that old fashioned root beer essence. Thanks mom!

Now, do your chopping. Without getting fussy about size, chop that onion and garlic and toss into your pot. Then you want to cover your counter top in foil, a sheet pan, or my personal favorite, butcher paper. This allows you to season like there’s no tomorrow and still clean up like you are the queen of everything.

Gather those root beer marinated pork pieces and spread them onto your covered counter top. Muster up your best Bobby Flay and season that pork like it’s their last dying wish. Salt, pepper, mixed chili powders, flip, repeat. (See note below for a mixed chili powder hack)

Grab some tongs and place those well seasoned suckers in your pot. Add about 5 san Marzano tomatoes straight from the can (leave the juice behind). Squeeze in juice from your lime then pour in chicken stock to about 2/3 the way up your pork. Next, you are going to add the secret ingredient. Are you ready? It’s awesome. And will make you the slow cooking pork carnitas boss!

Maple syrup!

Yes sirreee. But please use the real deal. Trust me! I added a real quantity in the recipe below but I’ve never measured this step. Seriously, I just take my syrup bottle and pour in three rotations around the pot.

CHILI POWDER HACK: mix two or more varieties of chili powder in a 1:1 ratio in a shaker bottle for the easiest seasoning method ever!

Then I take my shaker of mixed chili powders and add a few more love shakes to the top of everything hanging out in the pot all ready to be instantly transformed by science.

Put the lid on your pot. Seal and set. You may have to read directions for your own personal make and model of insta pot/pressure cooker/magic steaming apparatus. Sorry. Life is not perfect.

After your insta pot/pressure cooker/magic steaming apparatus, has done its job… which is all about 40 minutes, just let it sit there and release pressure on its own. No need to mess with the valve or try and open the pot. Just prep your toppings. Or heat your tortillas. Or mix up some salsa found here. But, definitely line a sheet pan with foil and have those tongs handy for the next step.

Hello fabulous cooking alternative for this dish! The one that never disappoints. Using a pressure cooker gives you an incredibly flavorful slow braised result in just a fraction of the time.

Once the pressure has subsided, and not before, remove the lid of your insta pot/pressure cooker/magic steaming apparatus. Using tongs, grasp the now falling apart juicy flavorful chunks of pork sumptuousness. Place them on the foil lined sheet pan for their best future ever.

Take two of your beloved forks and shred that sheet pan of amazingness. Now, here is where I come across that fat that we did not trim in the beginning. It has done its job and played an important role in our Carnitas. Its time has come to an end so just use those forks to pull it off and send it into the trash. Or pet bowl or whatever you deem necessary.

Put that pan under the broiler for a hot minute to crisp up then serve with tortillas and toppings.

Below I have listed some topping options, that are near and dear to my taco heart. Knock yo self out!

That time we made Carnitas for 35 people and the avocados were having a bad day… it happens.

Pork Carnitas

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Servings: 8



  • 3 1/2-4 lb pound pork shoulder or pork butt cut into fist sized pieces (choose boneless or have your butcher debone for you)
  • 2 liter bottle of root beer
  • 1 yellow onion peeled and chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves peeled and diced
  • 8 tbsp total any two varieties of chili powder  see note
  • salt and pepper 
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock (enough to cover the pork about 2/3 the way)
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 5 canned San Marzano tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp pure maple syrup

Taco components

  • corn tortillas
  • sliced avocados
  • sliced jalapeños
  • lime wedges
  • pickled red onions
  • fresh cilantro sprigs
  • shredded cotija cheese (or cheddar)
  • pico de gallo or slaw


  • Cut pork into fist sized portions and place in a sealable container. Cover with an entire 2 liter bottle of root beer and let marinate overnight in the fridge.
  • Place the peeled and chopped onion and garlic in your insta pot or pressure cooker.
  • Cover countertop, sheet pan or butcher paper with foil. Remove pork from marinade and place on covered surface. Season very generously with salt, pepper and mixed chili powders. Flip pieces and repeat with seasonings. 
  • Place seasoned meat into pot.
  • Add 5 whole canned tomatoes, lime juice, enough chicken stock to cover pork 2/3 of the way and then drizzle the maple syrup on top. Add a few more shakes of the chili powder for good measure.
  • Place the lid on your insta pot/pressure cooker and seal. Then set timer for 40 minutes on high.
  • Once cooking is complete, allow the pot to depressurize on its own. Prep your toppings at this time.
  • After pressure is completely released, remove lid and using tongs, place the cooked pork onto a foil lined sheet pan.
  • Using two forks, shred pork on the sheet pan. Place under the broiler for 5-8 minutes or until crisped and brown on the ends.
  • Serve warm in tortillas with desired toppings.


  • Mix two or more varieties of chili powder in a 1:1 ratio in a shaker bottle for the easiest seasoning method ever! I recommend smelling the chili powder to get an idea of their flavor notes. I like to mix a sweet and smokey powder (Ancho) with a lighter and tangier powder (Guajillo). There is no right or wrong here so just experiment.


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