Make the best use of your time and cook these Chicken Carnitas in the Instant Pot! They require only a few minutes of hands-on time, they’ll serve a crowd, and they can be used for a variety of meals throughout the week!
What are carnitas?
“Carnitas” is a Spanish word that translates to “little meats” in English. While typically made from inexpensive and fatty cuts of pork that are braised and then shredded, this recipe makes a fun and healthy substitution to the classic Mexican dish by using chicken breasts.
Instead of searing and then slow cooking the meat, Chicken Carnitas are made using the pressure cooking method in an Instant Pot. Pressure cooking is one of the best ways to get tender and juicy meat. After a relatively short amount of cook time, this chicken will be fall-apart tender– just the way we want it to be!
Can I use chicken thighs instead of breasts when I make Chicken Carnitas? Yes, you can use chicken thighs when making Chicken Carnitas. However, you’ll need to make a small adjustment to the recipe. While technically it depends on the weight of the chicken meat being cooked, cooking experts generally agree that to substitute thighs for breasts the ratio is approximately 2:1 (2 thighs to 1 breast).
Does it matter which brand of spices I use? I prefer to use Simply Organic brand chili powder and McCormick brand ground cumin when making Chicken Carnitas. While you can use any brand of spice, I recommend finding a high-quality spice brand that you like.
Do I have to make Chicken Carnitas in an Instant Pot? No, you don’t have to. Chicken Carnitas can be made in a slow cooker. But, if you have an Instant Pot available, why wouldn’t you use it? Pressure cooking is one of the best ways to get tender juicy meat–and it makes Chicken Carnitas in a fraction of the time. *see link in Related Recipes section*
How do I shred chicken? When chicken is fully cooked, it can be shredded easily with forks. I prefer to use a hand mixer to shred the meat so the work is finished in seconds.
Do I have to brown the chicken? The extra browning step is optional. However, if you’ll be serving Chicken Carnitas as tacos and the like, you’ll want to brown the meat. Browning seals in the meat’s natural flavor a bit more. If you prefer, you can brown the chicken in a oven safe pan under the broiler instead of in the Instant Pot.
How do I add extra flavor to my Chicken Carnitas? If you feel your Chicken Carnitas need it, you can add a little of the juices back to the chicken for extra flavor. Having said that, DO NOT add too much liquid or you’ll make your Chicken Carntias soggy.
What do I serve with Chicken Carnitas? Carnitas are a very versatile meat. Serve them in tacos, wraps, in bowls with rice and veggies, or on its own with a garnish. I like to serve Chicken Carnitas over rice topped with Corn Slaw for a change of pace.
Instant Pot Chicken Carnitas
- Add chicken to Instant Pot
- Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over top
- Cover, seal and set to high pressure for 10 minutes
- After cooking time is complete allow at least 10 minutes for natural pressure release
- Remove and shred chicken
- If desired, drain liquid from Instant Pot, add 2 tablespoons avocado oil and set to saute
- Add chicken and brown for 3-4 minutes to crisp before serving
Shred with forks or electric hand mixer
Add a small amount of the juices back to the chicken for extra flavor
Extra browning step is optional
Can also brown in a oven-safe pan under the broiler if preferred