If you have never had carnitas before, they are usually made of pork. But my smoky instant pot beef carnitas are every bit as lip-smacking and flavorful as their porky cousins. So if you’re wondering if you can make beef carnitas in a pressure cooker, the answer is a delicious yes!
This would be a great meal to serve to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. You may also enjoy my chicken and chorizo enchiladas or instant pot crack chicken. Serve either with one of my famous top shelf margaritas!
For ease of browsing, you can find all my Meat Recipes in one place. Thanks for being here!
I’m proud to once again be partnering with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services to bring you this sponsored post.
Watch my beef carnitas web story here.
I purchased the meat for this recipe at Fickle Creek Farm here in NC.
Why These Carnitas Are So Good
There are a couple of really great things about these beef carnitas, you guys.
Thing 1: they’re spicy. Lots of times, carnitas can be just a bit bland. This is okay if you’re going to add a lot of toppings, but sometimes you want the meat itself to be spicy.
Thing 2: they’re moist and lip-smacking. Carnitas can be dry. Not these. I show you what to do to ensure they stay moist and perfect, even after 2-3 days in the fridge.
Thing 3: these beef carnitas happen to be Whole30 compliant. That’s right. We’re doing Whole30 right now, and in order to eat what I made, I had to make sure the recipe follows the rules for Whole30.
So, these beef carnitas contain:
- no added sugar
- no alcohol
- no dairy
- no grains of any sort
- no beans or legumes
That is not to say you couldn’t add beans or cheese as a topping for your carnitas taco. I’m just saying that, when it comes out of the InstantPot, these guys are totally compliant.
Serving Suggestion: Lettuce Wraps!
Keep them compliant by serving them over cauliflower rice or in a lettuce wrap. And try some spicy taco sauce from my friends at Red Duck Foods. Both their mild and spicy taco sauces are Whole30 compliant. Which, if you have ever done Whole30, will make you shout hallelujah.
What Can I Serve Carnitas With?
I like to use my beef carnitas as a nacho topping and smothered in spicy queso. They also make a great filling for burritos or for chimichangas.
My Instant Pot Cowboy Pinto Beans would also make a great side dish. Some other likely possibilities include Mexican Street Corn Salad, Easy Refried Beans, and Mexican Pickled Vegetables.
Are Beef Carnitas Keto?
By themselves, these beef carnitas are not keto.
This is because keto requires high fat, low carb and moderate protein.
The carnitas by themselves are too high in protein to be considered keto.
You could use them as part of a small part of a larger keto meal that also contains good fats.
For example, you could top a few spoonfuls of carnitas with guacamole and serve it over cauliflower rice. Check your macros to make sure it’s still not too much protein.
Instructions in a Nutshell
Watch the video I made so you can see all the steps to make beef carnitas, whether you’re using an Instant Pot or a Dutch oven. In a nutshell, here they are all written out:
- Cut up meat.
- Brown meat in oil.
- Put in Instant Pot or Dutch Oven with seasonings and liquid and cook until very tender
- Remove from cooker and break up slightly.
- Reduce the juices. While the juices are reducing,
- brown the meat really well only on one side in a cast-iron skillet.
- Stir the reduced juices back into the browned meat.
While there are a fair number of steps in the Carnitas Procedure, none are difficult.
All you need is your trusty InstantPot, but you can also make them in a Dutch oven.
Once they come out of the pot, you’ll also need a large cast iron skillet or other heavy skillet to crisp them up in.
How to Keep Them Your Beef From Drying Out
I know it seems counter-intuitive with a moist cooking method, but braised and pressure-cooked meats can turn out dry if you’re not careful.
Your meat can dry out if you do one of two (or both) things:
- separate the meat from the juices before they cool down and/or
- use quick release on your multi-cooker
In the first case, once the meat cools separate from its juices, no amount of reheating with the juices will make that meat reabsorb that moisture. So even if you use a ton of sauce or gravy or cooking juices, the meat will still be dry.
Always cool meat in the cooking juices so it can gently reabsorb the liquids as it cools.
In the second case, using a quick pressure release basically “squeezes” all the juices out of the cooked meat.
Your best bet to avoid this is to do natural pressure release for as long as it takes for the pressure to completely release naturally. This could take up to 30 minutes.
If you don’t have the time, you can split the difference and still end up with moist carnitas (or any meat) by using natural pressure release for the first 15 minutes and then by carefully “pulsing” the release valve to allow for quick release of the remaining pressure a little at a time.
Once the pressure is released, remember to let the meat cool in its juices or all your hard work will still leave you with dry meat.
Looking for a more traditional pork carnitas recipe? Try my friend Beth’s recipe for Instant Pot Carnitas!
Before we get to the recipe, I want you guys to see the other dishes and farm profiles my fellow bloggers have been working on. Please take a visit!
NC Beef Link List
Four other bloggers. Four unique North Carolina farms producing beef. Four spectacular recipes.
- Sirloin Tip Roast with Brown Butter Mushrooms from Big Bear’s Wife and Meadow Lane Farm
- Slow Cooker Beef Stew from Girl Gone Gourmet and T5 Farms
- Jalapeno Popper Burger Bombs from Life of a Ginger and D’s Beef N Bees
- How to Make Albondigas in an Instant Pot from Adventures of Frugal Mom and Queen B Farms
- Smoky Beef Carnitas from Pastry Chef Online and Fickle Creek Farm (You’re here!)
The chuck from Fickle Creek Farm worked really well in these carnitas, you guys. Often, grass-fed beef can be a bit dry because it is generally leaner than grain-fed beef. But like Bryan said, because of the rich diversity of food in the pastures, Fickle Creek’s meat isn’t quite as lean as other grass-fed beef.
That, plus the technique of stirring back in the cooking juices keeps these Instant Pot beef carnitas moist and Succulent. They are So Good.
The recipe may seem a bit daunting, but that’s only because there’s a process you need to follow. Here’s a slightly more simplified list of steps to making beef carnitas than I shared above:
- brown the meat
- cook the meat
- crisp the outside of the meat up in a pan
- break up the meat and stir in the cooking liquid.
Once you get the steps down, it will not feel so daunting. I promise.
I hope I’ve convinced you how delicious these smoky beef carnitas are, whether or not you make them in an instapot, you really will want to make them.
And now, on with the recipe. Let’s make these carnitas, shall we?
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InstantPot Smoky Beef Carnitas
If you like your beef carnitas shredded and spicy, smoky, crispy-yet-moist, these Instant Pot beef carnitas are right up your alley.
This recipe is for 3 pounds, but you can easily scale up and cook 5 pounds in a 6-quart InstantPot or Dutch Oven. So many ways to enjoy beef carnitas.
Pictured in the recipe is just one: smoky beef carnitas lettuce wraps. Enjoy
- 2-3 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
- 3 pounds chuck roast, cut into 2-3" cubes
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into half moons
- 3-6 cloves garlic, smashed (depending on how much you like garlic)
- 3-4 tablespoons chipotle powder (depending on how spicy you like things)
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tablespoons coconut cream (the thick layer at the top of a can of coconut milk, not cream of coconut)
- 2 oranges, zest and juice
- 1 1/2 cups chicken or beef stock
To Finish the Carnitas
- 3 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
- Generously season your cubed chuck roast with salt and pepper.
- Set your InstantPot or multi-cooker on the saute setting. Allow to heat for 5 minutes. Add the oil.
- Once the oil is hot, add the beef in batches so as not to crowd the pan. Brown well on one side, seasoning the other side with salt and pepper if you hadn't done so earlier.
- Turn the meat and brown the other side. Remove to a bowl or plate while you brown the rest of the meat.
- With the cooker still on saute, add the onions, garlic, chipotle powder, cumin, oregano and cinnamon sticks along with another heavy pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Add the meat, along with any juices that accumulated in the bowl or plate, in an even layer. Top with the coconut cream, the juice and zest from the 2 oranges, and the stock.
- Put the lid on the InstantPot and choose the meat/stew setting--or 35 minutes at high pressure.
- Once the timer goes off, allow natural release for 30 minutes and then manually release the rest of the pressure. Remove the lid.
- Skim off most of the fat, and then remove the meat to a bowl. Discard the cinnamon sticks.
- Turn the InstantPot back onto saute and bring the cooking liquid to a boil. Allow to reduce while you continue with the next steps.
- Using 2 forks, break up each chunk of meat into 2 or three pieces.
- Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat, add the second amount of oil, and heat for a few seconds.
- Arrange all the pieces of meat in a single layer. I had just enough room to do 3 pounds of beef in my 12" skillet. If you are cooking more beef or have a smaller pan, you will need to do this in batches.
- Let the meat fry in the oil until very crisp and dark brown, but not charred. Check every minute or so to make sure you don't burn your carnitas!
- Once the meat is nice and crisp on one side, place it back in the bowl.
- Start shredding the meat with the forks. Add 1/4 cup of the reduced cooking liquid, and mix into the meat while continuing to shred. Repeat this 3 more times for a total addition of about 1 cup of reduced cooking liquid.*
- Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the meat and refrigerate until cold.**
- Serve as taco meat, burrito filling, a topping for nachos, on a burger, or in any other way that sounds good to you.*** Enjoy!
*You will have a fair amount of cooking liquid. To stir back into the meat, you'll want to reduce the liquid on the saute setting for about 10-15 minutes. When you scoop up the liquid, you'll also get bits of onion and garlic. Good stuff. Once you've used the cup of meat, you can reduce the remaining liquid until syrupy. Press through a fine mesh strainer and use it as taco sauce. You will not be sorry.
**You can eat the carnitas immediately, but I think the flavor is better after having a rest in the fridge. And with the technique of stirring the cooking liquid back in as you shred the meat, you can be sure your carnitas will not be dry, even after a few days in the refrigerator.
***As pictured, I stuffed the carnitas into romaine leaves and then topped with red onion, sweet yellow pepper, a slaw made of cabbage with salt, vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, and cumin, and some of the reduced cooking liquid.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition InformationYield 12
Amount Per Serving Calories 284Saturated Fat 7gCholesterol 78mgSodium 243mgCarbohydrates 4gFiber 1gProtein 22g
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NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
I am working with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services to bring you profiles of beef-producing farms in North Carolina who sell their beef at non state-supported farmers’ markets. We are very fortunate here in NC to have so much variety and so many choices when it comes to purchasing meat, fruit, vegetables, and more from local vendors. Today, we are profiling 5 farms who are selling their beef in the Triangle area (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill).
I had the pleasure of meeting Bryan Horton from Fickle Creek Farm at the Western Wake Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of the Spring market to hear about their meat and to buy some for today’s recipe. Here’s the video I shot, and then read on for some fun facts about the farm!
Fickle Creek Farm
Between the questions I asked the farmer and information I found online, I have put together this list of fun facts about Fickle Creek Farm.
- What started off small with just a handful of animals has turned into a 215 acre operation producing beef, pork, lamb, chicken, eggs, and produce.
- Fickle Creek Farm uses Great Pyrenees dogs to guard their flocks and herds against predators.
- Their cattle graze on pesticide-free pastures. As mentioned in the video above, Fickle Creek is not certified “Grass-Fed,” but everything the cattle eat grows in the pasture.
- All the animals at the farm are rotationally grazed, which means they are moved from paddock to paddock within a pasture. This allows parts of the pasture to get a break from grazing, preventing overgrazing and also promoting optimal grass growth.
- Fickle Creek Farm participates in their local economy by taking care to purchase and sell close to home. For example, the most distant point of sale for the farm is only 35 miles, and they purchase all the livestock from within 50 miles of the farm.
- Fickle Creek Farm offers an apprenticeship program for aspiring farmers.
- There is an on-location AirBnB if you’d like to have a getaway on the farm.
- They offer farm tours on the first Sunday of each month. Find out more about the Fickle Creek Farm Stay program.
Every time I speak with a local farmer or vendor at a farmers’ market, I am impressed by their dedication and passion. And always by their products. The beef from Fickle Creek Farm is no exception. I used a 3 pound chuck roast to make some pretty spectacular beef carnitas.
NC Beef Love
I’d like to thank Noah and Bryan from Fickle Creek Farm for their time and for their truly excellent beef.
Thanks also to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services for supporting small farms throughout North Carolina and for sponsoring this post. Thanks as well to my fellow bloggers for coming up with some really creative and mouth watering recipes using NC Beef.
And thank you for spending some time with me today.
Enjoy the Instant Pot beef carnitas, take care, and have a lovely day.
What Others Are Saying...
Looks amazing, Jenni! I don’t have an Instant Pot yet, but your carnitas are very persuasive – may have to look into it 🙂
Jennifer Field says
You can absolutely make them overnight in a Dutch oven in a 200F oven. That would be amazing! And they really are pretty darned good!
Angie | Big Bear's Wife says
Oh my, Fickle Creek Farm sounds awesome and I love that they have an AirBNB! How fun! love the carnitas too! Great Video!
Jennifer Field says
Thanks, Angie! I am so impressed with how many different meats and vegetables they sell. Can’t wait to try their chicken, pork and lamb. And make more carnitas!
Jack Smith says
This looks all kinds of amazing, thanks for sharing 🙂
Jennifer Field says
So good, Jack! And thank you for checking it out and for commenting! I hope you really enjoy them–I’m making more today!
Cheryl - Pook's Pantry says
Oh, Sissy! These sound DIVINE! I must make these ASAP!
Jennifer Field says
You really, really must! You do not even want to know how little time it took for us to plow through 3 pounds! All I can say is maybe shoot for 5 pounds when you make them!
Made these tonight for Cinco de Mayo and WOW! What an amazing recipe! Will most definitely be making these again and next time will double the recipe and make the day before having company over. It’ll be a huge hit!!! Thank you!
Jennifer Field says
Wow, I am thrilled that you made them and enjoyed them so much! Thanks for stopping in and letting me know. I appreciate it! Take care and stay safe, Monique!
Probate Research says
Will most definitely be making these again and next time will double the recipe and make the day before having company over.
David Nila says
This are not carnitas, I don’t know what this is, but not carnitas at all, the ingredients are all wrong and the process are all wrong.
Carnitas in order to be carnitas they need to be cooked in lard for at least 4 hours in a big cooper pot.
This is the reason people around the world think that Tex Mex is authentic Mexican food when is not, cultural appropriation is giving the wrong impression about authentic Mexican food, so please, stop calling carnitas what are not carnitas.
Jennifer Field says
Thanks for your comment, David. I developed this recipe to showcase North Carolina beef. I never intended this to be an authentically Mexican recipe, least of all because I am not Mexican and Mexican cooking is not my heritage. However, I enjoy exploring cultures through food, and I’m sorry my homage to authentic Mexican carnitas doesn’t work for you. I take your point that they aren’t carnitas made with pork or cooked in lard. My goal was to achieve that crisp-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside texture using beef. I am always willing and open to education, so if you could share a link to a truly authentic version of carnitas, I would appreciate it. Take care, and have a happy, safe, and prosperous 2022.
Mexico Cooks! says
Ay Jenni…I read your recipes a lot and admire what you do a lot. But I gotta tell you: this recipe should have a different name. I’m sorry, but it’s in no way carnitas.
To start with, carnitas aren’t normally cooked at home: they’re restaurant or street-stand food boiled in lard in an enormous copper cazo–a pot that can measure as much as 3 or 4 feet in diameter. Next: they’re not lunch or supper food: they’re morning food. Next: they’re not made with little chunks of meat and then shredded: they’re made with BIG pieces of meat, like a whole pig divvied up into pieces about the size of half a raw ham. And having said that, they’re always made with pork–everything from the snout to the ears to the ribs to the legs to the tail. The meat is normally left in large-ish pieces and slapped on a piece of paper on the table, to be ripped up by everyone’s hands and put into soft, warm tortillas–and topped with pickled chiles and their juices, plus Key lime juice squeezed onto the meat once it’s in the taco. And nothing else.
Carnitas aren’t meant to be spicy. The spice is added in your taco–that’s what the chiles I mentioned are for.
This dish looks and sounds delicious! Call this dish something else, style it as something other than carnitas, and it will be fine. But carnitas it ain’t.
With all due respect–
Jennifer Field says
I defer to your expertise. I am often hesitant to put a name to something that is not in my cultural wheelhouse. Thanks for clarifying. I don’t think I will change the name, though. I will argue just one point with you: this is not a spicy dish–it’s “spiced” with cinnamon and orange, so it’s not hot-spicy.
If I can think of a name that will work and that people are searching for, I will change the name. Until then, it stays as beef carnitas. Your points are well taken in the spirit they were given. I appreciate you, Cristina, and respect your love for the traditional foodways of Mexico. xo
This is an outstanding recipe!! Thanks so very much!!
Jennifer Field says
Oh, yay! I am thrilled that you like it! Thanks for letting me know, Sheila!