5-Ingredient Crispy Carnitas: Instant Pot and Crock Pot Friendly
Chipotle has had their share of food safety concerns as of late, but it’s hard not to love their food. Personally, I love their carnitas mixed with double chicken in a bowl that’s nearly impossible to eat in one sitting. If I could change one thing about Chipotle, other than wiping all memory of food safety concerns, it would be to add a bit of crisp to the carnitas. Crispy carnitas just pop in a dish like tacos or nachos a bit more than softer carnitas. If you agree, you’ll dig this recipe.
Slow cooked pork tenderloins have been a staple in my diet for years. I even wrote an article on all the things you can make with them like pizza, BBQ sandwiches, nachos, and more. Being a creature of habit, I never ventured far from the pre-marinated barbecue tenderloins. That was until I started using an Instant Pot and got a surge of inspiration from what they’re capable of. For example, I’ve always cooked my pork tenderloin in a crock pot for 7-8 hours. My Instant Pot cooks them in 30 minutes without any sacrifice to quality or tenderness. Can you tell I’m impressed? If you don’t have an Instant Pot, no worries, you can make this crispy carnitas recipe with a crock pot just fine.
Ingredients for Crispy Carnitas
This recipe was inspired by Food for Life’s Weight Watchers Instant Pot Cookbook. I made a few tweaks to make preparation a bit easier and cut the ingredient list down.
As you’d expect from one of my recipes, these crispy carnitas are crazy simple and high in protein. You’ll only need 5 ingredients, 3 of which are optional.
Starting from the top, you’ll need 1.5 pounds of pork tenderloin. These are typically packaged at this weight, so you should be able to just pick one up and run. I’ve yet to find a Mexican or Southwestern marinated tenderloin in the store but if you come across one, that may work well here. The recipe calls for the plain Jane original.
If you find a marinated tenderloin that fits your fancy, you won’t have a need for further seasoning. The recipe calls for fajita seasoning, but you could use a taco seasoning or your own mixture of spices. I personally enjoy the smokiness of the fajita seasoning. If you use a marinated tenderloin or a marinade/seasoning of your own, be sure to account for calorie differences.
For the base of your Instant Pot or crock pot, the recipe calls for one cup of light beer. If you don’t want to buy beer for one recipe, you can definitely use water instead. I typically stay away from any calorie-containing liquids in my recipes but thought the beer seemed sympatico with carnitas.
And as a final note, feel free to add onions, peppers, and other vegetables to the Instant Pot or crock pot. I decided against them since I planned on using these crispy carnitas in other recipes.
So to recap, all you really need is the pork, a liquid, and some type of carnitas friendly seasoning. The video below gives a look at what to expect in terms of tenderness when your pork is done in the Instant Pot before going in the oven to crisp. If you get the timing right (which may vary between Instant Pot models or other pressure cookers), the pork will almost fall apart.
5-Ingredient Crispy Carnitas
A high protein, low calorie Instant Pot or crock pot recipe for crispy carnitas.
- 1.5 pounds (24oz) Pork Tenderloin or pork loin filet
- 1 C Light Beer
- 1 Tbsp (15g) Minced Garlic
- 1 Tbsp (15mL) Lime Juice
- 1 packet Fajita Seasoning
If you're using an Instant Pot, add all ingredients and cook on manual for 30 minutes, using a quick release. Depending on the thickness of your tenderloin, you may need to adjust the time up or down slightly. I recommend slicing the tenderloin into 4-5 chunks. The pork should be tender and easily shredded with forks in the next step. (A meat thermometer also comes in handy here.)
If you're using a crock pot, cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4 hours. And if you're doubling the recipe and using 3lbs of pork, cook for 45-50 minutes in the Instant Pot or 8 hours on low in the crock pot. You'll also want to cut a giant chunk of meat into smaller pieces for even cooking.
Once the pork has fully cooked, remove and shred with two forks.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add shredded pork and bake for 8 minutes.
While the pork is in the oven, either saute the remaining sauce in the Instant Pot or add to a sauce pan until thick.
After removing the pork from the oven, top with thickened sauce and enjoy!
- Entire recipe: 840 Calories | 139P | 37C | 15F
- Per 1/6 Recipe (~3 oz cooked weight): 140 Calories | 23P | 6C | 2.5F
So you’ve got the crispy carnitas recipe down pat, and I trust you to come up with some excellent pairings. Two recipes I would suggest trying are my Burrito Bowls with Pan Roasted Corn & Black Beans and Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice (pictured above) and my Crispy Carnitas Breakfast Bake (pictured below). And if you come up with something tasty, tag me in your creation on Instagram. I love seeing recipes in action and will be sure to share it with everyone!
Another option once you have your crispy carnitas ready to go could be a quick and easy quesadilla. I’ll include the recipe for my personal favorite below. I’ve left out additional veggies for the sake of simplicity, but you could beef them up with tons of grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms, or even the roasted corn and black beans from the burrito bowls recipe above.
Crispy Carnitas Quesadilla
A simple pan-crisped high protein carnitas quesadilla.
- 1 Flatout Light Flatbread
- 1/2 C (56g) Fat-Free Mozzarella Cheese
- 1/6 recipe (3oz) Crispy Carnitas
- 2 Tbsp Pico de Gallo
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Add Flatout or large flatbread to skillet.
Place 1/4 C cheese on one side of the flatbread. You'll be folding in half so aim to have some cheese around the edges to melt and seal the quesadilla.
Next, add carnitas on top of the cheese and top that with remaining cheese. Again, aiming to have some cheese around the edges. (If you wanted to add onions, peppers, and other veggies, you would add them between the cheese layers.)
Flip the empty side of the flatbread over and press the quesadilla flat. When the half that's still on the skillet is golden brown, flip and finish browning both sides.
Slice into triangles (optional) and serve with pico.
1 Quesadilla: 330 Calories | 50P | 24C | 4.5F
And if you often find yourself itching for dessert or chocolate, you might like my high protein cookbook designed for chocolate lovers. You can check it out here or enter your info below and I’ll send you a free copy.