On a recent trip to our favorite upscale Mexican restaurant, I discovered a traditional dish I had never tried before. It’s called cochinita pibil – and I instantly fell in love with its flavorful blend of spices, zingy touch of citrus and slow-cooked, fall-apart pork…
A few days later, I set out to create an authentic version of my own, using the ultimate time-saving and flavor-enhancing kitchen tool… the Instant Pot.
In just a moment, I’ll share the simple, step-by-step recipe.
But first, let me share with you what’s so special about this classic Mexican cuisine…
Cochinita pibil isn’t your typical pulled-pork recipe. It’s a far cry from the standard carnitas you might see on a taco menu… and not quite like anything you might have at the bar-be-que.
The slow-cooked pork is especially tender and maintains the perfect balance of flavors, thanks to a unique blend of spices and a fresh squeeze of citrus. And despite the crimson color, this dish isn’t spicy. Instead, it packs a zesty and earthy combination of tastes.
Cochinita pibil started in the original barbecue pit of the Yucatán – an underground oven created by hot stones lining a hole in the ground (known as a “pib”).
While the name of this dish literally translates to “little pig roasted in a pib,” most of us don’t have a whole pig waiting to be cooked. And since digging a pit in your yard and filling it with smoldering rocks is not the most convenient means of cooking, you might opt for an alternative method to achieve the same goal…
Instant Pot Cochinita Pibil – Pit-Roasted Flavor (in a Fraction of the Time!)
Since the Instant Pot made its debut in our kitchen, we have put it to near constant use. While older generation pressure cookers were inconvenient to use difficult to seal (which made cooking a frightening experience)… the Instant Pot is truly a set-it-and-forget-it marvel of modern engineering.
And while our slow-cooker often turned food to a pallid mush, the Instant Pot cooks food perfectly every time. It can also turn all-day recipes into gourmet dishes that take mere minutes to prepare (while imparting deep flavor and maintaining melt-in-your mouth moisture).
Cochinita pibil traditionally marinates in a blend of achiote seeds, spices and bitter orange juice.
However, we wanted to cut the sugar while maintaining the sharp, bitter flavor and acidic elements that helps tenderize the meat. By substituting limes for oranges, we achieve just that – without losing the bold zest so unique to this dish.
The Instant pot also eliminates the need to marinating, because the pressure forces flavor deep into the pork. Of course, this saves even more time, and guarantees an authentic taste with just a few easy steps.
Another benefit is that the Instant Pot helps to retain flavorful moisture. In a pib, the pork is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves. This seals in the juices and adds another layer of smoky, sweet flavor.
It’s not necessary with the Instant Pot, but if banana leaves are handy give it a try!
[To Use Banana Leaves: Once the salsa is made and the pork is seasoned, overlap two banana leaves in an X. Place the pork in the center and spoon the salsa over top. Wrap tightly and tuck the ends underneath. Add half a cup of water to the bottom of the Instant Pot, carefully place the complete package on top, and cook as instructed below.]
Either way, you’ll end up with tender, shredded pork that is perfect for a taco bar or simple, low-carb meal. We suggest swapping white rice for cauliflower rice for a boost in veggies, along with fewer calories and carbs. Unlike white rice, cauliflower boosts vitamin C and potassium and can be ready in five minutes!
And since the Instant Pot is truly a one-stop shop, this meal comes together in a flash!
While the pork is packed with flavor, pickled red onions are a standard topping and add even more zest to the dish. We also like to serve with diced avocadoes on top for some creamy, healthy fats.
No matter how you slice (or pull!) it… if you make it once, we guarantee this Instant Pot classic will become a regular staple in your healthy kitchen!
Instant Pot Cochinita Pibil: The Simple Step-By-Step
In a small ramekin, combine the sea salt, cumin, smoked paprika, ground achiote (annatto) and optional cloves.
Cut pork shoulder or pork sirloin* into 4-inch chunks and rub with seasoning. Let stand at room temperature while you make the salsa. [*Pork sirloin can make this dish a bit dry. I suggest using pork shoulder for this recipe or adding a few more tablespoons of healthy fat if using pork sirloin]
Add the avocado oil to the Instant Pot vessel. Heat to Sauté. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add the fire-roasted tomatoes, and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Pour in the lime juice and ½ cup water. Stir to combine.
Add the seasoned pork chunks and any remaining seasoning
Close and lock the lid. Set to MANUAL, pressure to HIGH, time to 60 minutes.
When the time is up, let the pressure release naturally or do a quick release. Use tongs to remove the pork and top with onion salsa. Serve over cauliflower “rice” with diced avocados and quick-pickled red onions.
- 2 cups organic fire roasted tomatoes, diced
- 2 pounds pastured pork shoulder or sirloin, cut into 3" chunks
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 Tbsp. avocado oil, tallow or lard
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp. achiote seeds, ground
- ⅛ tsp. ground cloves (optional)
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- ¼ cup lime juice
- First, make the salsa. Heat the Instant Pot to "Saute", add the oil and the onions. Cook, stirring, 3 minutes.
- Add the fire roasted diced tomatoes to the pot, and simmer, 3 minutes.
- Prepare the spice. Combine the annatto, smoked paprika, cloves, cumin and sea salt. Rub over pork pieces, coating well.
- Pour the lime juice and ½ cup water into the salsa, and stir to combine.
- Place spiced pork pieces into the salsa, getting all of the spices into the pot.
- Close and lock the lid. Set pressure to HIGH and time for 60 minutes.
- Quick release, or release naturally.
- Serve over Cauliflower Rice, topped with avocado and pickled red onions or serve with Siete Tortillas, avocados, pickled red onion and cotija cheese.
237 calories, 13 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 7 g monounsaturated fat, 2 g polyunsaturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 5 g carbohydrate, 4 g NET carbs, 0 g sugar alcohols, 3 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 23 g protein, 428 mg potassium, 234 mg phosphorous, 813 mg sodium, 27 mg magnesium
53% FAT | 40% PROTEIN | 7% CARBOHYDRATE