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Instant Pot Duck Carnitas

Instant Pot Duck CarnitasI’m a die-hard pork carnitas superfan, but carnitas is a Michoacano dish that literally means “little meats,” so there’s no reason it has to be made with pork, or any other four-legged land animal for that matter. In fact, my favorite meat for carnitas comes from waterfowl. Succulent, earthy, and fried crispy around the edges, duck carnitas is meltingly tender and offers up fragrant notes of citrus and spices. Serve the carnitas in grain-free tortillas with a sprinkle of crackly duck skin and you’ll soon be a convert, too.

Instant Pot Duck Carnitas

Instant Pot Duck Carnitas

Michelle Tam and Henry Fong
Course Dinner
Servings 4 people


  • Instant Pot
  • Slow Cooker



  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 duck legs
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons duck fat, ghee, or avocado oil


  • 1 small white onion, finely diced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, (optional)
  • 1 cup tomato salsa (optional)
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges (optional)
  • 8 grain-free tortillas, butter lettuce leaves, or thinly sliced jicama, optional


  • First, let’s prep the duck for cooking. Combine the cumin, salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
  • Massage the spice blend all over the duck legs.
  • Plop the onions and garlic cloves into the insert of an Instant Pot.
  • Place the duck legs skin-side up in a single layer on top of the onions and garlic in the Instant Pot insert.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, peel wide strips of zest off the entire orange. Stay close to the surface, making sure to avoid digging into the bitter white pith.
  • Place the strips of orange zest into the Instant Pot.
  • Juice the orange. You should end up with about ½ cup juice.
  • Pour the juice into the Instant Pot insert. Drop in the bay leaf.
  • Cover and seal the Instant Pot, and program it to cook under high pressure for 45 minutes.
  • After the duck is done cooking, let the pressure drop naturally. If you’re impatient, you can manually release the pressure after 20 minutes has passed.
  • Carefully remove the duck legs. The meat should be fork-tender, so don’t manhandle the cooked legs or the duck meat might fall apart on you.
  • At this point, if you’re not planning to eat the carnitas right away, you can store the duck in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Carefully remove the skin and shred up the meat. Discard the bones.
  • Heat the duck fat in a large pan over medium and carefully add the reserved duck skin.
  • Cook the skin for 5 to 10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until deep golden brown and crisp on both sides.
  • Transfer the crispy duck skins to paper towels to drain.
  • Crumble the skin into small pieces and set aside.
  • Add the meat to the skillet and cook about 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even browning.
  • Once the meat reaches your desired crispness, transfer it to a serving plate or bowl.
  • Let’s prepare the garnish. In a bowl, mix together the onions and cilantro.
  • Serve the duck carnitas with the onions and cilantro, salsa, limes, crispy duck skin, grain-free tortillas and/or lettuce leaves!

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • No Instant Pot? If you have a slow cooker, don’t sweat it. Just toss all of the carnitas ingredients in the cooker (put duck legs in first, and then put all the other stuff on top) and cook on low for 8 hours!


Nom Nom Paleo Lets's Go! by Michelle Tam and Henry FongExcerpted from Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! © 2022 written & photographed by Michelle Tam & Henry Fong. Reproduced by permission of Andrews McMeel Publishing. All rights reserved.
Keyword Duck, Paleo

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