Instant Pot Tomatillo Pork Carnitas

This recipe, based on two of my other classics, is an experiment on reducing the time needed to braise a pork shoulder so that it is tender enough to pull apart for tacos. In my test I was able to reduce the cooking time from almost 4 hours to 1.5 hours in the Instant Pot. Tenderness will depend on the volume of meat; you may need to compensate if needed.

The tomatillos and spices add a complex, well-rounded flavor that is unbeatable in a charred tortilla topped with the seasoned pork. Enjoy!


2.5 pounds bone-in pork shoulder with some fat
4 tbs. XV olive oil
2 tbs. butter
10 husked, washed and cored tomatillos, halved
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
1 tbs. ground coriander
3 tbs. ground cumin, from toasted seed
1 tbs. ground Mexican oregano
2 dry bay leaves
1 tsp. ground dry chipotle, to taste
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt, to taste
1/2 cup chicken or pork broth

For the Tacos:
6-inch flour or corn tortillas
Chopped cilantro
Sliced scallion, with greens
Mike’s Famous Guacamole
Fresh diced jalapenos or serrano chilies
Diced red onion
Lime wedges
Sour cream
Grated Cotija cheese
Kosher salt, to taste


Turn on the Instant Pot saute function and set it to HIGH. Add the olive oil and butter and wait until it comes up to temperature and starts to sizzle. Carefully add the pork shoulder to the pot and brown on all sides, about eight minutes total. Using a large tongs, remove the pork and set aside. Switch the saute function to LOW. Add the chopped garlic, shallot and onion. Saute for about four minutes until the onion has softened.

Cancel the saute function. Remove the vegetables and place in a food processor with the tomatillos. Pulse until smooth, about thirty seconds. Add the contents back into the Instant Pot. Add the dry spices and chicken or pork broth. Mix well. Place the browned pork shoulder in the pot and spoon over some of the sauce on the pork so it is evenly covered.

Place the cover on the pot and lock it. Seal the toggle vent. Set the function to pressure cook (HIGH) for 1.5 hours. After cooking, allow the pot to release pressure naturally, about 25-30 minutes. When the pin drops, open the pot lid. Remove the bone from the pork (it should easily pull out) and pull apart the pork into carnitas-sized bites, discarding any excess fat.

Set the Instant Pot saute function to NORMAL and reduce the liquid for about three minutes until thickened. Shut off the function and cover the pot until ready to serve. Discard the bay leaves. Keep the top pressure release vented or use the Instant Pot glass lid, available for purchase on Amazon.

OPTIONAL: For the full carnitas experience, fry the pressure-cooked pulled pork pieces in 1/4 cup canola oil until crispy. Promptly remove and drain on layered paper towel. Serve as shown.

Serve with fired tortillas and garnish with the toppings shown.
Serves 4.

Please Note: You will need at least 1/2 cup of liquid in order for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure and seal. This recipe was tested in an 8-quart Instant Pot Duo.

Instant Pot Vietnamese Vegetarian Pho

Vietnamese Pho with Charbroiled Pork | Culinary Compost RecipesI created this recipe at the request of my daughter, who loves pho, but is a strict vegetarian. I’m not going to fault her for that, but it is challenging customizing a recipe to compensate for absolutely zero meat umami and finding limited guidance on the internet. Beef pho broth is so flavorful because of the goodness rendered out of slowly-simmered cow bones — and there’s none of that here.

So how then does one successfully create a vegetable “umami bomb” worthy of your daughter’s praise? Enter dried shiitake mushrooms. They impart a delicate, earthy flavor that is easily achieved by cooking them in an Instant Pot. And you’ll save a ton of time as well on the actual cooking process.

Serve with Asian rice vermicelli noodles, queen thai basil, chopped scallion and cilantro, sliced green serrano or jalapeno chili pepper, bean sprouts and a lime wedge.

This recipe can also easily accommodate a meat dish as a side for non-vegetarian guests. I suggest classic Vietnamese Charbroiled Pork shown in the photo above. Enjoy!


1 3-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 large shallot, peeled and sliced
1 stalk lemongrass (tender inner white and green part only), crushed with a mallet
2 tbs. canola oil
1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
2 vegetable boullion cubes (Bou brand)
1 chunk palm sugar (about 1 tbs.)
2 tbs. Tamari sauce
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 whole star anise pods
4 whole cloves
1 tbs. whole coriander seed
1 small cinnamon stick – about 2″
8 cups filtered water
1 tsp. salt, to taste


Prep and measure the vegetables and spices. Organize everything so you have it ready and at hand.

Preheat your Instant Pot using the saute function on HIGH. When it comes up to temperature, add the canola oil. Swirl the pot insert to evenly coat the bottom with the oil. Carefully add the quartered yellow onion, ginger and sliced shallot, taking care not to splatter the oil. Allow to sear for about 6-8 minutes until they char without moving them. After the vegetables are seared, use a silicone spatula and turn them lightly. Shut off the saute function.

Next, add the crushed lemongrass, dry spices, Tamari sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms. Deglaze the pot with 8 cups of water. Place the lid on the pot and lock it, ensuring that the top toggle vent is SEALED.

Program the Instant Pot using the pressure cook mode on HIGH for 15 minutes. Please note that in my test, it took a full eight minutes just to come up to pressure. The more liquid volume you have, the longer this step will take.

After counting down 15 minutes the unit will beep. Let it count up 10 minutes* and then carefully flip open the top toggle vent. Allow all of the remaining pressure to release, ensuring that the metal valve pin drops (about 4 additional minutes.) Carefully open the cooker lid.

Using two heat-resistant silicone mitts, carefully strain the contents of the pot into a large fine-screen colander placed over a large work bowl or pot. You’ll want to ensure that the volume of the container is at least 3 quarts so you don’t make a mess. Discard the strained solids except for the shiitake mushrooms. Set the mushrooms aside on a cutting board.

Carefully pour the strained liquid stock back into the instant pot inner liner. Slice the mushrooms and add to the pot. Salt to taste, if needed.

Cover the pot with the locking lid (leave it vented) and use the Keep Warm function until ready to serve. The mushrooms may be a bit chewy, but i actually like them this way. Leave them in for flavor.

*While waiting for the pot to depressurize, cook the rice vermicelli according to package directions – boiling about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand in the water until ready to serve. This will ensure they don’t clump together. When ready, simply strain noodle portions into serving bowls and top with the pho broth.

Garnish as indicated above.

Serves 4-6.

= = =

A note on Instant Pot cooking:
Most of my recipes featured here on Culinary Compost will never be considered Instant Pot compatible. That doesn’t mean they can’t be converted, but why would you want to? I guess I am a cast-iron foodie and old habits die hard.

With that said, I’ve been slowly won over by the benefits of IP cooking, mainly for recipes that offer proven methods on saving time, or simplifying prep by using one pot to saute, braise, simmer and pressure cook.

The argument against this (specifically noting this recipe) is that it still takes a lot of time to cut, measure and prep everything. Keep that in mind when using an Instant Pot. You’ll also need to account for the time in your pot coming up to pressure and using a “natural” pressure release when the cooking cycle is complete. I’ve indicated those times as estimates here for your reference.

Vietnamese Charbroiled Pork

Vietnamese Charbroiled Pork | Culinary Compost RecipesThis sublime South Asian recipe can be made as an appetizer, standalone dinner with Jasmine sticky rice, or served in combination with Vietnamese Pho soup. Let the sliced pork rest for at least 3-4 hours in the fridge with the marinade ingredients so the flavors have time to set up.

Use an outdoor grilling basket to ensure an even charbroil sear over real wood charcoal. Serve with fresh lime wedges and hot chili garlic oil, Sriracha or Sambal paste and fish sauce. An amazing recipe — Enjoy!


1/2 pound pork loin, trimmed of excess fat, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into thin slices at a bias (1/4″ thick)
2 tbs. palm or light-brown sugar
1 tbs. minced garlic
2 tbs. minced shallot
1 stalk minced lemongrass (tender inner white and green parts only)
1/4 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1 tbs. Red Boat fish sauce
1 tbs. Pearl River black soy sauce
1 tbs. canola or peanut oil

Serve With~
Romaine lettuce or baby spinach
Lime wedges
Sriracha, Sambal paste or hot chili garlic oil
Fish sauce


Prepare the sliced pork and place in a wide mixing bowl. Prepare the other ingredients for the marinade and whisk together in a small prep bowl.

Using a flexible spatula, add the marinade to the pork and mix gently, ensuring all pieces are evenly coated. Transfer to a Ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.

One hour before grilling, remove the meat from the fridge and allow to warm up to room temperature in the bag. Prepare an outdoor charcoal grill with enough coal for a medium fire. Keep the coals centered in a mound so the heat is directed 2 inches under the grilling basket.

Lightly wipe down a grilling basket with peanut oil and place in the center of the grilling grate directly over the white-hot coals. Add the meat and spread evenly in a single layer. Grill for 2-3 minutes. Turn once and grill for an additional 2-3 minutes. A long-handled Chinese wok shovel works great for this step. Do NOT overcook the pork.

Using a clean utensil, remove the pork immediately and serve on small decorative plates over spinach or romaine lettuce with lime wedges and your choice of chili sauce. Drizzle lightly with a good quality fish sauce if desired.

PRODUCT NOTES: Red Boat fish sauce is the best I’ve found. It is expensive (a 17 oz. bottle runs about $12) but worth it. I have also had great luck with Pearl River brand black soy sauce. To ensure the best presentation, do not skimp on the quality of these ingredients. Palm sugar is traditionally used, but if your market doesn’t carry it, you can opt for light-brown sugar.

Serves 2-4.

Vietnamese Pho with Charbroiled Pork | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mike’s Pulled-Pork Quesadillas

This is a fantastic recipe for using up leftover smoked pulled pork. Top with BBQ sauce, some homemade salsa fresca, guacamole or chipotle-lime crema, and you have an easy-to-prepare and satisfying entree or side dish. Enjoy!


XV olive oil or butter
12 eight-inch soft tortillas (makes 6 quesadillas)
6 cups smoked pulled pulled pork butt (use 1 cup per quesadilla)
1/2 cup shredded Montery Jack cheese per quesadilla
1/2 cup shredded cotija cheese per quesadilla
Minced red onion
Cilantro leaves
Diced sweet bell or jalapeno pepper
Your choice BBQ sauce
Mike’s Salsa Rojo Diablo
Mike’s Famous Guacamole
Mike’s Chipotle-Lime Crema


Divide up the pork into portions for each set of tortillas. Prepare the minced onion, cilantro and diced pepper. You’ll be working in batches for this recipe.

Using a pair of 12″ cast-iron skillets, place them over medium heat on two burners. Add a small amount of olive oil or butter to each pan and then place a tortilla shell in the center.

Cover the base of each shell with some Montery Jack and cotija cheese, topped with the pulled pork, minced onion, cilantro and diced pepper. Add more of each cheese to the top and then add the second tortilla shell to each, pressing the stack down with a spatula so the cheese sets.

When the underside of the tortilla is slightly browned, place a dinner plate over the quesadilla (bottom side of the plate on top of the quesadilla shell) and carefully invert the skillet while holding the plate. Set the skillet back on the stove and use the spatula to remove the quesadilla from the bottom of the plate, and place it back in the skillet to cook the other side. (This is the easiest way I’ve found on flipping a quesadilla without the risk of it completely falling apart.)

Cook the alternate side until slightly browned and then transfer each quesadilla to individual serving plates. Top with BBQ sauce, salsa fresca, guacamole and chipotle-lime crema.

Repeat this process for the remaining four quesadillas. You may cut each quesadilla in half or quarters if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 quesadillas

Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow)

Thai beef with Siam queen basil and scallion cooked in a cast-iron wok over hot coals on a charcoal grill. Intense heat is needed to achieve a great sear on the beef, while keeping the vegetables crisp.

This is a legendary Thai dish which quickly became one of my favorites after having it served at two local Asian restaurants in Green Bay, Wisconsin; May’s Egg Rolls and Plia’s Kitchen. At May’s they use a super-secret killer spice which I never could figure out… it’s Vietnamese, brutally hot and the owner will not share the recipe with me. 🙂

I grow fresh Thai queen basil and peppers every summer in my garden and am always bummed at the end of harvest season when they aren’t available.  The steak is marinated with Laoganma black bean chili paste, which is a staple in my kitchen. It adds such a great, subtle flavor to my stir fry recipes.

Control the heat with the ground Thai chili powder – you can also add hot Thai green chilies if preferred. A note on the garlic – you’ll see that I add it directly to the beef marinade instead of frying it separately in the wok. I’ve learned it doesn’t scorch this way, and it adds a complex depth of flavor to the beef. Enjoy!


4 tbs. canola or peanut oil, divided
12 oz. flank steak, thin-sliced at a bias against the grain
2 tbs. cornstarch
1 small white or red onion, thinly sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh Thai queen or holy basil leaves, stems removed
3 scallion, roots trimmed and sliced at a bias in 1″ pieces (use both white and green parts)
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

For the Beef Marinade~
6 cloves peeled garlic, minced
1 tbs. Mongolian chili oil
2 tbs. Laoganma black bean chili paste

Combine For the Sauce~
1 tbs. Thai fish sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
2 tsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground hot red Thai chili powder, to taste

1/4 cup reserved beef stock (use up to 1/4 cup based on preference)

Jasmine rice, prepared according to package directions  (1.5 cups rice and 3 cups water with 2 tbs. salted butter.)
Bring water and butter to boil and simmer rice over very low heat, tightly covered for 15 minutes. Fluff and serve.

Cooking Tools: heavy cast-iron or steel wok, heat-resistant silicone oven mitts, Asian wok shovel and spider strainer, serving bowl for transferring the beef.



Prepare the steak marinade:  Slice the flank steak thinly at a bias against the grain. Place in a ziplock storage bag with the minced garlic, Laoganma black bean chili paste and the Mongolian chili oil. Squeeze the bag to evenly distribute the spices. Chill in your fridge for at least one hour.

Prep all of your other ingredients so you have them ready and close at hand. Thai cooking is very fast, with just a few minutes of actual time in the wok over a hot outdoor grill.

When ready, prepare an outdoor grill with enough charcoal in a mound for a medium hot fire. Light and let it come up to temperature for 15-20 minutes. While the grill is heating up, remove the steak from the fridge and place in a mixing bowl. Dust with the cornstarch and turn with a spatula so the pieces are evenly coated. Set aside and allow to warm up to room temperature.

Place the wok directly over the center of the hot coals on a grilling grate. Allow it to come up to temperature and smoke, about three minutes. The wok will be ready when a drop of cold water sizzles on contact. Add 2 tbs. canola oil and swirl to coat. Add the beef, spread and distribute evenly in the wok. Allow to sear for 2 minutes before turning. Continue to sear for 3-5 minutes. Transfer the beef to a serving bowl and set aside.

Next, add the remaining 2 tbs. of canola oil, the bell pepper and onion. Stir-fry until just crisp-tender. Add the beef back to the wok and then add the sauce ingredients except for the beef stock. Stir constantly until reduced by half. Quickly add the basil leaves and scallion. Stir until just wilted, about a minute, and add a bit of the beef stock until the desired consistency is achieved for the sauce. Quickly stir to incorporate.

Carefully remove the wok from the grill, using silicone mitts, and set on a heavy, heat-resistant trivet. Serve immediately with jasmine rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

A note on the flank steak: I’ve used this special cut of steak for all of my stir-fry recipes with great results. If you cut it at a bias against the grain of the meat, it will never dry out and always be fall-apart tender. I buy a full cut that is vacuum-packed and divide it in half the long way. I’ll then vacuum-seal the remaining half and freeze it for later use. If you prep the steak when partially frozen, it cuts much more evenly. Just ensure you let it warm to room temperature before wok-searing.

Serves 2-4

Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow) | Culinary Compost Recipes Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow) | Culinary Compost Recipes

Fettuccine Pasta in Garlic Sauce with Fresh Garden Basil

Fettuccine Pasta in Garlic Sauce with Fresh Garden Basil | Culinary Compost RecipesThis Italian pasta recipe is a variant on my classic garlic pasta sauce, but with fresh garden basil. For more years than I care to remember, my summer basil crop was a total disaster due to increased seasonal rain. I was blessed this year with a bumper crop so I put it to good use in this recipe, and in my classic Italian pesto.

Take care not to scorch the garlic. You must stir it constantly until it just turns a light straw color. A good heavy pan is essential for this technique. Remove from the burner and set aside until you’re ready to mix it with the pasta. This recipe can be made as a meal, including grilled marinated chicken breast, or as a side with swordfish. Amazing — Enjoy.


1/2 box fettuccine noodles, cooked al dente
1/2 cup XV olive oil (do not skimp on quality)
6-8 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
30 shelled pistachios, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely-grated hard Parmesan cheese
2 cups finely sliced fresh garden basil leaves
Pinch of ground red pepper flakes, to taste
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


In a 12″ heavy cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the minced garlic and chopped pistachio nuts, the red pepper flakes, kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Stir constantly until the garlic is slightly softened and straw colored. Remove from the burner and set aside.

While preparing the sauce, bring 2 quarts of water with a pinch of salt to a boil in a soup pot. Stir frequently to dissolve the salt. Add the fettuccine noodles and cook al dente, according to package directions. Time the noodles so they are done when the sauce is finished.

Drain the noodles and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the garlic sauce, Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Serves 2-4

Classic Italian Pesto

Italian Garden Pesto | Culinary Compost RecipesThis stunning recipe is classic Italian. Using only seven simple ingredients, its vibrant color and aroma elevates any meal. Toss with pasta or spread on thinly-sliced grilled Italian or French bread. It’s also amazing on grilled fish and pan-fried eggs.

Pine nuts are expensive and can be hard to find; a 2.5-oz. package runs almost seven bucks. Most major supermarkets should carry them, but you can substitute walnuts or pistachios in a pinch. Enjoy!


4 cups packed garden basil leaves
1/2 cup XV olive oil
4 cloves crushed garlic, minced fine
1/2 cup grated hard Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts (2.25 oz.)
Kosher salt and fresh-ground coarse black pepper, to taste.


Trim and rinse the basil leaves under cold water. Blot dry. Place in a food processor with the minced garlic and pine nuts. Pulse until smooth, about thirty seconds, while slowly adding the olive oil. Fold in the Parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper. Mix gently until incorporated. Serve immediately – best used within one day.

Makes a little over 2 cups.

Italian Garden Basil | Culinary Compost Recipes

Italian garden basil grown in a patio pot. Make the most out of your hard-won harvest by making authentic pesto.