How to make Instant Pot pork chile verde—a weekend and weekday version

Photo: A.E. Dwyer

Ah, the carefree days of living by one’s self. I remember those halcyon days as filled with joyful capriciousness, expendable income, and cooking whatever I damn well felt like. My introduction to, and subsequent fondness for, pork chile verde began in those days. I was always challenging myself to try slow-cooked, labor-intensive dishes I could guiltlessly spend half a Saturday making, while listening to copious amounts of Broken Social Scene. I harbored a fondness for the homey guisados of Mexican cooking and decided to start there. Some weekends we’d drive to the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen, home to a vibrant Mexican food scene and the wonderful grocery/restaurant La Casa del Pueblo. Their cafeteria was a wonderland of unctuous earth-toned stews, gleaming in their metal pans.

On those “Slow-Cooked Saturdays,” it took about four hours for dinner to be ready. It was worth every second. My friends came over, we sat on the back porch, drinking beer and watching the passing Chicago El trains tilt dangerously close to the apartment buildings. Everyone loved this new stew—pork chile verde wrapped in soft tortillas, spritzed with lime, and cooled with sour cream. “Did it take you a long time to make?” they asked.

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“Why yes, yes it did! But who cares, I have all the time in the world. La la la la laaa!”

Fast forward a decade. Nowadays making dinner often feels like a Food Network competition where you have to steam broccoli and mash potatoes, while pouring milk and dispensing ketchup and some toddler is asking you to uncouple fastened Legos (which you must do with your teeth). I missed those blissful Pork Chile Verde days. I needed it back in my life.

Pork chile verde is a Mexican-influenced dish, popular in the American Southwest. (Side note: If you want an instant eyeball headache read about the heated debate Coloradoans have against New Mexicans regarding their green chile superiority. C’mon now. It’s not like we fight with Indiana about whose GMO corn is the best.) Many versions of pork chile verde include potatoes, tomatoes, spices, and dollops of extra salsa. All I wanted was tender pork and tart, tasty green sauce, and a whole stack of warm tortillas.

I’m a recent Instant Pot convert, and was wondering if it could cook a pork chile verde that would rival my slow-simmered stove top version? The good news is yes, the actual cooking in the Instant Pot yielded just as tasty results. The bad news was you still had to char, steam, peel, seed, and dice a whole bunch of green chiles, and make your own salsa verde, and dice up onions and garlic and chunk up pork and, oh, husk, wash and dice tomatillos until your fingers stuck together. Whew! By the time I got it all in the Instant Pot, an hour had passed. And I had a kitchen full of dirty dishes. Sure I had a delicious dinner, but I was broken and tired.

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So I decided to go off the grid, pork chile verde speaking. I would strip this dish down to its key elements of pork, salsa verde and chiles, clamp that pressurizing lid on, and hope for the best.

Let’s recap. This article has two goals:

  1. Find out if an Instant Pot pork chile verde would be as satisfying as my four-hour version (yes!)
  2. Find out if a simplified version using jarred salsa verde could produce a passable pork chile verde in even less time.
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The Instant Pot version with the charred/steamed/peeled/seeded/diced green peppers took one hour of prep time and produced a dish I’d humbly grade as a 9 out of 10. My shortcut version, which took 10 minutes of prep time? A solid 7 out of 10. (It’s missing the hum of garlic and a bit of sweetness from the sautéed onion, but it has its merits. The flavor is more subtle, but still bright. I balanced the slightly metallic flavor of canned chiles with a squeeze of honey. Add in some garlic powder if you’d like to mimic that pungent kick that fresh garlic would provide.)

So are those 50 minutes saved in preparation (not including cooking in the Instant Pot) worth two grades of improvement? Why choose? I decided to develop both a weekend version and a weekday version. Either way, you’ll end up with a tasty dinner.

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Photo: A.E. Dwyer
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Weekend Instant Pot Pork Chile Verde

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 25 minutes, plus 15 minutes of natural release

  • 2-3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut in one-inch cubes
  • Vegetable oil or bacon fat
  • 2 Poblano chiles
  • 2 mild green chiles (any mild variety such as Anaheim, Cubanelle, Italian frying peppers)
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 1 tsp. Mexican oregano, rubbed between your hands to release flavor
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin

Salsa verde

  • 1 cup packed cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 lb. tomatillos, husked and stemmed, rinsed and chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For serving

  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges
  • Radishes (optional)
  • Warm tortillas

On the gas burner of your stove, carefully char the chiles, turning to get even blackening. Alternatively, you can put the chiles on a baking sheet and broil in the oven. Watch them closely. When charred, place chiles in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let them steam for 10 minutes, and then rub off the burned skin. I use paper towels to do this (it’s pretty messy so don’t use your kitchen towels—you’ll regret it if you do). Remove the stalks, seeds, and any large ribs from inside the peppers. Cut the peppers into strips, then dice and set aside. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the chiles, especially those jalapeños.

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Photo: A.E. Dwyer

In a blender or food processor, add cilantro, green onions, garlic and chicken broth and tomatillos. Blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Set aside.

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Turn the Instant Pot sauté function to high, add a tablespoon of oil or bacon fat, and brown half the cubed pork for 5-7 minutes until golden. Remove to a bowl. Brown remaining pork chunks, adding a little more oil if necessary. Add the diced onion, cumin, and Mexican oregano and sauté for five minutes. Return reserved pork chunks to the Instant Pot, add two cups of the salsa verde and one cup of the diced chiles. Stir to combine, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Hit “cancel.”

Secure the lid, set the valve to sealing and press “Meat/Stew” for 25 minutes. Allow 15 minutes of natural release, then switch valve to “Venting” to remove any additional steam. Open lid, stir in any remaining salsa verde and chiles and warm through. If it’s a little soupy, you can press sauté function to let it reduce a bit. Taste for seasoning.

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Serve in shallow bowls with sour cream and lime wedges, and plenty of warm tortillas.


Photo: A.E. Dwyer
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Weeknight Instant Pot Pork Chile Verde

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes of pressure cooking, plus 15 minutes of natural release

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The jarred salsa you pick matters—look for a greenish color, rather than brownish. I picked the one that most closely matched what I include in my salsa verde: tomatillos, onions, garlic, chiles, minus all additives. I added a can of diced green chiles for extra oomph. I even ditched the chicken stock for water, adding cumin and salt. I love the flavor of real Mexican oregano, but in the effort of really stripping it down, I skipped it. And it was just fine.

  • 2-3 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into one-inch chunks
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) salsa verde
  • 1 can (4 oz.) fire-roasted diced green chiles
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1-2 tsp. honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For serving

  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges
  • Radishes (optional)
  • Warm tortillas

Turn on the Instant Pot’s sauté function to high. Heat one tablespoon of oil or bacon fat in the pot, then add the pork chunks, being careful not to crowd the pot. Brown until golden, about 5-7 minutes, then salt lightly. Remove first batch of pork and reserve. Add remaining pork and brown, adding a little more oil if necessary. Return reserved pork and any juices to the pot. Pour over the salsa verde, chiles, cumin, and water. Stir to combine, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom and press “cancel.”

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Secure the lid, set the valve to sealing and press “Meat/Stew” for 25 minutes. Allow 15 minutes of natural release, then switch valve to “Venting” to remove any additional steam. If it’s a little soupy, you can press the sauté function to let it reduce a bit. Taste first and add desired amount of honey to balance the sauce. It should taste tangy, but not sharp.

Serve in shallow bowls with sour cream and lime wedges, and plenty of warm tortillas.

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