Recipe: Easy Crispy Chicken Carnitas

Recipe: Easy Crispy Chicken Carnitas

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Christine Gallary
Apr 23, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Carnitas of any kind (including peach!) is one of my very favorite dishes to make, with its tender juicy meat and browned edges. I always thought those who didn't eat pork were missing out — until now. It turns out that chicken carnitas is a beautiful, delicious thing.

Quickly oven-braise chicken thighs in the same carnitas seasonings, and after a quick stint under the broiler, the shredded, flavorful meat has the same crispy bits that are the hallmark of a good platter of pork carnitas. Just grab some tortillas, and chicken tacos are at your fingertips!

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are the cut of choice here because they cook quickly and stay nice and juicy. Season them with cumin and dried oregano, then place them on a bed of onions and garlic and braise for just 40 minutes in the oven. Strain out the cooking liquid and save for moistening later, then shred the chicken right in the baking dish and broil until golden-brown and crisp at the edges. Hit it with some fresh lime juice right at the end for freshness, and dinner is ready.

Besides using the carnitas in tacos, I like using it to add protein to a big salad at lunch, or chopping up the chicken for killer quesadillas. There are lots of options here once you let the oven and broiler do all the hard work!

Easy Crispy Chicken Carnitas

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1/2

    medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

  • 2 cloves

    garlic, thinly sliced

  • 2 1/2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1/4 cup

    water

  • Juice of 1/2 medium lime

  • Serving options: warmed tortillas, avocado slices, fresh cilantro, diced white onion, hot sauce, lime wedges

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Place the onion and garlic in an even layer in a broiler-safe 9x13-inch baking dish. Place the salt, oregano, and cumin in a small bowl and stir to combine. Sprinkle all over the chicken, then place the chicken in an even layer over the onions. Add the water.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and braise in the oven until the chicken is cooked through and very tender, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, fit a large colander or fine-mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl; set aside.

Place the baking dish on a heatproof surface and uncover. Turn the oven onto broil. Remove the chicken to a plate; pour the cooking liquid into 2 cup measure. Return the chicken to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken into large pieces.

Broil until the chicken is browned and crisp around the edges, about 5 minutes. Squeeze the lime juice over the chicken and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and moisten with some of the reserved cooking liquid if needed. Serve in tortillas with desired toppings.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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