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Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas

Chicken carnitas…no, that’s not a typo! I know carnitas are typically made with pork, but we are making the most juicy and tender chicken carnitas in the slow cooker and crisping them up in a pan. Taco Tuesday, here we come!

Chicken carnitas are also divine in burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, on a salad, or whatever your heart desires!

A photo of juicy crispy chicken carnitas in a cast iron skillet garnished with chopped cilantro and diced red onion.

We have recipes on the blog for traditional pork carnitas and even pork carnitas in the Instant Pot, but I started thinking, why couldn’t we use chicken? We took all the flavors of our favorite chicken fajitas to create delicious chicken carnitas

I don’t see people talking about Taco Tuesday enough. Grandpa jeans, yes, but tacos, no. 

I love change. I don’t love changing fashions. Can we just be done with the weird stuff?

Tacos aren’t weird. 

Tacos never make your buns look long and flat. (Quite the opposite if you eat enough!) 

You’ll never regret tacos like you regret mom and grandpa jeans. 

So, this is it, your chance to take a stand. 

BRING BACK TACO TUESDAY!

FILL GRANDPA JEANS FOR A SCARECROW!

Not sure what in the world I’m talking about? Read up and then come back for tacos. These chicken carnitas are going to be your new favorite!

A photo of chicken carnitas being cooked in a slow cooker.

What Are Carnitas?

The word “carnitas” literally translates from Spanish to mean “little meats”. It is a Mexican dish that originates in the state of Michoacán. It traditionally is made by braising pork in oil until it is tender and amazing. So we are just swapping the pork for dark meat chicken and cooking them in the crock pot until they are tender and amazing little meats of love!

What Ingredients Do I Need for Chicken Carnitas?

I really love to see a quick ingredient list when I’m looking at a recipe just to see how much I already have and what I need from the store. So here you go!

  • Bone-in Chicken Thighs with Skin
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Oil
  • Yellow Onions
  • Jalapenos
  • Orange
  • Orange Juice
  • Limes
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Cilantro

A photo of chicken carnitas being cooked in a slow cooker witl slices of fresh lime.

How to Make Chicken Carnitas?

I love slow cookers meals during ever season of the year! They are warm and cozy for winter and also spare you from using the oven in the summer. Anyway you look at it, slow cookers are the best! These chicken carnitas come together so quickly and they make your house smell like heaven!

First, mix all the seasonings (salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder) in a bowl and then coat the chicken thighs with it.

Next heat some oil in a saute pan over medium high heat and brown all sides of the chicken. Set the chicken on a plate to the side and then brown each side of the onions and jalapenos. Scrape the onions, jalapenos, and chicken (and all their delicious bits and juices) into the slow cooker.

A photo of juicy crispy chicken carnitas in a cast iron skillet garnished with chopped cilantro and diced red onion.

Then add the remaining ingredients (fresh orange juice, lime juice and zest, pineapple juice, cilantro) to the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Cooking it low and slow is pretty crucial to getting tender and juicy chicken, but if you are in a bind, you could cook it on high for 3-4 hours.

Pro Tip: Adding the orange and lime slices into the pot will make the pith of the fruit turn the mixture slightly bitter so only use them for garnish.

A photo of chicken carnitas being cooked in a slow cooker.

When the chicken is done cooking, remove it to a plate and heat a little more oil in a pan. Remove the skin and bones and shred the thighs. Toss the chicken into the hot oil and let them get a little crispy. You may want to the toss the chicken a few times to get a sufficient level of crispiness. I like mine pretty crispy. Then put the chicken back into the slow cooker with all the juices and give it a good stir. You are ready to devour!

Pro Tip: Hot oil in a pan to crisp the meat is always fun and delicious, just drain the chicken well before putting it into the oil, add oil to a hot pan and a little meat at a time. You can toss it back in the juices or serve like that. I love crispy bits. 

 

FAQ

Are Chicken Breasts Healthier Than Chicken Thighs?

Chicken thighs just happen to be my favorite part of the chicken. They are so flavorful! That being said, they are higher in saturated fat compared to chicken breasts. Both breasts and thighs are great sources of lean protein and pretty comparable in calories. The higher fat content of thighs are what makes these chicken carnitas super tender and juicy. You could use chicken breasts if you are watching your fat intake, but they will be a little more dry.

How Do You Remove Onion Smell On Your Hands?

I have found a nifty little trick when it comes to getting the pesky onion smell off my hands. I dampen a cloth with white vinegar or lemon juice and rub it all over my hands, in between my fingers and under my fingernails. Let them air dry and then I rinse my hands with water. Problem solved!

How Do You Chop Onions Without Crying?

My answer will always be the same, use a sharp knife. That does the trick every time!

How Long Will Chicken Carnitas Keep?

Chicken carnitas will last for 3-4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They also freeze great! Make sure they are in a freezer safe container an they will last for up to a month in the freezer.

 

So to heck with tradition and what’s typical! Make carnitas with chicken! Chicken carnitas are about to be your new fave and invite my over for Taco Tuesday next time, will ya?!

More Crock Pot Recipes You’ll Love:

A photo of chicken carnitas being cooked in a slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas

0 from 0 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Servings: 12
Slow cooker recipes are the best and this carnitas recipe has juicy chicken, tons of flavor and you just sit back and wait for taco night!

Ingredients

  • 8-10 Bone In Chicken Thighs With skin
  • 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons Cumin
  • 2 Teaspoons Chili Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Oil
  • 1 1/2 Yellow Onions Cut into Wedges
  • 2 Jalapenos Seeded and minced
  • 1/2 Cup Orange Juice fresh preferred, 1 large orange
  • 2 Limes zested and juiced
  • 6 Ounce Can Pineapple Juice
  • 1/3 Cup Cilantro Chopped

Instructions

  • In a bowl, mix together the seasonings.
  • Coat the chicken thighs in the seasonings.
  • In a pan, add some of the oil and over medium high heat brown each side of the chicken and set aside.
  • Heat the remaining oil and brown each side of the onion, on the last side throw in the jalapeno and then scrape everything into a slow cooker.
  • Add all remaining ingredients and cook for 6-8 hours on low.
  • Remove the chicken to a plate and heat a little more oil in a pan. Remove the skin and bones and shred the meat.
  • Heat a little more oil in a pan over medium high heat and quick crisp the chicken.
  • Toss the chicken back into the slow cooker, stirring with the liquid and serve!
Nutrition Facts
Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas
Amount Per Serving (0.5 cup)
Calories 172 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Cholesterol 55mg18%
Sodium 242mg11%
Potassium 180mg5%
Carbohydrates 4g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 10g20%
Vitamin A 152IU3%
Vitamin C 9mg11%
Calcium 15mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
A photo of juicy crispy chicken carnitas in a cast iron skillet garnished with chopped cilantro and diced red onion.

Chicken carnitas…no, that’s not a typo! I know carnitas are typically made with pork, but we are making the most juicy and tender chicken carnitas in the slow cooker and crisping them up in a pan. Taco Tuesday, here we come! #chickencarnitas #tacotuesday #slowcooker

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