Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas

These Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas are made easy by simmering for hours in the crock pot, then they're briefly crisped up in the broiler, resulting in tender, crispy, juicy, and absolutely DELICIOUS chicken carnitas. Perfect for tacos, burritos, or whatever sounds good! | gimmesomeoven.com

Carnitas?  Made with chicken??

Yep, they’re a thing.  And a few weeks ago, I decided to make them my new thing.

To be sure, carnitas are traditionally made with pork, which I’ve enjoyed cooking for years and years with my little “shortcut” method by simmering pork in the crock pot and then crisping it them up the broiler before serving.  And it’s always delicious!  But recently, I’ve randomly been wondering (as my little food blogger’s mind tends to wander) about what carnitas would taste like when made with different meats, since the word carnitas does literally translate to mean “little meats”, and not just pork.  ;)

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So a few weeks ago, I decided to try out a carnitas recipe using some boneless skinless chicken breasts that I had in the freezer, and bring it along to a taco night with friends for taste-testing.  I was a little worried that the lean chicken wouldn’t end up being quite as flavorful as less-lean pork tends to be.  But sure enough, after hours of simmering in that yummy broth, then spending a few minutes under the broiler and getting a good toss in the leftover juices from the slow cooker, the results were in.

Chicken can be made into some seriously good carnitas!

These Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas are made easy by simmering for hours in the crock pot, then they're briefly crisped up in the broiler, resulting in tender, crispy, juicy, and absolutely DELICIOUS chicken carnitas. Perfect for tacos, burritos, or whatever sounds good! | gimmesomeoven.com

The other good news about this recipe?  It’s seriously easy to make.

Just toss all of your ingredients in a slow cooker.  (And if you happen to not drink alcohol, as some commenters asked about in my pork carnitas recipe, hakuna matata — you can just sub in some chicken broth with maybe an extra squeeze of fresh orange juice.)  Give them a little toss to mix everything up.  And then let the chicken cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours, until it’s nice and tender and shreds easily with a fork.

These Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas are made easy by simmering for hours in the crock pot, then they're briefly crisped up in the broiler, resulting in tender, crispy, juicy, and absolutely DELICIOUS chicken carnitas. Perfect for tacos, burritos, or whatever sounds good! | gimmesomeoven.com

Shred it to the size you would like.  (And don’t worry about all of those extra juices — we’ll use them later!)  Then use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a large baking sheet (or two smaller baking sheets).

Spread the chicken out in an even layer, then pop it under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until the tops of the chicken are nice and browned and crispy.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven, drizzle the chicken evenly with about 1/2 cup of the remaining broth, and then turn it with a pair of tongs so that some of the less-crispy bits are on top.  Repeat by broiling again, then drizzling/tossing again, then one more broil, one more drizzle/toss…

These Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas are made easy by simmering for hours in the crock pot, then they're briefly crisped up in the broiler, resulting in tender, crispy, juicy, and absolutely DELICIOUS chicken carnitas. Perfect for tacos, burritos, or whatever sounds good! | gimmesomeoven.com

…and a big sheet of delicious carnitas will be yours to enjoy.  Oh, and also be sure to drizzle these with however much fresh lime juice you’d like.  I recommend going big on the lime juice (as in, I think I used the juice from 2-3 large limes for this one), but go with however much of that tart flavor you like.  :)These Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas are made easy by simmering for hours in the crock pot, then they're briefly crisped up in the broiler, resulting in tender, crispy, juicy, and absolutely DELICIOUS chicken carnitas. Perfect for tacos, burritos, or whatever sounds good! | gimmesomeoven.com

Feel free to serve them up in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, soups, salads…whatever sounds good to you!

These Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas are made easy by simmering for hours in the crock pot, then they're briefly crisped up in the broiler, resulting in tender, crispy, juicy, and absolutely DELICIOUS chicken carnitas. Perfect for tacos, burritos, or whatever sounds good! | gimmesomeoven.com

Or if you aren’t going to serve it right away, this recipe also makes great leftovers and freezes for up to 3 months.
These Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas are made easy by simmering for hours in the crock pot, then they're briefly crisped up in the broiler, resulting in tender, crispy, juicy, and absolutely DELICIOUS chicken carnitas. Perfect for tacos, burritos, or whatever sounds good! | gimmesomeoven.com

So if you happen to not eat pork, or are just looking for a way to use up some leftover chicken, I highly recommend giving them a try.  Carnitas of all kinds FTW!  :)
These Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas are made easy by simmering for hours in the crock pot, then they're briefly crisped up in the broiler, resulting in tender, crispy, juicy, and absolutely DELICIOUS chicken carnitas. Perfect for tacos, burritos, or whatever sounds good! | gimmesomeoven.com

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Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas

These Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas are made easy by simmering for hours in the slow cooker, then they are briefly crisped up in the broiler, resulting in tender, crispy, juicy, and absolutely DELICIOUS carnitas. Serve them in your favorite tacos, burritos, salads, or whatever sounds good!

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts*
  • 1 bottle beer (or chicken stock, if you do not like to cook with alcohol)
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle powder (or 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-4 fresh limes

Directions:

  1. Add the chicken, beer, onion, garlic, chipotle, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and salt to the bowl of a large slow cooker.  Gently toss to combine.
  2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours until the chicken is completely tender and shreds easily with a fork.
  3. Once the chicken is cooked, preheat your broiler to high heat and grease one large baking sheet with cooking spray. Use a fork to shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Then use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the prepared baking sheet, spreading the chicken in an even layer and leaving the juices behind in the slow cooker.  (Don’t discard the juices, we’re going to use them later!)
  4. Place one sheet under the broiler, 2 racks down from the very top, and broil for about 5-6 minutes, or until the edges of the chicken begin browning and crisping up. Remove the sheet from the oven, then ladle about 1/2 cup of the juices from the slow cooker evenly over the chicken, and then give it a good toss with some tongs so that the chicken is evenly coated with the juices.  Broil for an additional 5 minutes to get the meat more crispy. Then remove and ladle an additional 1/2 cup of broth over the crispy chicken.  Broil for an additional 5 minutes.  Then remove sheet from the oven, and toss chicken with the remaining broth.  Then drizzle with however much fresh lime juice you’d like (I love a ton of lime flavor!), and toss once more to combine.
  5. Serve immediately in tacos, burritos, salads, or whatever sounds good to you!  This chicken can also be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or frozen in a sealed container for up to 3 months.

*Or, instead of chicken breasts, you are welcome to use other cuts of chicken, such as thighs.  I just recommend buying skinless and boneless chicken, so that you do not have to remove any bones or skin afterwards.

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These Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas are made easy by simmering for hours in the crock pot, then they're briefly crisped up in the broiler, resulting in tender, crispy, juicy, and absolutely DELICIOUS chicken carnitas. Perfect for tacos, burritos, or whatever sounds good! | gimmesomeoven.com

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148 comments on “Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas”

  1. This is now my go-to taco recipe! It’s perfect to make in the morning before work. When I’m in a rush, I throw some fajita seasoning (the kind in the packets) in instead of measuring out all of the spices and the end result is still fabulous! I serve the chicken in corn tortillas with shredded Mexican cheese, pickled red onions, avocado slices, and your corn salsa. This is one of our favorite dinners! Thank you!!

    Rating: 5
  2. I love this idea! Carnitas are one of my favorite Mexican foods, I’m definitely going to try this. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. What type of beer do you suggest?

    • Hi Frank! We recommend a lager (like Negra Modelo, Modelo Especial, or Budweiser). We hope you enjoy!

  4. Could I substitute pheasant for the chicken!

    • Hi Pam! Hmmm, we’ve never tried that and aren’t familiar with cooking pheasant, so we’re honestly not sure. We know they’re similar though, so it may work. If you try it, let us know how it goes!

  5. I never reviewed a recipie before because they usually turn out fine but nothing special. This recipe rocks! I made it three times. 1) followed exactly but skipped broil – eh. 2) followed exactly and it was awesome. 3) followed exactly but did beer and chicken stock… even better IMO.

    Anyway all three were good. This is gonna be a weekly thing I think.

    Rating: 5
    • Thanks for taking the time to comment and for your kind rating, Brandon! We’re so happy you enjoyed the recipe!

  6. Can you make this in the oven? My son dropped my crockpot this wknd and broke it ? And I’m suppose to bring the meat for tacos tonight. Help!!!

    • Oh no, we’re so sorry, Ondina! :( We think 30 min. or so in a 400-degree oven might do the trick. We hope this helps!

  7. I want to make this but won’t have access to a oven, I’ll be outdoors with just a electric outlet. Thoughts?

    • Hi Victoria! You could just do it in the slow cooker and not worry about the broiling part. It’ll still taste great! We hope this helps!

  8. this was amazing! thank you so so much for sharing, will be making this again and again!

    Rating: 5
  9. Can I sub a pork roast instead? My husband’s request. :)

  10. loved it, was a hit with the family! first time coking Mexican and first time using a hotpot! I will just use less cumin next time as the taste was a bit overwhelming, however it could be the type of cumin we have here (in the middle east) thanks!

  11. I have never commented on a recipe before, but I always read all the comments. I had to say something about this one, it was soooo good! I actually think it’s better than the pork recipe. I will be making this often.

    Rating: 5
  12. Your chicken is delicious! I’m definitely a traditional carnitas lover (actually Mexican food lover in general) I never thought of using chicken instead of pork. Love it! It’s so tasty! And I love how simple it is. Thanks for the recipe. :-)

  13. I would have this every.single.day. if I could! It is that good! The flavors come together so well and the slight crispy texture seems more substantial than just shredded chicken. It makes a lot, so I use it over several days – in salads, in recipes that call for chopped chicken and to make chicken salad. Great recipe Ali!

    Rating: 5
  14. This recipe is amazing. Be made it many times and on the rare occasion we have leftovers I make chicken quesadillas with it. MMMmmm!! Sooo goood

    Rating: 5
  15. So so good!!!! Easy, had all the ingredients already. Did the broil thing just 2x, rest of fam ate right from crockpot and loved it. Not spicy, just great flavor.

    Rating: 5
  16. These were really good, we had them with some queso fresco and pickled red onions that I made, as well as some other veggies and a lime crema. What do you think is the best way to heat up the leftover chicken?

    Rating: 5
  17. My family loves this recipe! Would this work with frozen chicken?

    Rating: 5
  18. This was by far, one of the best things I’ve made! I will definitely be making it again it was scrumptious! I am very happy with this dish!

    Rating: 5
  19. I tried this recipe in the instant pot tonight. Mixed the beer, onion and spices, added frozen chicken breasts and cooked for 12 min on high pressure. Then followed the rest of the recipe, and they were fantastic! I am obsessed with the pork carnitas (and the pork carnitas soup) so was happy to have a chicken option too.

    Love your recipes and your blog!!

    Rating: 5
  20. We don’t drink alcohol, but I’m not adverse to cooking with it. That being said, I know nothing about beer. Any suggestions?

  21. This was AMAZING. I used half thighs and half breasts, chicken stock instead of beer, and ended up doing a 4th round of 5 min under the broiler to get it even crispier. It was perfectly crispy but so moiste and flavorful. This will definitely be one of my go-to recipes from now on! You don’t even miss the pork with traditional carnitas and this is so much healthier. Thanks for the great recipe!

    Rating: 5
  22. I actually used michelobe light it tasted awesome, i put way too much of the chipotle pepper sauce but still was hella good. Def recommend this recipe was easy, quick, yummy and tasty.

    Rating: 5
  23. This was such a hit! I have been looking for a recipe like this for a long time. I made a few changes to be able to use what I had in my pantry. Our whole family loved it! Thank you for sharing.

    Rating: 5
  24. Delish, and oh so easy! In fact, after the first few times, I omitted the broiler step and just use the chicken straight from the crockpot! The red onion and cilantro are perfect accompaniments!

    Rating: 5
  25. This recipe is a home run – our whole family loved it! The chicken tasted exactly like what we’re served at our favorite local Mexican restaurant.

    Rating: 5
  26. This recipe has become a favorite in my family. I have it four times in the last three weeks. I have used chicken thighs and chicken breasts. The boneless skinless chicken thighs are our favorite.

    Rating: 5
  27. I want to make this for company tomorrow night and I had two questions. How much chicken broth would be equal to a bottle of beer, and how many chicken breasts would 4-5 pounds be?

    • A typical bottle of beer is 12 oz. (1 1/2 Cups) Since chicken breast in the US tend to be huge, a pack of 4-5 would be just enough and exactly what I used to make this.

  28. So so good. Wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe.

    Rating: 5
  29. I made this tonight for my boyfriend and I, it was absolutely to die for! The amount of chipotle seasoning was a little intimidating at first, but by the end of the cooking process turned out to be perfect. I put it over basmati brown rice, added a little cheese, sour cream and salsa on a taco shell. So flavorful, will definitely make again.

    Rating: 5
  30. Looks delicious! I often cook a big batch of shredded chicken (plain) to use later. I wonder if simmering that in a pot with these ingredients then broiling would have a similar effect.

  31. This recipe is beyond delish! I’m such a fan of carnitas and the fact you use chicken for a healthier option is genius!

  32. Hi,
    This looks really good and I would like to make this dish. Quick question- what is the difference between the juices and the broth when you are done cooking. Even if you cook with beer, you still need chicken broth for the broiling part?

  33. Would it be good if I added a mixture of red, yellow, orange peppers? I don’t want them to get too soggy though🙂

  34. I’m going to be making this for a crowd. Can I go through all the steps and put back into the slow cooker to keep warm/warm up before the party?

    • Did you end up trying this? I was thinking about making for a party Saturday and wanted everything done in advance so I’m anxious to hear how yours turned out. ThNks!

  35. Oh Ali, this is my new go to chicken recipe. Made a batch yesterday for Cinco de Mayo and served it in warm tortillas along side your elote dip. It was perfect!!! The technique of repeated broiling to crisp the chicken is brilliant, simply brilliant. Had I not know I was eating chicken it might have passed for traditional pork carnitas. I love love love this recipe. Thank you!

    Rating: 5
  36. I love my slow cooker for a variety of reasons but especially in summer when I don’t want to heat up my kitchen. These are easy to make and delicious. I skip the broiling part in summer and I like them with soft flour tortillas lots of cilantro, avocado and tomato.

    Rating: 4
  37. Serious!!!

    Rating: 5
  38. I am sure this recipe is delicious from the reviews. But seriously? Putting chicken in a corn tortilla does NOT make it a “carnita” which is made with pork (braised and pulled pork shoulder, traditionally). Please just call it a taco which is what it is – there is no shame in that.

  39. Our family’s favorite! I’ve been making this recipe for several years and its consistently delicious.
    My substitutions:
    -chicken thighs over chicken breasts
    -chicken broth over beer
    -chopped chipotle in adobo over chipotle pepper (more depth of flavor with actual chipotle pepper).
    Thank you for this delicious recipe!
    Best,
    Jeri

    Rating: 5