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. ;)
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!
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.
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…
…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. :)
Feel free to serve them up in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, soups, salads…whatever sounds good to you!
Or if you aren’t going to serve it right away, this recipe also makes great leftovers and freezes for up to 3 months.
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 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!
4–5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts*
1 bottle beer (or chicken stock, if you do not like to cook with alcohol)
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
So much yum going on! Girl, you can really rock your tacos!
Thanks, Tori! We hope you like these! :)
How much chicken stock should I sub for the beer?
Hi Brandy! That would be 12 oz of chicken stock (or 1 1/2 cups). We hope you enjoy these! :)
These look amazing!
I’m not a huge fan of slow cooker recipes because they all come out the same texture, but I will definitely try this one. Broiling at the end is genius!
What kind of beer do you recommend? It looks like you used something on the lighter side. Would an IPA be too bitter?
Thanks, Alyssa! We hope you enjoy this! As for the beer, we recommend a lager (like Negra Modelo, Modelo Especial, or Budweiser).
Oh goodness these look utterly, tantalisingly scrumptious! I’m into Mexican in a big way and I am making these TONIGHT! Yum :)
Thanks, Elishia — we hope you enjoy them! :)
Yum………….. I need this in my freezer!
What’s the best way to reheat?
Hi Jude! Good question. We’d suggest covering a pan tightly with foil (or a lid) and reheating gently them in the oven (at 225 degrees), stirring occasionally, so they don’t toughen or dry out. You may want to add a tablespoon (or few) of stock to help moisten the meat and prevent it from getting dry. We hope this helps!
What herb did you use in your tacos? Is that cilantro?
Hi Kelley! Yes, that’s cilantro. We hope you enjoy these!
I think I could live off this chicken. Seriously, you’ve got a treasure here! I cannot wait to introduce this to the fam!
Thank you Karly — we hope you can try these soon and that you and your family enjoy them!
I didn’t even have to read the entire blog post to bookmark it. Sharing it with my boyfriend (since he’s the cook in our house) lol .. Jessika | beautybyjessika.com
Made this tonight, it was delicious!!My family loved it. Adapted the crock part quite a bit – I upped the seasoning and for me it was done in less than 2 hrs on high so I decided to cut it off there and move to the broiler. Thanks for the great technique!
We’re so glad to hear that, Becky! :D
Made this today and YUM. What a difference the broiling makes. I only just finished dinner and am already excited about enjoying the leftovers tomorrow!
That’s great, Sara! We’re so glad you enjoyed it!
Can you make in dutch oven instead of crock pot?
Hi Kathy! We think you could probably do that (we haven’t tried it), but we would suggest following the cooking method in this recipe: We hope you enjoy them! :)
I made these and I didn’t eat a single meal as shown above. *SIGH* I guess I will have to make them again ;)
That being said, it tastes delicious in the following ways
– Served over fries with yogurt sauce, onions, and cheese
– Chicken Salad served on garlic bagel chips
– Served on top of pearl cous cous
Thanks for sharing with us Brandy — we’re glad to hear you enjoyed them and we love all of the different ways you ate them (especially the fries — YUM)! :)
You don’t explain how to transmogrify the chicken into pork just before the final broiling. Will it still taste OK without going through the chicken>pork>chicken phase?
How many people will this serve?
Hi Les! This yields 8-10 servings. We hope you enjoy!
I put the chicken in the crockpot raw right?
That’s right, Ally — we hope you enjoy!
what type of beer do you recommend? Would a wheat beer be better?
Hi Tanya! We’ve used lagers and wheat beers, and both work fine, though lagers (like Negra Modelo, Modelo Especial, or Budweiser) are probably our favorite. We hope you enjoy!
what type of beer do you recommend? Would a wheat beer be better? Would something like Blue Moon or Allagash white work? (thats usually what i have on hand, or some other craft beer)
Thank you thank you 100 times! After being shocked by the amount/price of the chicken we bought, I calmed down and made so many meals. This went great with burrito bowls, tacos, omelettes, and then a chicken tortilla soup. This is going to be a standby!
We’re so happy you enjoyed these, Michelle! :)
These tacos were AMAZING! Thanks for sharing the recipe. They are definitely going to make a regular appearance in our meal rotation!
We’re so glad you enjoyed them, Abby! :)
Hello! This looks awesome and it’s going on my meal planning calendar right now. What have you found to be the best reheating method for the leftovers?
Thanks, Amanda — we hope you enjoy! For reheating the leftovers, we’d suggest covering a pan tightly with foil (or a lid) and reheating gently in a 225 degree oven, stirring occasionally, so they don’t toughen or dry out.
Thank you! I’m not a fan of pork so this recipe is perfect! Would hard cider work instead of beer or should I stick to using chicken stock? There’s something in beer I’m allergic to….it isn’t the alcohol haha
Thanks, Anna — we hope you enjoy it! We haven’t tried this with hard cider but we wouldn’t really advise that. You might just want to stick with the chicken stock.
Do you use frozen or thawed chicken? Thanks!
Thawed chicken, always. We’ve learned that putting frozen ingredients in a slow cooker (especially frozen meats) isn’t the safest thing to do. Slow cookers often can’t get frozen meats up to a safe temperature in time, which means your meat will spend too long in the “danger zone” – 40-140 degrees). This While we’ve tried using frozen meats before and been fine (it does work), it’s just too risky, as it raises the likelihood of unsafe bacteria forming, and the possibility of food borne-illnesses.
Just made this dish. Absolutely delicious!! I used the chicken broth instead of a beer, and I substituted the chipotely powder for a can of rotel (medium). A big hit!!!!!
Thanks for sharing with us, Renee — we’re so happy you enjoyed these! :)
So amazing! This has become one of our go to recipes. I love it!
We’re so glad to hear that, Hollie! :)
Holy wow. Just ate this for dinner and I am in love. Thank you so much for this recipe! And thanks for the reheating recommendations … very helpful. :)
What did you garnish/fill the tacos in the picture above with – aside from the chicken :)?
Hi Sarah! We just topped them with diced red onion and cilantro (and a squeeze of fresh lime) :) We hope you enjoy!
This recipe is absolutely delicious. I had 2.5 lb of chicken so I just halved the recipe. So easy and delicious. Genius to broil after crock pot to add the crispness. And I also like it heavy on the lime. Adds great flavor. Adding this to my go to chicken recipe list.
Thanks, Brandi — we’re so glad you enjoyed them! :)
This was so yummy! I love the broiling step, not only for the crispy bits but for the richer flavor it brings. My family loved it.
Thanks, Nancy! We’re so glad you and your family enjoyed them! :)
Just made this the other night. Scrumptious! As others have stated, the broiling definitely helps since you’re not browning the chicken in a skillet before hand. I can’t, however, imagine making a full recipe as I had to use two pans to ensure I had an even layer of chicken for broiling. What do you recommend the best way to freeze is? Thanks for a yummy recipe!
Thanks, Ray — we’re happy you enjoyed the recipe! And we would just portion them into freezer bags if freezing.
Hi. This looks fantastic! We have a small family. If I half the recipe would I reduce the amount of cooking time as well? I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to dry out the chicken. Thank you! I’ve been pinning and printing so many of your wonderful recipes for our family.
Thanks, Cheryl! We hope you and your family enjoy these! And if you do half the recipe, you need to use a smaller slow cooker so the heat distributes evenly. The cooking time would still be the same though. We hope this helps!
This meat is tasty and versatile. One batch stretched to traditional tacos, pumpkin enchiladas, black bean & chicken bowls, and finally chicken chili mac. Will make this again.
Thanks, Laura — we’re glad you enjoyed it!
I am trying these today!!! Just a quick question what if you decide to use both the stock and the beer? Would you recommend that?if so how much of each?
Awesome! Yes, if you wanted to use the stock and the beer, we’d just do half and half. We hope you enjoy these! :)
I made this last night and have to say, it was SO GOOD! I used tortilla chips instead of shells with this so it was more like a nacho style dinner, but there’s plenty leftover to experiment with! Had it this morning with an over-easy egg on top, sour cream and salsa verde. Heavenly! I will say, it was really really spicy though. I like spicy and do well with it, but it even was a little too spicy for me so maybe next time I’ll halve the chipotle amount that goes in. Overall, a winner and a new recipe in my rotation!
Thanks for sharing with us, Kirstie — we’re so glad to hear you enjoyed these! We’re sorry you found them a bit too spicy (definitely feel free to cut back on the chipotle powder next time). :)
Made this tonight and it was great! We all loved the crispy edges! Super easy to make and feeds a crowd! Thank you for another great recipe!
We’re so glad you enjoyed these, Tiffany! :)
Is this really 4 to 5 pounds of chicken breast? Or is it 4 – 5 breasts? For my family of 3, I typically cook a pound of so of chicken breast for dinner. 4-5 pounds would be close to $20 in my area.
Hi Beth! Yes, 4-5 lbs of chicken breasts. We hope you and your family enjoy!
How big of a beer are you using or how much chicken stock are you using?
Hi there! 12 ounces of either (or a mix). We hope you enjoy!
One of the best crockpot meals EVER! We have taco night every week and I wanted something different so I tried this. It was so easy and so delicious! It tastes even better the next day. I am making it this week for my Taco Friday Game Night. Thank you for this deliciousness!
Thank you so much, Sha — we’re happy to hear you enjoyed these! :)
I have this recipe cooking away as I type this :) This is our first time making it and we do not have a broiler. What would you recommend doing instead after the chicken has cooked to get the edges crisp? Bake for x amount of time at x degrees? Thanks in advance!!! Excited for dinner tonight!!!
Hi Alicia! We’re sorry for our delayed reply! Unfortunately we’ve only tried the broiler method for getting these crispy. You could try baking them a bit longer at a higher temp, but we’re honestly afraid the meat would start to dry out.
Can you cook this in a pressure cooker instead of a slower cooker ? Wondering about the time difference.
Hi there! We haven’t tried this in a pressure cooker, so we unfortunately aren’t sure.
I made this a while back and they are amazing. Great in w tortilla with some sour cream and fresh cilantro. Then for the leftovers I made a chicken and cheese quesadilla and it’s awesome. I will say that 4-5pounds of chicken is way overkill I used 3 large breasts (maybe 2lbs) and followed the recipe and it worked out great.
Thanks for sharing, Karlie — we’re happy you enjoyed them!
This sounds delish and I’m totally going to try it!
Thanks, Mindy — we hope you enjoy! :)
Girl! I tried this yesterday, loved it! I made it with budweiser. Left it on before I went to work in the morning. Got home, house smelled sooo good. Husband loved it as well. Definitely will be on rotation at our house. Thanks!
We’re so glad you and your husband enjoyed these! :)
Made this tonight for dinner. Everyone loved it! Can’t wait to make it again!!
I just got this in the slow cooker for tonight and I am crazy excited to try them!!!! This is a recipe (minus the beer and onion) after my family’s own heart. I don’t eat pork or red meat or fish and after a while every chicken recipe feels the same… we love chicken tacos but I always want to replicate the texture of restaurant chicken and I 100% believe this is the answer!!!! I am seriously longing for dinner time to arrive for the first time in months!!! Thank you tons!!!!
Thanks for sharing with us, Naomi — we hope you and your family enjoyed them! :)
Made these for dinner tonight and they were delicious! Thanks for the great recipe!
We’re so glad to hear that, Sam! :)
Made the carnitas tonight and everyone in the family loved
It. Thanks for sharing.
We’re so glad to hear that, Aida! :)
I just made these, but they turned out really dry! Any way to avoid this?
Mmmm, they may have dried out in the oven too much. I recommend adding ALL of the leftover cooking juices so that the meat doesn’t dry out. :)
Just made these tonight for dinner. AMAZING!!!!! My family of six loved it and that in my book is a major win! And it was SO simple to boot!!!! Thanks for sharing! These will go in the rotation and be featured for company!!!
Awesome, I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe! :)
We’re so glad to hear that, Tami! :)
Is there a way to make this recipe with a store bought rotisserie chicken?
Hi Ashley! We haven’t tried that, but unfortunately we don’t think that would work with this recipe, as you really need to start with uncooked meat. You could do chicken instead of pork though!
I am not a bit chicken fan but this was amazing! I have now made it 2 weeks in row and my family loves it!!
We’re so happy to hear that, Petra! :)