Chicken Carnitas

It took me years to perfect my chicken carnitas recipe. Some batches came out dry, others came out greasy, but most were just bland. What’s funny is that the best-tasting version I eventually settled on is also the easiest to prepare.

Here’s everything you need:

Chicken Carnitas

  • 1+ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 can enchilada sauce
  • 3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • juice from half of a lime


  • fried corn tortillas
  • fresh lime juice
  • chopped onion
  • fresh cilantro
  • shredded cheese
  • hot sauce

This recipe is really easy. Remove any pieces of fat and skin from the thighs; it won’t break down. Chop the chicken into one inch cubes. I said “1+ pounds” because I just buy a pack of three large breasts at the store.

Toss the chicken into a crock pot or cast iron oven. Pour half of the can of enchilada sauce over the meat (I keep Latin peppers/sauces in the freezer in baby food containers for occasions like this). De-stem and chop at least three chipotle chiles from the can and add them to the pot. Make sure to transfer a teaspoon or two of the adobo sauce to the pot as well. Add the salt and pepper and mix well.

If you’re cooking them in a slow cooker, set it to low for about five hours. Otherwise, set the oven to 250° and bake for five hours. If you check on the chicken halfway through the cooking process, it’ll look like there’s entirely too much liquid. That’s normal. It’ll be incorporated when the chicken breaks down. When it’s finished cooking, squeeze the lime juice over the chicken and break up the lumps with the back of a fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve on a fried corm tortilla and garnish with onions, lime juice and fresh cilantro. I also like to sprinkle on a little bit of manchego cheese.

We also made some pork carnitas in the crock pot.

Update: After spending so much time developing this recipe, I realized I that had inadvertently reinvented a simplified version of Chicken Tinga.

Chicken Carnitas
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