Crisp, tender chicken carnitas


I am a relatively new but quite enthusiastic convert to Pinterest. One of my boards, naturally, is recipe ideas. I found an intriguing recipe for pork carnitas there.

Carnitas are all about contrast. They’re traditionally made with a big ole hunk of pork that’s braised into submission, shredded, then fried over high heat in its own fat. The result is meltingly tender, spicy meat with crunchy bits scattered throughout.

The original recipe is from Ali at Gimme Some Oven. She had the brilliant idea to do the bulk of the cooking in the slow cooker, then pop the shredded meat under the broiler. The slow cooker makes the dish easier; the broiler makes it healthier. Adding a little cooking liquid to the meat while it broils is pure genius: the chicken (or pork) becomes crispy without drying out.

I wanted to lighten up the dish even more, so I used chicken thighs in place of the fatty pork. I’m always trying to add vegetables to any dish, so I tossed in a sweet red bell pepper.

You could easily double the amount of chicken. I’d leave the beer the same, but boost the salt and chili powder a bit if so. Lessen (or omit) the Aleppo if you want a milder dish, or use what the original recipe suggests: chipotles in adobo. I’d make these also with a big hunk of pork — the classic protein for carnitas, although I’d probably trim most of the fat first.

I’m thinking avocado slices would round these tacos out nicely next time. And there will be a next time.

(Apologies for the gawdawful photo.)

Chicken Thigh Carnitas with Red Peppers
adapted from
serves 4

1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1 tsp. mild chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
12 oz. beer
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
for serving:
4 small tortillas
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

Combine onion, bell pepper, garlic, salt, Aleppo, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar and beer in a slow cooker. Trim any visible fat from the chicken and stir the thighs into  the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. (If all the ingredients are cold when they go into the pot, start it on high for the first 30-60 minutes, then reduce heat to low.)

Heat the broiler and move a rack to highest setting. Remove chicken and some of the onion pieces to a large pie plate or small cookie sheet (I use the baking sheet from my toaster oven). Shred the chicken with two forks. Stir in some of the onion, and add a few spoonfuls of the sauce.

Pour the remaining sauce and veggies into a saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and boil furiously to reduce to two-thirds or one-half of original volume. Use a stick blender to puree the veggies into the sauce. Shut off the heat and keep warm.

Slide the baking sheet under the broiler. Broil for about 5 minutes until crispy bits appear. Pull out the pan and stir in about 1/4 cup of the sauce. Stick the pan back under the broiler for a few minutes until the chicken is both moist and crisp on top. Serve on tortillas with cheese, cilantro, scallions, sour cream and a drizzle of extra sauce.


About Rivertree kitchen

I am a freelance editor with a specialty in cookbook editing. I've written two small cookbooks (50 Best Sundaes and 50 Best Cookies) and have edited more than 200. Despite my immersion in recipes, my favorite way to cook is to see what's in the fridge and wing it. I live with my husband and two dogs in rural Wisconsin. Husband (Tom) and son (Luke) are talented cooks themselves. All the photographs in this blog are my own creations. I'm a neophyte in the world of food photography (as if you couldn't tell), but I still claim blushing ownership of the pix you see here. If you want to reprint them (I can't imagine why), please give credit, if for no other reason than to pass on the blame.
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2 Responses to Crisp, tender chicken carnitas

  1. Daisy says:

    This sounds yummy, and I like it as a general m.o.: broil after moist cooking. Cool!

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