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Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas

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Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas is a fresh and delicious take on the classic carnitas made with pork. Slow cooked in lime and orange juice, adobo sauce with chipotle peppers, onions, and spices. Then broiled to aid in drop dead delicious and slightly crispy bits. These Chicken Carnitas will become your new obsession! Throw this chicken into a taco, burrito, burrito bowl, or salad and dig in.

Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas on a blue plate with fresh lime wedges

I’ve had a list of recipes that I’d like to test since before I even started The Skinnyish Dish and couple’a weeks ago I decided to look back on some of the oldest ones that I’d written down. From what I could tell, one of the first things I’d ever written down was… Pork Carnitas! One of the best Mexican meats on the planet, right? Right. I live for carnitas!

Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas in corn taco shells with onions and cilantro

A few days ago, I had everything ready to go and I was going to start the slow cooker so that we could have pork carnitas for supper. Guess what? *face palm* I forgot to take the pork out of the freezer. So, it’s either toss out all the seasonings, juice, and broth I had ready to go or come up with a quick back up plan. Chicken. I have raw chicken! CHICKEN CARNITAS!? Is that a thing? It is now!

Holy smokes y’all.. this was the best “accident” ever. I normally test a recipe at least few times before I photograph and post a recipe, but no. I don’t need to mess with perfection. The only change I would make?

Double it.

Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas with salsa, lime, cilantro, and onion

Let’s make some Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas!

uncooked chicken breast in broth, citrus juice, sliced onions in a slow cooker

First, all you really need to know about this recipe is that it’s incredibly easy. It’s so easy that the second batch I made to take photographs with the other day was put in the slow cooker before 8 am and before I had my coffee. Now, I know you don’t know me before 8 am and a giant cup of coffee, but trust me… it ain’t pretty and I am not the sharpest tool in the shed right away in the am. Ha! I juiced fruit before 8 am.

In the slow cooker add 2 lbs of raw chicken breast, 3/4 cup chicken broth, juice of one large orange (about 1/4 cup), juice of two limes (about 1/4 cup), 1 large thinly sliced onion, 1 bay leaf, 1 heaping tsp cumin, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp of coarse kosher salt (reduce by half if using fine salt or table salt), and 1-2 chipotle peppers from a can along with 2 tbsp of adobo sauce that the chipotle peppers are packed in. Stir together and set the slow cooker to low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

You can easily find canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in any grocery store. They are normally located in the Hispanic food section along with salsas, beans, tortillas, green chiles, enchilada sauce, etc.

Several hours later… and you’ve got this and oh my goodness, your kitchen will smell so good and everyone will be begging for dinner time.

chicken lightly shredded on a sheet pan

Almost done! The most important parts in this recipe will be shredding it lightly and crisping it up a bit in the oven. I actually didn’t even shred this. I gently pulled it apart with tongs while placing it onto the sheet pan. It’s fall apart tender and maxed out on flavor.

Pour about 3/4 cup of the cooking juice that’s been left over in the slow cooker over the chicken. Now, set the oven to broil and place the sheet pan in. Let it broil for about 5-10 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy.

slow cooker chicken carnitas

Now, I’m going to add this little tid bit in here because when I was first starting to learn how to cook, recipes that ended or began with the word “broil” intimidated me. I honestly have no idea why. It’s probably the easiest thing in the cooking world to, but it did. And, I usually ignored that part of the recipe, but I’m going to ask you to not ignore that part if you can help it. I truly think it really rounds out the entire thing and gives it the “carnitas” feel.

If you’re really not a fan of the broiler like I wasn’t, for whatever reason, years ago then you can crisp them up in a pan on the stove over medium high heat with a little cooking spray. You’ll more than likely need to do this in two batches because if the pan is too crowded then it won’t get crispy.

Optional, but also stupid good: Chop up fresh cilantro and toss with the meat. Squeeze a little more fresh lime all over too!

chicken carnitas finished photo

What to do with these Chicken Carnitas?

  • Tacos! Heat up some tortillas and add whatever toppings you love!
  • Make some bowls! Add my Quick Chipotle Beans and Cilantro Lime Rice to a bowl of these Chicken Carnitas and some finely chopped romaine. You’ll be in heaven. Extra credit if ya throw some sliced avocado in there.
  • With a fork by itself in the middle of the night while everyone is fast asleep because it’s that good.
  • Throw it in a big salad and use my Chipotle Ranch for the dressing.

The possibilities for a really delicious chicken like this are practically endless. What do you think you’d do with it? Or, let me know if you’ve done something awesome with it!

slow cooker chicken carnitas in tacos

Make these Chicken Carnitas as soon as humanely possible! They’re tender, but crispy and oh so, so, so yummy. I love them so much and I think you will too.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know how it goes, friends.

Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas

Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas are so easy that anyone can make them! Broiling them after removing from the slow cooker makes them lightly browned, a little crispy, and extra delicious. Perfect for tacos, burritos, salads, and burrito bowls!
Print Recipe
Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas on a bright blue plate with a lime wedge
Prep Time:5 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs chicken breast, raw
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced into rings
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth, low sodium
  • juice of two limes (about 1/4 cup)
  • juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp coarse kosher salt (reduce by half if using fine salt or table salt)
  • bay leaf
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers from the can (use 1 for less spice or 2 for more spice)
  • 2 tbsp adobo sauce from the can of chipotle peppers
  • cooking spray avocado or coconut oil spray will work best with high cooking temps.

Instructions

  • Place chicken breast in a slow cooker followed the rest of the ingredients on the list except for cooking spray. Stir together well and set slow cooker to low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
  • When the chicken is done gently pull apart the cooked chicken breast, but do not shred. Spread out onto a sheet pan that's been lined with aluminum foil and then sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Remove about 3/4 of cooking juices from the slow cooker and pour all over the top of the chicken. Spray the top of the chicken with a little bit more of cooking spray.
  • Broil for 5-10 minutes or until you get lightly browned edges on the chicken.
    Serve with tacos, burritos, salads, or burrito bowls! Enjoy!
  • optional: sprinkle with freshly chopped cilantro and squeeze with extra lime.

Notes

Makes about 5 cups. (about 1/2 cup serving)

WW Points: 0

115 calories | 1g fat, 0.3g saturated fat, 1g carbohydrates, 1.5g fiber, 0g sugar, 0g added sugar, 28.6g protein

Servings: 5 cups
Author: Star @ the skinny-ish dish
Tried this recipe?Mention @theskinnyishdish or tag #skinnyishdishrecipes!

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118 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is easy and delicious! I try to always have it in the freezer to just pull out and use.

  2. Can i make this with dark meat chicken on the bone or thin cut chicken cutlets? I dont have chicken breast

  3. Can I cook chicken in instapot? What would the settings be? Thank you!! Excited to try!

  4. Definitely double the recipe! We use ours in bowls with brown rice and beans. Going to kick it up and make the Mexican street corn to add to our bowls! #top2021

  5. 5 stars
    Absolutely love these! Juicy chicken! I always make a bowl with the chicken, cilantro lime rice and chipotle pinto beans! Thanks for another great recipe! #top2021

  6. 5 stars
    #top2021 Oh boy-this meat is so delicious! I was blown away at how easy this recipe was to make, how versatile it is, and most of all how tasty. Thanks Star!

  7. 5 stars
    #top2021!I had never had carnitas before but the recipe looked so good, I had to try it. So glad I did. This chicken works in tortillas and is also delicious on a salad. It makes a ton and last me the whole week.

  8. 5 stars
    This is a wonderful level up to more typical chicken for Mexican dishes, I love it! #top2021

  9. 5 stars
    So good. This is my favorite recipe ever. Just ever. It’s so good and I always meal prep it for the week

  10. 5 stars
    This is my favorite version of carnitas! It’s so easy to prep this for lunches for the week. I love it with tortillas but also I love it in a bowl of salad greens! So, so flavorful. My husband requests this more than any other meal that I make!

  11. 5 stars
    This is one of my all time favorites! I make it in the crockpot or instant pot and have it on hand for tacos, salad, nachos… it’s perfect!

  12. 5 stars
    This is quite possibly my favorite “the skinnish dish” recipe! It’s my go-to way to make chicken now because it always turns out sooo freaking delicious! I’m not even kidding go make it right now!

  13. This recipe is A++++. Seriously restaurant quality carnitas with truly authentic flavor. Thank you Star! This one is on constant rotation in my house!

  14. Good morning. I’m planning to make these tonight. Does it make a difference if i use lime juice vs juice from a lime and orange juice vs juice from an orange? And what did you do to your corn tortillas? – they look crispy and delicious!

    Love your recipes!

    1. You can use lime juice and orange juice for sure! The only difference is with the orange juice there may be added sugars so if you care about that type of thing the nutritional information may be a tiny bit different! I roasted the corn tortillas on a gas stove top. You just put them over the open flame and with a tongs move to the tortilla until it gets nice and charred the way you like it. You can also achieve this on a charcoal grill. Hope that helps!

  15. 5 stars
    This recipe was delicious! We made burrito bowls, tacos and salads for a few days. Will certainly repeat!

  16. 5 stars
    This chicken is so yummy and is great in a burrito bowl with cilantro lime rice and fajita veggies plus all of the fixings. I have two littles 2 and under so I adapted it to do it in the instant pot. Same recipe plus a little extra chicken broth and I used frozen chicken breast. 35 minutes on manual in my instant pot manual release. So delicious!

  17. 5 stars
    One of our family favorites! They ask for it all the time! Perfect for tacos, salads & wraps.

    1. YAY! SO happy the family enjoys. That’s always a huge win when everyone will eat the same thing.

  18. 4 stars
    Hi Star- My family and I have been big fans of many of your recipes. I made this today and the chicken was pretty dry, so I didn’t even attempt to broil it. I cooked on low for about 4 hrs. I have the crock pot from Costco and I think it cooks fast. Was it dry because it cooked too long? And also, can you recommend a crock pot that truly is a slow cooker?! I could never let anything cook in mine for 7-8 hrs on low!

    1. Hi! I’m so sorry that happened. =( I’m not sure what slow cooker costco sells, but there are definitely many different styles and brands. The chicken was more than likely dry because it was over cooked and it definitely sounds like your slow cooker runs extremely hot for it to be done on the low setting in 4 hours.

      Heres the link the exact one that I use:https://amzn.to/2OdtoWT It’s pretty basic, but it’s been the one that I’ve used for years. The one from crockpot brand thats not digital is also really good too.

  19. 5 stars
    Made this last night for the first time (along with your cilantro lime rice) and am already being asked when we will have it again! We tasted the chicken right out of the slow cooker and thought it was delicious, but boy are we glad we followed your suggestion to broil it – it really made the chicken extra special. The only thing I’d change is to make more (the leftovers went too quickly) and add the second pepper to see how we do with a bit more heat!

  20. 5 stars
    So good! Love this dish as it’s so versatile/ tacos /barrito bowls/ top off a salad etc. Easy and delicious – Thanks Star! @reloveall

  21. 5 stars
    This recipe is amazing! My whole family loves it. I love that we can have it as tacos for dinner, and then reinvent the leftovers in 100 different ways. So good! @suzjackohartman

    1. @kristie-speers
      I absolutely love this recipe and my other favorite is the white chicken chili.

  22. 5 stars
    Hard to pick a favorite but I just LOVE this chicken and so does my family. So many ways to use it and it never gets old. @sarahboehmer.5

    1. 5 stars
      This is one of my favorite recipes of yours! I seriously have to say it’s hard to choose which one. Everything I have made of your recipes Star. @michelle_my_journey.ww

  23. 5 stars
    2/8/21–soooooo good and totally easy. I’ve made similar recipes but I like the added step of broiling at the end! Will definitely make again.

  24. 5 stars
    These were delicious! I think the thing that sets this recipe apart from others I have tried is broiling the meat to crisp it up at the end. It made all the difference. I served it with corn tortillas sprayed with avocado oil, seasoned with a little salt and crisped up in a skillet.

    1. Crisping up the meat after slow cooking it in the broiler or in the pan is absolutely the key! I do it with pork and chicken. I’m so happy you enjoyed it. =)

  25. 5 stars
    Outstanding! Thank you again for a Home Run recipe! It is already being requested for a repeat!

  26. Hi! I’m planning on making the slow cooker chicken carnitas this evening! I was wondering if I leave the chipotle peppers whole, or slice them up and put them into the slow cooker mixture?

    1. Leave them whole in there. I just let them hang out and simmer with all the juices. Adds wonderful flavor with just a hint of spice.

  27. 5 stars
    These were amazing!! Do you generally broil on high or low? I started on low but seemed to be taking forever, so upped it to high…thanks!

    1. So my old oven didn’t have and “high” or “low” broil function so when this recipe came about I didn’t realize there was an option, but now this oven does and I use the high broil!

  28. 5 stars
    Fabulous flavors! I’m not a big fan of spice, but this recipe has a perfect little kick that’s not overpowering. So yummy!

  29. 5 stars
    Great recipe! You can use this as meal prep and make so many different things with it throughout the week! Awesome flavor!

  30. This was amazing!!! Thank you so much for sharing. My husband and I couldn’t wait to have it for leftovers the next night.

  31. 5 stars
    Very good recipe ! I didn’t add the chipotle peppers because they were too spicy for me , but I did add the sauce from them . My whole family loved these and I will definitely make again!

  32. 5 stars
    I’ve made this a few times now and it is such a GREAT recipe! I make a double batch for me and my roommate to have for lunches throughout the week and we never get sick of it! You can eat it so many ways – I love to turn it into a grain bowl or throw it on top of salad. This is truly a winner! Thanks, Star!

  33. 5 stars
    This was an amazing recipe! Not only did my husband and I devour it, but so did my kids! (That’s unheard of!) Thanks for a winner!

  34. Made this today with chicken thighs and “crisped” up on the BBQ. Will definitely make it again.

    1. 5 stars
      We’ve made this twice now and really love it! And my favorite is leftovers – yum! I throw the chicken on a bad of lettuce with some cheese and tomatoes. You can’t go wrong. Definitely don’t skip the fresh cilantro and squeeze of lime right before serving!

  35. I just put this is the crockpot. I can’t wait to try!! Thanks for the tip on 1 or 2 Peppers due to heat. I was gonna put both in then I tasted real quick. Delish but for the kids I only put 1. I had no clue these peppers tasted sooo awesome!!! Thanks

  36. 4 stars
    Hi. I made this recipe yesterday for the first time. Though it had good flavor, for some reason my chicken tasted very dry (even before crisping). I followed your instructions exactly and cooked it on “low” for 8 hours. Is it possible I overcooked it, and would that make it dry even though it’s cooking in all that broth? Thank you in advance for your thoughts on how to make it less dry. I’m enjoying your blog!

  37. 5 stars
    I love this recipe!!! I am a mexicanaholic!! This hits the spot everytime! Thank you for making yummy recipes that are reasonable in WW points! You ROCK!

  38. Has anyone tried this in this the Instant Pot? I’m not a fan of chicken breast in the crock pot, but I’m still an IP newbie and haven’t always had the best success trying to convert recipes on my own.

  39. I cooked this today for the family…I am a Mexican living in Canada, so I live for preparing anything that will make me feel like back home…
    These carnitas are pretty delicious! My daughter and I ate it as a bowl with lettuce, cilantro lime rice, beans and avocado while my hub and son had burritos.
    I give it a 10!
    Thank you for sharing your recipes! They are delicious! I’ve been doing WW for 2 years and it’s always great to have access to the point value on your site!
    Hope you are well!!!!

  40. Hi Star! I am wanting to try 5his recipe but I was wondering if there was a way to modify the spiceyness.. I assume with the peppers and sauce it would be quite spicy and i don’t tolerate spicey too well unless it’s just a tad! Thanks for your help! I love you and all your yummy recipes!!

    1. Hi Mary! I would just leave the peppers out, but if you could still add about half the adobo sauce! I know it seems wasteful, but you can freeze the leftover sauce in the can in a plastic baggie for future use. It gives such a delightful smokey flavor that I just have a hard time living without, but if you wanna leave’m out. I’m pretty sure it would still be so good. I hope you love it!!!

  41. 5 stars
    I made this last night, and it was amazing! I didn’t have any chipotle peppers in adobo, but I did have chipotle chili seasoning so used that. The chicken has incredibly moist and flavorful. Yum!

  42. 5 stars
    Had this on my try list, made them today for family dinner, they are fabulous!! Husband & daughter both said, definitely make these again! Thank you!

  43. This looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it!! How do you get your tortillas like that?!

  44. I can’t wait to dig in to this recipe! Is this spicy? I want to give to my 15 month old too!

  45. Could this all be made into a freezer meal? Dump everything in a bag, freeze, then thaw before cooking?

  46. Star- This recipe is delicious! I’m struggling with one part though. How on earth do you get 2 Tbs of adobo sauce out of a can of chipotle peppers? The peppers are coated in the sauce but I can’t seem to get any measurable amount of sauce out. What is the secret? Thanks!

    1. Hey Jen! I’m sooo happy you enjoy this one! Honestly, I just dip my measuring spoon in and kind of smoosh and push the pepper’s around til my spoon is full. If that makes sense? I’ve tried multiple brands and do the same and haven’t had troubles getting enough sauce (often times I have enough for a batch of my pinto beans to!). Just try to get as much as you can! If its a little less than two tablespoons, it’s okay!

    2. 5 stars
      Wow! Just made this tonight and it was amazing. So flavorful and the crispy bits were the best! I made it with cilantro lime rice and some pico de galo I made. I’m already looking forward to making it again.

      1. Yesss! SO happy to hear you enjoyed! Rice and pico de gallo is the perfect addition.

  47. Somehow I forgot the onions and broth and this still turned out amazing – can only imagine how great it will be when I do it the right way!

  48. 5 stars
    This was AMAZING! I made it with cilantro lime rice. I ate mine as a burrito bowl with the rice, black beans, lettuce, and a squeeze of lime.

  49. 5 stars
    I underestimated how good this would be because it was so simple. The chicken was sooooo flavorful and made some of the best tacos I’ve ever had. This is going to be a new staple in my house! Thank you!

  50. I made these today. I added some whole pinto beans to the taco they were delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  51. I forgot to thaw out my chicken, will this still be ok if I use frozen thin chicken breasts? I have a pressure cooker but didn’t want to use that option.

  52. This recipe is so simple and easy in these hard times. This recipe will definitely be in our rotation. Dinner tonight, Chicken Carnitas and bean burritos for lunch. Yum. Already drooling for dinner. Thanks, Star for another great recipe!

    1. I’m so happy you’ve found it helpful and delicious, Alma. Thank you for stopping by to let me know.

  53. If you are not planning on using all in one meal, would you only broil what you’re using? Also, would you freeze before or after broil? Thanks.

    1. Hi Sandra! I broil it right after I make the whole batch and then reheat it as I want it. I personally enjoyed it this way, but if you’re scared you’ll dry it out maybe just broil as you use it!

  54. I think right now everyone has all these ingredients to make an amazing meal while we are in isolation. Perfect

  55. Star- this recipe is amazingly easy & so so delicious! Chicken breast was 1 protein I could find at my Meijer store in all of this virus madness! Fantastic. Your recipes are always in my weekly meal plan. Thanks for doing what you do!

  56. 5 stars
    This chicken is so good! My only regret is that I didn’t add a second pack of chicken into the crockpot so we’d have more! We used it for tacos, but will definitely make again soon for other uses. I would never have thought of putting it under the broiler, but it really made a difference. Thanks!

    1. I had the exact same thought when I made it! From now on I will always double the batch. So happy you enjoyed it!

  57. can I ask you a random question??? how do you ‘warm up’ your tortillas…..yours look WAY better than mine. 🙂 Oh and, I LOVE ALL YOUR RECIPES!! Thanks for being you!!! xx

    1. I’m so happy you enjoy the recipes! I got my tortillas like this by laying the tortilla directly on the burner with on a gas stove. If you do this, you need to watch it closely and take a pair of tongs and gently move it almost constantly for about 30 seconds! This is my favorite way to heat tortillas.

  58. Hi Starr!
    I forgot to put it in the crockpot so I put it in my Fagor Pressure Cooker on high for 10 minutes and it came out great!
    Question – any suggestions for what I can use all the beautiful broth in the pressure cooker for?
    Thanks! Lisa

    1. Oh Starr!
      I added about of white long rice to the broth, smashed the adobo chili, added about 3 cups additional chicken both in the pot, re-set the Fagor Pressure Cooker for 6 minutes and omg! The ‘ soup’ was amazing with a dollop of Fage no fat plain yogurt, the chicken on top and cilantro over it all. I dusted the plain yogurt with Tajin Mexican salt- amazing!

      1. How much long white rice did you add to make soup out of the broth? Thanks!

    1. I did the actual juice from an orange because i didn’t want any extra unnecessary added sugar. Really quick and easy to do, but juice from a jug will do too.

    1. I get my tortillas like this by laying the tortilla directly on the burner with on a gas stove. If you do this, you need to watch it closely and take a pair of tongs and gently move it almost constantly for about 30 seconds!

  59. Made this for the fam last night and every bit was devoured! I am up bright and early this morning making another double batch for tonight….SO IN LURVE!!!!

    1. Family enjoyed so much. We ate it on small (street taco) flour tortillas for dinner. I’m going to use the leftovers to make chicken quesadillas for lunch tomorrow!

  60. Seeing a new recipe from you is like seeing a new book published by your favorite author, a new episode of your favorite tv show, or a brand new flavor of your favorite ice cream brand. So many of your recipes are on rotation at my house that I’ve got them memorized! Can’t WAIT to make this!!

    1. That might be the best compliment I’ve ever received when it comes to my recipes. Thank you so much!!

    1. Hi Pauline! I use boneless skinless chicken breast. I hope you enjoy them if you give’m a try!

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