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5 from 15 votes
Chicken carnitas recipe
Chicken Carnitas Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 40 mins

The most tender, juicy, flavorful, crispy caramelized edges chicken carnitas recipe of your dreams! 

Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Spanish
Servings: 6
Calories: 442.5 kcal
Author: Florentina
  • 3 lb chicken thighs boneless skinless
  • 2 oranges juiced ( may be replaced with beer)
  • 3 strips orange peel
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 c pepitas toasted
  • 1/3 c cilantro leaves + edible flowers for garnish
  • 2 limes cut into wedges
  • 3 acorns squash for serving optional
Chicken Carnitas Seasoning:
  • 2 tsp sea salt + more to taste
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tsp cumin + more to taste
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  1. Oven Method:

    Preheat your oven to 325”F.

  2. In a large cast iron dutch oven add 2 tbsp of olive oil and layer the chicken thighs on top. Sprinkle with the chicken carnitas seasoning: sea salt, garlic and onion powder, cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes and chili powder. Add the garlic cloves and orange peels.
  3. Pour the orange and lime juice over the top and give everything a good toss to coat. Cover with a tight lid and transfer to the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours until the chicken i tender and falls apart when stabbed with a fork.
  4. Use two forks to shred the chicken in the same pot you cooked it in then transfer it to a broiler proof baking sheet or dish. Drizzle the carnitas with the honey all over the top and broil for a few minutes until caramelized at the edges. Make sure to keep a close eye on the carnitas so they don’t burn.
  5. To cook the acorn squash, preheat oven to 400”F.
  6. Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut a thin slice off of the bottom of each acorn squash half so it sits flat during baking.
  7. Rub the inside of each acorn squash with a little olive oil and sprinkle generously all over with sea salt, red pepper flakes, freshly cracked black pepper and cumin. Roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour until tender and caramelized around the edges.
  8. Serve the carnitas inside the roasted acorn squash bowls, sprinkled with the pepitas and garnish with the cilantro and edible flowers if available. Serve with lime wedges, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sour cream.
Chicken Carnitas Stove Top Method:
  1. Follow all of the above steps and finish the braising process on the stove top on low flame, until the chicken falls apart, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a broiler proof dish together with the juices and caramelize under the broiler following the instructions above.
Slow Cooker/ Crock Pot Method:
  1. Add the chicken thighs together with the carnitas seasoning, orange juice, lime juice and orange peel to the bowl of your slow cooker. Toss to combine well. Cook for 7-8 hours on low or about 5 hours on high, until the chicken is fork tender.
Nutrition Facts
Chicken Carnitas Recipe
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 442.5 Calories from Fat 154
% Daily Value*
Fat 17.1g26%
Saturated Fat 3.3g21%
Polyunsaturated Fat 10.3g
Cholesterol 152.7mg51%
Sodium 958.5mg42%
Carbohydrates 34.3g11%
Fiber 5.3g22%
Sugar 8.7g10%
Protein 40.5g81%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.