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Chicken carnitas recipe
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Chicken Carnitas Recipe

The most tender, juicy, flavorful, crispy caramelized edges chicken carnitas recipe of your dreams! 
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine Spanish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 442.5kcal
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


  • Oven Method:
    Preheat your oven to 325”F.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • To cook the acorn squash, preheat oven to 400”F.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:

  • 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:

  • 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.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 442.5kcal | Carbohydrates: 34.3g | Protein: 40.5g | Fat: 17.1g | Saturated Fat: 3.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10.3g | Cholesterol: 152.7mg | Sodium: 958.5mg | Fiber: 5.3g | Sugar: 8.7g