This Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Carnitas recipe is a lightened up version of Chipotle Mexican Grill’s pork carnitas. Great in salads, burrito bowls, and tacos, it’s a versatile recipe that freezes well too.
If you’ve ever eaten at Chipotle Mexican Grill, you might have tried their carnitas, made with pork shoulder or butt. One of my boys loves the carnitas burrito. Traditionally, carnitas is made with a fatty cut of pork that is slow braised or roasted, and then fried or sauteed.
According to Chipotle’s website, their carnitas is made with pork, lard, bay leaf, salt, black pepper, thyme, juniper berries and sunflower oil. I found a recipe from Melissa d’Arabian that sounded more interesting to me so I used that as a starting point and added thyme and juniper berries like Chipotle.
Traditionally, carnitas is cooked in lard and seasoned with chile, cumin, oregano, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf and garlic. Once the carnitas is cooked, it’s shredded, and served with cilantro, onion, salsa, guacamole, tortillas and refried beans.
Today’s recipe is a lighter carnitas recipe made with skinless, boneless chicken thighs, which mimics the texture of pork with significantly less fat. To make this low-fuss, I made this chicken carnitas in a slow cooker and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. The chicken can be easily shredded or cut into strips the next day. Of course, if you want to serve it the same day, you can too.
I crisped up the chicken pieces in a little oil to mimic the texture of pork carnitas.
Slow Cooker Carnitas Style Chicken
- 3 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- a few dashes ground cayenne pepper
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 3 juniper berries
- juice from one orange
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Combine all ingredients except oil in slow cooker, mixing well to coat chicken with spices. Cook on high for 4-5 hours until tender. Remove from slow cooker and cool; shred or cut into bite size pieces. When ready to serve, heat oil in skillet and cook chicken pieces until browned and a little crispy.