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Chicken carnitas rice bowl, with rice, beans, guacamole, shredded radishes, winter citrus pico de gallo. The bowl sits atop a white surface, next to a pink linen napkin, small bowls of winter citrus pico de gallo & shredded radish, & a glass of sparkling water with lemon & grapefruit wedges in it.

Quick & Easy Chicken Carnitas

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 60 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4 1x
  • Category: Tacos, Burritos & Enchiladas Recipes, Main Dishes
  • Method: Sheet Pan, Baked
  • Cuisine: Mexican & Tex-Mex
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

A new weeknight dinner favorite: Sheet Pan Chicken Carnitas! Chicken thighs marinate in a fresh & zippy carnitas-inspired sauce made with citrus, jalapeno, & cumin, & bake until completely juicy & tender. Finish them under the broiler for the easiest crispy carnitas you’ll ever make!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 1/2 pounds Kirkwood Fresh Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large, juicy oranges, zested & juiced
  • 2 large, juicy limes, zested & juiced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 medium jalapeno, deseeded as desired & finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Simply Nature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Stonemill Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Stonemill Oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • for serving, as desired: charred Pueblo Lindo White Corn Tortillas, cilantro lime rice, Simply Nature Organic Black Beans, sour cream or cashew cremapickled red onions, freshly chopped cilantroPueblo Lindo Queso Fresco or cheese of choice, salsa of choice, winter citrus pico de gallo (see blog post above), lime wedges, etc.Chicken carnitas ingredients arranged on a white surface: Kirkwood Chicken thighs from ALDI, limes, olive oil, garlic, jalapeno, Stonemill cumin & oregano bottles from ALDI, sliced onion & orange.

Instructions

  1. Marinate the chicken: Add the orange zest & juice, lime zest & juice, garlic, jalapeno, olive oil, cumin, oregano & kosher salt to a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add in the chicken thighs & yellow onion. Toss to combine. Set aside to marinate for at least 20 minutes or marinate in the refrigerator (covered) for up to 8 hours.How to make chicken carnitas, Step 1: Chicken thighs & yellow onion marinating in citrus & jalapeno carnitas sauce in a large glass bowl, which sits atop a white surface.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, arranging the oven racks such that one is in the center of the oven & one is 4-6 inches under the broiler. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy clean up, as desired, and set aside.How to make chicken carnitas, Step 2: Carnitas-marinated chicken thighs & onion on a small gray baking sheet, which sits atop a white surface.
  3. Bake the chicken: Transfer the marinated chicken & onions to the prepared baking sheet, draining & discarding any excess marinade. Bake on the center rack for 15-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken thighs. The chicken should be nearly cooked through. Remove the chicken from the oven to shred, and meanwhile preheat the broiler.How to make chicken carnitas, Step 3: Baked carnitas chicken thighs on a small gray baking sheet, which sits atop a white surface.
  4. Shred the chicken carnitas: Carefully shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces – you can do so using 2 forks, or my favorite trick: pop the chicken thighs directly into in a stand mixer & let the paddle attachment do the work for you (I swear this works!). Transfer the shredded chicken back onto the baking sheet.How to make Chicken Carnitas, Step 4: Shredded chicken in bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment, which sits atop a white surface.
  5. Broil for crispy chicken carnitasPlace the baking sheet under the broiler. Broil 4-5 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until the chicken carnitas are browned & slightly crisp. How to make Chicken Carnitas, Step 5: Shredded crispy chicken carnitas on a small silvery baking sheet, which sits atop a white surface.
  6. Serve: Place the crispy chicken carnitas in tortillas for tacos or a bowl with rice & beans for burrito bowls, finishing with your favorite taco night toppings of choice: sour cream/Mexican crema, pickled red onions, cilantro, etc. Enjoy!Chicken carnitas rice bowl, with rice, beans, guacamole, shredded radishes, winter citrus pico de gallo. The bowl sits atop a white surface, next to a pink linen napkin, small bowls of winter citrus pico de gallo & shredded radish, & a glass of sparkling water with lemon & grapefruit wedges in it.

Notes

  • Can I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead? Yes. I prefer thighs since they’re flavorful & stay really nice & juicy through roasting + broiling, but you can swap them out with breasts if you prefer. Either pound the breasts out flat or cut them in half lengthwise (butterflied) to ensure they roast up evenly. Skip broiling (Step 5), as the breast meat will dry out.
  • Storage & freezing: Leftover chicken carnitas will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. It’s also a wonderful freezer staple since you can easily thaw it out and use it on tacos, nachos, taco salads, burrito bowls, etc. for an easy dinner down the road. To freeze, transfer cooled chicken carnitas to a freezer bag or container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost by placing in the refrigerator overnight to thaw, or by submerging the freezer bag/container in room temp water for 20-25 minutes.
  • 10-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this sheet pan chicken comes from prepping the marinade. Whisk it up in advance to get a head start on your chicken carnitas – it’ll take 10 minutes, tops:
    • Thinly slice 1/2 yellow onion, storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
    • Prep the marinade according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The day you’d like to make carnitas, all you have to do is toss the chicken into the marinade – so easy! Marinate for at least 20 minutes or marinate in the refrigerator (covered) for up to 8 hours.

Keywords: chicken carnitas, chicken carnitas tacos, chicken sheet pan dinner, sheet pan chicken, easy, Mexican, weeknight dinner