Pressure Cooker Crispy Chicken Carnitas
Crispy Chicken carnitas are made in the instant pot or pressure cooker, so they’re quick and easy! We crisp them up in the broiler and serve them wrapped in tortillas, served as burritos, or in rice bowls. They are perfect to meal prep and enjoy for the week!
Let me introduce you to my new favorite way to eat chicken – crispy chicken carnitas from your pressure cooker.
Bear with me while I’m having this moment of carnitas insanity, and if it’s not too much to ask, have this moment with me, won’t you? It all starts with crispy shredded chicken that we’ve pressure cooked, then shredded and broiled for a hot second, so the chicken gets nice and crispy on the outside but stays tender and juicy on the inside. We then tuck it into warm, white corn tortillas and move on to the topping possibilities. There’s just something about simple toppings that do it with these. Diced onions and chopped cilantro are really all this needs. And chipotle sauce. Because sauce makes the world a better place!
And while we’re on the topic of tacos, may I just add that friends don’t count chicken carnitas tacos. As in, if you were to come over for dinner tonight, in no way would I judge the number of warm homemade flour tortillas you stuffed full of these chicken carnitas and then proceeded to consume in one sitting.
No ma’am. Friends don’t count tacos.
Friends make sure there are plenty of tortillas around for you to load up with chicken, sauce, toppings, and repeat. Heck, you can even turn them into carnitas nachos with a little guacamole action. Please and thank you.
It’s a little outrageous how simple these are to make, and the possibilities are endless. Having a big batch of these chicken carnitas in the fridge or freezer is perfect for quick meals throughout the week.
I’m so over the moon about these right now; can you tell?
Crispy chicken carnitas (1 min):
Ingredients for chicken carnitas:
- Chicken: Use boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts. I prefer to use chicken breasts because I prefer white meat, but my dark meat lovers would undoubtedly enjoy this more with dark meat.
- Seasonings: You’ll need quite a few seasonings from your spice drawer! Grab some ground cumin, chili powder, dried oregano, kosher salt, and black pepper. These spices give the carnitas so much flavor. You’ll also need a sprinkle of garlic powder if you’re making the chipotle sauce.
- Citrus: You’ll need orange zest and orange juice as well as some lime juice for the chicken marinade. We’ll cook the chicken carnitas in a mixture of citrus and chicken broth to give it the most flavor.
- Chicken broth: You’ll need 1/4 cup chicken broth to cook the chicken in the pressure cooker. The combination of orange, lime, and chicken stock gives the carnitas a delicious flavor.
- Onions: adding a quartered onion to the pot provides more flavor. The onions cook in the liquid and break down in a soft texture as they pressure cook.
- Chipotle peppers: we’ll need a couple of chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce. These add a smoky flavor to the chicken. You will also need a bit more if you’re going to make the spicy chipotle sauce for bowls or tacos.
- Bay leaf: Grab a dried bay leaf; we’ll toss this in with the other ingredients for the chicken.
- Oil: We’ll sear the chicken in the oil before pressure cooking it. Use avocado oil or any other you usually use in your kitchen.
- Cilantro: Add a handful of cilantro as the chicken cooks. This just adds additional flavor to the dish.
- Mayonnaise: If you’re making the chipotle sauce for tacos, burritos, bowls, quesadillas or nachos!
Instant Pot Chicken Carnitas
- Make the seasoning mix. In a bowl, combine the cumin, chili powder,r oregano, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the seasoning all over the chicken breasts, taking care to season both sides.
- Sear the chicken. Heat a swish of oil in the instant pot. Then add the chicken breast and sear on both sides. This helps the spices bloom in the hot oil and allows the chicken to develop a light crust on the outside. Remove the chicken thighs or breasts to a plate.
- Sear the aromatics. Add the onions and garlic to the instant pot and give it a quick saute to help release the flavor of the onion and the garlic cloves.
- Pressure cook. Add the chicken back into the pressure cooker along with chipotle peppers and some of that adobo sauce, a bay leaf, a handful of cilantro, orange juice, lime juice, chicken broth mixture. Add the lid, and let the pressure build up, and cook for 8-10 minutes. I had a ton of tiny chicken breasts, so all I needed was 8 minutes. For larger chicken breasts, pressure them for 9-10 minutes. You can do a quick release by turning the valve.
- Shred the chicken once it’s cool enough to handle. Do this in a kitchen aid mixer or you can use two forks and shred it. Don’t even THINK about tossing out that liquid from the pressure cooker! We’re going to add ¼ cup of it back into the chicken before we broil it.
- Broil. Spread the shredded chicken out onto a sheet pan and drizzle a little oil over the chicken so that the broiler makes the outside of the chicken carnitas extra crispy. It’ll go into the oven for a total of 10 minutes; make sure to stop halfway and give it a toss. Rotate your pan too, and add a couple more tablespoons of the cooking liquid to keep things flavorful and juicy.
FAQs about this recipe
Typically carnitas are made with pork, aka pork carnitas. But considering not everyone eats pork, chicken is a decent substitute when you want to enjoy carnitas!
There are a number of ways to server chicken carnitas. You can make burrito bowls, serve them over tortilla chips for homemade carnitas nachos, in corn or flour tortillas, or if you’re looking for low carb high protein options, make sweet potato boats loaded with shredded chicken. Serve topped with salsas or anything else you like!
Though I haven’t tested this recipe in a slow cooker, I feel you could easily sear the chicken in a skillet, then transfer to a slow cooker and let it look low and slow for 3-4 hours or until the chicken is easily shreddable with two forks.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Mexican Street Corn Chicken Tacos
- Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Smashed Avocados
- Gotta Have ‘Em Ancho Chicken Street Tacos
- Marinated Mojo Steak Tacos with Guacamole
- Big Batch Homemade Taco Seasoning
For the Chicken:
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon EACH chili powder AND dried oregano
- salt and pepper
- zest and juice of 1 orange (about ¼ cup)
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 5 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 1-2 chipotle pepper + 1-2 tablespoons adobo sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ bunch of cilantro (stems included)
- 2 tablespoons oil + more
For the Chipotle Sauce:
- ½ cup mayo
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1-2 chipotle peppers + 1 tablespoons adobo sauce
- pinch of salt and garlic powder
For the chicken:
- Combine the cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl. Sprinkle the seasons over the chicken breasts on both sides.
- Heat the instant pot on the sauté setting. Add a quick swish of oil and sear the chicken breasts on both sides for a minute on each side. Do this in batches so the chicken sears rather than steaming. Remove the chicken to a plate. Add the onions and pressed garlic, let cook 2 minutes flipping as needed to brown all sides evenly.
- Add the chicken back into the pressure cooker along with the orange zest, orange juice, lime juice, chicken broth, whole chipotle pepper(s), adobo sauce, bay leaf, and cilantro. Cover the instant pot and let pressure cook on the 'chicken' setting for 8-10 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breast. Prepare the chipotle sauce while you wait for the chicken to cook. Allow the pressure to release naturally or turn to the 'vent' setting. Allow it to vent completely before removing the lid.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to the 'broiler' setting. Remove the chicken breast to a clean surface and shred the chicken using 2 forks. Place in a large bowl and drizzle ¼ cup of cooking liquid over the shredded chicken and toss to coat. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the surface of a baking sheet. Add the chicken and drizzle the second tablespoon of oil on top. Stir to coat evenly.
- Broil the chicken for 10-12 minutes stopping half way to toss the chicken and drizzle another 1-2 tablespoons of cooking liquid. Rotate the pan for even broiling.
For the Chipotle Sauce:
- While the chicken is pressure cooking, add the sauce ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
- Leftover chipotle peppers/adobo sauce can be kept in a zip-top bag in the freezer!
is this a good choice for you?
nutritional facts for 1/8th of the recipe and is only for the meat.