Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas

Chicken Carnitas

I grew up in a walnut and prune orchard in Northern California, just an hour from San Francisco.  My earliest memories were formed there and are dominated with visions of bright yellow mustard flowers that would explode into bloom in early Spring, creating a yellow sea among the trees.  Down the dirt road a few miles away were two neighbor families–the only other houses in the entire 40-acre orchard; including the foreman of the Mexican immigrant workers who tended to the orchard, who was also Mexican. At large, noisy “neighborhood” bonfires, we’d all enjoy his wife’s cooking while the adults would eventually get drunk and us kids would play with the multitude of animals on his lot–bunnies, cats, and an adorable corgi named “Poncho” (I’m almost certain that was the name us kids gave the dog and was not his actual name).

Mexican cuisine carries nostalgia for me: when I eat it I can be whisked away back to those childhood memories I hold onto fondly.  All of us on that road were extremely poor during those days, yet we felt so rich in those moments.  Mexican cuisine is similarly rich, in history and culture, considering that much of it can be cheaply made.

Many of us in the United States tend to regard Mexican food to be whatever it is that we grew up with most (sadly, much of that being of the Taco Bell variety) and unfortunately miss out on the diversity that each region of Mexico offers.  We can sometimes forget that Mexico is an extremely large country.  As usual, I looked into the history of the dish I prepared tonight, a dish usually prepared with braised pork, and found that it hails from the Western Mexican state Michoacán.  The traditional preparation has the meat cooked in a large, heavy bottomed pot with lard, resembling the method of cooking known as confit.  I made the dish kosher by substituting the pork with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and, trust me, you want that skin on there as it brings much of the needed flavor and texture to the dish.

Chicken Carnitas

In researching this dish for the blog, I found that one of the spices I used here is considered a bit controversial in Mexican cooking–cumin–and often regarded as being inauthentic or “Tex-Mex,” but I assure you that cumin is used very authentically in some states of Mexico (and even considered an essential spice), having been brought to Mexico via the Spaniards, who had acquired the Arabic spice from the Moors.  Even if it were Tex-Mex, an insult that brings a smile to my face every time I hear it, let us not forgot the origins of Texas.  Regardless, I like the spice and I find that the milder flavor that cumin seed offers suits this dish quite well.

Now I’m ready to feel 6 years old again…


Kosher Status : Meat

| Ingredients |

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (if you have only powder on hand, then use only 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano *note: I explain in detail on my posole post why Mexican oregano is important, but you may use “regular” oregano if it is what you have on hand
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne peper
  • Taco-size tortillas

Suggested toppings: minced red onion, avocado slices, salsa, cilantro

| Directions |

  1. In a slowcooker, place the chicken thighs, onion, citrus juices, and spices and cook on low for 8 hours.
  2. After the cooking time has completed, the chicken should be tender and fall off the bone easily.  Remove the chicken, shred the meat, and transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet.  Broil under high until crispy.
  3. Make tacos.  Super easy!
Chicken Carnitas 1


Leftovers are delicious stuffed into burritos with rice, on top of salads to bring to work, or however else you wish to enjoy them, but I do guarantee you will enjoy them.  Well, unless you hate tasty food, then there’s nothing I can do for you.

Chicken Carnitas 4