These crispy chicken carnitas will be a favorite filling for your next Taco Tuesday. Grab your Instant Pot and make this quick weeknight dinner in under 30 minutes!
If you know me, you know my love for carnitas is REAL! And this time, I thought I’d try making a chicken version. I opted for chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts because I prefer the extra flavor and juiciness they provide. If you wanna use chicken breasts though, go for it!
The inspiration for this dish actually came from something I ordered from The Yardhouse restaurant called “Vampire Tacos.” Basically, it was a tortilla filled with carnitas, bacon chorizo, guacamole, cumin crema, and I can’t remember if there was anything else. But what made it even more delicious was the crispy cheese layer on the outside of the tortilla!
So, of course I had to remake a low carb, keto version of it, right?!
Nothing says “olive you” more than tacos, amirite?! HAHA, couldn’t help myself!
Okay, the Instant Pot cooks the chicken carnitas super fast. Like set it to 8 minutes fast. But the real goodness comes after that when you crisp up the carnitas in a cast iron skillet with some healthy fat. I partnered with my friends at Lindsay Olives to use their new Buttery California Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
You guys… do not, I repeat, DO NOT skip this step! It takes an extra five minutes, that’s it, and it’s SO WORTH IT!
Crispy chicken carnitas + crispy cheese taco shell = LOVE!
The Shell: If you can’t do the crispy cheese taco shell due to a dairy allergy or sensitivity, no problem! Just use your favorite taco vessel. If you wanna stick to low carb/keto, try using a lettuce or cabbage leaf as the shell. Or just use your fav tortillas! I love making paleo tortillas from my friend Steph’s blog, Stupid Easy Paleo.
The Toppings: Have fun with this part! I typically have some mixed greens of various sorts in my fridge, but this time I tried some radish sprouts. My must have fillings are always guacamole, cilantro and lime. The guac adds some more healthy fats, the cilantro adds a nice freshness, and a squeeze of lime juices add a nice acidity to balance out the richness of the cheese and crispy chicken carnitas. I also added some cumin lime crema for a little something something. Just mix together some sour cream + lime juice + cumin and you have cumin lime crema! Try adding some sliced radishes for a nice crunch!
One last thing before you get to the actual recipe…
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, no problem. You can definitely use a slow cooker in its place, but obviously it won’t be a 30 minute meal. You can just throw everything in the slow cook and set to cook for 4-5 hours, then crisp up the chicken after!
Okay, one more thing: have you seen my DIY Taco Bar post? If not, you should definitely check it out for more taco goodness! And don’t forget about my free ebook”10 Gluten Free Recipes to Elevate Your Taco Tuesday” Scroll down to the bottom of this post and you can download it!
Instant Pot Crispy Chicken Carnitas
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp chili powder
- sea salt
- black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 4-6 tbsp Buttery California Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Lindsay Olive brand)
- cumin lime crema (or sour cream)
- lime wedges
- shredded lettuce/cabbage
- Crispy Cheese Taco Shells (see notes)
1. Mix together the cumin, oregano, chili powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
2. Liberally season both sides of chicken thighs with sea salt and black pepper, then the seasonings in the bowl.
3. In your Instant Pot, pour the lime and orange juice in, then place seasoned chicken thighs down. Next sprinkle minced garlic on top of chicken, followed by the bay leaf.
4. Make sure to turn the nob on the instant pot to Seal. Press Manual and adjust time to 8 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, you can make your Crispy Cheese Taco Shells if using them as your vessel. (see notes)
6. When time is done cooking, carefully release the vent button on the Instant Pot to let the pressure out.
7. Remove chicken thighs to a cutting board and chop into bite-size pieces.
8. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat with a few tablespoons of the olive oil.
9. In a few batches (so you don't crowd the skillet and steam the chicken), add the chicken thighs and cook until browned and crispy. This should only take a few minutes per batch.
10. Assemble your tacos and ENJOY!
Crispy Cheese Taco Shells:
(makes 4 shells)
~2 cups shredded cheese (I made them with parmesan, cheddar, and provolone. Experiment with your favorite hard cheese!)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make 4 equal mounds with the shredded cheese. Flatten out mounds and keep them in a circle shape making sure they aren't touching each other.
Bake for approx 6-7 minutes. Meanwhile, setup your taco forming racks. Just place 2 glasses on counter, then balance a wooden spoon on top. This should hold 2 taco shells, so you can setup another station right next to it so you can do this all at once.
Remove from oven and let cool 1-2 minutes. Then with a spatula, carefully lift each of the melted cheesy circles and drap them over the wooden spoons. Let dry about 5 minutes.