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slow cooker chicken carnitas in a clear bowl on a white table
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4.35 from 23 votes

Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas

Great for a weeknight, slow cooker chicken carnitas don’t need to be pre-cooked. Just combine chicken thighs and spices in the slow cooker and let them go. Just before serving, shred the chicken and broil it until tender and crisp. Use the carnitas in tacos, burrito bowls, or to make taco salads.
This recipe can be made in a 4 or 6-quart slow cooker.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 10 minutes
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Tex Mex
Keyword: chicken carnitas, chicken dinner, chicken tacos, easy chicken recipe, easy recipe, Mexican, slow cooker tacos, tex mex
Servings: 6
Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $6.00


  • 4 or 6 quart Slow-Cooker
  • Half Sheet Pan


For the Slow Cooker:

  • 2 pounds Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Chili Powder (do not use cayenne pepper; chili powder will give this dish a hint of spice; for non-spicy version, use paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Chicken Stock or Water

To Finish:

  • 2 Tablespoons Cooking Oil
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Lime Juice (optional)


  • In a small bowl, combine salt, cumin, chili powder, ground coriander, oregano, garlic powder, and black pepper.
  • Place the chicken thighs in the bowl of a slow cooker and sprinkle spices over top. Stir to evenly coat the chicken in spices.
  • Pour water around the sides of the chicken.
  • Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook until chicken is tender, 3 to 4 hours on high or 7 hours on low.
  • When chicken is done, use a slotted spoon to remove it from the slow cooker (leaving behind any cooking liquid in the bottom of the bowl) and transfer to a cutting board.
  • Shred the chicken with two forks or use a knife to roughly chop it.
  • Toss the chicken with cooking oil and spread out on a sheet pan. Season with some salt and pepper.
  • Turn on the oven’s broiler (use the high setting if available) and place an oven rack about 6” / 15 cm below the broiler.
  • Slide the sheet pan with the chicken under the broiler and cook, without stirring the chicken, until the edges are very crisp and golden brown. The temperature from a broiler can vary widely, but this should take between 5 and 12 minutes. Watch it very closely to prevent burning.
  • Squeeze lime juice over chicken.
  • Serve immediately.


The chicken can be cooked in the slow cooker and shredded / chopped up to 3 days ahead of time. Do the step to brown it under the broiler right before serving. 


Calories: 188kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 144mg | Sodium: 543mg | Potassium: 393mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 135IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 2mg