Tom’s Crispy Chicken Carnitas

Recipe for Tom’s Crispy Chicken Carnitas

Traditionally, Carnitas are made with fried pork and spices. I recently discovered you can achieve a similar taste with just about any meat!

Last night I made it with a 3 pound rack of chicken legs in the interest of being a healthier alternative to pork.

Here’s what you need for this:


Meats and sizes may vary. You can use most any sort of meat, but I have used chicken legs here. Use what sort of meat you like otherwise.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F) and lightly sprinkle the bottom of a cassarrole dish with olive oil
  • Cook chicken legs in cassarrole dish for about an hour and fifteen minutes, turning occasionally
  • Remove chicken legs from oven and let cool enough to handle
  • Take meat and remove any cartilage or bones, discarding them
  • Reheat oven to 400 degrees (F)
  • Add meat to casserole dish plus spices* listed below, with olive oil and a little orange juice (fresh or not-from-concentrate) to keep it from drying out too much, and cook to where meat and onions achieve a soft crispiness
  • Check meat every 5-10 minutes, tearing it apart with two forks (don’t burn the meat)


*– Add below ingredients into the meat while secondarily cooking

  • Salt to taste
  • Chili powder (Teaspoon, or more if you like it hot!)
  • Cumin (1.5 teaspoons)
  • Medium Onion finely chopped
  • Cinnamon (Bit under a tablespoon)
  • Sweet curry powder (my own twist ‐ about a teaspoon full)
  • Plenty of garlic: 1 tablespoon powder, or 5 cloves fresh, minced
  • Bay leaf (be sure to remove prior to consumption)

CarnitasCookingAdd  orange juice  and/or olive oil, stir periodically until desired crispiness is achieved ‐not too dry, still a little moist.

  • Warm tortillas until SLIGHTLY crispy in oven, turning over at least once
  • Chop a small white raw onion and fresh cilantro for garnish and/or avocado if you like, with a slice of lime. Sliced cucumber, jalapenos, lettuce or spinach adds a nice touch too
  • Assemble tacos, and enjoy!

Explore. I love how the spices help the caramelization of the onions; that and just a bit of sweet curry brings it all together. Subtle changes yield different results.

Cheers! Enjoy- Tom Gorman

Part of Tom’s Taco Ensembles

Photos - Tom Gorman March 2017

3 thoughts on “Tom’s Crispy Chicken Carnitas

  1. They look great! I would probably try this with a sweet & savory mango chutney or a mild pico de gajo sauce.
    I like your spice suggestions and your orange juice trick!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was playing in the kitchen last night and came across something I’d just add onto this post: I took the above recipe, then added
    – 2 TBSP Honey
    – 2 Limes, juiced
    – 1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped

    Cooked until homogenized (about an additional 30 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees (f))
    Spooned meat into corn torillas, with raw onion, cilantro and jalapenos

    It was great- like a ‘Pollo Al Pastor.’ I’ll make that again soon and perhaps create a separate blog post. Why poultry instead of pork or beef? Not as bad for you, and doesn’t have as much Omega 6, which can cause inflammation in some people.


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