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Chicken Carnitas (Slow Cooker or Instant Pot)

Whether you’re meal prepping or feeding a crowd, this Paleo, Whole30 + Keto chicken carnitas recipe is a great option. Only 10 minutes of active prep and then you set your Instant Pot or Slow Cooker and walk away. This healthy chicken recipe is a quick and easy go-to for any day of the week!

Simple + Versatile

We love this recipe, not just because it’s delicious, but because it’s super simple and versatile. That ends up being the winning combo for us. We love meal prep recipes that we can easily make a big batch of and then use it repeatedly throughout the week in different ways.

Angled vertical image of chicken carnitas in a bowl with garnish of lime wedges, sliced jalapeño and chopped cilantro.

These chicken carnitas can be enjoyed several ways. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Tacos – with Siete tortillas or corn tortillas if you tolerate corn ok.
  • Bowls – you can make a bowl with rice or cauliflower rice, veggies, greens, avocado and throw some chipotle aioli or one of our other Whole30 sauces on top for good measure.
  • Roasted Veggies – just pair this flavorful chicken with your favorite roasted veggies and call it good.
  • Stuffed potato – stuff a sweet potato or regular potato if you eat them with these carnitas.
Overhead vertical image of chicken carnitas served in a bowl with greens, sliced radish, lemon wedges, sliced jalapeño and avocado slices. Topped with chopped cilantro.

Easy shredded crispy chicken

An easy tip for making your Slow Cooker or Instant Pot chicken carnitas crispy is to put them on a sheet pan and broil them for 7-10 minutes before serving. This is an optional tip to get those crispy bits.

Overhead vertical image of crispy chicken carnitas on a sheet pan with two forks for shredding, lime wedges, sliced jalapeño and chopped cilantro.

Storage + Re-heating Tips

When you go to store your carnitas for leftovers, make sure to store them in the extra juices so that when you re-heat them, you infuse them again with the flavorful sauce. Our preferred way of re-heating these carnitas is in a pan on the stove. This also makes them crispy and delicious.

Overhead vertical image of chicken carnitas in a bowl with garnish of lime wedges, sliced jalapeño and chopped cilantro.

Some Other Slow Cooker + Instant Pot Recipes

Your Turn To Make This Chicken Carnitas Recipe

Plan to meal prep these chicken carnitas, and then mix up how you eat them throughout the week. Enjoy healthy chicken dinners or lunches with ease!

Overhead vertical image of chicken carnitas served in a bowl with greens, sliced radish, lemon wedges, sliced jalapeño and avocado slices. Topped with chopped cilantro.

If you try the recipe, be sure to add a comment and rating below to let us know how it goes. Also, take a pic to share on Instagram and tag us @realsimplegood. We love to see it when you make our recipes! And give us a follow if you don’t already – let’s stay connected!

Angled vertical image of chicken carnitas in a bowl with lime wedges, sliced jalapeño and chopped cilantro with text overlay at top.

Like this Recipe?


Vertical split image with text overlay in the middle. Top image is close up of chicken carnitas in a bowl. Bottom image is close up of chicken carnitas served with greens, radish slices, lemon wedges, sliced jalapeño and avocado. Topped with cilantro.

Chicken Carnitas (Slow Cooker or Instant Pot)

4.74 from 52 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: Main Course
Servings: 6
Calories: 391kcal
This Paleo, Whole30 + Keto crispy chicken carnitas recipe needs 10 minutes of active prep, and then let your Instant Pot or Slow Cooker do all the work!
Print Recipe Rate Recipe


  • 4 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (can sub chicken breasts)

For the carnitas sauce:

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp oregano (fresh or dried)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder

For serving:

  • romaine lettuce (or sub tortillas or other sturdy lettuce)
  • chopped cilantro
  • sliced avocado
  • sliced jalapenos
  • lime wedges
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  • Prep garlic as noted. Combine orange juice, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and chipotle powder in a bowl or jar and mix well.
  • Prepare any optional toppings/serving items to have them ready for when the chicken is finished cooking.

For the Instant Pot:

  • Place chicken in the Instant Pot and add in the garlic. Pour the carnitas sauce all over the chicken and toss to coat.
  • Secure the lid on the instant pot and close the pressure valve. Press the “manual” button (or “pressure cook” button) and set the time to cook for 25 minutes at high pressure. Once the time is up, carefully quick release the pressure manually.

For the slow cooker:

  • Place chicken in the slow cooker and pour the carnitas sauce all over the chicken.
  • Place lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
  • When the chicken has finished cooking in either the Instant pot or slow cooker, remove the lid and shred the chicken with two forks.
  • Serve chicken carnitas in bowls, lettuce wedges or tortillas with your favorite toppings.

Optional step for crispy chicken carnitas:

  • Set your oven to broil.
  • After shredding the chicken, use a spoon to remove the chicken from the instant pot or slow cooker and place on a large sheet pan. Pour or spoon the juices from the instant pot or slow cooker over the chicken in the sheet pan.
  • Place in the oven to broil for 7-10 minutes, until the chicken begins to develop some brown and crispy edges. Remove the chicken halfway through and mix it up with a spoon or tongs to help coat all of the chicken with the juices.
  • Watch the chicken carefully under the broiler and cook to your preference.


Nutrition facts are an estimate provided for those following a Ketogenic or low-carb diet and do not include the optional topping for this recipe. See our full nutrition information disclosure here

Nutrition (per serving)

Calories: 391kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 59g | Fat: 13g | Fiber: 1g
Tried this recipe?Take a picture and tag @realsimplegood so we can see it!
Chicken Carnitas (Slow Cooker or Instant Pot)Chicken Carnitas (Slow Cooker or Instant Pot)

37 thoughts on “Chicken Carnitas (Slow Cooker or Instant Pot)

  • I don’t see anything about putting and water or stock in the IP. I’ve never cooked anything in the IP without liquid to build up the pressure. Is this right?

  • I have an instant pot Duo/Air Fryer. Can I switch lids and use the air fryer for the broiling? Also, is it possible to do PIP rice along with the chicken?

    • We haven’t tried either of these so we can’t say. the air fryer lid might work but would only crisp up the top layer of the pork. We’ve found spreading it out on a sheet pan works best. However, it still tastes great without this step so you can save the extra work if needed 🙂

  • I made this for dinner last night after searching Pinterest for something easy to make with boneless skinless chicken thighs. Had all the ingredients, threw everything in my InstantPot, and cooked for 30 minutes on manual since my chicken thighs were frozen. The meat turned out amazing! We ate it in warm corn tortillas topped with guac. So good! We had leftovers and I used the meat in Cafe Rio style salads tonight. It would be great in tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, enchiladas, salads, you name it! It’s going into my rotation for sure.

  • I made this tasty dish in my Instant Pot because I’m always looking to expand my cooking skills with the Instant Pot. I did the optional step in crisping my chicken under the broiler, and it was worth the effort! Yum! I served these with avocado slices and baked sweet potatoes. My son and husband raved over this dish and my husband continued to eat leftovers for a couple of days, putting the chicken in corn tortillas. Thanks for this great, simple dinner idea!

  • This was SO easy and yummy. Lots of leftovers great as salad topper, with eggs for breakfast or with roasted veggies for dinner! Will be making in the instant pot on repeat.

  • I’ve made this a few times now and each time I amazed at how simple it truly is to make! And of course it is so delicious, it has become a weekly staple.

  • This recipe is amazing! Super easy and made the house smell great all day. I used chicken breasts and slow cooked it for 8 hours. Will definitely be doing this weekly. My kids loved it too which is a nice bonus:) Thanks again for another amazing recipe!!!

    • We’re so glad it was a hit for everyone! Thanks so much for sharing on Instagram and for coming back to leave a rating and review. We appreciate it! 🙂

  • This was super easy, super quick (in the InstantPot) and SO YUMMY! This will def become a staple recipe at our house. I cut the recipe in half (just 2 of us) and there was still lots of leftovers – which I am happy about! We put it in lettuce wraps for dinner tonight, but this could also be quickly thrown on a salad, or mixed with rice/corn/beans for a mexican bowl… really versatile chicken to have in the fridge! Will make again!

    • We’re so glad you guys enjoyed it! Thanks so much for trying our recipe and for sharing on IG and coming back to leave a review. We appreciate it SO much! 🙂

  • “Prep onion and garlic as noted”
    I don’t see any mention of onion in the ingredients.
    What am I missing?

  • How much onion? It’s not in the ingredient list but it’s the first item to prep in the recipe!

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