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!

Overhead horizontal image of crispy, shredded chicken carnitas on a sheet pan with two forks, lime wedges, jalapeño slices and fresh chopped cilantro.

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!


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Chicken Carnitas (Slow Cooker or Instant Pot)

5 from 7 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: Main Course
Servings: 6
Calories: 391kcal
Author: Erica Winn
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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

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
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