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Dutch Oven Chicken Carnitas- make on Sunday, then serve 3 ways during the workweek! |

Chicken Carnitas Recipe (Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, Stovetop, Baked)

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  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine | Feasting at Home Blog
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 55 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 mins
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Category: Main, chicken, low carb, meal prep
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: mexican


Healthy Chicken Carnitas- cook these in an Instant Pot, on the stove top, or bake in a Dutch Oven with only 15 minutes of hands on time! Great for meal prepping -make ahead on Sunday then turn these into tacos, quesadillas, breakfast skillets, burrito bowls or nachos during the workweek!


Units Scale
  • 1 onion- diced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 6 garlic cloves- rough chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (optional- for heat)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or GF Braggs Liquid Amino Acids ( or one bouillon cube)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or lime juice)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or a couple of bay leaves)
  • 1 can diced green chilies (optional)
  • 3 lbs chicken- boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs (left whole)


  1. If baking, preheat oven to 400F (See notes for instant pot and slow cooker)
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, saute 2 minutes, stirring. Add garlic, turn heat to medium, saute 4-5 minutes until fragrant and golden and onions are tender. Add spices and salt, toasting for 1-2 minutes
  3. Add water, soy and vinegar. Add oregano and optional green chilies. Stir.
  4. Place chicken in the liquid. At this point, you could place it all in your instant pot or slow cooker (see notes)
  5. Bring to a simmer. Cover and either simmer on the stove on med-low for 45 minutes or place in the hot oven.
  6.  If cooking breasts, check at 35-40 minutes, they may be done depending on thickness and size. Thighs will need the whole 45 minutes, perhaps a little more, again, depending on size.
  7. You’ll know if the meat is done when it’s 165-170F, or when it is tender and shreds easily with two forks. Shred the meat, then simmer gently on the stove until some of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 -10 more minutes.
  8. Crisp it up! If you like crispy carnitas, simmer until all the liquid is gone, (or drain well) then pan sear in oil to crisp, or place on a sheet pan, spray with spray oil, and broil in the oven.


Instant Pot Instructions:  Set Instant Pot to Saute function, and add the oil. Add onion, saute 3 minutes, stirring. Add garlic, saute 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add spices and salt, toasting for 1 minute. Add water, soy sauce and vinegar scraping up any browned bits ( to prevent burn error). Add oregano and optional green chilies. Place chicken in the liquid.Pressure Cook on High for 10 -12 minutes breasts- (shorter for small, longer for thick breasts)  (or 14 minutes for chicken thighs) letting the pressure release naturally. Turn the Instant Pot back on to the “Saute function” to allow some of liquid to reduce, while shredding the chicken with two forks.  Reducing the liquid (instead of draining it) really concentrates the flavor back into the meat and keeps it moist – so try to go this route if you have time. If using chicken breasts, allow the chicken a little time to “reabsorb” some of the juices letting it sit at “warm” for 15-30 minutes. Thighs do work best in the Instant pot- and tend to dry out less easily.

Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas: Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and give a stir. Set the slow cooker to low setting for 7-8 hours or high setting  for 4-5 hours.


  • Serving Size: 4 ounces
  • Calories: 163
  • Sugar: 1.1 g
  • Sodium: 530 mg
  • Fat: 4.4 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 3.4 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 26.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 82.7 mg