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Carnitas de Pollo

Photo: Oxmoor House


Hands-on time 35 mins
Total time 2 hrs, 5 mins
Yield Serves 6 (serving size: 1/2 cup chicken, 2 tortillas, and 1 lime wedge)
Carnitas are often celebrated for their fat-forward technique and texture. But is it really the fat? Probably not. Successful carnitas are revered more for the crisp exterior texture and the fork-tender interior. Here, we take a leaner approach with chicken thighs, going a bit more complex with some citrus and beer, and pulling off a miracle of fat restraint. Serve these with Maria's Cilantro Cebollas. The tangy, crisp, and bright flavors are a perfect foil to the rich carnitas.


  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups sliced yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 6 garlic cloves, halved
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle light beer
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 2 limes, cut "seviche-style"

Nutrition Information

  • calories 333
  • fat 7.8 g
  • satfat 1.8 g
  • monofat 2.2 g
  • polyfat 2.2 g
  • protein 33 g
  • carbohydrate 31 g
  • fiber 4 g
  • cholesterol 125 mg
  • iron 2 mg
  • sodium 549 mg
  • calcium 74 mg

How to Make It

  1. On a cutting board, rub the chicken thighs with the salt. Transfer to a plate momentarily.

  2. This is a time to break out your top-quality Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Heat the Dutch oven over medium-high heat and spray evenly with cooking spray.

  3. Lay down the chicken thighs in a single layer, and cook 12 minutes or until they're well browned before turning. Flip the thighs over and cook 8 minutes or until browned. You want them to be quite crusty, to the point of almost seeming overcooked. Fret not, you'll add some liquid to rehydrate the dish in a moment.

  4. When the chicken thighs resemble roasted chicken that's been accidentally left in the oven overnight with the pilot light on, they're ready for the onions and the garlic. Tumble about for a minute or so.

  5. Add 2 cups water and the beer, and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer robustly at a steady, constant bubble for about an hour and 20 minutes, uncovered, or until the liquid is about 1/4 cup from being fully evaporated.

  6. Now, add the orange juice, lime juice, and brown sugar, and continue to cook and turn the thighs, about 2 minutes or until the chicken pieces are nicely glazed and nearly falling apart. Turn off the heat.

  7. After about 10 minutes, when the chicken is cool enough to handle but still quite warm, remove the chicken and tear it into bite-sized pieces. Combine the pulled chicken with the cooked onions and soft garlic.

  8. Platter and serve with warm corn tortillas and lime wedges.

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