Fresh corn tortillas are stuffed with shredded citrus marinated chicken & cheese then baked to crispy perfection! These baked chicken carnitas tacos are so easy & best served with a creamy avocado sauce!
Tacos! I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I get for taco night at our house. Fish tacos, beef tacos, shrimp tacos…you name it – I’m here for it! And one of our go-to taco fillings is carnitas. But sometimes we can’t find a pork butt or I just don’t have time to put it in the slow cooker and I still want that yummy carnitas flavor. That’s where these crispy chicken carnitas tacos come in! They have all the flavor of traditional pork carnitas just made in half the time!
Chicken thighs are marinated in a quick citrus and Mexican herb marinade then roasted until tender, shredded, stuffed inside fresh corn tortillas with lots of cheese & baked until crispy! Ho-ly yummmm! Doesn’t that sound like the best chicken dinner?!😉
Ingredients For Your Baked Chicken Carnitas Tacos
- Chicken thighs: Use boneless skinless chicken thighs for the best results. They’re much more flavorful than chicken breasts and take less time to cook than bone-in chicken thighs. (Plus they’re so easy to shred too!)
- Citrus: You’ll need 2 oranges and 2 limes for this recipe.
- Jalapeno: Leave out the seeds! We want the flavor of the jalapeno for this recipe, not the heat.
- Cilantro: A handful goes in your chicken marinade and the rest goes into your avocado sauce!
- Garlic: An essential ingredient to every recipe! (In my personal opinion.😉)
- Spices: Chili powder, oregano, salt & black pepper are all you need to spice up your chicken carnitas!
- Corn tortillas: Use larger corn tortillas for the best results. (Plus you can stuff them with more filling!)
- Onion: Red or white onion both work for this recipe. Red onions tend to be more mild while white onions have a stronger “onion” flavor.
- Cheese: I LOVE LOVE LOVE using sharp cheddar cheese! (It adds an intense bold flavor that pairs so well with your chicken carnitas.) You can also use mild cheddar, monterey jack, a mix of the two or even pepperjack cheese instead.
- Avocado cilantro lime sauce: Spread it, dip your tacos in it or eat it by the spoonful! This creamy avocado sauce is insanely flavorful and the perfect condiment for your tacos!
How to Make Chicken Carnitas Tacos In The Oven
1. Marinate your chicken. Clean your chicken thighs (if needed) and place them in a large bowl. Then mix your marinade ingredients together and pour it over your thighs. Let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes – 8 hours.
2. Bake. A few minutes before the chicken is done marinating, turn your oven on to 400 degrees. Then spray a large baking dish with cooking spray and place your chicken thighs in the dish. (Discard the marinade.) Bake your chicken for 15-20 minutes or until it’s cooked all the way through. (Internal temperature should be 165 degrees.) Shred your chicken once it’s done.
3. Make your sauce. Add your avocado, cilantro, lime juice, garlic and salt to a food processor and blend until smooth. Keep your sauce stored in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.
4. Assemble your tacos. Turn your oven up to 425 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Then lay your tortillas out on the pan and spray them with cooking spray. Flip them over and bake them for 2-3 minutes. (We need them just soft enough to fold over your filling.) Then take the pan out of the oven and layer each tortilla on one side with cheese, your chicken carnitas, red onion and a little more cheese. Fold the other side of the tortilla over your filling and press down gently to make it “stick.”
5. Bake. Once all of your tacos are made, place the pan back in the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes or until the cheese has melted and your tortillas are crispy.
6. Serve! Serve immediately with your avocado cilantro lime sauce and enjoy!
*Every oven is different so I would suggest checking your tacos around 10 minutes to make sure they aren’t burning.
Take It Over The Top With Avocado Cilantro Lime Sauce
If you really want to take these tacos over the top, you have to try them with my avocado cilantro lime sauce! It’s an easy 5 ingredient sauce that really takes this dish to the next level! Creamy avocado, cilantro, lots of lime juice, garlic & just a touch of garlic salt! We use this sauce on everything so it seemed like a no brainer to try it with our tacos. And let me ya… soo good! Just blend your ingredients in a food processor until smooth and you’re done!
Storing: To store your avocado sauce, place it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. It should stay good for 2-3 days if stored properly.
What To Serve With Chicken Carnitas
Let’s talk toppings! If you want, you can open up these chicken tacos and stuff your toppings inside OR you can do what we do and just add them on top. Either way they’re delicious! Here are a few topping ideas to get you started:
- Avocado cilantro lime sauce (obviously😉)
- A dollop of guacamole or mashed avocado
- Sour cream (or greek yogurt for a low fat substitute)
- Pico de gallo
- Veggies – Red onion, cherry tomatoes or even thinly sliced lettuce!
- Salsas – any & all types!
- Chopped cilantro & lot’s of lime juice!
- Can I prep any ingredients beforehand? Yes! You can cook & shred the chicken at least 1-2 days in advance and make the sauce the night before. (Because there’s so much citrus in your sauce, it won’t turn brown after sitting like most avocado based dips!)
- How do I know when my tacos are done baking? They should be slightly golden brown with the edges just starting to turn dark brown. (It’s ok if they’re not completely firm when you pull them out of the oven. They’ll continue to crisp up as they cool.)
- Are these crispy chicken tacos healthy? Yes! We’re baking these tacos instead of frying them in oil so they’re much better for you.
Why you’ll love these oven baked chicken carnitas tacos
- Great for a crowd! Baking these tacos in the oven allows us to make a large amount at one time so they’re perfect for serving a group!
- Flavor on flavor! Mexican herbs & spices, lots of citrus, garlic, jalapeno & a creamy avocado sauce for dipping! These chicken tacos are exploding with Mexican flare!
- Healthier crispy tacos! Most crispy taco recipes call for frying them in oil to get that crunchy outer shell. Not these tacos! Baking them in the oven still achieves the same effect without a big greasy mess.
Need them gluten free? Great news, they already are!
Need them dairy free? Use your favorite dairy free shredded cheddar cheese instead!
More taco recipes you might like:
- Chipotle Lime Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Lime Sauce
- Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
- Crispy Shrimp & Poblano Tacos
- Crispy Chipotle Shredded Beef Tacos
[Made one of my recipes? Make sure to tag my Instagram @kalefornia_kravings & leave a review in the comments. I love seeing what you create!]
Crispy Chicken Carnitas Tacos with Avocado Cilantro Lime Sauce
For the tacos:
- 1½ lb. chicken thighs, boneless & skinless
- 2 oranges, juiced
- 2 limes, juiced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeno, deseeded & finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 8 large corn tortillas
- ⅓ of a red onion, chopped
- 2 cups grated cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, Mexican blend, etc.)
For the avocado cilantro lime sauce:
- 2 medium avocados
- 1 garlic clove
- ⅓ cup cilantro, chopped (leaves & stems are ok)
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- ¼ tsp garlic salt
To make the avocado cilantro lime sauce:
- Add all of your ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Store the sauce in the fridge while you prepare your tacos.
To make the chicken carnitas:
- Clean your chicken thighs (if needed) and place them in a large bowl. Then mix your orange juice, lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, olive oil, chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper together and pour it over your thighs. Let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes – 8 hours.
- A few minutes before the chicken is done marinating, turn your oven on to 400 degrees. Then spray a large baking dish with cooking spray and place your chicken thighs in the dish. (Discard the marinade.) Then bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes or until it's cooked all the way through. (Internal temperature should be 165 degrees.) Shred your chicken once it's done.
To make your tacos:
- Turn your oven up to 425 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Then lay your tortillas out on the pan and spray them with cooking spray. Flip them over and bake them for 2-3 minutes. (You just need them soft enough to fold over your filling.) Then take the pan out of the oven and layer each tortilla on one side with cheese, chicken carnitas, red onion and a little more cheese. Fold the other side of the tortilla over your filling and press down gently to make it "stick."
- Once all of your tacos are made, place the pan back in the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes or until the cheese has melted and your tortillas are crispy.
- Serve immediately with your avocado cilantro lime sauce.