Crispy Chicken Carnitas Tacos with Avocado Cilantro Lime Sauce

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!

Crispy chicken carnitas tacos on a dark metal sheet pan topped with sliced lettuce, tomatoes and cotija cheese sitting next to a bowl of 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 used to make crispy baked chicken carnitas tacos

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 marinde 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!
Cooked citrus marinated chicken thighs on a sheet pan pulled fresh from the oven surrounded by lime wedges and a bowl of chopped cilantro
A sheet pan lined with parchment paper with 3 tortillas on it showing you the process of how to make crispy chicken tacos in the oven

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.

Close up photo of shredded chicken carnitas in a sheet pan with cilantro sprinkled over the top

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 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.

A food processor photographed from above filled with avocado cilantro lime sauce with a silver spoon digging into it.

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!
Close up photo of a crispy taco filled with shredded chicken carntias, cheddar cheese and red onion served with an avocado cilantro lime sauce

FAQ’s

  • 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.
Healthy baked crunchy chicken tacos on a dark metal sheet pan served with a creamy avocado sauce topped with chopped fresh cilantro

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:

[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!]

Close up photo of a crispy taco filled with shredded chicken carntias, cheddar cheese and red onion served with an avocado cilantro lime sauce
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5 from 5 votes

Crispy Chicken Carnitas Tacos with Avocado Cilantro Lime Sauce

Fresh corn tortillas are stuffed with shredded citrus marinated chicken & cheese then baked to crispy perfection! These baked chicken carnitas tacos are so easy & perfect for a weeknight family dinner! Serve them with creamy avocado sauce for the ultimate taco night experience!
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course, Tacos
Cuisine: Mexican, Tex-Mex
Keyword: avocado cilantro lime sauce, baked tacos, chicken carnitas, crispy tacos, tacos
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Caitlin

Ingredients

For the tacos:

  • 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
  • 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
  • cup cilantro, chopped (leaves & stems are ok)
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions

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.

Notes

DO NOT marinate your chicken longer than 8 hours! The citrus in this marinade will start “cooking” your chicken if you do.
Every oven is different so I would start checking your tacos around 10 minutes to make sure they aren’t burning.

20 Comments

  1. Do you have the breakdown of the macros for this recipe? I may have missed it, but I don’t see them on here.

    • Hi Riley! Unfortunately I don’t have macros listed for this recipe yet. I’m so sorry! I’m working on getting nutritional information for my recipes soon though!

  2. Can I use chicken breast.?

    • Hi Jo! Absolutely! I would suggest cutting your chicken breasts in half lengthwise before marinating & cooking them. (It makes them so much easier to shred that way.) Also bake them for 20-22 minutes before shredding. 🙂

  3. Made these tacos tonight. My family loved them. The avocado lime sauce was delicious. The sauce complimented the chicken perfectly. Tasty! Will definitely make these again. Thanks for the recipe.

  4. Could I make this with black beans?

  5. Hi Caitlin. I am so looking forward to making this delicious recipe and can hardly wait. In the picture with the ingredients, what is the spice that is in the bowl with the salt and pepper?

    • Hi Lisa! Yayy I can’t wait to hear what you think! 🙂 So the spice in the picture is paprika but after retesting the tacos (and already taking the photos) I decided that the paprika wasn’t necessary for the recipe. If you would still like to add it though, I would suggest using a 1/2 tsp of paprika. I hope this helps! 🙂

  6. This is the most delicious taco recipe I have ever made. Thank you for sharing! ❤️

  7. Karina Cone

    Hello! I loved this recipe it was amazing! I was curious to know which brand the blender was!

    • Hi Karina! I’m so glad you loved the recipe! The blender in my photos is actaully a food processor by KitchneAid. It’s a little small but I absolutely love it! 🙂

  8. Just made this last night and the family loved it! Thanks for the tips

  9. Ellen Weisel

    Do the baked shells get hard while stuffing them one at a time? Or do they stay soft?

    • They should stay pretty soft depending on how many tortillas you’re doing at once. If you’re making a lot though you can always heat them for longer in the oven before stuffing them, maybe about 4-5 minutes. I hope this helps!

  10. SO good! This is definitely a new favorite. I had to stop myself from eating all the chicken while I shredded it. 😍

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