Taqueria-Style Chicken Tacos
Flavorful, juicy, NOT DRY chicken tacos, can it be true?? Yes, and you can easily make them in 30 minutes on the stovetop, or in the crockpot in about 3 hours. These shredded chicken tacos are made with just a few ingredients but taste like they're from a taqueria, no lie. And we are NOT throwing chicken in a crock pot with some salsa. Please.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Garnish prep10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
For the tacos
- 1 & 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/4 cup homemade taco seasoning or a taco seasoning packet, SEE NOTES*
- 2 tablespoons olive oil for the pan, divided
- 2 tablespoons butter divided
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
30 Minute Chicken Tacos on the Stove
Place 1 and 1/2 pounds chicken thighs** on a plate or in a casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Homemade Taco Seasoning* over the top and rub it all over the chicken with your hands. See notes to use a store bought taco packet. Let the chicken marinate at least 15 minutes (or up to 24 hours in the fridge). Heat a 12-inch saute pan over medium high heat for at least 3 minutes. When it is hot, add 1 tablespoon oil. Swirl to coat. The oil should shimmer right away.
Carefully place each chicken thigh in the pan. Once it touches the pan you can’t move it, so arrange accordingly. Do not crowd the chicken. You will have to do this in at least 2 batches. Do not touch, poke, or move the chicken at all. It needs to stay put to get a nice sear.
Once the chicken that will fit is in the pan, lower the heat to medium. Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes. If you try to flip the chicken and it sticks to the pan, it’s not ready to turn.
Use tongs to flip each piece of chicken, swirling the pan as necessary to coat with oil. Immediately add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and swirl the pan as it melts. (The butter helps the chicken to brown, and brings flavor.) Cook the chicken on the second side for about 2 minutes, until it is a deep golden brown and a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees F. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat this process with the second half of the seasoned chicken.
Cut the chicken against the grain, then it should easily shred into smaller pieces. Transfer to a serving bowl. Squeeze the juice from one lime over the top of the chicken. If there are any pan juices left in your pan, you can add that to the chicken too.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
*This will take 2 and 1/2 hours*Place 1 and 1/2 pounds chicken** into your crock pot. If you have skin-on thighs, you will have to trim them first. But if you bought boneless skinless, you can just toss them in. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Homemade Taco Seasoning over the chicken and use your hands to rub it in. (You can use a store bought taco packet; add 1 and 1/2 tablespoons cornmeal to it first, see notes) Chop 2 tablespoons butter into small chunks. Sprinkle the butter evenly over the chicken. Close the lid and let cook on LOW for 2 and 1/2 hours, or up to 3 hours max.
Remove the chicken, let it rest a few minutes, then shred. It should be totally falling apart. Add chicken to a serving bowl and squeeze juice from 1 lime over the top. Serve with the crock pot drippings.
Serve your tacos
Char your tortillas. Set a gas burner over medium high heat. Place a corn tortilla over the open flame. Let char for about 5-10 seconds (don't walk away) then flip with metal tongs and char the other side. Once it has blackened edges, place the tortilla in a ziplock bag and seal. Every few tortillas, I add a damp paper towel to the bag to help it steam. (If you don't have a gas stove, heat the tortillas in a pan until warm, then follow steaming step as described) Assemble your tacos: Layer 1 or 2 steamed corn tortillas. Top with a generous amount of chicken, plus drippings if there are any. Add garnishes as desired, you don't have to use all of them. (At least one kind of salsa, plus chopped onions and cilantro is the bare minimum in my opinion) Here's more:Pico de Gallo (or chopped onions and cilantro), Mexican Crema, Queso Fresco, more lime juice, chopped jalapeno, sliced radishes, and Restaurant Style Salsa and/or Avocado Tomatillo Salsa.
*If you don't feel like making homemade taco seasoning (I get it, I get it) use a 1-ounce taco seasoning packet from the store. Open the packet, add 1 and 1/2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal, shake it a little to mix, and then rub it all over your chicken. The cornmeal boosts flavor and helps create a thickened sauce for your chicken. Don't skip it!
**If you have bone in, skin on thighs, be sure to trim them first. Also, you can use chicken breasts for this recipe. Cut them as shown in the photos above so they cook more evenly.
Calories: 416kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 132mg | Sodium: 1105mg | Potassium: 457mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1339IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 181mg | Iron: 2mg