Mexican Pulled Chicken
This Mexican Pulled Chicken is an easy, healthy recipe to add to burritos, tacos, enchiladas, or served as a main course. Chicken thighs are marinated in a smoky, flavorful spice mixture and seared, creating the most delicious crispy, crunchy browned bits, then shredded with two forks.
Is juicy and smoky- tender chicken thighs are shredded with two forks, perfect for burrito bowls, tacos, enchiladas, and more!
Equipment - Large nonstick skillet
1.5-2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for skillet, if needed
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
juice and zest of one lime
lime wedges and fresh cilantro for serving, optional
Mix the olive oil (2 tablespoons), smoked paprika (1 tablespoon), ground coriander (1 teaspoon), ground cumin (1 teaspoon), garlic powder (1 teaspoon), kosher salt (1 teaspoon), black pepper (1/2 teaspoon), and lime juice and zest (from one lime) in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.
Place the chicken thighs in a container, bowl, or large plastic bag. Pour the marinade on top (it will be thick) and or stir to coat each piece of chicken evenly (if in a bag, just smoosh it around until everything is evenly coated). Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or as long as 24 hours.
Heat a large (12-inch) non-stick skillet over medium high heat (see notes for other skillets). Add marinated chicken; sear without moving on one side for 5-7 minutes (check that it's not burning after 2-3 minutes- you may want to turn the heat down to medium if you have very hot burners or flip it earlier if it's cooking fast).
Once the seared side is browned and looking crispy, flip to other side and sear, until chicken is cooked through to 165 degrees F or meat is no longer pink (another 5-10 minutes, depending on thickness and size of chicken. Turn the heat down to medium or medium-low if both sides are seared but inside is not yet cooked the whole way). If you have a lid to your skillet, you can cover it to speed up the cooking time a bit.
Remove chicken from skillet to a cutting board. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, then shred with two forks. Optional: for an extra punch of flavor, you can return the shredded chicken to the skillet to coat in the cooking juices.
Serve with a squeeze of fresh lime juice garnished with fresh cilantro, if desired. Use in enchiladas, on tacos or burritos, in bowls, or on its own as a main course.
To use boneless chicken breasts, I recommend a few adjustments to cut down on cooking time so they aren't dry. First, cut them into small pieces about 2-3 inches in size. Sear them for 3-5 minutes on each side to get a browned, crispy crust, then turn the heat down to medium or medium low and cover the skillet (if you have one) to keep the steam in and help keep them juicy. Cook like this for about 10 more minutes, then check the temperature to see if they are done. If not, check again frequently so you don't overcook them.
To use a cast iron, stainless steel, or other nonstick skillet, add 1-2 more tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and swirl to coat before searing the chicken.
Ingredient substitutions: Lemon may be substituted for lime, ground coriander may be omitted if you don't have any, 2 cloves fresh minced garlic may be substituted for garlic powder.
Storage: This shredded chicken will stay good in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3 days. Freeze completely cooled shredded chicken for up to 4 months in a sealed zip top bag with as much air squeezed out as possible (or in an airtight container filled up almost full) and defrost for 24 hours in the fridge before you're planning on using it.