Gluten Free Whole30

Smoky Chicken Carnitas Bowl (Whole30 + GF)

I’ve been making this chicken carnitas recipe for years now due to its simplicity and versatility. It’s a relatively healthy recipe that is also cost effective and crowd pleasing!

Earlier this week I was thinking about what recipes I could make for me and my AWESOME mom – while not going overboard with heavy ingredients. Since returning to the US after 9 months in Spain, I’ve been trying to focus on lighter recipes and get the celebratory indulging under control. But if you know me, you know I won’t compromise on good food. So, this recipe went off in my head like a light bulb.

My take on a carnitas taco chicken uses an easy spice blend – with smoked paprika instead of your typical paprika – and on it goes into the crockpot with either chicken broth or bone broth. After about 5 or 6 hours in the crock pot, it smells heavenly and shreds beautifully (disclaimer – you may hear an hallelujah chorus). All of the ingredients are super straightforward, fresh – and if you can find a compliant brand of chicken stock – Whole30 friendly! I have recommended a couple of popular brands in the Notes section of this recipe.

After shredding, I crisp it up in the pan with a dash of liquid smoke in an effort to recreate that characteristic of carnitas at my favorite taco bars in Richmond. This texture is the perfect contrast to the cherry (tomato) on top – salsa!

I make a classic, fresh, and intuitive recipe, which I treat like a salad when I’m fixing my own bowl. Again – guilt free. I’m not the biggest lettuce fan, so I opt for more salsa. Tomato, onion, jalepeno, lime and a bit of spice to kick it up a notch.

These recipes keep really well in a fridge and can be used full on in taco shells or over a bed of rice! To comply with Whole30, I prepped it with hearts of romaine for the lighter salad form and it was a hit with my family. Be sure to let me know how it goes in the comments and if it changes your Whole30 game the way it did for me!

Whole30 Chicken Carnitas Bowl

Servings: 6-8

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 6 hours


For the chicken

  • 3-4 lbs chicken breasts
  • 2 cups chicken broth or bone broth (see Notes for Whole30-compliant brands)
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Dash liquid smoke (see Notes for Whole30-compliant brand)
  • 1 fresh lime

For the salsa

  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 jalepeno
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika


  • To make the chicken, combine chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add to the crockpot with chicken and broth and cook on high for 5-6 hours.
  • While the chicken is cooking, make the salsa. Finely chop tomatoes, red onion, jalepeno, cilantro and lime juice and combine well. Add a dash of salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Stir. Repeat several times. Refrigerate while the chicken is cooking to allow the flavors to steep.
  • Once the chicken is finished cooking, remove from crockpot and shred on a cutting board (do not discard juices).
  • Heat olive oil in a large, non stick skillet and add chicken in a single layer – don’t crowd the pan. Cook in batches if you must. Cook on medium high, stirring frequently for 2-4 minutes or until liquid has evaporated and chicken appears browned and crispy. After one minute, add a dash of liquid smoke and immediately stir well to properly disperse flavor. Remove from heat and drizzle some liquid from the crockpot back over the carnitas. Sprinkle with salt and squeeze of fresh lime juice, to taste.
  • Assemble the bowl with lettuce, chicken and salsa! Garnish with jalepeno and lime.
  • Notes

17 thoughts on “Smoky Chicken Carnitas Bowl (Whole30 + GF)”

  1. I’ve been cutting out a lot of bread lately, this looks like a great breadless meal to make!

  2. Yum! I’m on Weight Watchers, so obviously swapping bread or tortilla shells, etc for veggies is preferable and I love the “lettuce bowl” situation here! Looks delicious!

    1. Story of my life! I’m always looking for new ways to knock those carbs out of my diet, so I understand where you’re at. Check out my gluten free and Whole30 page for more similar recipes. Good luck!

  3. This Smoky Chicken Carnitas Bowl looks so delicious and this one will absolutely a win dish for my family, thank you for sharing this with us.

  4. These chicken carnitas bowls look so yummy, I am hungry now after reading, thanks for sharing!

    ~xo Sheree

  5. This looks so yummy!! I am all about some carnitas, so can only imagine how good this would be!

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