Transform boneless skinless chicken thighs into crispy but tender and juicy pulled chicken with big, aromatic flavors using this recipe for Mexican style Dutch oven pulled chicken.
This Mexican pulled chicken is a spin on one of my most popular recipes over on Kinda Healthy Recipes, pressure cooker shredded chicken.
The new and improved version adds two white onions to a similar seasoning blend of garlic and chili powder, Mexican oregano, ground coriander and cinnamon, and Mexican beer to bring it all together.
How to Make Pulled Chicken in a Dutch Oven
Color is flavor, and that’s exactly what the first step in this recipe accomplishes. By seasoning your chicken with salt and pepper and patting dry with a paper towel before cooking, you create the perfect environment for the Maillard reaction to occur. This develops a golden brown color on the chicken, which results in tons of flavor development.
Listen to the chicken in this step. Add it to the Dutch oven and leave it untouched for at least 3-4 minutes. If you try to flip the chicken and it’s sticking to the pot, it’s not ready. Continue cooking until it easily releases from the pot.
Once you’ve browned one side of all the chicken thighs (you’re not looking to fully cook at this step), you will have tons of fond on the bottom of the pot. The moisture from diced onion will help the fond release and pick up all the great flavor.
You can use a small amount of beer or your choice of cooking liquid to kickstart the process if you notice too much browning.
Once you have deglazed the pot and the onions have softened, it’s time for a seasoning blend and the rest of your cooking liquid.
You’re looking to braise the chicken in the Dutch oven. So don’t worry about using too little liquid. The chicken will release more water and fat as it cooks.
After you’ve brought the remaining beer or cooking liquid to a slow rolling boil (it will only take a minute or two), add the chicken to the Dutch oven in the braising liquid. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes.
Chicken thighs are very forgiving, but you’ll want to keep a closer eye on chicken breast if you go that route. But don’t go that route! The extra fat in chicken thighs makes a huge difference when making pulled chicken.
When the chicken is fall-apart tender, you know you’re ready to shred the chicken. I like to transfer the chicken to a separate bowl to shred to protect the enameled coating on my Dutch oven.
Let the remaining juices simmer away while you shred the chicken. The thicker, the better.
After adding the shredded chicken back to the Dutch oven, you can serve. But I highly recommend broiling on the bottom rack of your oven to create crispy pulled chicken. This adds texture and even more flavor. Color is flavor, remember?
Just make sure your Dutch oven is safe to go under the broiler. You can expect temperatures in the 550ºF to 600ºF range on the bottom rack of your oven when using the broil function. If you’re unsure, use your lowest broil setting and extend the time under the broiler.
What to Make with Shredded Mexican Chicken
With a huge yield, this recipe makes plenty of chicken to make tacos, quesadillas, nachos, enchiladas, or any dish you can think of. My Tex-Mex Chicken Pot Pie, for example, combines this leftover pulled chicken with corn, poblano, potatoes, Mexican crema, and cotija cheese with a refrigerated pie crust to make something special.
Here’s a list of ideas to repurpose leftover pulled chicken:
- Roll some leftover shredded chicken and cheese in corn tortillas for Air Fried Chicken Taquitos.
- Bake shredded Mexican cheese and pulled chicken topped tortilla chips for 8-10 minutes in a 400ºF oven for a great nacho base. (Or make smoked nachos with a pellet grill.)
- Make these leftover pulled chicken quesadillas but swap the BBQ sauce for some type of chili sauce or enchilada sauce.
- Use this chicken in recipes like these leftover chicken enchiladas, ensalada de pollo (Mexican chicken salad), or as a rotisserie chicken substitute in this Mexican chicken soup or my smoked chicken cheese dip.
All right, you get the point. The possibilities are endless. If you need a great drink pairing, aside from another cerveza, check out our sparkling citrus margaritas.
You’ll find the printable recipe card below with notes about how to make Dutch oven pulled chicken with chicken breast instead of chicken thighs and other commonly asked questions. If you have a question about the recipe I haven’t covered, leave it in the comments below.
And finally, I always appreciate recipe reviews if you love this Mexican chicken!
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- 1/2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 2 large White Onions, diced
- 1 1/2 cup (12 oz) Mexican Beer*
For the Seasoning Blend
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Mexican Oregano
- 1/2 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
- 1/2 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- Place the chicken thighs on a sheet pan and pat dry with a paper towel. Season generously with kosher salt (about 1/2 Tbsp) and black pepper (about 1/2 to 1 tsp). Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, pat the chicken dry with a paper towel again before adding half the chicken to the pot. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the chicken easily releases from the pot and is golden brown on one side. Transfer back to the sheet pan and add the rest of the chicken. Repeat. (You're only browning one side of the chicken.)
- Once the chicken is browned on one side, add the onion to the pot and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to pick up color and soften. If the bottom begins to brown too quickly, use some of the beer to deglaze the pot.
- Once the onions have softened, add the remaining beer and seasoning blend. Bring to a boil before turning the heat to low and adding the chicken to the pot. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked and fall apart tender.
- Transfer the chicken to a bowl and shred with two forks. Add the chicken back to the remaining juices and toss together.
- Optional: Place the uncovered pot on the bottom rack of your oven under the broiler for 6-8 minutes to create crispy edges and further reduce the juices. (Make sure your Dutch oven is safe to put under 550ºF to 600ºF. Use a lower heat setting if it's not.)
*I used Modelo Especial, but any cerveza works. Athletic Brewing makes a decent non-alcoholic cerveza. Chicken broth or stock also works. You can add a tablespoon of apple cider, white wine, or balsamic vinegar to add some missed flavor without the beer.
Serve the chicken on warmed corn tortillas with diced white onion, chopped cilantro, and lime juice. Or use the chicken to make recipes like my quesadillas, enchiladas, nachos, baked or air fried taquitos, and more.
How to Make Dutch Oven Pulled Chicken Breast
For best results, place chicken breast between cling film and pound to an even thickness using a rolling pin or blunt object. Brown the chicken breast in the Dutch oven the same way as written for chicken thighs. You may need a bit more olive oil in the second batch, as chicken breast won't have much fat to render off like chicken thighs. Follow the recipe as written, being careful not to overcook the chicken. Cook to an internal temperature of 165ºF before removing to shred.
Can I Skip the Browning Step?
You can simply throw all the ingredients in a Dutch oven, cover, and bake in a 350ºF oven for 40-50 minutes. Keep a watchful eye on internal temperature if you're using chicken breasts, as they're less forgiving than chicken thighs and will be tough and dry if overcooked.
This recipe would also work in a slow cooker using this method.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: about 4 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 210Total Fat: 10gCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 23g