These smoked chicken tacos combine crispy, juicy smoked chicken thighs with grilled peppers and onions on cheesy charred tortillas. Everything cooks together on a Traeger or pellet smoker and can be on the table by the time you have all your sides and fixin’s prepared (about 90 minutes).
Making Smoked Chicken for Tacos
My recipe calls for skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs rubbed with a fajita seasoning. I used Meat Church, but you’re welcome to use your favorite. The H-E-B beef fajita seasoning from my pulled chuck roast tacos recipe also works great with chicken in my experience.
Don’t want to use bone-in chicken thighs? I have you covered in the notes section of the recipe card below with tips for using boneless skinless chicken thighs.
As for the cook, I used the 0-400 method, which is my new favorite way to cook bone-in chicken thighs after a recent cook off. This method starts chicken thighs on a cold smoker and cooks over the course of an hour as the grill comes up to temperature and rolls at 400ºF.
It makes super juicy chicken with great smoke flavor and crispy skin. There’s no dirty smoke flavor, at least on the Traeger, in my experience. I’ve included notes on an alternative cook method if you’re worried about it, though.
This recipe also takes the 0-400 smoke method up a notch with the addition of grilled peppers and onions. My smoked chicken thighs and veggies came out perfect around the same one-hour mark, but you’ll want to check on the veggies periodically just in case.
The recipe doesn’t call for glazing the chicken thighs, and that’s because I find glazing or dunking in sauce softens the skin more than I’d like for something like chicken tacos. You’re welcome to glaze once the chicken is up to temperature, however.
I’ve used Traeger’s Texas spicy BBQ sauce to glaze 0-400 chicken thighs for tacos. And while it’s not as good as the dry rub chicken, it’s still pretty darn good.
I used the same charred tortilla method from my Traeger steak tacos recipe. Instead of the corn tortillas, however, I used our go-to corn and flour blended tortillas.
What to Serve with Smoked Chicken Tacos
The smoked chicken and veggies are the stars, so you don’t need much. I recommend some freshly chopped cilantro and possibly diced white onion alongside a bit of cotija cheese or queso fresco. A pop of brightness from salsa would also be great.
In case you want to go the DIY salsa route:
- Smoked Avocado Salsa Verde
- Roasted Zucchini Salsa
- Creamy Jalapeño Ranch
- Mexican Chili Crisp
- Pico de Gallo
As for side dishes, here’s a handful of ideas:
- Creamy Grilled Poblano and Corn Salad
- Mexican Slaw
- Smoked Charro or Drunken Beans
- 15-Minute Refried Black Beans
- Arroz Verde
And if you’re in Texas, don’t sleep on H-E-B’s canned charro and borracho beans for a simple side dish.
And that’s about everything I have to say regarding smoked chicken tacos. You can find a printable recipe card below. I always appreciate recipe reviews!
- 8 Skin-On, Bone-In Chicken Thighs*
- 2-3 Tablespoons Fajita Seasoning (I used Meat Church), to taste
- Avocado Oil Spray, or your choice of oil spray
For the Veggies
- 3 Poblano or Bell Peppers, cut into strips
- 6 Jalapeño or Fresno Peppers
- 1 large White Onion, cut into strips
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Granulated Garlic
For the Tacos
- 16 Tortillas
- 8 oz Shredded Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack Cheese
- Chopped Cilantro, Cotija Cheese, and Your Choice of Salsa, for garnishing
- Trim the excess skin and fat off the chicken thighs and pat dry with a paper towel before seasoning with the fajita rub on all sides. Set aside.
- Toss the onion and peppers in the olive oil and season with the salt, pepper, and garlic. Transfer to a cast iron or stainless steel grill pan.
- Place the grill pan and seasoned chicken thighs (skin side up) on the grates of a cold smoker. Spray the chicken thighs with the avocado oil and set the Traeger to 400ºF.
- Close the grill and cook for 1 hour or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 175ºF to 185ºF. Check on the veggies periodically to stir as needed. Pull them off the grill early if they're ready before the chicken.
- While the chicken rests, place the tortillas on a sheet pan and top with shredded cheese. Place the sheet pan in the grill for 5-10 minutes to melt the cheese. Optional: Use tongs to char the tortillas directly over a burner on your stovetop.
- After the chicken has rested for 10 minutes, pull the chicken off the bone and serve on the cheesy tortillas with the peppers and onions. Garnish with chopped cilantro, cotija cheese, and your choice of salsa.
*Using Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
You can season and grill hot at 400ºF for 15-20 minutes per side to take the chicken to an internal temperature of 175ºF or cook at a lower temperature (200ºF to 225ºF with Super Smoke) for longer (75-90 minutes) to pick up more smoke flavor. If you cook at a lower temperature, you may need to crank the temperature up to finish the veggies or sauté them in a pan for a few minutes to fully soften before serving.
On the 0-400 Method + An Alternative Cook Method
I tested five popular smoked chicken thighs recipes to find the best way to make them on a Traeger. The 0-400 method was my favorite, and I've not experienced any dirty smoke flavors cooking on an Ironwood with the Traeger Pro Blend pellets. It created super crispy skin, picks up some nice smoke flavor, and keeps the meat moist and juicy in all my tests.
If you're concerned about dirty smoke, I would cook these using my second favorite method: 200ºF with Super Smoke for 60-90 minutes until the chicken hits 150ºF before cranking the temperature to 300ºF to finish. Once the chicken hits 185ºF, you can pull or glaze with sauce (I've used Traeger Texas Spicy BBQ sauce with good results) and cook an additional 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 chicken taco
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 285Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 560mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 11g