Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos with Habanero Salsa

Yes, we are evil.

These tacos are evil. And the fact that we are telling you about them, and that you might get the crazy idea to make them too, means that we are definitely up to no good. Except that these tacos, made with crispy fried chicken skin as the star ingredient, are really really good. And if they weren’t, we certainly wouldn’t risk ridicule and disdain by sharing them. But they are worth it, my friends. Truly they are. We even made them twice. First with leftover chicken skins from a recipe, then again with chicken we bought just for the skins because not surprisingly our grocer doesn’t sell straight chicken skins.

How did these tacos come about? Leftovers and odds and ends. Hank and I were refining a recipe for Colombian chicken soup (great recipe by the way), and we had leftover chicken skins, and leftover habanero sauce. Hank can not resist frying leftover fat (pork fat, turkey skins, chicken skins, even pie dough) to snack on. (He’s more evil than I.) Lunch time was beckoning and the soup needed at least another hour to cook. So into some tortillas the fixings went, and an epiphany was born.

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Some of you reading this will think, “oh, mmm, chicken skin, my favorite part of fried chicken” and will have no trouble imagining how incredibly good crispy fried chicken skin could be in a taco. Some of you reading this may have the opposite reaction and may want to leave this site, vowing never to return. For those of you in the second camp, before we lose you forever, I ask you, do you like bacon? Because if you do, think of fried chicken skin as “chicken bacon”. They’re just tasty fried, fatty, salty bits.

Warning. Something this good can’t possibly be good for you to eat every day. So don’t. It’s a treat. Enjoy!

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Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos with Habanero Salsa Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 4 tacos.

Ingredients

  • Skin from a whole chicken or 5 chicken breasts or leg/thighs*
  • Salt
  • 1-2 habanero chiles, seeds removed and chopped
  • 4 green onions, white and light green parts only
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 small head of iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced, sprinkled with cider vinegar and salt
  • 1 avocado, seeded, peeled, and chopped
  • More chopped cilantro and green onion for garnish
  • 4 or more corn or flour tortillas (use corn tortillas if cooking gluten-free)

*Pulling the skin off of chicken can be a little slippery, especially off of chicken legs. Get it started with your fingers, then grip the skin with a paper towel and pull.

Method

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1 Lay the chicken skin, fat side down, in a non-stick pan set over medium-low heat. Slowly crisp the skins, letting the fat render. Press them down with a wooden spoon if air pockets develop. Cook them for 5-8 minutes before flipping them over. Once you have turned the chicken skins over, salt them.

2 While the skins are cooking, put the habaneros, green onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and lemon juice into a food processor. Add a pinch of salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Set aside in a small bowl.

3 When the chicken skins are browned and crispy, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the excess fat. Then place them on a cutting board and cut them into strips.

4 Pour off all but a thin sheen of chicken fat from the pan (do not discard down a drain or you may clog your drain). Heat the tortillas in the pan over medium-high heat, turning now and then, until they air pockets develop and the tortillas soften.

5 Assemble the tacos. Place lettuce, chopped avocado, crispy chicken skin, habanero salsa, and more cilantro or green onion on the heated tortillas. Fold and eat.

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Links:

Chicken bacon from Eating Cleveland
Oven-fried chicken skin from The Delicious Life
Crispy Chicken Skin from Leite's Culinaria
Chicken Skin Barbecue from My Filipino Kitchen
Crispy turkey bacon here on Simply Recipes

47 Comments

  1. pratfall

    I love you.

    I’m making these tonight, over fervent objections from my wife, who will eat them anyway, and secretly enjoy the hell out of them.

  2. NSH

    I feel so validated for all the times I clandestinely fried and ate delicious leftover chicken skins while my health-conscious roommates were out of the house…

  3. Erika

    Genius.

    I LOVE fried chicken skin. In the Philippines, you can buy them in snack bags the same way you get pork rinds. My guilty pleasure used to be fried chicken skin dipped in a soy-vinegar-crushed-garlic sauce, with a scoop of rice.

    Now you have me thinking about other possible taco fillings, like the cholesterol-elevating Filipino delicacy called chicharon bulaklak, or deep-fried (sometimes in pork lard, to up the ante) pork ruffle fat.

  4. Jerry Russell

    OMG! I think I’m in love. Of course I, like hank, can’t resist frying up chicken skins, either. They’re a wicked indulgence of mine whenever a recipe calls for skinless chicken. These tacos look amazing, but i think I’m going to go with Serrano or Anaheim chiles… My wife is allergic to habanero.

  5. Michelle

    Yeah I am of the camp where my stomach just kind of turned. My husband would be all over this though and I might just have to make them I try it, once I get past the idea. So often we just shut things out in our mind when really something could be quit tasty.

  6. homegrown countrygirl

    What I want to know is how you made fried chicken skins look so PRETTY? Of course they are tasty… but who knew they could also be so beautiful? Only you, Elise. You rock!

    It’s because Hank is my stylist! The boy is good with making food look pretty. ~Elise

  7. Gloria

    Finally, someone who understands me! My friends all look at me funny when I tell them my fried chicken doesn’t have to actually involve chicken meat. I’d be happy to have a bucket of fried chicken skin :)

  8. Jim Price

    Our little dog is really going to be upset with us, as we always feed her the chicken skins. Okay, maybe a couple into her bowl after we scarf them!

  9. melzor

    I am so tickled and intrigued by this! It reminds of a South Park episode. The boys are playing when the moms come home with a bucket of chicken. All the boys, except Cartman, go out to help with the groceries. By himself, he eats ALL of the skin. The rest return to find the naked chicken, devastated. Kenny proceeds to SOB.

  10. Jean Marie

    Chicken skin is a guilty pleasure. I can’t even imagine how good those tacos must taste. Seriously yummy. Years ago, I read that Martha Stewart said to fry up the skin and save the fat for gravies, roux for stews, etc.

  11. LISA

    I am speechless. I am confused and intrigued. Could it be possible? Noooo, surely not. I read this and I thought, “the nerve”. But why not? As a little girl, my grandmomma made some damn good fried chicken. After my first piece, I would ask, “Mamaw, can I have the skin off another piece of chicken.” As any good Grandmother would do, she let me and she ate the actual chicken. I am almost scared to try these because I know my love affair with fried chicken skin will ignite again.

  12. Dawn M

    I bake the skin in the oven. And I’ve seen it used instead of bacon on a BLT. How can you not like this? You can’t!

  13. Karrie

    I fry chicken skins every time I make fried chicken and eat them as appetizers. I use the pieces I have trimmed off the chicken and bread it the same way I fry my chicken. They are so good and I never share!! LOL I will have to try them in a taco. So glad I am not the only freak out there!! LOL I will defiantly keep this in mind for tacos. No more skinless chicken breast for me.

  14. MW

    Now, you may think fried chicken skin is a treat, well when I a little boy,way way back then, my grandmother (MAMA) used to save up all the chicken skins she could get her hands on. When she had enough, she chop some onions and cut the skins into strips and fry them in her cast iron skillet til they really crispy and the onions were very browned. She would pour off the chicken fat (Schmaltz) into a container, let the skins cool and put them into a bowl. We would eat them like popcorn. By the way they are called GRIBNISS. I didn’t make up the name, it’s yiddish.
    She would cook with the schmaltz. We would spread it on matzo and sprinkle it with salt.
    By the way MAMA lived to the ripe old age of 95 eating butter, schmaltz, cream and all the good stuff.

  15. June

    My mouth is weeping and these tacos look amazing! If you can have “chicharrons” why can’t you have “cheeparrons” LOL

  16. JLBULLITT

    Reminds me of another favorite mexican recipe:

    Chicharrones & refried Bean Burrito – smothered in new mexico style pork green chile sauce.

    Delicioso! – The chicharrones give the wonderful crunch.

  17. Barefootcookingirl

    I opened up the site today and I saw the taco…..and I immediately thought of that movie quote from Mrs Doubtfire “It was such a shander, You should never buy Gribenes from a Moil, it’s so chewy” (pardon if I don’t spell it correctly.) Well, this is what they’re talking about. Crispy bits of fried chicken skin. I had to laugh. I thought everybody liked the crispy chicken skin after cooking a whole chicken. Jewish food. Gotta love it! And now it’s taco time!

  18. Anna

    I make “chicken chips” periodically, though I roast them on a rack over a sheet pan in the oven. Once I served them without comment to my son’s friends, who gobbled them up. Later one kid asked me how I got tortilla chips to taste so good! You should have seen his face when I told him they weren’t tortilla chips.

  19. Anelle

    I am reminded of the days growing up when dad would feed us pork rinds. Bleh. I might pass this recipe on to some of my unsuspecting family members. A few of them might get a kick out of it!

  20. Mark Boxshus

    Way to go! I recently stumbled across, or should I say……decided to experiment with chicken skins and hot oil, and voila……a new decadent, yet decidedly unhealthy, but uber irresistible treat was born. These are like crack cocaine, and are so decadent in sandwiches and other applications. Thanks for highlighting such a simple, yet naughty treat……

  21. Karen Rr

    Years ago a friend did try to show me how to de-bone a chicken. Rather, he did it, and I tried, and found it a slippery nightmare and not worth the cost savings. I’ve bought boneless skinless chicken breasts ever since, and on the days I was missing the skin, reminded myself it’s healthier this way… But now, now you have me drooling and wishing I had some chicken with skin on it….

  22. Ronald

    This reminds me of my college days when I made something similar with convenience store Pork Rinds. Combined with some Ramen Noodles and a can of Van Camps pork n Beans and you have a 3 course meal.

  23. Angela

    This would be perfect to make the day before tandoori chicken, since the skin is removed before allowing the tandoori chicken to marinate.

  24. Eddie

    I have to admit that I am one of those people who really hates chicken skin, probably because I hate fried chicken…and I always peel away the skin from roasted chicken as well, but the recipe does inspire me to see if I could adapt it in some way

  25. Gretchen

    When I went to my first Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, his grandmother, mother, and sister all asked me if I liked turkey skin, and seemed to be seriously considering kicking me out when I said I did! They didn’t want the competition! (But they graciously decided to let me stay and even let me have some skin.)

    My husband doesn’t like the skin and I secretly cheer inside… more for me! Anyhow putting it into a taco sounds delicious as it highlights the crunch. I’ve also had chicken skin (and pan drippings) from a roast chicken in a baked potato, much like bacon.

  26. Tomoko

    So… when they sell skinless chicken breast… what do they do with all that left over skin??? This is right up my alley… but where do you get a bunch of chicken skin?? Or, you just buy them whole?

    I LOVE this kind of thing! Your site is the best!

    Hi Tomoko – great question. When we talked to the butcher at Whole Foods, he told us the store received the skinless boneless breasts already without the skin or bones. We’re actually thinking about checking out an Asian market in Sacramento (called First American Poultry Company) to see if they can sell us just the skins. ~Elise

  27. april

    You know, the nutrition information I’m reading these days is bucking the establishment and making the case that saturated animal fat IS, IN FACT, HEALTHY. I’m liking this butter-and-animal-fat-is-good-for-you spin on nutrition! SO, you aren’t evil at all, Elise! Mmm, and I recently used duck fat cracklings as bacon bits in a salad. Insanely delish.

  28. razzle

    Oh you are so sooooo evil! I love fried chicken skins! I’ve always drenched them in flour and fry them and dipped them in sweet and sour sauce with a nice bowl of jasmine rice. Now, I gotta try this. I gotta run extra miles for this but it is so worth it! I hate you! I hate you! I came here looking for a good recipe for my diet! The sad part is everyone in my family loves skins. Good thing asian markets will save you some if you request it ahead of time. And it’s cheaper. Yea.

  29. Susan

    I always peel off the chicken skin before I cook chicken because I can’t stand it. Yet, when I get fried chicken at the Yolo Country Fair, I pick every morsel of the chicken skin off that chicken and eat it first cuz I love it! I wish I could get my chicken skin that crispy and salty and perfect. I’ll have to try this.

  30. Nathan

    I think this is a terrific idea. My mother used to slap my hands whenever I ate the skin off a roasted chicken or turkey. She thought it was the most disgusting thing in the world. Of course, she grew up having to pluck chickens so she may have had a different perspective on things.

    Regarding what happens with the skin when the supermarket sells the chickens skinless: chicken bologna, pate, potted meat products. . . there’s a reason people tell you it’s better not to know how the sausage is made.

  31. Elaine

    My sister once baked a turkey for Thanksgiving with the skin side down by “mistake”. The skin stuck to the pan, and we got to work pulling off what we called “the greasy essence”. It was the best part of the bird! The same goes for chicken skin, the only part of chicken I like next to the bones (also very good fried). No evil here. I think the words “evil” and “guilt” should be banished from rich, tasty foods. Too Puritanical. Just don’t eat too much of anything, but enjoy what you eat. Leave guilty feeling for the penitentiary.

  32. MT

    There’s a great taco truck/stand (Nate’s Taco Truck) in Richmond, VA that routinely offers crispy chicken skin tacos on its specials menu. Sooooo good!! Can’t wait to try and replicate it at home, thank you!

  33. Edith

    This is so wicked! The only time I do eat the skin on chicken is when it is fried (extra crispy)I now have someway of using the skin when cooking my receipe for chicken and dumplings (I don’t use the skin it that). Will be making this tonight and probably chicken and dumplings tommorrow just to get the skins!!! LOVE IT!

  34. Jules

    I grew my own chickens this year, and carefully plucked each one of them, even though skinless seems to be the way to go on a diet. Now I know why. Looks fantastic!

  35. Rocky Mountain Woman

    So, I saw these yesterday and told my boyfriend about them last night.

    His eyes lit up and he insisted I come back here today to get the recipe.

    He’s loving them even before I make them!

  36. Andrea

    These look great! I rolled my eyes when my husband purchased chicken backs because they don’t have enough meat to be worth it, IMHO, but now I’m scheming…
    I’m half Chinese, and the “mental flavor” that makes my mouth water when I look at the picture is similar to that of crispy chicken at Chinese dinner banquets.
    Oh, and I’m definitely in the camp of those who hover around the Thanksgiving turkey while it is carved, just to nab a few extra pieces of skin. Yum! THANKS for posting!

  37. cookie62

    After I saw this today, I had to make it tonight. I used a smoked sea salt and they tasted like bacon – Awesome

  38. Kim

    Try crispy chicken skin with Japanese ponzu sauce. The citrus flavor really complements the taste and cuts the richness somehow. Mmmmmmm….

  39. Ellen

    Oh wow – saw this on a day when, coincidentally, I was making chicken stock anyway. Usually I cut up a whole chicken, salvage the usable meat and toss the skin into the pot with the rest – but no more! My husband can’t stand fried chicken, thus I never get fried chicken skin, until now. Yum.

  40. Emma

    You are evil and I love you! My husband thinks I’m mad in my love for chicken skin, and I’ve formed a bit of a bad habit of turning it charcoal by trying to crisp it up in the oven then walking away from it for too long (which leaves me weeping with frustrated hunger) – I’ll give the stovetop method a go next time!

  41. Alta

    Oh. My. I was already hungry, but this is just plain mean. My husband and I already fight over the crispy chicken skin on a roasted chicken, and I delight in frying up bits of pork skin from a pork roast. This sounds like a logical next step.

  42. Marie

    Ooh. I love the thought of using “chicken bacon” like this! Thank you for showing me I can still be surprised by a taco.

  43. kathy

    I love fried chicken skin, and will eat an extra piece of chicken JUST to get the skin. However, I never thought of cooking the skin, probably because I never really deskin my chicken.

    Since reading your post, though, chicken thighs were on sale this week (88cents/pound!). Made chix shish-ka-bobs, and took all the extra skins from those thighs, laid them on a hot (500 degree) grill, sprinkled on some Adobo seasoning, and they just puffed up like cracklin’s do. A thing of beauty. On the grill like that, most of the fat melts off, so all your left with is the goodness.

    My husband and my neighbor were both mightily impressed. Thanks!

  44. denny davis

    I fry chicken skins every time I make fried chicken and eat them as appetizers. I use the pieces I have trimmed off the chicken and bread it the same way I fry my chicken. They are so good and I never share!! LOL I will have to try them in a taco. So glad I am not the only freak out there!! LOL I will defiantly keep this in mind for tacos. No more skinless chicken breast for me.

  45. Raquel Resendez

    WOW….I thought this was an incredibly naughty secret that I…and only I knew. With 17 grandchildren and coutless greatgrandchildren living in close proximities my greatgrandmother would make the best of any meal. When any recipe cosisting of chicken would be on the menu the first thing to start coooking would be the “chicharrones de gallina” for the younger kids to munch on. I was among the lucky ones. Now at 39, I treat my family to tacos de “chicharrones de gallina” as the main course. This is seldom not only because it is naughty but because it takes a loooong time to save all those skins! Sabroso! Enjoy….

  46. Tish

    OH. MY. GOSH. I just fried the skin from chicken thighs I de-boned for a stir fry for my boyfriends dinner. Can I say, I now have a new guilty pleasure? I marinated the chicken thighs in an asian marinade, then de-boned and removed the skin from the chicken. They were an amazing little snack. Of course, I will never let my health nut of a boyfriend know, lol! Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  47. Karen

    i just got sent over here by @denise on chatter. when i first thought of the idea of chicken skin tacos, i thought yuck, but i AM the person who eats (and loves) the skin so i think these are right up my alley. if you make them for me! :)

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