Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos with Habanero Salsa

Simple tacos made with crispy fried chicken skin dressed with a cilantro habanero salsa.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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. 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!

Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos with Habanero Salsa Recipe

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  • 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

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Showing 4 of 22 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos with Habanero Salsa