Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos with Habanero Salsa


Chicken Skin Tacos! Made with crispy fried chicken skin tossed with cilantro habanero salsa.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Yes, we are evil.

These chicken skin 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.

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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.

fried chicken skin and lettuce for chicken skin tacos

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.

Chicken Skin is the Best part of fried chicken

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. (You are my people!)

Some of you reading this may have the opposite reaction. (I still like you.)

Chicken Skin Tacos with Habanero Salsa

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

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


Chicken Skin:

  • Skin from a whole chicken or 5 chicken breasts or leg/thighs*
  • Salt

Habanero Salsa:

  • 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

Garnish and Tortillas:

  • 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.


1 Fry chicken skin on medium-low heat: 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.

fry chicken skin for chicken skin tacos crispy chicken skin for tacos

2 Make habanero salsa: 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 Cut fried chicken skin into strips: 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 Heat tortillas: 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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Oven-fried chicken skin from The Delicious Life

Crispy Chicken Skin from Leite's Culinaria

Chicken Skin Tacos with Habanero Salsa

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

23 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. [email protected]

    Jews have known about the joys of fried chicken skins for a long time. We call them “gribenes” and they are our consolation for not being allowed to eat bacon.
    My butcher sells chicken skins. If you ask your butcher he probably would too.

    p.s. When you make the recipe don’t throw the liquid fat away! What you’ve got there is schmaltz, the golden elixir that makes almost anything tastier.

  2. 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!

  3. 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….

  4. 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!

  5. Kim

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

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