Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos with Habanero Salsa

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

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


  • 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.


chicken-skin-tacos-1.jpg chicken-skin-tacos-2.jpg

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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  • 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!

  • 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….

  • 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!

  • Kim

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

  • cookie62

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    • Chuck Beaty

      LOL. Today I was in a supermarket in Merida, Yucatan and I noticed an employee skinning chicken breasts and throwing the skin and fat into a bag on her table. I asked what was to happen to the skins. She said they were discarded every night. It took a few minutes of questioning before the department manager finally appeared. She couldn’t believe that anyone would eat them, but at any rate it was garbage and could not be sold. I asked her if it would make her feel better if I said they were for my dog. She laughed and told the butcher to give me the bag full–five or six pounds. The person at the register informed me that they only eat chicken meat in Mexico. I said so I’ll see you in a month for so more garbage. He just shook his head in disbelief. DELICIOUS. I can’t believe more people don’t realize how delicious this treat is. I wonder if none of them have ever eaten Peking Duck–the skin was for the emperor and the meat for the peasants.

  • 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.

  • Angela

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

  • 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……

  • 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.


    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.

  • June

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Erika


    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.