These tender, spicy braised chicken tacos are made with simple ingredients, and come together quickly and easily in a cast iron skillet. Searing the chicken and then finishing low and slow gives new dimension. Add tangy pickled onions, peppery radishes and cool guacamole to seal the show-stopping deal.
I feel comfortable saying a passion for tacos is pretty close to universal. Still, for all the time we spend thinking about them, for some reason tacos get a bad reputation in terms of health. It’s pretty odd when you consider what a taco actually is—a shell, filling, and toppings.
Well, if you get your tacos out of a box or from a fast food restaurant, yeah, you’re probably not exactly going to get gold star for health choices. Lots of processing. Lots of sodium. Probably a lot more cheese and sour cream than you would usually need.
I have a confession.
When I was little… I thought I didn’t like tacos.
A disgusting disappointment.
In my defense, the boxed tacos were all I knew! I had never even been to a Taco Bell, let alone an actual Mexican restaurant.
To be honest, I still don’t like those boxed tacos, and not just because they’re filled with sodium. I did learn to love tacos in high school, but I kept the salty-spiced ground beef to a minimum and loaded up on refried beans, salsa and veggies.
These days I’m all in. I’d say tacos are actually one of my most-eaten foods. They’re simple to make (generally) affordable, and there are so many possibilities! Chicken, steak, veggies, beans, tofu, shrimp, smoked trout and so many more. Corn tortillas, flour tortillas, lettuce tortillas, fried, baked, soft… I haven’t even gotten into all the variations different seasonings and toppings offer, or the different ways you can cook the fillings.
One of my favorite tacos in the world is made with smoked peking duck and pickled blackberries. Yes, for real. It’s at Black Sheep Burritos and Brews in Huntington, WV (& Charleston, WV now too).
Listen, I’m not saying you need to ditch your lifelong love of box tacos or fast food. If you like them, that’s great! Enjoy in moderation. But if you haven’t already, I’m begging you to explore what’s out there.
Your tastebuds will be happy, and you’ll probably feel better after eating them. If you learn to cook some yourself… well that’s even better!
This particular recipe uses braising to keep the chicken tender and make the flavors more complex. To braise, you just sear something over high heat, add a small amount of liquid, seal it up, turn the heat way down, and cook low and slow. It sounds scary and intimidating, but it’s honestly one of the simplest and biggest steps forward you can take as a home cook.
So, let’s get braising!