Jess Pryles

Crispy chicken thighs with Guajillo, Orange & Tequila

Crispy chicken thighs with Guajillo, Orange & Tequila
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Juicy chicken thighs with a layer of golden crispy skin with a sauce made from Guajillo chilis with fresh orange and tequila.

Have you ever been out at a restaurant and tasted something so fantastically delicious, you were determined to recreate it at home? This dish evolved from a similar circumstance. You can credit/blame a particularly excellent salsa that was sampled in Mexico for the inspiration. This salsa is earthy, gentle in heat but complex in layers of interesting flavors. It deserves to be paired with more than just a tortilla chip! In fact, it deserves to be drizzled beneath a juicy chicken thigh. Not just any thigh, but one crowned with audibly crisp skin.

As obsessed as I am with the sauce, the real reason you need to make this dish are the thighs. Simple instructions and a quick cook time make these chook-legs even more enticing. By placing them in the skillet skin side down, you allow the fat to render from beneath the skin, while developing a gorgeous brown glow. A quick 10 minute finish in a hot oven is all these babies need – and if you’re worried about over or undercooking, rest assured that all you need is a good quality meat thermometer to know when your yardbird has hit 163f. You should actually own one of those Thermapens for all meat cookery anyway – it’s the single most important tool in a carnivores arsenal.

A note about the ingredients of the sauce: guajillo chiles are essential for the base – they have the perfect balanced of mild heat and bright color. If you don’t live in an area where they are easily accessible, fret not because you can get them online. Agave nectar is the sweet ingredient to balance and round out the salsa, but if you don’t have it, you can use the same amount of sugar. Just make sure it’s properly dissolved so you’re sauce isn’t gritty. Finally, an optional but highly recommended ingredient is my Hardcore Carnivore: Amplify seasoning. Made from chicken fat powder, it’s gives a big savory umami boost to your dishes. You can also use it on popcorn, fries, ribs, chicken… I guarantee you’ll find a way to use up the rest of the bottle.

crispy skin chicken thighs

Print Recipe

Crispy chicken thighs with Guajillo, Orange & Tequila.

serves 8


  • 8 guajillo chiles
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice (about 2 oranges)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon Hardcore Carnivore Amplify (optional)
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar/syrup
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. To make the sauce:
  2. De-stem and de-seed the dried chilis. In a dry (no-oiled) skillet or comal over medium heat, toast the chiles for 30 seconds on each side until fragrant. Place chilis in bowl and cover with boiling water, let stand 25 minutes.
  3. Drain chilis, discarding the water, and place into a blender. Add garlic, Amplify, and 1/2 cup chicken stock. Blend until it turns into a smooth paste.
  4. For a super smooth and velvety sauce, pass this paste through a sieve or chinois, and discard the skins. This step is optional.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pot over medium high heat. Add chili paste, and cook for 5-7 minutes. The color will deepen slightly and the spice level will mellow. Add in tequila, orange juice and the rest of the chicken stock. Stir and then lower flame to a gentle simmer. Reduce sauce until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15-20 minutes. Taste and add salt as required.
  6. Preheat an oven to 400f.
  7. Place 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Pat the chicken thighs with paper towel, and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  8. Once the oil is shimmering, place the thighs in the pan skin side down. Cook for 8-10 minutes until skin is well browned and the fat is rendered. Flip thighs over, then place skillet into hot oven. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so, until they reach an internal temperature of 163f.
  9. To serve, spoon some sauce onto a plate then nestle a thigh on top. By keeping the sauce underneath, you avoid making the crispy skin soggy.


Jess Pryles is a full fledged Hardcore Carnivore. She’s a cook, author, and TV personality specializing in the field of meat, with a particular expertise in beef. She’s also a respected authority on live fire cooking and BBQ. Born in Australia, she now resides in Austin, Texas.

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