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How to Make Smoked Chicken Tacos

Learn how to make smoked chicken tacos! We start with an easy yet flavorful marinade rub on boneless chicken thighs, then smoke and assemble our delicious smoked chicken tacos.

Whether you’ve got a Pit Boss or Traeger pellet grill, a Masterbuilt electric smoker, or a simple gas grill, you can make delicious smoked chicken tacos right at home!

smoked chicken tacos on a plate

 

Marinate the Chicken Thighs

We prefer using boneless skinless thighs for our smoked chicken tacos.

Chicken thighs are one of our favorite types of chicken to make on the smoker, along with whole and spatchcocked chickens.

The chicken thighs are much more forgiving than chicken breasts because they are less likely to dry out while cooking.

Chicken breasts work great for dishes like our Honey Garlic Smoked Chicken Kabobs, but for smoked chicken tacos, we’re sticking with thighs.

The marinade for these tacos is actually more similar to the consistency of a rub.

 

Marinade Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Lime Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Chili powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Mix all these ingredients together in a glass measuring cup or a small bowl.

Stir together with a spoon or small silicone spatula.

smoked chicken taco marinade in a measuring cup

Plan on smoking about 1/3 – 1/2 pounds of chicken per adult.  Our marinade recipe is enough for 2 lbs of chicken thighs, so it will work for a group of four to five people.

Put the whole chicken thighs and the rub in a resealable gallon-sized bag.

We prefer using resealable freezer bags for marinating since they are thicker and sturdier than regular gallon-sized bags.

Once the bag is sealed, move the chicken around in the bag to distribute the marinade evenly over each piece of chicken.

Refrigerate the bag for at least 2 hours or until your grill or smoker is preheated and you are ready to cook!

chicken thighs marinating in a bag

 

Prepare the Smoked Chicken Taco Ingredients

For our smoked chicken tacos, we prefer using freshly shredded cheese.

As we discussed with our smoked macaroni and cheese and our smoked chicken enchiladas, pre-shredded packaged cheese is coated in cellulose and other anti-caking agents.

This is great for keeping the cheese shreds from sticking together in the package, but makes them less appetizing and much harder to melt.

That’s why we always prefer to freshly shred our own blocks of cheese.

This is super easy to do with a rotary cheese grater such as the one we like from Zulay.

Other toppings you may want to consider are:

  • Shredded cabbage mix
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Salsa
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sour cream

And don’t forget our favorite sauce for tacos: Homemade Cilantro Lime Crema from Bake it After All.

 

How to Prepare the Corn Tortillas

We like using corn tortillas for our smoked chicken tacos.

However, if you prefer flour tortillas, they will work just as well.

When using corn tortillas, the best way to prepare them for serving is to spray both sides of each corn tortilla with a little bit of olive oil spray.

Heat each side of the tortilla in a skillet over medium heat until the tortilla is soft and pliable. Keep the tortillas warm in the oven until you are ready to serve the tacos.

 

Smoke the Chicken Thighs

chicken thighs smoking on a pellet grill for smoked chicken tacos

Once the chicken has marinated a few hours and you’ve got your other ingredients ready to go, it’s time to fire up the grill or smoker!

(If you want more in-depth, step-by-step instructions for how to set up multiple types of different smokers to smoke boneless skinless chicken thighs, you can check out our complete smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs recipe HERE.)

 

Best Cooking Temperatures and Woods

When it’s time to cook, set up your grill, pellet grill, or smoker for INDIRECT heat at 250°F.

the control panel on a pit boss pellet grill set to 250 degrees

We made our smoked chicken tacos on our Pit Boss pellet grill using a cherry wood pellet blend, but really any mild fruitwood will work well with your chicken.

pit boss cherry wood pellets

Our advice is to stay away from heavily scented woods like hickory and mesquite for this dish as the flavors may clash with the marinade.

Lightly oil the grates of your grill or smoker and once it is preheated and smoking, put the marinated chicken thighs on.

chicken thighs smoking on a pellet grill for smoked chicken tacos

Plan on the smoked chicken thighs taking about 1 hour to cook at 250°F.

Try to rotate and flip the thighs every 15 minutes or so while they are smoking so that they all cook evenly.

 

Target Internal Temperature for Smoked Chicken Thighs

checking the internal temperature of a smoked boneless skinless chicken thigh reading 175 degrees F

You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to track the internal temperature of your smoked boneless chicken thighs to make sure they are safely cooked.

We are particular fans of this one from ThermoPro because of its durability and affordable price.

We are targeting a final internal temperature of 175°F on the smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs to know that they are safe to eat and finished cooking. 

Yes, you may be thinking to yourself you’ve always heard 165°F is the target internal temperature for chicken.

While this is true for white meat chicken breasts, 175°F is actually the food safe temperature for dark meat poultry such as chicken legs and thighs.

We find the smoked chicken tacos also taste better when the chicken thighs are cooked all the way to 175° as more of the fat fully renders and the meat actually gets juicier.

This is why chicken thighs are so forgiving!

smoked boneless skinless chicken thighs on a cutting board

 

Assemble and Serve the Smoked Chicken Tacos

Remove the smoked chicken thighs from the smoker or grill to a cutting board and let them rest for about 5-10 minutes.

While they are resting, you can warm up the corn tortillas if you haven’t done so already and set out the toppings for everyone.

Next, chop the chicken into very small bite-sized pieces using a good chopping knife like our favorite from iMarku.

chopped up smoked chicken thighs for smoked chicken tacos

Fill the warm tortillas with the smoked chicken and your choices of and toppings and enjoy your smoked chicken tacos!

smoked chicken tacos with salsa

 

What Other Foods Can I Smoke?

whiet smoke in a pit boss pellet grill

Looking for more fun recipes to try on your grill or smoker?  Check out some of our favorites below for a little inspiration!

Pork

 

Beef

 

Seafood

 

Poultry

 

Lamb

Fun Entrees

 

Sides and Desserts

smoked chicken tacos on a plate

Smoked Chicken Tacos

Learn how to make smoked chicken tacos! We start with an easy yet flavorful marinade rub on boneless chicken thighs, then smoke and assemble our delicious smoked chicken tacos.
Whether you’ve got a Pit Boss or Traeger pellet grill, a Masterbuilt electric smoker, or a simple gas grill, you can make delicious smoked chicken tacos right at home!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Marinating Time 2 hrs
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, barbecue, BBQ, Cuban, Grilling, Hispanic, Mexican, Smoked
Servings 4 servings
Calories 750 kcal

Equipment

  • Grill, Pellet Grill, or Smoker Set up for INDIRECT heating

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs

Marinade Rub

  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Lime Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • ½ tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

For the Tortillas

  • Corn or Flour tortillas about 2-3 per person
  • Olive Oil Spray if using corn tortillas

Optional Toppings

  • Freshly Shredded Cheese
  • Shredded Cabbage Mix
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Chopped Tomatoes
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Salsa
  • Sour Cream
  • Cilantro Lime Crema

Instructions
 

Marinate the Chicken

  • Mix the marinade rub ingredients together in a small bowl to form a paste.
    smoked chicken taco marinade in a measuring cup
  • Place the chicken in a resealable gallon-sized bag and add the rub to the bag.
    chicken thighs marinating in a bag
  • Seal and move the chicken around to distribute the rub evenly all over the chicken.
  • Refrigerate the bag for anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours.

Set up the Grill or Smoker

  • Light or turn on your smoker, grill or pellet grill and set up the temperature to 250°F. If using a grill, only light a small amount of charcoal or light a single burner on one side for indirect cooking
  • Brush the grill grates with oil to keep the chicken from sticking.
  • Add your wood chunks directly to the firebox of a smoker, or use chips in a smoker box, or pellets in a tube smoker or pellet grill.
    pellets in a z grills pellet grill hopper
  • Once smoke is being produced and the grill or smoker is at 250°F, put your seasoned chicken on the COOL side of the grill.
    chicken thighs smoking on a pellet grill for smoked chicken tacos

Smoke the Chicken

  • Smoke the chicken thighs for about 1 hour until they have reached an internal temperature of at least 175°F using an instant read thermometer.
    checking the internal temperature of a smoked boneless skinless chicken thigh reading 175 degrees F
  • Rotate and flip the chicken every 15 minutes or so to make sure it cooks evenly.
    chicken thighs smoking on a pellet grill for smoked chicken tacos
  • Remove chicken to a cutting board and allow the meat to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
    smoked chicken thighs on a cutting board
  • Chop chicken into bite-sized pieces.
    chopped up smoked chicken thighs for smoked chicken tacos

Prepare the Corn Tortillas

  • This can be done while the chicken is smoking.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat. Spray each side of the tortillas with canola or olive oil spray.
  • Add tortillas to the skillet in a single layer. Heat until warm on one side, flip, and heat until warm on the other side, then transfer to a plate. Repeat until all the tortillas have been heated.
  • Place the plate in the oven on WARM to keep them warm while the chicken finishes cooking.

Serve the Smoked Chicken Tacos

  • Set out the toppings of your choice
  • Fill the warm tortillas with chopped smoked chicken and your favorite toppings and enjoy!
    smoked chicken tacos on a plate

Notes

Cilantro Lime Crema Recipe from Bake it After All available HERE.

Nutrition

Calories: 750kcal
Keyword electric smoker tacos, masterbuilt tacos, pit boss chicken tacos, smoked chicken tacos, tacos with smoked chicken, traeger chicken tacos, traeger tacos
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