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This authentic Chicken Tinga recipe is from Jalisco, Mexico. The chicken has a smoky, spicy flavor from stewed tomatoes and chiles, and it’s perfect tucked in tacos or piled on your next burrito bowl.

Chicken tinga in a bowl with tortilla shells and lettuce behind.

Chicken Tinga is a recipe that originated in Puebla, Mexico. Traditionally, it is served on crispy tostadas with a layer of refried beans. I learned how to make it in Ojuelos, Jalisco, Mexico.

Even though it’s made from scratch, it’s super simple. And, I use a couple of delicious shortcuts to make dinner (and therefore life) a whole lot easier. And you also end up with a bonus batch of chicken broth for soup or to save in your freezer.

Ingredient notes:

  • Chicken: Buy a whole chicken. You make chicken broth with it, which you need for this recipe, then shred up the meat for the tinga. Cut the chicken up into pieces or have your butcher do it for you.
  • Organ meats: The heart and gizzard can be added to the broth if desired, but the liver should be discarded or reserved for another purpose.
  • Cold water: Always start with cold water. This helps keep the broth clear, not cloudy.
  • Chicken broth: It’s super simple to make full-blown chicken broth while poaching your chicken. To the pot with the chicken, onion, garlic, and salt, add 1 carrot (peeled and chopped), 1 rib celery (chopped), and a sachet of spices (any or all of these: 6 parsley stems, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns). Cover everything with cold water and proceed with the recipe. After removing and shredding the chicken for the tinga, strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Reserve 1 cup broth for the sauce. The rest can be covered and chilled in the refrigerator over night. The next day, scrape off the accumulated fat from the top of the broth and discard. Divide the broth into freezer-safe containers (leaving at least 1/2-inch for expansion), label, and freeze.
  • Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce: If you’ve never had chipotle chiles in adobo: be warned. It’s spicy! If you shy away from spicy food, add just a little to start or omit it entirely. Reconstitute some dried guajillo or pasilla chilies instead, if you prefer, by soak them in warm water for a few minutes, then purée them with a little vinegar. Use leftover chipotle chiles in adobo to make pinto beans or spicy stuffed peppers.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. To begin, grab a big pot. Cook the chicken in water with onion, garlic, and a little salt (See my section below on making full chicken broth – you should do that if you have the time and the ingredients!). Cover everything with cold water and bring to a simmer.
    A chicken poaching in a stock pot.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the tomatoes. Add the whole tomatoes to a saucepan filled with boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes until slightly tender. Drain off the water and add the tomatoes to a blender. Add onions, garlic, chipotles in adobo sauce, chicken bouillon to the blender.
    The ingredients for tinga sauce in a blender.
  3. If it’s ready, pour in some of that delicious chicken broth from the simmering chicken on your stove. Purée it all up until uniform and relatively smooth.
    The ingredients for tinga sauce in a blender.
  4. When the chicken is cooked through, take it out of the pot and clean the meat off the bones, shredding the meat as you go. Set aside. (If you’re making broth, chill it in the fridge until the next day so you can strain off the fat and freeze it). Heat up a large Dutch oven and sauté the remaining onion until soft and translucent. Add half the sauce to the onions and bring it up to a boil to reduce a little bit.
    Tinga sauce being added to a saucepan with chicken.
  5. Then stir in the shredded chicken, and take a taste. At this point, you can add the rest of the sauce. However, if you do, it will be spicier. Maybe add a little at a time until it’s just right for you.
    Tinga sauce being stirred in to a saucepan with chicken.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Leftover chicken: To substitute leftover chicken in the fridge, skip the whole part about poaching a chicken and just shred your leftover chicken. Purée all sauce ingredients together in a blender. You won’t have the chicken broth from cooking the chicken, so just use store-bought chicken broth or water. You can throw in some bouillon if you want to. Proceed with the rest of the recipe, heating the oil in the pan for the onions, and then adding the sauce.
  • Help! I made it too spicy: Help is on the way. If it ends up being a little too spicy, serve the tinga with a dollop of sour cream of lime wedges to counterbalance the heat.
  • Warming tortillas: Heat a dry skillet over medium or medium-high heat (depending on how closely you plan to watch the tortillas). Add a few tortillas in a single layer (try not to overlap) and heat until softened on one side (1-2 minutes). Flip and heat on the other side for another minute or so. Wrap in foil or a tortilla towel, then repeat with remaining tortillas.
  • Tinga toppings: Cheese, minced onions, cilantro, avocado, hot sauce, shredded lettuce. Add to a bowl with quinoa or Mexican rice or try on a crunchy tostada with beans and guacamole.

Chicken tinga in a bowl with tortilla shells and lettuce nearby.

More Mexican recipes to try:

Chicken tinga in a bowl with tortilla shells and lettuce nearby.

Chicken Tinga

This authentic Chicken Tinga recipe is from Jalisco, Mexico. The chicken has a smoky, spicy flavor from stewed tomatoes and chiles, and it's perfect tucked in tacos or piled on your next burrito bowl.
Author: Meggan Hill
5 from 1 vote
Cook Time 55 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Servings 6 servings (1 cup each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Calories 386

Ingredients 

For the chicken:

  • 1 4 to 5 pound whole chicken cut into pieces and giblets removed (see note 1 & 2)
  • 1 medium onion peeled and halved
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 tablespoon Salt
  • Cold water (see note 3)

For the sauce:

  • 3 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken broth reserved from boiling chicken or store-bought (see note 4)
  • 4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce or more to taste (see note 5)
  • 1/4 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 extra large chicken bouillon cube or 2 regular cubes

For the tinga:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or pork lard (not the pure white vegetable lard)
  • 3/4 medium onion sliced (the remaining from making the sauce above)
  • Flour tortillas warmed, for serving
  • Mexican rice for serving
  • Shredded lettuce and Queso Fresco, or your other favorite toppings, for serving

Instructions 

To make the chicken:

  • In a Dutch Oven or large stock pot, add chicken, onion, garlic, and 1 tablespoon salt. Add cold water to cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from pot. Shred chicken, discarding skin and bones (you should have about 4 cups chicken). Remove and set aside 1 cup cooking liquid (chicken broth).

To make the sauce:

  • Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring 4 cups water to boil. Add tomatoes and boil until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove and transfer to blender.
  • To the blender with the tomatoes, add the 1 cup of reserved chicken broth, chipotle chiles in adobo, onion, garlic, and chicken bouillon. Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. 

To make the tinga:

  • In a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until just smoking. And onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add half the sauce and bring to boil. Stir in chicken, adding more sauce if desired (the heat of the dish comes from the sauce, so use more or less sauce to taste). Boil until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve in tortillas with Mexican rice, shredded lettuce, and cheese.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Chicken: Buy a whole chicken or 4 to 5 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken parts. You'll make chicken broth with it, which you need for this recipe, and then shred up the meat for the tinga.
  2. Organ meats: The heart and gizzard can be added to the broth if desired, but the liver should be discarded or reserved for another purpose.
  3. Cold water: Always start with cold water. This helps keep the broth clear, not cloudy.
  4. Chicken broth: It's super simple to make full-blown chicken broth while poaching your chicken. To the pot with the chicken, add 1 carrot (peeled and chopped), 1 rib celery (chopped), and a sachet of spices (any or all of these: 6 parsley stems, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns). Cover everything with cold water and proceed with the recipe. After removing and shredding the chicken for the tinga, strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Reserve 1 cup broth for the sauce. The rest can be divided into freezer-safe containers (leaving at least 1/2-inch for expansion). Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months.
  5. Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce: If you've never had chipotle chiles in adobo: be warned. It's spicy! If you shy away from spicy food, add just a little to start or omit it entirely. Use leftover chipotle chiles in adobo to make pinto beans or spicy stuffed peppers.
  6. Yield: Depending on the exact size of your chicken and how much sauce you add to it, the recipe will make at least 6 servings, 1 cup each.
  7. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  8. Make ahead: This is a great make-ahead recipe! Any parts (chicken and/or sauce) or the entire dish can be made up to 3 days in advance.
  9. Freezer: Cool Chicken Tinga completely, then package into freezer-safe containers (I like pint jars). Label, date, and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

Calories: 386kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 28gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 1697mgPotassium: 433mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 961IUVitamin C: 12mgCalcium: 31mgIron: 2mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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Comments

  1. This is seriously my favorite Mexican chicken recipe EVER. It is so delicious! I’m making it again for dinner tonight. So, so, so good!5 stars