Chicken Tinga Recipe

Make Chicken Tinga for dinner tonight, and you’ll thank yourself all week long for the leftovers. They’re smoky, spicy, and just what you need on Taco Tuesday, Tostada Thursday, or any weeknight at all!

Make Chicken Tinga for dinner tonight, and you’ll thank yourself all week long for the leftovers. They’re smoky, spicy, and just what you need on Taco Tuesday, Tostada Thursday, or any weeknight at all. Muchas gracias, you! 
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Of all the Mexican Chicken dishes, Tinga de Pollo could be the best. It’s certainly the easiest— especially this Tinga recipe, which has a couple shortcuts to make dinner (and therefore life) a whole lot easier. Eaten with easy Mexican Rice, some shredded lettuce, cheese, and tortillas…quite possibly the perfect dinner.

Not only is Chicken Tinga the best taco filling ever, it’s fabulous in rice bowls, grain bowls, tostadas, you name it. I definitely wouldn’t say no to a casserole of Chicken Tinga enchiladas, either. It's seriously delicious stuff that you'll find an excuse to make again and again.

Cooking up Chicken Tinga for a giant taco party? What time, and where? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

What is Chicken Tinga?

Chicken Tinga is a recipe that originated in Puebla, Mexico. It’s a shredded chicken recipe, stewed in tomatoes and chilies, that is traditionally served on tostadas with a layer of refried beans.

When it comes to this chicken Tinga recipe, Old El Paso doesn't factor into things. This is a made-from-scratch recipe that I learned in Ojuelos, Jalisco (Mexico).  As a bonus, cooking a whole chicken, as opposed to chicken breasts, leaves you with a batch of homemade chicken stock that's begging to be made into soup.

How do you make Chicken Tinga?

1. Buy a whole chicken, and grab a big pot. Cut the chicken up into pieces (or have your butcher do it for you). Cook the chicken in water with onion, garlic, and a little salt (See my section below on making full chicken stock - you should do that if you have the time and the ingredients!). Cover everything with cold water and bring to a simmer.

Make Chicken Tinga for dinner tonight, and you’ll thank yourself all week long for the leftovers. They’re smoky, spicy, and just what you need on Taco Tuesday, Tostada Thursday, or any weeknight at all. Muchas gracias, you! 

2. While the chicken cooks, you can start the sauce. In a blender, combine boiled tomatoes, onions, garlic, chipotles in adobo sauce, chicken bouillon, and some of that delicious chicken stock from the cooking chicken on your stove.

Make Chicken Tinga for dinner tonight, and you’ll thank yourself all week long for the leftovers. They’re smoky, spicy, and just what you need on Taco Tuesday, Tostada Thursday, or any weeknight at all. Muchas gracias, you! 

3. Purée it all up until uniform and relatively smooth. It should look like this:

4. When the chicken is cooked through, take it out of the pot and clean the meat off the bones. Shred the chicken meat and set aside. If you're making stock (and you should), you'll want to strain it and cool it at this point. (Or wait until you're done eating the tinga! You're probably hungry!).

5. Then 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 somewhat.

Make Chicken Tinga for dinner tonight, and you’ll thank yourself all week long for the leftovers. They’re smoky, spicy, and just what you need on Taco Tuesday, Tostada Thursday, or any weeknight at all. Muchas gracias, you! 

6. Stir in the chicken, and take a taste. You could add the rest of the sauce at this point, but if you do, it will be spicier. It might be best to add a little at a time until it's spicy enough for you.

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.

Make Chicken Tinga for dinner tonight, and you’ll thank yourself all week long for the leftovers. They’re smoky, spicy, and just what you need on Taco Tuesday, Tostada Thursday, or any weeknight at all. Muchas gracias, you! 

Making Chicken Broth (You're boiling a chicken already anyway):

Since you're boiling a whole chicken anyway, you might as well make chicken broth for your freezer. It's a nice little bonus!

Also, you don't HAVE to add these extra ingredients to your broth. Even without them, it's still a full-bodied chicken stock that you can strain and reserve for future soups. So don't worry about it and just add the ones you have on hand, if you have time.

1. To the pot with the chicken, onion, garlic, and salt, add:

    • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
    • 1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
    • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
    • A bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, and a large bay leaf (or whichever ones you have)

2. Cover everything with cold water, and proceed with the recipe above. You'll need 1 cup of reserved liquid for the tinga sauce.

3. After removing and shredding the chicken for the tinga, strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Place in a large bowl and chill covered overnight in the refrigerator.

4. The next day, scrape off the accumulated fat from the top of the stock and discard. Divide the broth into freezer-safe containers (leaving at least 1/2-inch for expansion), label, and freeze.

Does your chicken broth look super gelatinous? That's great! That's all the flavor from the bones. It's good stuff; restaurants pay extra for chicken bones when they make their stock. That means your stock is rich and flavorful, and you're going to love it.

Using up Leftover Chicken

Do you have some leftover rotisserie chicken in your fridge? Great!

  1. Skip the whole part about boiling a chicken, and just shred your leftover chicken.
  2. Purée all sauce ingredients together in a blender. You don't have the chicken broth from cooking the chicken, so just use water. You can throw in some bouillon if you want to.
  3. Proceed with the rest of the recipe, heating the oil in the pan for the onions, and then adding the sauce.

Can you make Chicken Tinga in the Instant Pot?

Yes, you can, but it’s not going to save you all that much time, considering the warm-up, cook time, and de-pressurizing that a pressure cooker has to go through. You’d probably be able to cut the cooking time from 20-30 minutes down to 10-15 in a pressure cooker.

Also, cooking Chicken Tinga in a pressure cooker may be easier if you use boneless, skinless chicken.

SO…here’s how to make Instant Pot Chicken Tinga:

  1. Purée all sauce ingredients together in a blender. You don't have the chicken broth from cooking the chicken, so just use water. You can throw in some bouillon if you want to.
  2. Add sauce to the Instant Pot along with about 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken.
  3. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove chicken from Instant Pot, shred using two forks, return to sauce and serve.

How to make Chicken Tinga in a slow cooker:

It's easy to make one pot spicy Chicken Tinga in a crockpot when you use boneless, skinless chicken.

  1. Blend all sauce ingredients together. Add to the crockpot with the chicken.
  2. Cook on LOW until chicken is no longer pink in the center, 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Remove chicken from slow cooker and shred using two forks; return to the slow cooker.
  4. Cook on LOW for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You're ready to serve.

Make Chicken Tinga for dinner tonight, and you’ll thank yourself all week long for the leftovers. They’re smoky, spicy, and just what you need on Taco Tuesday, Tostada Thursday, or any weeknight at all. Muchas gracias, you! 

How to Warm up Tortillas:

Corn or flour tortillas both are delicious with Chicken Tinga, so pick your favorite, or heat up a few of both. Here's how to heat up tortillas at home.

All warmed tortillas should be wrapped in towel or foil after heating.

  • In a dry skillet. This is the easiest method, and also the most traditional. Heat up any nonstick skillet over medium heat, then lay the tortillas flat. It will take a minute or two for the first side, and then another 30 seconds or so on the second side.
  • On a gas stove: You can char your tortillas right on the burners of a gas stove, over the open flame and using tongs, until charred at the edges. Careful - it should only take a few seconds each!
  • In the oven: Just wrap a stack of tortillas in foil and place in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
  • Tortillas in a microwave: Place a small stack of tortillas (6 or fewer) on a plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Cook at 30-second intervals until the tortillas a re-warmed through. Repeat as needed until you get enough.

Can you make spicy Chicken Tinga less spicy?

All you have to do is use fewer of the chilies in adobo sauce. But if you don’t want to use any, or you just don’t have chipotles in adobo, here’s what you can do:

You can reconstitute some dried chilies like guajillo or pasilla. Soak them in warm water for a few minutes, then purée them with a little vinegar—those chipotles add more than just heat and smoke, they also add a nice acidity to the recipe.

All the ways to eat Chicken Tinga:

  • With crumbly cotija cheese, or crumbled queso fresco.
  • With chopped white onions and chopped cilantro.
  • In a lower carb quinoa bowl with avocado slices and pico de gallo.
  • On tostadas with avocado mash and hot sauce.
  • Skip the tortillas and eat on crispy sweet potato planks for a delicious low carb dinner.
  • Enchiladas with melted cheese and Chipotle Black Beans.
  • The traditional Tinga tostada with refried beans on crunchy corn tortillas.
  • Chicken Tinga nachos, anybody?

What can I do with my leftover Chipotle peppers and/or adobo sauce?

Transfer to a bag and freeze for future use, or use in:

Chicken tinga in a black serving bowl.

Chicken Tinga Recipe

Make Chicken Tinga for dinner tonight, and you’ll thank yourself all week long for the leftovers. They’re smoky, spicy, and just what you need on Taco Tuesday, Tostada Thursday, or any weeknight at all.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 397kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

For the chicken:

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

For the sauce:

  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken broth reserved from boiling chicken or store-bought
  • 4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce or more to taste
  • 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 lard (but only if it's the GOOD lard from Mexico)
  • 3/4 medium onion sliced (the remaining from making the sauce above)
  • Flour tortillas warmed, for serving
  • Mexican rice for serving
  • Shredded lettuce for serving
  • Queso fresco for serving

Instructions

To make the chicken:

  • In a Dutch Oven or large stock pot, add chicken, onion, garlic, and 1 tablespoon salt (add the rest of your broth vegetables if making full-blown chicken broth; see notes). 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). See notes for how to save the remaining 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 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 less sauce for a less spicy dish and more sauce for a spicier dish). Boil until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve in tortillas with Mexican rice, shredded lettuce, and cheese.

Notes

Some grocery stores sell cut-up chickens so you can buy that instead of a whole chicken. Cut the breasts in half if you want, so it cooks faster.
To make chicken broth:
1. To the pot with the chicken, onion, garlic, and salt, add:
    • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
    • 1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
    • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
    • A bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, and a large bay leaf (or whichever ones you have)
2. Cover everything with cold water, and proceed with the recipe above. You'll need 1 cup of reserved liquid for the tinga sauce.
3. After removing and shredding the chicken for the tinga, strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Place in a large bowl and chill covered overnight in the refrigerator.
4. The next day, scrape off the accumulated fat from the top of the stock and discard. Divide the broth into freezer-safe containers (leaving at least 1/2-inch for expansion), label, and freeze.

Nutrition

Calories: 397kcal
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @CulinaryHill or tag #CulinaryHill!

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  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

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