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 nearby.

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 stock 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.
5 from 1 vote
Cook Time 55 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Servings 6 servings
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 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 (see note 8)
  • Mexican rice for serving
  • Shredded lettuce , queso fresco, or other 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 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

  1. 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.
  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, 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.
  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. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 386kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 28gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 1697mgPotassium: 433mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 961IUVitamin C: 12mgCalcium: 31mgIron: 2mg
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Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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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