Make this easy Chicken Tinga, or Tinga de Pollo in under 30 minutes! Tender chicken is tossed with a smoky and super flavorful tomato sauce to make the best Chicken Tinga tacos, tostadas, or burrito bowls.
Mexican food is a favorite at my house. The warm flavors, the simple preparations, and the fact that most of it can be eaten with your hands make tacos like these Chicken Tinga tacos a perfect casual family dinner.
You are going to go nuts for this recipe that makes the most flavorful chicken tinga sauce in almost no time at all. Smoky chipotles in adobo create an unforgettable, incredible amount of traditional Mexican flavor.
Chicken tacos are a regular occurrence for us, and I like to change things up. Make Chicken Tinga in the Instant Pot if you prefer, or make Baked Chicken Tacos, Easy Shredded Chicken Tacos, or my Cheesy Chicken Fajita Casserole.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Stovetop Meal. There are lots of ways to make shredded chicken tacos, but here we are doing it the simplest way, poached right on the stovetop.
- Customizable. Add any and all of your favorite Tex-Mex toppings to make these pulled chicken tinga tacos your own.
- Flavorful. These chicken tacos are jazzed up with traditional pollo de tinga seasonings like chipotles in adobo, cumin, and cinnamon.
- Easy to Make Ahead. Do you like to meal prep? This shredded chicken tinga taco filling works perfectly for taco salads or burrito bowls, and is delicious as leftovers.
What is Tinga?
Chicken Tinga is an authentic Mexican recipe for a stew made with shredded meat with a spicy, smoky, tomato-based sauce. In Spanish, you’d call this “Pollo de Tinga”. Tinga can be served with tortillas, added to tostadas, or enjoyed with rice and beans.
The origin of tinga is said to be from Puebla, a state in Mexico. The recipe comes from the colonial period, and is a marriage of Mexican and Spanish cooking influences.
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
- Tomatoes, Onion, and Chipotles in Adobo are key tinga ingredients, while the rest of the seasonings make this recipe extra special.
- Chicken Breasts. We’ll be poaching the chicken quickly on the stove to get dinner on the table quickly. You’ll need 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe.
- Bay Leaves. Added to the poaching liquid, these leaves give a subtle, savory flavor.
- Olive Oil. A good olive oil helps to sauté the vegetables and adds flavor and moisture to the stew.
- Onion and Garlic. The base flavors of so many Mexican dishes are these two aromatic vegetables.
- Canned Tomatoes. If you can find fire roasted diced tomatoes, use them. The extra smoky flavor is amazing in this Chicken Tinga Recipe. Otherwise, regular diced tomatoes are fine.
- Chipotles in Adobo. If you aren’t familiar with this ingredient, it’s basically roasted jalapenos in a smoky, sweet, and spicy sauce. Look for this in a can in the International aisles of your grocery store. Pull out two of the peppers, and a bit of the sauce. You can leave the peppers in large pieces, we’ll be blending them later.
- Dried Oregano, ground cumin, and ground cinnamon – together with the adobo, these spices are spot-on perfect for seasoning Chicken Tinga. If you can find it, Mexican Oregano is a different herb than you might be used to, and is really great in Mexican cooking.
- Water and Lime Juice. You’ll add water and the juice of one lime to thin out the sauce at the end.
- Tortillas and Toppings. Turn Chicken Tinga into Tinga Tacos with your favorite corn or flour tortillas, diced onion, fresh cilantro, and avocado.
How to Make Chicken Tinga
- Poach/Boil Chicken: Place chicken breasts in a saucepan, add bay leaves, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F/74°C. I use a kitchen thermometer to check as overcooked chicken will be dry. I have a full tutorial on How to Boil Chicken Breasts that you might find useful.
- Shred Chicken: Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred it using two forks.
Please don’t burn yourself! The chicken will be very hot in the center even after cooling for a bit. Use forks to shred it rather than your hands.
- Make Tinga Sauce: In a skillet, heat olive oil, and fry the onions until caramelized. Add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Add diced tomatoes, chipotles, oregano, cumin, and cinnamon. Stir and cook for 30 minutes to let the flavors develop.
- Blend: Transfer the hot sauce to the jug of a blender, add water and lime juice, and blend until smooth.
- Finish and Serve: Return the sauce to the skillet, warm it up and add the shredded chicken. Toss until the chicken is well coated. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Remove from heat and serve in warmed up tortillas or taco shells with your favorite toppings.
Chicken Tinga Tips
- Bay Leaves are Key. You can leave the bay leaves out if you don’t have them on hand, but in this recipe they do a lot for the flavor of the dish. Bay leaves are added to most traditionally long-cooked dishes, so the flavor is a familiar one in stews and soups, and will make this recipe feel like you cooked it all day long.
- Cover the Chicken With Water. When poaching chicken, be sure to completely cover the meat with water in the pan. If it isn’t, it could turn out dry.
- Adjust the Heat. The chipotles in adobo bring a nice amount of heat to chicken tinga, but if you like things hot, feel free to add hot sauce or additional peppers to taste. For a less spicy tinga, use the sauce from the chilies, but leave the peppers out.
- Try other Meats. You can make shredded beef tinga, pork (carnitas) tinga, or even a tinga with fish. You’ll know once you try it that tinga sauce is delicious on anything.
- Keep Chipotle in Adobo in the Pantry. This is an inexpensive pantry ingredient that adds so much flavor to recipes and can be used in a variety of ways. I like to have some on hand at all times.
- No Blender? Use a handheld blender in place of a pitcher blender. Alternately, chop all of the ingredients up finely and enjoy your chicken tinga that way.
Toppings for Chicken Tinga Tacos
The best part about tacos is choosing what to put on them! None of these are required, but here are some of my favorite Tinga toppings:
Cheese: Shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, cotija cheese, or queso fresco.
Veggies: Diced red onion is delicious with chicken tinga. You can also add diced tomatoes, fresh jalapenos, cilantro, shredded lettuce or cabbage, or sliced avocado. Make fresh Pico de Gallo salsa for a special treat, or whip up some Easy Guacamole.
Something Creamy: Plain sour cream or a homemade Lime Crema adds creaminess and balances any spiciness. Refried beans are a traditional creamy add-in too.
What to Serve with Chicken Tinga
Keep your leftover chicken tinga in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days. Reheat in a skillet or in the microwave.
Chicken tinga can be frozen for up to two months. Thaw completely before reheating.
It’s really easy using forks! Hold a fork in each hand. Place a cooked, still warm chicken breast on a cutting board, and use the forks to pull the breast into two pieces. Then take the forks and pull each of those pieces into two pieces. Continue this way until the chicken is shredded into the size pieces you desire.
Yes, you can poach frozen chicken breasts for this recipe. Just know that it will take longer for the water to boil, and additional simmering time to cook the chicken completely.
An authentic chicken tinga tacos recipe is so simple to make, you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it already! Enjoy, and make sure to let me know how you like it.
- 2 pounds (900g) chicken breasts boneless and skinless
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 14-ounce (400g) can diced tomatoes preferably fire roasted
- 2 chipotles in adobo and 1 tablespoon of the sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup water
- 1 lime juiced
- 12 corn or flour tortillas
- fresh cilantro
- diced red onion
- Place chicken in a saucepan, and cover with water. Add 2 bay leaves, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F/74°C. I use a kitchen thermometer to check as overcooked chicken will be dry.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board or bowl, and shred it with 2 forks.
- In a skillet heat olive oil, and fry the onions until caramelized. Add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add diced tomatoes, chipotles, oregano, cumin, and cinnamon. Stir and cook for 30 minutes.
- Transfer the hot sauce to a jug of a blender, add water and lime juice and blend until smooth.
- Return the sauce to the skillet, warm it up and add the shredded chicken. Toss until the chicken is well coated. Remove from heat and serve in warmed up tortillas or taco shells with your favorite toppings.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
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