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Chicken Tinga Recipe

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This Chicken Tinga Recipe, or tinga de pollo, is one of my favorite Mexican dishes to make. Shredded chicken is simmered in a smoky, spicy chipotle sauce adding so much flavor. You will love how quick and easy this is to make and it can be use in so many ways. We eat it over white rice, in tacos, burrito bowls, burritos, quesadillas, on salads or even added into soups. You can even freeze this and use it for future meals! 

Chicken Tinga Recipe with sour cream and cilantro.

CHICKEN TINGA RECIPE

If you like Mexican food then you have to try this Chicken Tinga Recipe.

Out of all the chicken recipes I make this is in my top 5 favorites.

It is such a great recipe and would be perfect for Cinco de Mayo or just a quick weeknight meal. 

My whole family can’t get enough of this one- we eat it in rice bowls, tacos, salads, on nachos or in quesadillas. 

This Mexican recipe is from someone I know that lived in Mexico and learned the recipes while she was there.

A few things in this recipe have been adapted to make it a bit easier and also to use ingredients that are more readily available in the US. 

You might be wondering what is chicken tinga?

It is a Mexican dish that simmers white onions and chicken in a smokey chipotle, tomato sauce.

Chicken Tinga Recipe in pot.

Many states in Mexico have added their own touches to recipes. 

In the state of Chiapas they made this recipe even better in my opinion by adding milk. 

This makes the sauce a bit creamier and definitely yummier. In my recipe I used evaporated milk to also give it a bit of sweetness to balance out the spicy flavor of the chipotle chilies. 

This is hands down one of our favorite recipes. 

I’ve made this recipe hundreds of times and it never gets old! 

You can serve it as simply as topping it on a tostadas with a bit of cream, crumbly cheese, and cilantro or go all out and create the ultimate rice bowl with all of your favorite Mexican toppings. 

Chicken Tinga Recipe above shot of tacos.

WHERE DOES TINGA COME FROM?

Chicken tinga first came from the State of Puebla in Mexico. This is also the place that the “Cinco de Mayo” battle happened in 1862 when the Mexican army defeated the French armada. 

Puebla is also well known for mole poblano, a spicy sauce, was developed around the 17th century and is still enjoyed today. 

WHAT DOES CHICKEN TINGA MEAN?

“Tinga” means stew- it uses shredded chicken, pork or beef that is stewed with tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano and chipotle peppers. 

You will often hear Chicken Tinga called tinga de pollo. It is a version that uses shredded chicken and mixes it with a chipotle-based sauce that has a smoky flavor and is a bit spicy.

The flavor is just rich and so aromatic when paired with the other ingredients. 

You will see it served on tostadas with refried beans and Mexican toppings like cilantro, cheese and sour cream. 

Chicken Tinga Recipe with spoon of chicken.

WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE IN CHICKEN TINGA?

  • Onions – Tinga is filled with onions, actually more onions than chicken.  White onions is the common one used, but yellow or red onion will work fine, too. Cut your onion in half from top to bottom, then slice into thin slices.  
  • Chicken Breast – Traditional recipes often will cook down a whole chicken and shred that. You can do that with this Whole Roasted Chicken recipe or you can use boneless thighs, tenders or chicken breasts, which will be poached and then shredded. For an easier recipe you can use shredded rotisserie chicken or make this Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken and leave out the black beans.  
  • Lard or oil – The lard or oil is to cook the onions.  The onions will be cooked till translucent before adding the sauce or chicken.
  • Garlic – The garlic is a very important part of the flavoring of this recipe
  • Evaporated milk – You will use an entire can of evaporated milk in the sauce.  This makes the sauce extra delicious and cuts some of the heat of the chipotles which is nice if you are feeding a group and some might not like the spiciness of traditional Tinga. 

Chicken Tinga Recipe ingredients.

  • Fire roasted tomatoes – For real authentic tinga you can pan roast some tomatoes. A shortcut that I use in this recipe is to use the canned fire roasted tomatoes. It just makes the recipe easier. 
  • Chipotle en adobo or chipotle sauce – You can find small cans of chipotle chiles or now many stores carry chipotle sauce which I find is just as good and easier to use.  This is the most important thing for the sauce.
  • Cumin – The cumin is an important spice for seasoning.
  • Mexican oregano – This oregano has a bit different flavor than Italian oregano.  Milder in taste and important for most Mexican dishes, but if you can’t find any near you, regular oregano can be used.
  • Salt & black pepper

Chicken Tinga Recipe with cilantro.

HOW DO YOU MAKE CHICKEN TINGA?

This is an easy recipe- start by melting the lard or you can use olive oil in a large skillet. 

Add the onions and cook till translucent, about 10 minutes or more.

Chicken Tinga Recipe onions in pan.

While the onions are cooking, place the chicken in a saucepan and cover with water.

Chicken Tinga Recipe raw chicken in pan.

Turn to medium-high heat till it begins to boil and turn down to low heat to simmer. 

Cook for 6 to 7 minutes for thinner chicken breast, or 8 to 10 minutes if they’re pretty big, and then turn off the heat. 

Chicken Tinga Recipe in a pot of water.

Cover with a lid and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Check for doneness then shred the chicken.

Place the garlic, evaporated milk, fire roasted tomatoes, chipotles and adobo sauce or chipotle sauce, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper into a food processor or blender and blend well.

Chicken Tinga Recipe with spoon.

Pour over the cooked onions and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken and simmer for an additional 15 minutes until sauce is reduced by half.

Serve over rice or on tostadas with fresh cilantro.

Chicken Tinga Recipe with shredded chicken.

HOW DO YOU STORE THIS CHICKEN TINGA RECIPE?

You can store tinga in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Heat before serving.

CAN YOU FREEZE CHICKEN TINGA?

Tinga can be frozen for up to three months.

Let the chicken tinga cool completely before freezing.

Transfer to an air-tight container or a ziplock bag and freeze. 

When you are ready to use the tinga you can thaw it overnight in the fridge.

Once you are ready to cook it add olive oil to a skillet, the tinga and a few splashes of water.

Slowly heat until the tinga is heated through. 

Chicken Tinga Recipe with cilantro on tacos.

WHAT TO DO WITH CHICKEN TINGA

The traditional way to eat chicken tinga is over white rice but here are other ideas of ways to use it.

It is such a versatile dish.

TOSTADAS: Chicken Tinga Tostadas is the main way that many people will eat tinga. I like to spread a layer of refried beans on the bottom of the tostada and then top with the chicken tinga, lettuce, diced tomato, sour cream, queso fresco cheese and avocado.

RICE BOWLS: Rice bowls are my go-to for my family during the busy week. You can easily pre-make this chicken tinga and have it read in the fridge.

For rice bowls I like to let everyone build their own. Some ingredients I lay out is the chicken, sour cream, cotija cheese, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, avocado, corn, black beans, lime wedges or lime juice, a spicy sauce or hot sauce and jalapeños.

 

 

TACOS: I love making easy chicken tinga tacos with the meat. Similar to rice bowls you can let your family create their own perfect taco with your guests choice of toppings. 

Give them their flour tortillas or corn tortillas and let them create their favorite taco. 

BURRITOS: Chicken tinga works great in burritos. You can wrap up all of your favorite ingredients together in one rolled up burrito.

The nice thing with tinga is that it is packed with flavor from the tomato-chipotle sauce, so you don’t need a lot of extra sauces that might create a soggy burrito. 

ENCHILADAS: I love using this chicken in enchiladas. I will often add it into these Vegetarian Enchiladas Recipe or will add it to this Chicken Tinga Enchilada Recipe.

SOUPS: Another great way to use tinga is in soups.

I like to make a batch and add it into a Chicken Enchilada Soup or this Green Chili Chicken Soup.

SALADS: I will often make a Mexican inspired salad and add chicken tinga on top. A few I love are this Mexican Chopped Salad, Everyday Mexican Salad or this Southwestern Avocado Quinoa Salad.

Chicken Tinga Recipe with cilantro and rice.

WHAT ARE CHIPOTLE PEPPERS IN ADOBO SAUCE:

Chipotle peppers are smoked and dried jalapeno peppers. 

The adobo sauce is made with vinegar, sugar (usually piloncillo which is a bit like brown sugar) and spices. 

The chilis are slightly cooked in the sauce and then stored in the refrigerator till used.  

The chipotle sauce you can use instead can either be a sauce of the chipotles blended with the adobo sauce, or sometimes it is combined with onions and garlic.

HOW DO I STORE LEFTOVER CHIPOTLE PEPPERS

You can easily store the leftover chipotle peppers and use them as you need them for things like these Easy Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas, Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa or this Chilaquiles Rojos Recipe

Use a parchment lined baking sheet and place the chipotle peppers in a single layer.

Flash freeze them for a couple of hours in the freeze and then you can remove them and store them in an air tight container. 

This ensures that you can easily just use one or two peppers since you are flash freezing them and they will be able to be easily removed individually. 

Chicken Tinga Recipe with spoon.

HOW DO YOU MAKE SLOW COOKER CHICKEN TINGA?

You can also make this recipe in the crockpot – it is so easy! 

  1. Add the chicken breasts to the slow cooker. 
  2. In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and give it a good stir. Simmer for another 2 minutes. 
  3. Transfer the onion and tomato sauce into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
  4. Pour over the chicken and stir well.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 2-4 hours. You want the chicken to be tender enough to shred.  
  6. Shred chicken directly in the crockpot (or you can shred on cutting board) and turn heat to LOW. Continue to let chicken cook an additional 20-30 minutes.

Chicken Tinga Recipe above shot.

WHAT SIDES TO SERVE WITH CHICKEN TINGA

Here are some side dishes I like to serve with tinga:

MEXICAN STREET CORN SALAD

SPANISH CAULIFLOWER RICE 

ROASTED BROCCOLI

HOMEMADE SALSA

PICO DE GALLO

SALSA VERDE

 

Chicken Tinga Recipe with logo.

Chicken Tinga Recipe with spoon of chicken.

Chicken Tinga Recipe

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

This Chicken Tinga Recipe, or tinga de pollo, is one of my favorite Mexican dishes to make. Shredded chicken is simmered in a smoky, spicy chipotle sauce adding so much flavor. You will love how quick and easy this is to make and it can be use in so many ways. We eat it over white rice, in tacos, burrito bowls, burritos, quesadillas, on salads or even added into soups. You can even freeze this and use it for future meals! 

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon lard or oil
  • 2 large or 3 medium white onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 large chicken breasts {or about 2 pounds of chicken or 4 cups of shredded chicken}
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 - 12 fluid ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 - 14 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 3 - 4 canned chipotles and all the adobo sauce in the can OR
  • 1 - 7.76 ounce can chipotle sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano {or regular oregano if you don't have Mexican oregano}
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Instructions

    1. Heat the lard or oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the sliced onions. Cook slowly until translucent about 10 to 15 minutes.
    2. While the onions are cooking, place the chicken in a saucepan and cover with water.
    3. Heat till it begins to boil and turn down to simmer. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes for thinner chicken breast, or 8 to 10 minutes if they’re pretty big, and then turn off the heat.
    4. Cover with a lid and let it sit for 5 minutes. Check for doneness. Shred the chicken.
    5. Place the garlic, evaporated milk, fire roasted tomatoes, chipotles and adobo sauce or chipotle sauce, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper into a blender and blend well.
    6. Pour over the cooked onions and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken and simmer for an additional 15 minutes until sauce is reduced by half.
    7. Serve over rice or on tostadas.

Notes

Optional shortcut: You can use leftover chicken that is shredded or rotisserie chicken that you shred.

You can also make this recipe in the crockpot - it is so easy! 

  • Add the chicken breasts to the slow cooker. 
    In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and give it a good stir. Simmer for another 2 minutes. 
  • Transfer the onion and tomato sauce into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
  • Pour over the chicken and stir well.
  • Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 2-4 hours. You want the chicken to be tender enough to shred.  
  • Shred chicken directly in the crockpot (or you can shred on cutting board) and turn heat to LOW. Continue to let chicken cook an additional 20-30 minutes.

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Julie

Monday 19th of April 2021

This looks delicious! Can't wait to try :)

Julia

Monday 19th of April 2021

I hope you like it! Let me know how it turns out for you. My kids go crazy for it.

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