Chicken Tinga

September 22, 2022

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Chicken Tinga is a Mexican dish made of chicken thighs that are browned then simmered in a vibrant tomato, onion, and chili seasoned taco sauce. Once cooked it’s shredded and served over warmed corn tortillas with all your favorite toppings. It’s a simple recipe and you’ll love the highlight of smokey flavor!

Chicken Tinga Tacos

Tired of the same taco recipe over and over? This is a delicious, flavorful recipe to brighten up that same old rotation.

This stove-top simmered chicken tinga makes an impressive taco filling and there’s really not a whole lot to it. It cooks in 30 minutes meaning you don’t have to wait hours and hours like you do for a shredded beef or pork taco filling.

If however you do have more time, you could easily get away with simmering it low and slow in the crockpot instead (it should be done in about 3 to 4 hours on low heat).

Is it Spicy?

Yes chicken tinga is deliciously spicy because of the added chipotle chilies in the dish. I’ve listed to add 1 – 3 chipotle chilies to taste depending on the heat level you prefer (we love it with 3!).

Then there is a swap noted in the substitutes below if you want a milder version.

Chicken Tinga Recipe Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped white onion (1 medium)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, then more to thin if needed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 to 3 canned chipotle chiles, minced, plus 1 to 3 tsp adobo sauce from can
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Tortillas and desired taco toppings (recommend avocado, cilantro, then optionally cheese)

How to Make Chicken Tinga

  1. Dry chicken with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown half the thighs 3 minutes per side, transfer to a plate. Add another 1/2 Tbsp oil to pot and brown remaining thighs about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil to pot. Add onions and saute 3 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, chili powder, and cumin and saute 30 seconds.
  5. Pour in chicken broth and scape up browned bits from bottom of pot. Add in tomatoes, chipotle chiles and adobo sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Nestle chicken thighs into sauce then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer 7 minutes. Turn chicken, keep pot uncovered and continue to cook until chicken is tender (and well cooked through), about 7 to 8 minutes longer. Remove pot from heat.
  7. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes, then chop or shred into small pieces.
  8. Meanwhile pour sauce from pot into a blender. Cover with lid then remove lids insert from center, cover that with several layers of folded paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and process mixture until smooth.
  9. Toss sauce from blender with the chicken in the pot. Heat over medium-low and let simmer about 5 minutes, adding more broth to thin sauce as desired. Pour in lime juice and toss.
  10. Serve chicken over tortillas with avocados, optional cheese and cilantro.

Possible Substitutes

  • Chili powder: Regular chili powder or New Mexican chili powder will work in place of ancho chili powder.
  • Chipotle chilies: Chipotle chilies can be quite spicy. If you are wanting to make the dish mild then replace the chipotle chilies with 2 tsp smoked paprika. You can also add 1/2 of a roasted bell pepper (fresh or use some canned).
  • Bone-in chicken: You can use bone-in thighs (remove skins), just increase to 3 lbs and simmer about an extra 10 minutes.
  • Chicken breasts: Chicken thighs are much preferred in this recipe, but you could use chicken breasts if that’s what you prefer (there just won’t be quite as much flavor). Keep a close eye on them and cook just to 165 degrees in center so they don’t get dry.
  • Cumin substitute: If you are out of cumin try ground coriander in it’s place.
  • Lime substitute: In a pinch lemon juice will work for the lime juice.

Taco Topping Ideas

Really you don’t need much extra with these chicken tinga tacos but if you want to load them up here are a few ideas to add:

  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Queso fresco cheese or cotija cheese
  • Mexican hot sauce
  • Onions (fresh or pickled)
  • Salsa or pico de gallo
  • Veggies such as tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, radishes or shredded cabbage

Helpful Tips

  • Don’t skip drying the chicken with paper towels before pan searing because the reduction in moisture will encourage more browning.
  • If you noticed brown frond burning on bottom of pot while cooking the onions then you can add 1 – 2 Tbsp water to scrape it up.
  • Let cooked chicken rest before shredding or chopping so the interior juices are retained.

More Tempting Taco Recipes to Try

Chicken Tinga

Delicious tacos made of chicken thighs that are browned then simmered in a vibrant tomato, onion, and chili seasoned taco sauce. Once cooked shredded and served over warmed corn tortillas with all your favorite toppings.
Servings: 6
Prep20minutes
Cook30minutes
Ready in: 50minutes

Ingredients

  • 2lbs.boneless, skinless chicken thighs,trimmed of excess fat
  • Saltand freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2Tbspolive oil
  • 1 1/4cups choppedwhite onion(1 medium)
  • 1Tbspminced garlic(3 cloves)
  • 1 1/2tspancho chili powder(or regular)
  • 1/2tspground cumin
  • 1/2cupchicken broth,then more to thin if needed
  • 1(14.5 oz) candiced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1to 3canned chipotle chiles,minced, plus 1 to 3 tsp adobo sauce from can
  • 1Tbspfresh lime juice

For Serving

  • 12(6-inch)corn tortillas(or flour), warmed
  • 1avocado,sliced
  • 1cup shreddedMonterey jack cheeseor 1/2 cup queso fresco (optional)
  • 1/4cup choppedfresh cilantro

Instructions

  • Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Dab chicken thighs dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Add half the chicken thighs to the pot and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer, then add another 1/2 Tbsp oil to pot and brown remaining thighs about 3 minutes per side.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil to pot. Add onions and saute 3 minutes (if you notice brown frond burning on bottom of pot during this time add 1 - 2 Tbsp water to scrape it up).
  • Add garlic, chili powder, and cumin and saute 30 seconds.
  • Pour in chicken broth and scape up browned bits from bottom of pot. Add in tomatoes, chipotle chiles and adobo sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer.
  • Nestle chicken thighs into sauce then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer 7 minutes. Turn chicken, keep pot uncovered and continue to cook until chicken is tender (and well cooked through), about 7 to 8 minutes longer. Remove pot from heat.
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes, then chop or shred into small pieces.
  • Meanwhile pour sauce from pot into a large blender. Cover with lid then remove lids insert from center, cover that with several layers of folded paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and process mixture until smooth.
  • Toss sauce from blender with the chicken in the pot. Heat over medium-low and let simmer about 5 minutes, adding more broth to thin sauce as desired. Pour in lime juice and toss.
  • Serve chicken over tortillas with avocados, optional cheese and cilantro.

Notes

  • Recipe makes about 4.5 cups chicken mixture.
  • Nutrition estimate includes listed toppings and is based on 2 tacos per serving.
Nutrition Facts
Chicken Tinga
Amount Per Serving
Calories 502Calories from Fat 216
% Daily Value*
Fat 24g37%
Saturated Fat 7g44%
Trans Fat 0.03g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 12g
Cholesterol 160mg53%
Sodium 463mg20%
Potassium 806mg23%
Carbohydrates 36g12%
Fiber 8g33%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 39g78%
Vitamin A 1573IU31%
Vitamin C 12mg15%
Calcium 246mg25%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.