Chicken Tinga

published Apr 4, 2024
Chicken Tinga Recipe

This saucy shredded chicken is loaded with smoky, sweet, and spicy flavor.

Serves4

Makes4 cups

Prep5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook35 minutes to 45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
overhead shot of chicken tinga in a serving bowl, with corn tortillas, lime wedges and raw red onion on the side.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Chicken tinga has a smoky sweetness that’s hard to resist. And with just seven easy-to-find ingredients (plus salt, pepper, and oil!), it is very accessible. Chicken tinga originates from Puebla, Mexico, and it falls under what we call a guisado: a meat or vegetable that is cooked with few ingredients and is stewy, homey, and delicious. 

Moms across Mexico use tinga as a main course and typically serve it with refried beans, rice, a simple salad, and side of tortillas or tostadas. At my home, my mom used to make double batches and leftovers would be ready for us when we came back from school hungry. We would simply put some of the tinga inside a quesadilla or use it as a filling for a quick sandwich. 

Why You’ll Love It

  • Fresh tomatoes add brightness. Many recipes opt for canned, but I think overripe tomatoes make the most delicious sauce.
  • It’s super easy. When it comes to the ingredient list and method, I keep things very simple. The sauce tastes like it’s been simmering for hours, but from start to finish the recipe is ready in less than an hour. 

Key Ingredients in Chicken Tinga

  • Tomatoes give this dish sweetness and acid that balances the smoky chipotle. Slicer or Roma tomatoes work well, but any variety will work. For the best flavor, look for tomatoes that are a little overripe. 
  • Chipotle is the star of this dish; it adds so much smoky and peppery complexity. Beware that cans may differ in spiciness levels — I find brands like Mi Costeña are fruitier and less spicy, while San Marcos can be quite hot. 
  • Chicken is perfect with these tomato-chipotle brothy flavors. We like boneless skinless chicken thighs (even without the skin, there’s still a little bit of fat), but if you prefer chicken breast go ahead. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

How to Make Chicken Tinga

  1. Blend the tomatoes and chipotle peppers. The quickest, easiest way to make the sauce nice and smooth!
  2. Sauté the aromatics and chicken. In a Dutch oven, cook the onions and garlic until translucent before adding the chicken and seasoning. 
  3. Let it simmer. Add the tomato-chipotle mixture and then simmer for 30ish minutes until tender. 
  4. Shred it. Use two forks to shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season to taste with salt. 

Helpful Swaps

  • Don’t have fresh tomatoes? No problem, you can sub with whole peeled tomatoes. Most grocery stores carry a 28-ounce can. Drain the tomatoes from the juices first, then weigh the tomatoes to ensure you have the right consistency for the sauce.
  • To make it vegan, try oyster mushrooms in place of the chicken. They shred beautifully.
  • To make it stretch and bulk it up, add some cubed Yukon potatoes when adding the chicken. They will cook in the same amount of time. 

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips 

Leftovers taste amazing and can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. The easiest way to reheat the chicken tinga is in the microwave. (Don’t worry — it won’t dry out.) 

What to Serve with Chicken Tinga

My favorite way to serve chicken tinga is as a cheesy open-faced sandwich. I smear refried beans onto a sliced baguette, pile on chicken tinga, add a slice of cheese (Monterey Jack or white cheddar!) then broil until bubbly. It’s also wonderful served alongside corn tortillas or crunchy tostadas, beans, arroz rojo, and salad. 

Chicken Tinga Recipe

This saucy shredded chicken is loaded with smoky, sweet, and spicy flavor.

Prep time 5 minutes to 10 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes to 45 minutes

Makes 4 cups

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 pound

    medium tomatoes (about 4)

  • 3

    canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

  • 1

    small white onion

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    tomato paste

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5)

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • Corn tortillas or tostadas, for serving

Instructions

  1. Core and quarter 4 medium tomatoes. Place in a blender and add 3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Blend until smooth.

  2. Halve and thinly slice 1 small white onion (about 1 1/2 cups). Finely chop 2 garlic cloves.

  3. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet or medium Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 teaspoon tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until it evenly coats the onion, 1 to 2 minutes.

  4. Nestle 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs into the onion mixture. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1 teaspoon kosher salt over the chicken. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the chipotle mixture and stir to combine.

  5. Cover and simmer, adjusting the heat as needed, until the chicken is cooked through and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Uncover and shred the chicken with 2 forks into bite-sized pieces directly in the skillet. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Serve with corn tortillas or tostadas.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Editor’s note: We updated the headnotes of this recipe to clarify how to adjust the recipe using canned tomatoes on April 5, 2024.