Chicken tinga is super easy to make and can be used for everything from tacos to quesadillas to burritos and bowls. You'll love this easy shredded chicken dish.
This easy chicken tinga is the best way to make shredded chicken for Mexican dishes. The chicken is cooked in a smoky, slightly spicy tomato sauce and comes out perfectly tender every time. Serve it with some Shortcut Refried Beans or a Mexican Corn Salad for the perfect meal.
Mexican chicken tinga is one of those dishes you get used to seeing all over the place when you live in Southern California. It's a staple on most Mexican menus and used to fill all kinds of classic dishes like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and more. In fact, many times chicken tinga is the default filling, even if the menu doesn't specifically mention it. It's a true staple in Mexican cooking.
The thing I love most about making tinga is that it couldn't be easier to make and it is super versatile. Normally we use it for chicken tinga tacos the first night that I make it. Then a couple of days later, I will use it to make another dish - think tostadas, burrito bowls, or as a stuffing for peppers.
It also works great for lunch prep. I love it as a topping for a taco salad or used in quesadillas or lettuce wraps. I even throw it in store bought black bean or vegetable soup. This stuff tastes good with everything.
What is chicken tinga?
Basically, chicken tinga is a Mexican shredded chicken dish from Puebla that's made with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and chipotle peppers in adobo. It is found stuffed inside of all types of tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and numerous other delicious Mexican dishes. Tinga gives the dishes a little extra kick and is a great substitute for plain shredded chicken.
Ways to serve chicken tinga
There are so many different ways to make use of your chicken tinga. I almost always double or triple the recipe since the leftovers work for so many dishes. Plus it freezes great so you can always store it for a quick future meal.
- Tacos: This is the most classic option for chicken tinga. I like to use warm corn tortillas, diced onion, cilantro, avocado, and queso fresco. We also always have extra chipotle peppers on the side for anyone who likes more heat.
- Burrito and burrito bowls: I am never one to turn down a burrito bowl from Chipotle but lately I have been making them at home. I start with some Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice, add sauteed peppers and onions, canned black beans, some corn, cilantro, and tons of this yummy chicken. Topped with some cheese and cilantro and it's the most delicious and filling meal. I wrap up the same thing for the husband for a more classic burrito.
- Enchiladas: One of the keys to making really great enchiladas is to use a filling that won't dry out. This tinga is just that and makes this perfect filling for enchiladas. It would also work in this yummy Chicken Enchilada Casserole.
- Tostadas: Tostadas are crispy tortillas topped with beans, protein, veggies, and cheese. We love making these Chicken Tostadas with tinga to pack in even more flavor.
- Stuffed peppers: Toss the shredded chicken with some black beans, cooked rice, and corn. Stuff it into bell peppers and top with cheese to make some tasty stuffed peppers. It also is delicious with these Stuffed Poblano Peppers.
Can I freeze chicken tinga?
Absolutely! Chicken tinga freezes great. Just make sure to pack it in an airtight container. I find it comes out best if you let it defrost in the fridge overnight since a microwave will reheat it unevenly and sometimes the chicken gets dry. Another tip for keeping the chicken nice and tender after freezing is to use boneless skinless chicken thighs.
Recipe Ideas for Chicken Tinga
There are lots of ways you can customize this recipe to make it suit your exact tastes and needs. Here are some tips and ideas for the recipe.
- If you are worried about your chicken drying out, replace the chicken breasts with boneless skinless chicken thighs.
- For less heat, cut back on the chipotle peppers and add some cumin to ensure they still have a smoky kick.
- For a thicker sauce, blend together the onions, garlic, tomatoes, chipotle peppers, and salt. This will give you a smooth, thick sauce for the chicken.
- If you like things really spicy, add more chipotle peppers and make sure to use the adobo sauce as well. It has tons of flavor.
- If you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, start by roasting them until they are browned and charred on the outside. You can do this in a heavy skillet or in the oven.
- Add a few tomatillos to the salsa as well. This adds another delicious layer of flavor.
- To make a shortcut chicken tinga, start by blending the tomatoes, onions, garlic, chipotle peppers, and salt. Add this salsa to a pot and cook for 8-10 minutes over medium heat until the sauce darkens. Then just add some previously cooked or rotisserie chicken to the sauce and dinner is ready.
Best Way to Make Chicken Tinga Tacos
If you are going to make chicken tinga, you have to try it in tacos. Here is my favorite way to make a delicious tinga taco.
- Get all your toppings chopped and ready to go. You will need cilantro, onion, and avocado.
- Crumble some queso fresco so it is ready to serve.
- Grab your leftover chipotles in adobo and throw them in a blender. Blend them to make a spicy and smoky salsa to serve on the side for anyone who wants more heat. If needed, you can add some tomatoes or chicken broth to thin out the salsa.
- Heat up your corn tortillas. My favorite way to do this is right on the flame on my stove so that the tortillas get some charred spots. Just place them right on the flame and let them cook for 15-30 seconds until they beginning to bubble and brown. Flip carefully with tongs and repeat. Place the tortillas in foil to keep them warm.
- Now it's time to assemble! Grab a warm corn tortilla, add your chicken, and top with onions, cilantro, avocado, queso fresco, and a drizzle of chipotle salsa.
Chicken Tinga (Slow Cooker, Instant Pot, or Stovetop)
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Instant Pot: Add everything to the Instant Pot. Close the lid and seal. For fresh chicken breasts, cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. For frozen chicken, cook on high pressure for 13 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release. Carefully open the pot and shred the chicken using two forks. Please note, the cooking time may vary slightly depending on the size of the chicken breasts. Smaller breasts cook more quickly and very large breasts may take a bit longer.
Stovetop: When cooking on the stovetop, I like to take a different approach to ensure the chicken comes out perfectly seasoned every time. Start by poaching the chicken. Add the chicken breast in a single layer in the bottom of a large pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the chicken with broth or water until there is about a half an inch of liquid above the chicken. Bring to a boil and then immediately turn down to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the chicken continue to cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and chop or shred once cooled. While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce. Add the tomatoes, onions, garlic, chipotle peppers, and salt to a blender. Blend until smooth. Add this salsa to a pot and cook for 5-7 minutes over medium heat until the sauce darkens in color. Once the chicken is cooked, simply add it to the sauce and cook for 3-5 minutes for the flavors to combine.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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