This chicken tinga recipe is tender shredded chicken simmered in a zesty tomato-chipotle sauce, great for tacos, tostadas, or burritos, all in one pot!
The Best Chicken Tinga Recipe
Let's make some chicken tinga today, my friends. You're going to LOVE this recipe.
What is Chicken Tinga? Chicken Tinga is a classic Mexican dish of shredded chicken that cooks low and slow in a tomato-based sauce seasoned with chipotle peppers, onion, garlic, and other spices. The resulting chicken is smoky and spicy and everyone loves it.
It's a versatile dish, too, as you can serve it up however you'd like. Use it to fill warmed corn or flour tortillas for tacos. Spoon it over crispy tortillas for easy chipotle tostadas.
Fancy a burrito? Or a Mexican torta? Enchiladas? Chicken Tinga has you covered.
It also freezes wonderfully, so make extra and keep in the freezer for quick and easy lunch or dinner meals throughout the week.
Where does Tinga Come From?
Chicken tinga comes to us from Puebla, Mexico. It's a classic authentic Mexican recipe defined by it's silky and somewhat spicy sauce made primarily from tomatoes and smoky chipotle chilies in adobo sauce.
Let's talk about how to make chicken tinga, shall we? It's super easy, which I love.
Chicken Tinga Ingredients
- Chicken. I like to use chicken thighs, as they are juicier and have a higher fat content, but you can use chicken breast as well. This recipe calls for 2 pounds of chicken.
- Peppers and Veggies. I'm using one jalapeno pepper for a bit of heat and flavor, along with white onion and garlic cloves. Cooking them down adds a lot of extra flavor to the final sauce and shredded chicken. If you'd like a bit more heat, use a serrano pepper or two instead.
- Chipotles in Adobo Sauce. Use a typical 7-ounce can that you can find in most stores. There are usually several brands to choose from. Go for the actual chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, as the chipotles add to that smoky flavor in the shredded chicken and the sauce. However, you can also use adobo sauce alone, if that is all that is available.
- Tomato Sauce. Tomato sauce adds body to the final sauce. This recipe calls for a typical 16 ounce can, though you can use crushed tomatoes, diced, or fire roasted, or the equivalent of fresh tomatoes. Just make sure to let them simmer long enough to break down, then process them to make the sauce.
- Seasonings. To spice things up and build on flavor, we're using chili powder, Mexican oregano, a bit of cumin, and salt and black pepper. If you have other preferred seasonings, like a favorite taco seasoning recipe, feel free to include it.
How to Make Chicken Tinga - the Recipe Method
Cook the Vegetables. First, heat some olive oil in a large skillet to medium-high heat and add chopped onions and jalapeno peppers. Cook them down about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
Brown the Chicken. Season some chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then add them to the pan. Give them a nice sear on each side, a couple minute each. Chicken breasts work here as well, too.
Sauce Ingredients. Process the tomato sauce and chipotles in adobo sauce in a food processor, like so.
Blend until smooth.
Next, pour the mixture into the pan, covering the chicken.
Stir in the seasonings.
Simmer the Chicken Tinga. Bring the mixture to a quick boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and easily pulls apart.
Shred, then Simmer the Chicken. Remove the chicken and shred it with a couple of forks.
Return the chicken to the pan and simmer in the sauce another 5 minutes to let the flavors develop and meld with the chicken.
You can simmer longer if you'd like, 15 minutes or more, over low heat to develop the flavor even further, until you are ready to serve.
If your sauce is too thick to your liking, you can thin it out with a bit of water or chicken broth.
Boom! That's it, my friends! Looks delicious, doesn't it? This tinga chicken is so moist and flavorful and it is HUGE on flavor. It's going to be one of your favorites. No lie.
Is Chicken Tinga Spicy?
Heat Factor: Mild-Medium. There is a low to medium level of spiciness in chipotle in adobo sauce, so be prepared. You'll get a heat level similar to an average jalapeno pepper, so if you find jalapenos hot, then expect a good kick from the sauce.
It will be distributed through the overall chicken tinga dish, however, so it may not be as spicy as you think.
I add in extra jalapenos to up that heat factor, and finish with spicy chili flakes as well. Feel free to use hotter peppers and flakes, or a nice hot sauce to finish.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Rotisserie Chicken. If you'd like to save some time making chicken tinga, pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and shred the meat from the bones. Then proceed with the recipe. It's a big time saver and the chicken tinga tastes great. Easy shredded chicken.
- Freezer Friendly. You can freeze chicken tinga very easily in sealable plastic baggies, with a vacuum sealer, or in freezer-friendly containers. I like to freeze mine in 6 to 8 ounce portions to serve 2 people for a quick lunch or dinner.
Crock Pot Chicken Tinga Recipe
You can easily make chicken tinga in your crock pot, slow cooker or instant pot using all the same ingredients. Here is a quick method:
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then add them to the crock pot or slow cooker.
- Heat oil in a pan to medium heat and add the onions and jalapeno peppers. Cook them down about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce, chipotles in adobo sauce and stir in the seasonings. Bring to a quick boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes to let the flavors develop a bit.
- Pour the contents of the pan over the chicken and cover.
- Cook on low for 2-3 hours, or on high for 1-2 hours, until the chicken becomes very tender.
- Finally, shred the chicken in right in the slow cooker with forks, or you can remove it to shred on a cutting board, then add the chicken back to the simmering tinga sauce.
- Serve it up with tortillas for chicken tinga tacos, or however you'd like to serve it.
Serving Chicken Tinga
As mentioned, chicken tinga is super versatile. You can serve it up pretty much any way you'd like.
Consider it for chicken tinga tacos, burritos, flautas, topping tostadas, chicken tortas, even over rice with other fixings for a satisfying burrito bowl with your favorite toppings like avocado, queso fresco, chili flakes, tomatoes, onions, and more.
Try Chicken Tinga Nachos! Add in extra ingredients like refried beans, black beans, sour cream or Mexican crema, extra sliced roasted jalapenos, shredded cheese, all your favorites.
Storage and Leftovers
Store any leftover chicken tinga in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To enjoy it again, warm it in a pot on the stove, or gently in the microwave.
You can freeze tinga chicken in vacuum sealed bags or freezer containers for 3 months or longer.
Try Some of My Other Popular Chicken Recipes
- Quick and Easy Chipotle Chicken
- Pollo Asado (Mexican Roast Chicken)
- Chicken Enchiladas Verdes with Cheese
- The Juiciest Shredded Chicken
- Grilled Harissa Chicken Legs
- Korean Chicken
- Chicken Vindaloo
- Sweet and Spicy Teriyaki Chicken
- Chipotle Chicken Nachos
- Chipotle Chili
- Tostadas De Tinga (Chicken Tinga Tostadas)
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Chicken Tinga Recipe (Mexican Chipotle Shredded Chicken)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper chopped (optional, for extra spicy)
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 pounds skinless chicken thighs chicken breast is good, too
- 16 ounce can tomato sauce
- 7 ounce can chipotles in adobo sauce (use 1/2 the can for less spicy)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder (I am using ancho powder)
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a large pan to medium heat and add the onions and jalapeno peppers. Cook them down about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the garlic becomes fragrant.
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then add them to the pan. Cook them 2 minutes, then flip and cook 2 minutes more to lightly brown.
- Process the tomato sauce and chipotles in adobo sauce in a food processor, then pour the mixture into the pan, covering the chicken.
- Stir in the chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, and salt and pepper.
- Bring to a quick boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and easily pulls apart.
- Remove the chicken and shred it with a couple of forks.
- Return the chicken to the pan and simmer in the sauce another 5 minutes.
- Serve with tortillas, tostadas, on torta buns, or in a bowl with all your favorite fixings.
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 5/12/23 to include new information, photos and video. It was originally published on 1/4/19.