Chicken Tinga Tacos are filled with spicy, saucy, smoky chipotle chicken, served on warmed tortillas with your favorite toppings. This delicious Mexican “tinga de pollo” is full of flavor, and easy to make in about 30 minutes.
I love Mexican cuisine and consider myself a taco connoisseur and this is my absolute favorite chicken tacos recipe. Authentic chicken tinga (or “tinga de pollo” in Spanish) is a traditional Mexican dish made with shredded chicken in a spicy chipotle tomato sauce.
This classic dish originated in Puebla, Mexico, the state where the famous “Cinco de Mayo” battle took place in 1862 when the Mexican army defeated the French armada.
This recipe is my adapted version, using ingredients that you probably already have on hand. A restaurant quality dish that comes together in about 30 minutes, and a guaranteed taco night crowd pleaser!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- It’s a quick and easy recipe for busy weeknights.
- You can make it on the stovetop or in your Instant Pot or slow cooker.
- It’s a great recipe to make in a big batch for entertaining.
- It’s super freezer friendly!
- The ingredients are simple and there’s so much flavor!
Ingredients for Chicken Tinga
- Chicken – I use poached boneless skinless chicken breasts. You can also use boneless skinless chicken thighs. To make this recipe even faster, pull the meat off of a rotisserie chicken.
- Onion – sweet onion, yellow onion or white onion.
- Chipotle chiles – canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. This is what gives the spicy sauce that wonderful smoky flavor. I use two chipotle peppers because I like it spicy. If you want to make it less spicy, use one.
- Fire roasted diced tomatoes – I always keep these in my pantry for so many recipes. You can also use fresh tomatoes and roast them or cook them down in a saucepan.
- Oregano – Mexican oregano if you have it.
- Chicken stock – or veggie. If you’re poaching chicken for this recipe, you can use a bit of the poaching liquid in place of chicken broth.
- Olive oil
- Tortillas and your favorite toppings – flour or corn tortillas, cotija cheese or queso fresco, diced onions, pickled red onion, mashed avocado or fresh guacamole, cilantro, lime wedges.
This chicken tinga recipe comes together easily on the stovetop or you can make it in your Instant Pot or slow cooker.
To poach chicken, heat a large pot of water (or use broth) and a few crushed garlic cloves. You can also add onion scraps, slices of lime or even a bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the chicken in a single layer. Allow it to come back to a boil, cover and remove from heat and let it stand for 20 minutes (or up to 45 minutes). Remove from poaching liquid and shred the chicken on a cutting board with two forks.
To make the tinga sauce, roughly chop the onion and mince the garlic. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 5-6 minutes until very soft and translucent. Add in the garlic, oregano, cumin, salt and roughly chopped chipotle peppers and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pour in crushed tomatoes and broth and let it simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. Always take extra care in blending hot liquids. Either let it cool slightly or vent the top and cover with a kitchen towel to prevent splatter.
Add the cooked chicken and pureed sauce back to the skillet to warm through. Stir in fresh lime juice and season with more salt to taste. Serve in warm tortillas with your favorite toppings.
Instant Pot or Slow Cooker Instructions
This recipe easily adapts for your pressure cooker or crockpot.
For the Instant Pot, simply blend all of the sauce ingredients until smooth. Add the sauce to the pot and nestle in the raw chicken breasts. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Quick release and carefully open the top away from your face. Use two forks to shred the chicken right in the sauce.
For the slow cooker, blend the sauce ingredients until smooth. Pour sauce into the slow cooker and add in the raw chicken breasts. Cook on high for 1-2 hours or low for 3-4 hours. Use two forks to shred the chicken right in the sauce.
How to freeze chicken tinga for meal prep
This is a great recipe for freezer meal prep.
Make the sauce and add it to an airtight, freezer safe container with raw chicken breasts. When you are ready to cook, thaw and add the contents to your Instant Pot or slow cooker and follow the instructions above.
To freeze leftovers with cooked chicken, add it to an airtight, freezer safe plastic or silicone bag. Press out all of the air to prevent freezer burn.
Freeze for up to three months. To enjoy, defrost in the refrigerator and reheat or add frozen contents to a saucepan and defrost over low heat.
Tips for serving chicken tinga
For the tacos, I suggest warming corn or flour tortillas. Spread avocado mash or fresh guacamole on the tortillas, add chicken tinga filling and then top with fresh cilantro, cotija cheese or queso fresco, finely diced onion and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro leaves.
You can also make chicken tinga burritos or burrito bowls, pile the filling on top of a crispy tostada shell, make nachos, taco salad, quesadillas – there are endless ways to enjoy this favorite chicken tinga tacos recipe.
More Mexican-inspired recipes you will love
Chicken Tinga Tacos
- 1 ½ pounds chicken breasts poached and shredded or about 3 cups rotisserie chicken
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion 1 cup diced
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup fire roasted diced tomatoes
- ¼ cup chicken or veggie broth
- juice of half a lime
- Queso fresco or cotija cheese
- Finely diced onions
- Chopped cilantro
- Lime wedges
- Poach the chicken (see recipe post)
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan. Add onion and cook for 5-6 minutes until soft and translucent.
- Add minced garlic and cook another minute until just fragrant.
- Stir in oregano, cumin, salt, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce and cook for one more minute.
- Add in tomatoes and broth. When it's bubbling, turn the heat down and simmer on medium-low for 8-10 minutes.
- Transfer sauce to a blender (venting the top) and blend until smooth.
- Pour sauce back into sauté pan over low heat. Add in cooked, shredded chicken and heat for a few minutes until sauce thickens and coats chicken. Check for seasoning and add more salt to taste. Finish with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves. Serve in warmed tortillas with desired toppings.
For the Instant Pot:
- Add olive oil, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, chipotle chilis, adobo sauce, broth and fire roasted tomatoes to a blender and blend until smooth. Do not sauté first.
- Pour sauce into Instant Pot with stainless steel liner. Nestle whole raw chicken breasts in the sauce.
- Place the lid on, make sure the valve is pointed to sealing, set to manual high pressure for 10 minutes.
- Allow to natural release for at least five minutes. Carefully release remaining pressure, shred chicken with two forks right in the sauce and finish with a squeeze of lime and sprinkling of cilantro leaves.
For the slow cooker:
- Follow the exact same instructions as the Instant Pot and cook on high for 1-2 hours or low for 3-4 hours.