Chicken Tinga is a Mexican dish made with chicken breasts, lime, onion, chiles, chipotle peppers, tomatoes, chicken broth, and a few other ingredients. The whole thing takes less than an hour and will serve the entire family.
The meat is great to serve on rice, tacos, quesadillas, or stuffed into wraps. Also, you can use it on top of salads or make sandwiches. For an even spicier taste, drizzle some of this homemade Chipotle Sauce over it after cooking. In addition, if you want to try another fantastic and easy chicken meal, try this Blackened Chicken recipe.
Mexican Chicken Tinga or Tinga de Pollo
Chicken tinga is a great Mexican recipe also known as tinga de Pollo, which is great served in tacos! It can be a meal on its own and will go with instant pot Mexican rice or with this amazing Mexican street corn recipe.
The combination of garlic, chiles, and adobo sauce with the onion contrasts work well with the honey and brown sugar for an especially zesty but sweet flavor, unlike any other chicken dish you have had before.
Whether you have ever had this dish before in a restaurant or made by a friend, it is simple to make it uniquely your own by adding or removing the ingredients that you like. For example, substitute the can of fire-roasted tomatoes with fresh tomatoes off the vine that you roasted yourself. Another option is to add some fresh homemade tomato salsa on top when serving.
All you need to get started is chicken breasts, lime, onion, chiles, jalapeno, tomatoes, chicken broth, honey, adobo sauce, and a few other spices and herbs. And if you have a larger family, just double or triple the recipe.
I enjoy making this recipe with rotisserie chicken as well. It definitely saves me some time and since the meat has already been roasted, it is extra tender. Also, using other poultry parts, not just the breasts, will make the dish juicier and more tender.
Why is it called tinga?
This dish originated in the town of Puebla in Mexico. Now, actually “tinga” means a stew made of tomatoes, seasoned with garlic, onion, and chipotle peppers. Authentic Mexican spices and herbs are also added. Therefore, when using poultry or other meat cooked into this stew, it is called tinga.
For the exact measurements, refer to the recipe card below. Here is what you will need:
- Honey: We use clover honey, but other types of honey would work too. However, if you are allergic, use maple syrup or agave.
- Chicken broth: Premade is fine or you can make your own with this recipe.
- Fire-roasted tomatoes: Canned or make your own. As I have mentioned before, these can be replaced with your favorite salsa.
- Jalapeno: Use finely chopped peppers, but if you prefer something spicier use diced green chiles.
- Chipotle chiles: Fresh or canned in adobo sauce. Adobo sauce is very spicy, so make sure to add a little, taste, and adjust.
- Garlic cloves: Use prepared garlic in a pinch, but keep in mind that fresh is always more flavorful.
- Onion: Peeled and chopped first.
- Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is best.
- Brown sugar: Make sure it is sifted with no lumps. To make this recipe low-carb, just skip it or add a sugar substitute.
- Lime juice: Fresh or store-bought are both fine. We obviously prefer fresh as it is more refreshing and flavorful.
- Lime zest: This is an absolute must.
- Chicken breasts: Or thigh meat is good too, even a combination will work.
- Spices and herbs: See the recipe card for more info. They are key as they add that authentic Mexican flavor.
How to make authentic chicken tinga from scratch?
- Get ready: First, add oil to a large pot over medium-high heat.
- Sauté: Then, add the onion and sauté for five minutes while stirring occasionally.
- Mix: After that, toss in the garlic for one to two minutes while stirring frequently. Make sure the onions and garlic are translucent.
- Remove: Next, take the pot off the heat and pour the mixture into a blender.
- Purée: Then, to make the sauce, add the chipotle in adobo sauce, jalapeno peppers, lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar, honey, broth, tomatoes, and seasoning to the blender and purée until it is smooth. Pour the sauce back into the pot.
- Brown: Next, brown the meat in a pan over medium-low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes or until it is cooked and tender.
- Shred: Finally, shred and add the poultry to the sauce in the pot, cooking on low for another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve: Lastly, serve the dish while still warm with whatever toppings you like.
- Store: If there are any leftovers, pack them into a sealed container for up to three days in the fridge.
- Try another honey: Use orange blossom honey or wildflower honey for a sweeter taste or try buckwheat honey for a unique twist. If you are allergic to honey, maple syrup or agave will work as well.
- Add other peppers: Similarly, try adding other peppers, habanero, or chiles.
- Bring on the heat: Another addition for those who like spicy food, add tabasco sauce, cayenne, or spicy aji peppers.
- Sweeten it up: In contrast, sweeten up the dish by adding extra sugar or honey to the mix.
- Spices: Keep in mind that you can play with the spices, add a few tablespoons of Taco Seasoning and see how good it is.
- Toppings: The possibilities are endless here, a few of our favorites are: avocado, chopped jalapenos, cotija cheese, salsa, pickled red onion, lots of cilantro.
How to serve:
Serve chicken tinga warm, fresh off the stove. Do not stir the meat too much or it will get too soft and will not have that substance you want for a meal.
There are many ways you can serve them, here are our favorites:
- With a side of rice like this chipotle cilantro lime rice or instant pot Mexican rice.
- As an appetizer with mini taco shells!
- The most common way to serve it is with corn or flour tortillas to make your own tacos!
- To mix into chicken tortilla soup or taco soup.
- Add it to a breakfast burrito for a very filling breakfast!
- Stir it into this taco pasta salad.
- It will make a great topping in this Taco Salad, just skip the beef and use this.
- Stir it into this taco dip and serve it with corn chips.
- Use it as part of a Mexican casserole.
- Serve with fresh Pico de Gallo or guacamole.
- Have it with some refreshing Horchata on the side.
Frequently asked questions
Can I freeze the leftovers?
Chicken tinga will stay fresh in the freezer for up to three months. First, let it cool, and then put it in an airtight container or freezer bag. Make sure there is no air in the container or bag. Defrost on the stove or in the microwave before serving.
Can chicken tinga be made in a slow cooker?
Cooking it in a slow cooker is easy. But first, mix all the ingredients and make the sauce. Then, brown the chicken and add it to the slow cooker with the sauce. Then, cook for three to four hours on high or six hours on low. Shred the meat before serving or leave it whole for a fabulous entrée.
What about an instant pot?
Likewise, try making this recipe in an instant pot and you will be able to use frozen chicken if you do not have any fresh. Add all the ingredients to the inner pot and pressure cook on High for 10 minutes, followed by a 15 minutes Natural Pressure Release for fresh meat. However, if you are using frozen meat pressure cook on High for 15 minutes, followed by a 15 minutes Natural Pressure Release.
- If you have leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken, use that instead for a faster meal.
- Serve this as a filler with fresh corn tortillas or taco shells for chicken tacos.
- Add guacamole for a fresh twist.
- Be sure to add toppings like salsa, sour cream, diced onions, lettuce, and cheese.
- Add the leftovers to instant pot Mexican chili.
Chicken Tinga Recipe
- 3 chicken breasts (boneless and skinless)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 white onion (peeled and sliced)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 to 4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (plus 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce)
- 1 jalapeno (chopped)
- 15 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes (or salsa)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt and black pepper (to taste)
- chopped fresh cilantro
- cotija cheese
- lime wedges
- pickled red onions
- sliced avocado
- chopped jalapenos
Brown the chicken:
- Add a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add a bit of oil. Once hot, brown the chicken on both sides, until golden-brow. About 3-4 minutes per side. Set aside.
Cook the Onion and Garlic:
- Place a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, stirring frequently.
- Remove the Dutch oven from heat and transfer the onion mixture to a blender.
Blend the sauce:
- Next, add the chipotles and adobo sauce, jalapeno, tomatoes, chicken stock, honey, brown sugar (if using), cumin, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, and oregano to the blender.
- Cover and purée until smooth.
- Transfer the sauce back into the Dutch oven, add the chicken and bay leaf to the sauce. Cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is tender and easy to shred.
Shred the meat:
- Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Using two forks, shred the meat and mix it into the sauce. Cook for 10 more minutes. Taste and adjust for spices.
- Serve the chicken tinga warm, with taco tortilla, and your favorite toppings.
- Refrigerate leftovers in a sealed container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.