Chicken Tinga Recipe + Video

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Chicken Tinga is a classic shredded chicken prepared with tomato, onions, and chipotle peppers. It is a full-flavored crowd pleaser that is great in tacos or on tostadas. Make this big batch tinga recipe for easy lunch and dinner all week!

Chicken Tinga tostadas with refried beans on a green plate

What is chicken tinga?

Have you ever heard of chicken tinga? To be honest I hadn’t heard of this dish until I moved to Colorado and went to a friend’s baby shower. Everyone kept telling me about this chicken recipe that I needed to try.

garden tomatoes on a white and black striped tea towel

When I finally made it over to the kitchen I saw a huge pot on the stove and couldn’t wait to peek inside. I opened the pot and a spicy, smoky scent lingered through the air as I spooned some juicy and tender shredded chicken onto my plate.

Originating in Puebla, Mexico, chicken tinga is a versatile dish made with shredded chicken in a tomato, chipotle pepper and adobo sauce. It’s quick and easy to make and definitely the comfort food we all crave.

cast iron with chicken Tinga cooking and a wooden spoon

I want to thank my dear friend Cesi who introduced me to this dish that delivers big authentic Mexican flavor. After much begging, she shared her family recipe with me which has been in her family for generations.

I have to admit that I tweaked her original recipe by making it a tad lighter. I hope to make my amiga and her familia proud with my Muy Bueno version.

tostadas and prepped ingredients to make chicken Tinga

Shredded poached chicken

This chicken tinga recipe is so easy, you’re going to want to make it all the time! First up, you’re going to poach some boneless skinless chicken breasts. Poaching is a great way to cook lean chicken breasts because it keeps the meat tender and moist.

Stockpot on Stovetop

Take your chicken breasts and add them to a stockpot with water, onion, garlic, and salt. All of those yummy flavors will infuse into the meat while it cooks! Simply allow to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Instant Pot Shredded Poached Chicken

Combine the ingredients in the Instant Pot. Cover with the lid and pressure cook on high for 10 minutes, followed by a 5 minute natural release, followed by a quick release.

Frozen chicken: Forgot to defrost your chicken? No problem! Place frozen chicken in the Instant Pot and add 5 extra minutes to the high pressure cook time, for a total of 15 minutes on high.

Mexican platter filled with shredded chicken and boiled onions

Drain the chicken and reserve the onion, garlic, and poaching liquid for later use. After the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it!

TIP: While you can certainly shred the chicken using two forks, you can make life a lot easier and faster by using a hand mixer. Simply place the chicken breasts in a large bowl and use a hand mixer with the beater attachment. It’ll shred the chicken in no time!

How to make chicken tinga sauce

Next up, you’re going to need to make the sauce for the chicken tinga. That’s where most of the flavor is! Don’t worry, it’s also pretty easy. First up, pull out your blender.

In a blender add the boiled onion and garlic clove, quartered tomato, chipotle peppers including adobo sauce, salt, and enough chicken poaching liquid to fill the blender half way. Puree until smooth.

Chicken Tinga platter of tostadas on a green plate and a colorful runner and garnishes on the sides

Next, heat some oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Once shimmering, add the chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Now add in the fresh chopped tomatoes and minced garlic and cook about two more minutes. 

Now you’re ready to put it all together! Add in the chipotle sauce from the blender and the shredded chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Congratulations! Your chicken tinga is now ready to eat.

girl holding a Mexican platter of tostadas

Frequently asked questions

What if I’m not great with spicy foods?

If you lean more towards mild foods, no worries! Simply halve the amount of chipotles and the sauce. If you lean in the opposite direction, feel free to heat things up with the addition of one of my favorite Mexican chiles!

How should I serve chicken tinga?

Tinga is great for a tostada buffet, where guests can create their own mountain of goodness. Sprinkle this juicy shredded chicken that is delicately marinated in a spicy sauce on a tostada with your choice of toppings.

Your guests will enjoy the smoky flavor that lingers on their palate stemming from the chipotle chiles in adobo sauce.

tostada bar of ingredients to make chicken Tinga tostadas

You can also use it for flautas, tacos, nachos, burritos, or tortas! I love making a big batch at the beginning of the week and enjoying it in my lunches all week long.

Can I make chicken tinga ahead of time?

Heck yeah! Chicken tinga is a tasty party dish that can be made ahead. It stores well in the refrigerator and tastes better the next day after the ingredients have marinated for a few hours.

If it’s a party entree you’re looking for why not serve this spunky and soulful Pueblan recipe?

Chicken Tinga tostadas with refried beans on a green plate and glass of ice water and Pico de Gallo in the background

Do I need any special equipment?

This recipe calls for just a few basic kitchen tools, including:

Mexican platter with two tostadas filled with shredded spicy chicken Tinga garnished with avocado slices and queso fresco

Any more tips for making this chicken tinga recipe?

Feel free to spread a layer of refried beans on tostadas.

Besides that, I feel like we’ve covered everything you need to know to make a delicious batch of chicken tinga. However, I did make a video illustrating step by step how to make it. Watch this video to see how quickly this chicken tinga is made.

Need more Mexican recipe inspiration?

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Chicken Tinga

Chicken tinga is a versatile dish of shredded chicken in a tomato and chipotle sauce. Tinga is great for a taco bar or tostada buffet, where guests can create their own mountain of goodness.
chicken tinga tostadas on a green plate
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4.6 from 5 votes
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Ingredients

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 pounds skinless/boneless chicken breast
  • 4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 large vine ripened tomato, quartered
  • 1 7-ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 large vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 12 Flat tostada shells, packaged or corn tortillas

Toppings (optional):

  • 1 iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
  • 3 avocados, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 2 cups crema Mexicana or sour cream
  • 2 cups queso fresco or Cotija, crumbled
  • 2 cups salsa of your choice
  • 6 radishes, sliced

Equipment

  • Blender
  • Large Pot
  • Skillet

Instructions

  • In a large stockpot, over medium to high heat, add water, chicken, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 clove garlic, and quartered onion. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Reserve.
  • Remove the chicken and allow it to cool. After the chicken cools off shred it. Reserve.
  • In a blender add the boiled onion and garlic clove, quartered tomato, chipotle peppers including adobo sauce, 2 teaspoons salt, and enough chicken broth to fill the blender half way. Puree until smooth.
  • Heat the oil in a large and deep pan over medium heat.
  • Once it is hot but not smoking, stir in the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and chopped garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add the cooked shredded chicken, the chipotle sauce from the blender and more chicken broth if it is too dry. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add salt to taste.

Tostadas:

  • In a heavy skillet heat one-quarter inch of oil. Drop tortillas carefully into hot oil, one at a time, for 20 to 40 seconds on each side or until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels. Store bought tostadas can also be used.

Assemble:

  • To assemble, place a tostada (fried tortilla) on a serving plate; spoon on Chicken Tinga, lettuce (optional), 1 or 2 slices of ripe avocado, crumbled queso fresco, and top with crema Mexicana or sour cream.
  • Garnish tostada with toppings of your choice.

Video

Notes

  • Chicken can be cooked in an Instant Pot. Combine the ingredients in the Instant Pot. Cover with the lid and pressure cook on high for 10 minutes, followed by a 5 minute natural release, followed by a quick release. If chicken is frozen add 5 extra minutes to the high pressure cook time, for a total of 15 minutes on high.
  • For easy shredding of your chicken, use a hand mixer with the beater attachment. It'll shred the chicken in a fraction of the time it will take with forks.
  • Tinga is a tasty party dish that can be made ahead. It stores well in the refrigerator and tastes better the next day after the ingredients have marinated for a few hours.
  • Serve on tostadas, in tacos, sopes, or burritos. Great on nachos, too!

Nutrition

Calories: 548kcal, Carbohydrates: 30g, Protein: 29g, Fat: 37g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 99mg, Sodium: 1793mg, Potassium: 1150mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 1604IU, Vitamin C: 19mg, Calcium: 255mg, Iron: 2mg

I’d love to see what you cook!

Tag #MUYBUENOCOOKING if you make this recipe.

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Originally published: May 2011. This recipe is also published in the Muy Bueno cookbook.