When an easy spin on a Mexican classic results in bigger, bolder flavor, you know you're on to a dinnertime keeper. This Tinga de Pollo recipe comes together in a cinch thanks to a clever combination of pantry staples and fresh ingredients!
This classic dish starts out with chicken breasts simmered in a simple, savory tomato sauce spiced with chipotle peppers. Once the chicken is cooked to juicy, succulent perfection, it's shredded and added back to the sauce, soaking up all that smoky, zingy goodness.
The chicken comes out drenched in delicious Mexican flavor, and could not be more irresistible served over crispy tostadas or rolled up in taco form! In fact, you might want to go ahead and plan for both -- Chicken Tinga is just as delicious the next day as it is the first. Let it be known, these leftovers do not disappoint!
For an extra fresh touch, have lime wedges, sliced avocado, Cotija cheese, and shredded lettuce on standby.
WHAT DOES TINGA MEAN?
Tinga does not translate directly into one word, but rather it is the name of a dish that originated in Mexico. The name "Tinga" conveys the components of the dish, as well as the cooking method. In this case, shredded meat braised in a smoky tomato sauce, spiced with chipotle peppers.
While the Tinga cooking method can be applied to chicken, pork, and beef, by far the more popular protein of the three is chicken.
HOW DO YOU EAT IT?
Tinga de Pollo is often enjoyed in tostada form, but it can also be wrapped up in a taco, served over white rice, stuffed inside of a torta, and the list goes on!
- Chicken Breasts
- White Onion
- Fresh Garlic
- Chipotle Peppers (from Chipotles In Adobo)
- Seasoning | Salt, Pepper, Cumin, Oregano, and Paprika
- Oil | Avocado or Canola Oil
IS CHICKEN TINGA SPICY?
Any recipe that calls for Chipotle in Adobo is going to be somewhat spicy.
If you are sensitive to spicy foods, consider either cutting back on the number of chipotle peppers going into the sauce or cutting them out altogether. You'll end up with more of a Ranchero-Style Sauce, but even with that being the case, I don't see complaints in your near future.
ABOUT CHIPOTLES IN ADOBO
Chipotles are dried smoked jalapeños, but Chipotles in Adobo are dried, smoked jalapeños that come soaked in the aforementioned Adobo Sauce.
The marinade/sauce is made up mostly of ingredients like chili powder, tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, cumin…and the list goes on. It’s for this reason, we’re grateful for the ever-so convenient Chipotles in Adobo. This one little ingredient will add mega flavor to your Chicken Tinga!
The first step on the way to making a killer batch of Tinga de Pollo is using the right pan.
If you have an enameled, cast iron Dutch oven, it will work perfectly for this recipe. It is a great vessel for simmering, thanks to its thick, cast-iron walls which allow for even heat distribution. It is also less likely to scorch on the bottom thanks to that enamel coating!
If you don't have a Dutch oven, you can still make this dish! You'll need a large frying pan; one you have a fitted lid for. You could also use a slow cooker for this recipe if you'd like, but we'll cover more on that below!
HOW TO MAKE TINGA DE POLLO
- Sauté Onion and Garlic - Add oil to the pan and allow it to come to temperature over medium-high heat. Then, add the onion and sauté until softened. Once the onion has cooked through, add in some minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute more. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Blend - Add crushed tomatoes, chipotle peppers, and spices to either a blender or a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Spoon in the cooked onion and garlic, pop on the lid, and process the mixture until it is well-blended and completely smooth.
- Simmer - Add the sauce back to the pan, along with the raw chicken breasts. Place the lid slightly ajar and simmer for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through the cooking process.
- Shred - Once the chicken has cooked through, remove it from the sauce, transfer it to a work surface, and shred it using two forks. Then, return the shredded chicken back to the sauce and simmer for about 10-15 more minutes.
SLOW COOKER OPTION
Crockpot lovers, rejoice! If you'd like to make Tinga de Pollo in the slow cooker, simply follow steps 1 and 2 above, but instead of adding the sauce back to the frying pan, you'll add it to the slow cooker, along with the chicken breasts.
Then, add the lid and cook on low for a total of 4 hours. When it's finished cooking, shred the chicken as directed above and that's all there is to it!
CAN I USE LEFTOVER CHICKEN?
If you have cooked chicken or would like to use a store-bought rotisserie chicken, feel free to do so! It will definitely save you quite a bit of time.
If you are using pre-cooked chicken, there is no need to simmer it for the initial 45-minute stint. Just shred it, add it to the sauce, and gently simmer the two together for about 15-20 minutes.
CHICKEN TINGA TOPPINGS GALORE!
There's more than one way to top off Tinga de Pollo! If you're looking to add a little extra oomph to your dinner, add any of the following toppings to the assembly line:
- Pico de Gallo
- Chopped Onions
- Chopped Cilantro
- Fresh or Pickled Jalapeños
- Lime Wedges For Squeezing
- Shredded Lettuce or Cabbage
- Guacamole or Diced Avocado
- Sour Cream or Mexican Crema
- Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Cotija Cheese
Far and away, my family's favorite way to enjoy Chicken Tinga is in tostada form! Often times, the tostada shell is topped with a schmear of refried beans, then goes on the chicken, followed by shredded lettuce, queso fresco, sliced avocado, and a fresh squeeze of lime juice.
GOT LEFTOVERS? TRY THIS.
If you have leftover Tinga de Pollo, there are tons of fun ways to use it up! Aside from the traditional taco or tostada, you could also serve it over white rice, in a burrito bowl, inside of a quesadilla with melty Monterey Jack cheese, atop a plate of nachos or even as a Mexican pizza topper!
HOW TO STORE IT
Keep any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for 3-4 days. If you'd like for your chicken to keep beyond this time-frame, freeze it!
CAN I FREEZE IT?
This particular chicken dish freezes very well. To do so, add it to a freezer-safe, zip-top bag, remove as much air as possible, and lay it flat in the freezer. You could also freeze it in a freezer-safe container, just make sure there is minimal headspace between the chicken and the lid.
To safely thaw it out, transfer it to the refrigerator overnight and enjoy the next day!
5 MORE MEXICAN RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
This easy spin on Tinga de Pollo is a dinnertime keeper recipe! It features chicken breasts simmered in a simple, savory tomato sauce spiced with chipotle peppers.
- 2 tablespoons avocado or canola oil
- 1 white onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 4 chipotle peppers from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
Add oil to a large frying pan (you'll need one with a lid) or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and allow to come to temperature. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, just until softened. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute more. Remove from the heat.
Add the crushed tomatoes, chipotle peppers, salt, cumin, pepper, oregano, and paprika to a blender or a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the softened onion and garlic as well, secure the lid, and process until smooth.
Pour the sauce into the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the sauce has reached a simmer, add the chicken breasts. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and reduce the heat (as necessary) to maintain a simmer.
Allow the chicken to simmer for 45-50 minutes, turning the breasts about half-way through the cooking process. Do not allow the bottom to burn.
Once the chicken has fully cooked through, remove it from the sauce, transfer it to a work surface, and shred it using two forks. Then, return the chicken to the sauce and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes more. Garnish with fresh cilantro (if using), serve, and enjoy!