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These easy, Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos (tinga de pollo) come together quickly for a weeknight dinner that will take your taco game in a delicious new direction. Tender, shredded chicken gets dressed up in a smokey sauce made from fire-roasted tomatoes and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, then nestled in corn tortillas and topped with sliced avocado, cotija cheese, diced onions, and chopped cilantro, street taco style!
Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos
Chicken tinga is a taco filling or tostada topping made from shredded chicken in a slightly spicy, smoky sauce made in a blender. You can prep your chicken by either poaching chicken breasts or using a rotisserie chicken from Costco or other leftover chicken to turn this into a 15-minute recipe that is perfect for busy nights.
I’m pretty sure the first time I ever made chicken tinga tacos was when all the ingredients were sent to me in a Blue Apron box. Have you ever tried Blue Apron or another similar meal kit delivery service like Hello Fresh? This post isn’t sponsored by them, but I have tried both several times, and we’ve made some delicious recipes that we might not have thought to try otherwise!
The key to these shredded chicken tacos is the flavorful sauce. Look for canned fire-roasted tomatoes to use rather than regular diced tomatoes, since they make up a big part of the flavor base of this sauce.
The other star ingredient of the tinga sauce is the chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. If you have never tried them before, chipotle peppers come in small cans and you just fish out one or two of them to use in this recipe. I always freeze the rest in a ziploc bag for future use or you could turn them into chipotle paste.
Some of my favorite recipes where I also use chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are this Slow Cooker Spicy Steak, Rice, Lentils & Quinoa and Vegetarian Swiss Chard and Pinto Bean Burritos. They have such an earthy, unique flavor that adds heat that I would describe more as warmth, rather than straightforward spiciness.
How to Make Chicken Tinga Tacos
- Prep the chicken: Whether you are going the route of poaching the chicken or using a rotisserie chicken, go ahead and shred the meat once it is cooked so it is ready to add to the tinga sauce.
- Make the sauce: I like to heat make the sauce by first sauteing my onion in a large saucepan for a few minutes to soften it. Then add the chipotle peppers (one or two depending on your heat preference), spices, and canned fire-roasted tomatoes to develop the flavors a bit.
- Blend the sauce: Transfer the sauce to a blender and cover with a cloth. You don’t want to blend hot ingredients with the lid on since there is no place for the heat to vent and you will end up with sauce exploding all over your kitchen. Just blend until the sauce is relatively smooth.
- Combine the chicken and sauce: Transfer the sauce from the blender to a large pan and heat it over medium heat until warm, then add the chicken and stir to coat. Reduce the heat and let this simmer while you prep the taco toppings.
- Prep toppings & serve: While the chicken simmers and absorbs the amazing flavor from the sauce, slice up an avocado, crumble up some cotija cheese, chop cilantro and extra white onion, and slice a lime into wedges. I also like to toast our corn tortillas on a hot, dry pan for a minute or two, but you could also just warm them up in the microwave or use flour tortillas if you prefer.
What to serve with chicken tinga tacos
How to Poach Chicken Breasts
If you don’t already have some leftover cooked chicken or a rotisserie chicken on hand and want to poach chicken breasts in stead, this is how I do it:
- Add a couple of chicken breasts to a large pot and add water until it covers the chicken by an inch.
- Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
- Remove the chicken, then either shred with two forks once it’s cool enough to handle, or throw them in the bowl of your KitchenAid mixer and let it do the work for you by turning it on at low speed with the beater attachment. It only takes a few seconds for the KitchenAid to shred the warm chicken for you!
Alternatively, you could roast chicken breasts in the oven or fry them in a hot pan with a little olive oil. Whatever method works best and is easiest for you, since the flavor in these chicken tinga tacos is really going to come from the sauce.
More great Mexican food to make at home
- Authentic Carne Asada Recipe
- Fresh, Authentic Pico De Gallo
- Whole Roasted Mexican Chicken with Vegetables
- The BEST Guacamole Recipe Ever
- Charro Beans (Frijoles Charros)
- Easy Mexican Restaurant-Style Salsa
- Grilled Mexican Street Corn Recipe
- Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef
- And see all my Mexican recipes here!
Chicken Tinga Filling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 10-12 corn tortillas
- 2 ripe avocados, sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup diced white onion
- 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil then saute the onion for 4-5 minutes, just until it begins to soften, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in the chipotle peppers, oregano, and cumin and cook for another minute to bring out the flavors of the spices. Add the tomatoes, broth, and salt, then simmer for 5-7 minutes.
- Transfer the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth.
- Return the sauce to the pan, along with the shredded chicken, and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, then taste and adjust the salt as needed.
- Serve by warming the tortillas, then filling with the chicken tinga mixture and topping with avocado slices, cilantro, chopped onion, cotija cheese, and a squeeze of lime juice.
Adapted from Pinch of Yum.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 676Total Fat: 39gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 111mgSodium: 779mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 14gSugar: 6gProtein: 35g
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