This great recipe is an authentic Mexican tinga de pollo (or chicken tinga) and the only one you will ever need. It features shredded chicken in a delicious tomato and chile chipotle in Adobo sauce. Don’t bother looking for another recipe, as this is the best authentic tinga recipe you will find out there.
What is Tinga, and why is it so popular?
During the colonial period, cooks in the state of Puebla, Mexico, invented the tingas, which are a true marriage between Spain and Mexico.
I learned how to make tinga while living in Mexico City. It is a popular recipe that is made in both restaurants and people’s homes.
Tinga has become one of Mexico’s most popular dishes by combining European and Mexican foods with a European cooking method. This traditional Mexican dish is considered a main dish.
Onions and garlic get friendly with each other. A beautiful sauce is made with tomatoes, herbs, and chicken or beef stock.
Precooked meat and sometimes chorizo sausage join the “party,” and canned chipotle chiles bring flavor and spiciness to the dish. A tinga is really a stew but prepared in a special way. Chiles, onions, garlic, and tomatoes are NEVER ground and cooked in fat as they are in moles.
If you learn how to make this authentic chicken tinga dish, you will never need another chicken tinga recipe.
You can make tinga with all kinds of meat, like chicken (pollo), beef (res), or pork (puerco).
If you have ever wondered what tinga stands for in Spanish, in the Diccionario de Aztequismos, “tinga” is a colloquial term that translates as “vulgar” or “disorder.” I don’t know about vulgar, but for sure, I love this tasty authentic Mexican chicken tinga- tinga de pollo “disorder”! :- )
It makes a great taco or tostada filling, so you are covered for Taco Tuesday, or even Cinco de Mayo.
What is a Chile Chipotle?
Chipotles or chilpotles are jalapeno chiles that are picked when fully ripe and red. They are left to dry on mats in the sun, then smoked. After that, the chiles are rehydrated and pickled in a rich adobo sauce made with vinegar and spices.
There are many good brands out there, and every one of them tastes different, so make sure you try a few before choosing your favorite.
The recipe below uses Chipotle peppers in Adobo, and you can buy them in any grocery store that carries Mexican products.
Chile chipotle is one of the most popular ingredients in Mexican cuisine. Because I cook a lot of Mexican food, I always have a can of Chipotle in Adobo in my pantry.
What is Adobo?
Adobo means, in Spanish, a pickle sauce, but it is used in Mexico to indicate a very thick chile sauce which usually, but not always, contains a little vinegar. The Adobo itself varies from recipe to recipe.
According to Wikipedia, “chipotles (smoked ripe jalapeño peppers) are stewed in a sauce with tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt, and spices. The spices vary but generally include several types of peppers (in addition to the chipotle and most likely those on hand), ground cumin, and dried oregano. Some recipes include orange juice and lemon or lime juice. They often include a pinch of brown sugar just to offset any bitter taste.”
For those who do not live in the United States, look for dried chipotle. It is a powerful spice, so a little goes a long way.
What ingredients do you need to make this authentic Mexican tinga de pollo:
The traditional Mexican recipe uses skinless, boneless raw chicken breasts, but chicken thighs are also great to use. Rotisserie or leftover chicken works beautifully for those out there who would like shortcuts. You will need to shred it.
White onions are the typical onions used in Mexico for most recipes. White onions are milder and sweeter than regular yellow onions. You can also use red onion.
Tomatoes and chipotle chiles are the base for any tinga sauce.
My preference is to use fresh tomatoes, but I know that many of you will use whatever type of tomatoes you have in hand.
If you choose to use canned tomatoes, especially in the winter when tomatoes are not in season, use fire-roasted tomatoes or crushed tomatoes.
- Chipotle chiles
If you skip the chipotle chiles, this dish cannot be called tinga anymore. The ingredient is mandatory if you want to make a Mexican dish; otherwise, we would just call it chicken stew. I am using a 7 ounces small can of chile chipotles in adobo sauce.
- Vegetable Oil or lard
Both types of fat are very popular.
- Salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, garlic cloves, and marjoram are the perfect seasoning for this fabulous tinga.
Pretty simple, right?
How to make tinga (My favorite way of cooking it):
Step one. Cook the chicken.
Bring a pot of water and salt to a boil and add the chicken breast to cook. Add onions cut in quarters, garlic cloves, bay leaves, Mexican dried oregano, and some salt. Allow the chicken meat to simmer on medium heat until it cooks through.
Make sure you skim the foam that forms on top of the water as it starts simmering.
Tip: If you already have cooked chicken or even rotisserie chicken in the fridge, use that one. You will put dinner on the table faster. If not, continue with the recipe.
Step two: Prepare the sauce ingredients.
To start the chipotle tomato sauce, place the tomatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and mushy but not falling apart.
In a blender(affiliate link) or a food processor, place the tomato mixture, garlic, salt, pepper, and 2-3 chiles of chipotle from the can.
Shortcut: If you do not have fresh tomatoes, use diced tomatoes or tomato sauce in a can instead.
Be careful with the chiles. Tinga has a spicy sauce. The original Mexican recipe calls for the entire can of Chipotle, but I found it to be too powerful and spicy for us, so I added fewer chiles to the blender.
Of course, you can play with how spicy the dish will be, so if you feel like it is not spicy enough for your taste, you can add more Chipotle sauce. I personally look more for flavor and less for making it too spicy.
You can only add more, but you cannot take out the chiles as soon as you blend them all together. If you can handle the heat, go for it.
After blending the ingredients, taste the salsa for salt and pepper and adjust the seasoning.
Step three: Sauté the Onions.
Slice the onions.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the onions.
Cook the onions until soft and translucent for about 5-6 minutes. The authentic Mexican chicken tinga has lots of onions that give sweetness and flavor to the dish, so if you do not love onions, this dish might not be for you.
Step four- Bring the tinga sauce together.
Pour the salsa over the cooked onions. Add oregano, marjoram, and thyme.
Mexican oregano (affiliate link) is the traditional spice, so feel free to add or skip the marjoram and the thyme entirely if you don’t like them.
Let it simmer on low heat, and be careful as the sauce will steam and bubble. Stir occasionally, partially covered, until the sauce becomes darker and thicker.
Step five- Add chicken.
Remove the chicken from the pot and shred it.
NOTE: DO NOT discard the chicken broth. You can make beautiful Mexican rice for this dish by using the stock to boil the rice. Or, you can use the broth to simply freeze it and use it later for different recipes.
You can also use two forks for this operation. Add the chicken to the tinga sauce and mix.
Taste again for salt and pepper. Let it simmer for only a minute so the ingredients get acquainted with each other.
How to serve this tinga de pollo recipe:
The traditional way to eat this easy chicken tinga is with white rice.
The recipe is a great way to shine at every picnic, potluck, or even tailgating, as you can make it in advance and serve it warm from a crockpot.
I do not doubt that your friends and family will rave about it, as this is indeed the best chicken tinga recipe you can find.
Can I use chicken stock instead of water?
Absolutely. Use a low-sodium chicken stock, so you can control the salt in the soup and make it to your taste.
Different ways to eat this chicken tinga:
Chicken tinga is a great filling to use for quick Mexican meals. Here are some of them:
Chicken Tinga Tostadas: These are crispy corn tortillas. Tostadas are a sturdy base for various Mexican toppings and are also very easy to find in grocery stores.
You can also make tostada shells or crispy tostadas at home by baking or frying corn tortillas.
Traditional chicken tinga tostadas start with a layer of refried beans. Add chicken tinga, then top with shredded lettuce, avocado, or radishes slices. Crumbled cheese, Mexican crema, and salsa work well too.
Chicken Tinga Tortas: French-style bread has been used in Mexico to make sandwiches since the 1800s. The sandwiches are called “tortas.” The bread is called “bolillos.”
Slice the bread in half horizontally, spread refried beans on each side, and add tender chicken tinga, a thick slice of cheese, avocado, tomato slices, pickled jalapenos, etc.
Wrap the chicken tinga torta and take it with you for a hearty lunch or on the go.
Chicken tinga burritos: Stuff a large flour tortilla with rice, a layer of refried beans, and shredded chicken in chipotle sauce, or chicken tinga. Add, according to your taste, pico de gallo and your favorite shredded cheese. Serve with sour cream and guacamole on the side.
Chicken tinga bowl: Let’s say you made this authentic Mexican chicken tinga- tinga de pollo and want to serve it for a quick meal. Make a chicken tinga bowl! It will be a fantastic, complete meal.
Place tinga in a bowl, add cooked rice (your favorite one), and black or red beans freshly cooked or canned. Make sure you rinse and drain the beans before serving them if you use a can.
Top with the following options: chopped fresh cilantro, green onion, and crumbled cheese. Queso fresco and cotija cheese are Mexican types of cheese that are popular. You can also use mild Feta or fresh goat cheese. Serve with lime wedges.
Chicken Tinga tacos made with corn/flour tortillas: Warm up the tortillas first. There are two ways to do that: warm up the tortillas in a skillet, then cover them with a clean towel until ready to serve.
The other way is to place them directly over a gas flame to char them slightly. Again, place them on a plate and cover them with a clean towel.
Warm tortillas are mandatory for a successful taco!
As you already made the chicken tinga recipe, just serve it warm on tortillas with sliced avocados, shredded lettuce, Mexican crema (or sour cream if you don’t have access to the Mexican one), fresh onion, or anything else you like.
Chicken tinga tacos are the best!
Trivia: Chicken tinga tacos are called tacos de guisado, very popular in Mexico, and usually made with different home-style dishes.
Slow Cooker chicken tinga:
This is a great dish to make in a crockpot. I would first start cooking the onions in a separate pan, blend the ingredients for the salsa together, then place everything in a slow cooker/crockpot and add the uncooked chicken.
Set the slow cooker on “High” for 4 hours or “Low” for 6 hours, and you are good to go.
It is effortless and will not take away from the dish’s authenticity, as the ingredients will have time to get friendly with each other in the crockpot.
Chicken tinga leftovers:
Refrigerator: Keep leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat them on the stove or in the microwave.
Freezer: Any cooked chicken tinga leftovers can be placed in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
If you want to freeze uncooked tinga, make the salsa in the blender separately, freeze it, then just cook the chicken on the day you want to serve it. Another option to make this dish quickly is to use leftover meat from a whole roasted chicken.
I would not add the onions to the blender as the beauty of this dish is the texture of sliced onions and chicken mixed with the salsa.
Can I make this chicken tinga in an Instant pot?
Yes. Instant pot chicken tinga is easy to make, but you can also make it in any pressure cooker if you own one.
From raw ingredients – Place oil in the pot and hit the Saute button. Cook the onions until soft and translucent. Press the Cancel button.
Separately, make the spicy tomato sauce, as I explained in the article, then pour it over the onions. Add the raw chicken. Close the lid and cook for 12 minutes under high pressure, then proceed with the manual release.
Shred the chicken and bring it back to the pan. Stir to combine and serve.
From frozen salsa and chicken– If you start with frozen chicken mixed with the spicy tomato-based sauce (see the method above), place the sliced onions and oil in the Instant pot and press the Saute button. Cook the onions until soft and translucent, then add the frozen salsa with chicken to the pot.
Cook for 12 minutes under high pressure, then allow 10 minutes of natural release. Remember that the pot will need a little more time to build pressure with frozen ingredients.
Do you want to finish this meal in style? Make this wonderful bread pudding Mexican style for the entire family.
More delicious Mexican dishes to love:
Caldo de Pollo Or Chicken Soup Mexican Style
Authentic Mexican Chicken Fajitas- Fajitas de Pollo
Easy Mexican Pork In Green Sauce- Puerco En Salsa Verde
El Pollo Loco Chicken Recipe (Copycat)
Web Story For Best Chicken Tinga (Mexican Tinga De Pollo)
Authentic Tinga De Pollo (Chicken Tinga)
To cook the chicken:
- 1 ½ pounds chicken , about 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 small onion cut in quarters
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups water or low sodium chicken broth or more to cover the chicken
To cook the onions:
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil , like sunflower, canola, or olive oil
- 2 large onions , thinly sliced (use either sweet onion, white onion, yellow onion or red onion)
For the Chipotle sauce:
- 4-5 Roma plum tomatoes , or 1 can (28 ounces) of crushed tomatoes
- 7 ounces can of Chipotle chiles in Adobo (use less if you cannot handle the heat)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon Mexican oregano
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Cook the chicken:
- Bring a pot of salty water to a boil and add the chicken breast to cook. Add the onion cut in quarters, garlic cloves, bay leaves, oregano, and salt. If you use chicken stock, go easy on salt. Let the chicken simmer until it is cooked through. It could take between 12-15 minutes.
- Make sure you skim the foam that forms on top of the water as it starts boiling. When the chicken is cooked, set aside.
Prepare the salsa:
- While the chicken is cooking, place the tomatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and mushy but not falling apart. Note: If you use canned tomatoes, skip this step.
- In a blender, place the tomatoes (or the can of crushed tomatoes if you use one), garlic, salt, pepper, and 2-3 chipotle chiles from the can. Be careful with the chiles. The original Mexican recipe calls for the entire can of Chipotle, but I found it too powerful and spicy for us, so I added fewer chiles in the blender.
- After blending the ingredients, taste for salt and pepper and adjust if necessary.
Cook the salsa:
- Slice the onions thinly. Heat the oil in a large pan(skillet) and add the onion. Cook the onion until soft and translucent for about 5-6 minutes.
- Pour the salsa over onions. Add oregano, marjoram, thyme, and pepper. (Be careful as the sauce will steam and bubble).
- Simmer the sauce, occasionally stirring, until the sauce deepens in color, becomes darker and less soupy, about 7-8 minutes.
Shred chicken and add it to the sauce:
- Take the chicken out of the broth, and with two forks, shred the meat.
- Add it to the sauce and mix well to incorporate the chicken.
- Let it simmer for only a minute and serve over rice or on warm tortillas.
Tuesday 8th of November 2022
Thank you. It came out so yummy!
Thursday 22nd of September 2022
Can I swap out the chipotle (to spicy for me) can for Red Chile sauce?
Monday 3rd of October 2022
@Ange, just another idea: I find that smoked paprika can be a good substitute for chipotles when I do want the smokiness but not the heat of the chipotle. I'd probably start with 1/2 tsp. added to the tomatoes in the blender.
The Bossy Kitchen
Thursday 22nd of September 2022
Add just a little bit of Chipotle, only to add a little bit of the specific flavor that the pepper brings. It is smoky and delicious. The recipe tells you that if you cannot handle the heat, you can use less. I do not have experience using Red chile sauce, so I cannot advise you on that, but you can try and let me know how it was.
Tuesday 28th of June 2022
I just had my first chicken Tinga quesadilla in Mexico and had to have it again when I got home. I found this recipe and made it in a quesadilla last night. I’m so obsessed, I had it again for lunch today. To say this is delicious is an understatement. The recommendation of 3 Chipotle peppers was perfect. It gave a nice kick without too much spice. My husband was skeptical, but he loved it. I made it for my neighbor who is from Mexico and whose mom makes Tinga all the time, and he said it was amazing. This was such a flavor bomb!
Sunday 20th of March 2022
"1 can of Chipotle chiles in Adobo", 1 can ? What measurement is that? You mean the 12oz can you show? Please give a CUP amount?
Wednesday 23rd of March 2022
@The Bossy Kitchen, Thank you for replying.
I did see your notes on using less depending on one's own personal tolerance for heat. Thank you for that, & thank you for the measurement.
LOL I'd explain about the "Rogers" thing, but the Internet World doesn't really need be all up in my business.
The Bossy Kitchen
Sunday 20th of March 2022
Hi Rachel, buy a 7oz can of chipotle in adobe sauce, it should be enough. You do not need to use the entire can, if you cannot handle the heat. The recipe allows you to add as many chiles chipotles you like. They are quite spicy, anyway. I also edited the recipe and fixed the amount. Hopefully, you will be less mad at me, or at Roger. :-)
Wednesday 9th of February 2022
I haven't made Tinga for quite a few years but the recipe I used from (I think) Maria's Mexican Kitchen used equal amounts of Roma Tomatoes (Blanched and skinned) and tomatillos, all cooked and then pureed together with seasonings and chipotle, then poured back into the kettle to simmer, then the chicken and onions are added and simmered for about 15-minutes or until the sauce begins to darken. The main difference here is the addition of tomatillos. What are your thoughts...?
The Bossy Kitchen
Thursday 10th of February 2022
:-) My thoughts are that Mexico is a great country with a vast cuisine, and every region has its own version of tinga. This dish is versatile, easy to make, delicious, and everyone loves it. Try my version too, you might like it as it is easier to make, great for dinners during the week.