This is an Authentic Mexican Chicken Tinga- Best Tinga De Pollo you will ever find out there. Tinga is a dish made with shredded chicken in a delicious tomato sauce 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
During the colonial period, cooks in the state of Puebla, Mexico, invented the tingas, which are a true marriage between Spain and Mexico.
Using a mixture of European and Mexican foods with a European cooking method, tinga became one of the most popular dishes in Mexico.
Onions and garlic are sauteed. Tomatoes are added, then stock, herbs, and spices are put in. The mixture is simmered to make a sauce.
The pre-cooked meat and sometimes chorizo sausage are added with canned chipotle chile. A tinga is really a stew, prepared in a special way. Chiles, onions, garlic, and tomatoes are NEVER ground and cooked in fat as they are in moles.
This dish is as authentic as it can be, and if you learn how to make it, you will never need another chicken tinga recipe.
Tinga can be made with all kinds of meat like chicken (pollo), beef (res), or pork (puerco) in a spicy, smoky sauce made with tomatoes, chiles, Chipotle in adobo, and lots of onions.
It makes a great taco or tostada filling.
What is a Chile Chipotle?
Chipotles 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 taste a few of them 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 mean 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 juices. They often include a pinch of brown sugar just to offset any bitter taste.”
For the ones 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 kind of ingredients you need for this Authentic Mexican Chicken Tinga or Tinga de Pollo:
- Chicken– the traditional Mexican recipe uses chicken breast, but thighs are great to use as well. For the ones out there who would like shortcuts, rotisserie chicken works beautifully. You need to shred it.
- Onions– white onions are the typical onions used in Mexico in a lot of recipes.
- Tomatoes– I will soon describe how to prepare the tomatoes for the salsa we will use in this chicken tinga. I like fresh tomatoes, but I know that many of you out there will use whatever type of tomatoes you have in hand. Canned tomatoes are great to use, especially in the winter when tomatoes are not in season. Use fire-roasted tomatoes in a can, crushed tomatoes, or even tomato sauce or paste.
- Chipotle chiles– see my explanation above
- Garlic cloves
- Vegetable Oil or lard– both are very popular
- Salt, pepper
- Oregano, thyme, marjoram
Pretty simple, right?
How to make the Chicken Tinga or Tinga de Pollo:
Step one :
Bring a pot of water and salt to a boil and add the chicken breast to cook. Allow the chicken breast to simmer until it is cooked through.
This is a basic recipe, but you can add other things to the pot, an onion cut in quarters, some Mexican dried oregano, 1-2 garlic cloves. 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.
Prepare the other ingredients. While the chicken is cooking, slice the onions.
Heat up the oil in a large pan and add the onion.
Cook the onion 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 three- The 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), place the tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper and 2-3 chiles chipotle from the can.
Tip: If you do not have fresh tomatoes, use diced tomatoes or tomato sauce in a can instead.
Be careful with the chiles. 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 in 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.
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.
So, after blending the ingredients, taste the salsa for salt and pepper and adjust the seasoning if you need to.
Step four- Bringing the sauce together
Mix the salsa with the onions. Add oregano, marjoram, 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 while you take the chicken out of the water. Be careful as the sauce will steam and bubble.
Stir occasionally, partially covered, until the sauce becomes darker and thicker.
NOTE: DO NOT discard the chicken stock. You can make a beautiful Mexican white rice for this dish, using the stock to boil the rice.
Or, you can make a soup or simply freeze it and use it later for different recipes.
Step five- Shred the chicken and mix it with the sauce.
Shred the chicken:
You can also use two forks for this operation.
Add the chicken to the salsa and mix.
Taste again for salt and pepper. Let it simmer for only a minute so the ingredients get acquainted with each other.
The traditional way to eat this dish is with white rice.
However, feel free to serve it hot on warm corn or flour tortillas, with sliced avocados, shredded lettuce, Mexican crema (or sour cream if you don’t have access to the Mexican one), fresh onion, etc.
This recipe is very suitable for a picnic, potluck, or even tailgating, as you can make it in advance and serve it warm from a crockpot.
Some other ways to eat this Authentic Mexican Chicken tinga:
Tostadas: These are crispy corn tortillas. Tostadas are a sturdy base for various Mexican toppings and very easy to find in grocery stores.
Traditional 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.
Tortas: French-style bread is 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, add chicken tinga, a thick slice of cheese, avocado and tomato slices, pickled jalapenos, etc.
Wrap the sandwich and take it with you for a hearty lunch or on the go.
Tacos with corn tortillas: Warm up the tortillas first. There are 2 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 a little bit. Again, place them on a plate and cover them with a clean towel. Tacos made with tinga this way are called tacos de guisado, very popular in Mexico, usually made out of different home-style dishes.
Wait, what? what is a taco de guisado?
Guisados are home-style dishes, anything from stews to stir-fries. They are extremely popular in every household and on the streets where you can find taco stands.
There are tacos de guisados for breakfast and lunch and great for workers who stop to get their lunch during the day. Every busy corner has at least a couple of street stands in any Mexican city.
These tacos are not served with any toppings besides maybe a little bit of salsa. They are simple, delicious, and satisfying. Another example of taco de guisado on my blog is this recipe of Mexican Picadillo.
Do you want to finish this meal in style? Make this wonderful bread pudding Mexican style for the entire family.
I want to make this chicken tinga in a slow cooker. Can I do that?
Absolutely! I would start cooking the onions first, 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 on 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 really have time to get friendly with each other in the crockpot.
Can I freeze leftover chicken tinga?
Yes, you can. Any cooked chicken tinga leftovers can be placed in the freezer and used later. It would be good for up to 3 months.
If you want to freeze uncooked tinga, I would make the salsa in the blender separately, freeze, then just cook the chicken on the day you want to serve it. Another option would be to make it quickly with 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?
From frozen salsa and chicken– If you start with frozen chicken mixed with salsa(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 in the pot.
Cook for 12 minutes on high pressure, then allow a 10 minutes natural release. Keep in mind that the pot will need a little more time to build pressure with frozen ingredients.
- 3-4 medium size chicken breast
- 4-5 tablespoons of oil (I used olive oil)
- 1-2 large onions sliced
- 4-5 medium Roma(plum)tomatoes
- 1 can of Chipotle chiles in Adobo
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Bring a pot of salty water to a boil and add the chicken breast to cook. Let the chicken simmer until it is cooked through.
- Make sure you skim the foam that forms on top of the water as it starts boiling.
- 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.
- 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.
- In a blender, throw the tomatoes, 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 to be too powerful and spicy for us, so I added fewer chiles in the blender.
- After blending the ingredients, taste the salsa for salt and pepper and adjust the amount of salt and pepper.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bon Appetite!
DO NOT discard the chicken stock. You can make a beautiful rice for this dish, using the stock to boil the rice. You can make a soup or simply freeze it and use it later for some other dishes.
I want to make this chicken tinga in a slow cooker, can I do that?
Absolutely! I would start cooking the onions first, in a 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 on low for 6 hours, and you are good to go. It is really easy and will not take away from the dish's authenticity, as the ingredients really have time to get friendly with each other in the crockpot.
Can I make this chicken tinga in an Instant pot?
From frozen salsa and chicken- If you start with frozen chicken mixed with salsa, 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 in the pot.
Cook for 12 minutes on high pressure, then allow a 10 minutes natural release. Keep in mind that the pot will need a little bit more time to build pressure with frozen ingredients.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 266Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 68mgSodium: 606mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 26g