This 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.
Tinga has become one of Mexico’s most popular dishes by combining European and Mexican foods with a European cooking method.
Onions and garlic get friendly with each other. A beautiful sauce is made with tomatoes, herbs, and 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.
This Chicken Tinga (Mexican Tinga de Pollo) dish is as authentic as it can be, and if you learn how to make it, 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.
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 juices. 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 chicken breast, but thighs are also great to use. Rotisserie chicken works beautifully for those out there who would like shortcuts. You 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.
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, and marjoram are the perfect seasoning for this fabulous tinga.
Pretty simple, right?
How to make an Authentic Mexican Chicken Tinga:
Step one. Cook the chicken.
Bring a pot of water and salt to a boil and add the chicken breast to cook. Allow the chicken meat to simmer until it cooks through.
This is a basic recipe, but you can add other things to the pot, an onion cut in quarters, some Mexican dried oregano, and 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.
Step two: Saute the onions.
While the chicken is cooking, slice the onions.
Heat 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: Prepare the ingredients for the 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.
Shortcut: If you do not have fresh tomatoes, use diced tomatoes or tomato sauce in a can instead.
Be careful with the chiles. This is a spicy chicken tinga. 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.
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- Bring the tinga sauce together.
Mix the salsa with the 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 water and shred it.
NOTE: DO NOT discard the chicken stock. You can make beautiful Mexican white rice for this dish, 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 the tinga:
The traditional way to eat this easy chicken tinga is with white rice.
The 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.
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.
Some other ways to eat this chicken tinga:
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.
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.
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, add chicken tinga, a thick slice of cheese, avocado and 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 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 cilantro, green onion, or regular, crumbled cheese. Queso fresco and cotija cheese are Mexican types of cheese that are popular. You can also use a mild Feta or fresh goat cheese.
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.
Serve the tinga de pollo on a warm tortilla 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!
Chicken tinga tacos are called tacos de guisado, very popular in Mexico, usually made with different home-style dishes.
I want to make this chicken tinga in a slow cooker
Absolutely! 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.
Can I freeze leftovers?
Yes, you can. Any cooked chicken tinga leftovers can be placed in the freezer for up to 3 months.
If you want to freeze uncooked tinga, I would make the salsa in the blender separately, freeze it, 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?
Yes. Instant pot chicken tinga is easy to make.
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 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.
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Web Story For Best Chicken Tinga (Mexican Tinga De Pollo)
Authentic Tinga De Pollo (Chicken Tinga)
- 1 ½ pounds medium size chicken breast , about 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil , like sunflower, canola, or olive oil
- 2 large onions , sliced
- 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. 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.
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, throw 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.