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In less than an hour, you can make juicy, tender Chicken Tinga in one pot on your stovetop. A classic Mexican dish with endless ways to enjoy it: as Chicken Tinga Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, or piled onto salads or nachos.
You'll nestle bone-in skin-on chicken breasts into a spicy, smoky, tangy medley of tomatoes, aromatics and spices and let them bubble away until the chicken is tender and shreddable. Then you'll reduce the sauce and return the shredded chicken to infuse it with a final punch of flavor and it's ready to serve.
Ingredients You Need to Make Chicken Tinga
- Bone-in Skin-on Chicken Breasts: Look for chicken breasts that are ¾ to 1 pound each. Note that you'll need to adjust cooking time if they are much larger or smaller.
- Canned Diced Tomatoes: Ideally fire roasted.
- White Onion: I prefer white onion for this, but a yellow or even a sweet onion will do in a pinch.
- Garlic: Look for heads with plump cloves and smooth skins intact.
- Cumin: I use ground cumin, but you could certainly grind your own cumin seeds in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
- Chipotle Chile Powder: Instead of a mixture of spices, chipotle chile powder is made of only ground up chipotle chiles.
- Smoked Paprika: You can find smoked Spanish paprika or pimenton in mild, medium, and hot varieties.
- Chipotle Hot Sauce: Most major brands make one, my favorite is Cholula. (not sponsored, just my honest opinion 🙂 )
How spicy do you like it?
For those of us who prefer moderately spicy Chicken Tinga (tinga de pollo), this recipe is ideal. Instead of canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (which can be scorchingly hot), you'll use good quality chipotle hot sauce. This way, you have total control over the heat level (see recipe notes for suggestions). A bonus: you don't have a partially used can of chipotle peppers to deal with.
Why Use Skin-On Bone-In Chicken Breasts?
I’ve called for chicken breasts with skin and bone intact (as I do in most of my chicken recipes) for a couple of reasons. First, boneless skinless chicken breasts dry out easily, while bone-in skin-on breasts stay juicy even when they’re fall apart tender. Second, as the bone-in skin-on chicken breasts cook, they drip their juices into the tomato mixture adding moisture and flavor depth. Reciprocally, the chicken breasts absorb the flavors of the tomatoes and aromatics as they cook.
More Chicken Options
If you prefer a boneless option, I recommend chicken thighs (1 ½ pounds for this recipe). They have more flavor than boneless skinless chicken breasts and better retain their moisture. But boneless skinless breasts will also work. They may be a bit dryer, but there is ample sauce to add moisture.
Shredded grocery store rotisserie chicken or my Shredded Chicken (made in the slow cooker) are other options. Follow this Chicken Tinga recipe as is until you've reduced the sauce, subtracting 10 minutes or so off of the cooking time. Add the shredded chicken and let it simmer with the sauce for 5 to 10 minutes to heat and soak up plenty of flavor.
More Must Try Mexican Recipes
- Carne Asada (and LOTS of recipe ideas for enjoying it)
- Homemade Refried Beans
- Chicken Tostadas
- Pozole Verde
- Homemade Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
- Pork Carnitas (Mexican pulled pork)
- Lamb Barbacoa
- Pulled Pork Quesadillas
- Pulled Pork Nachos
- Rice Cooker Mexican Rice or Mexican Cauliflower Rice
How to Make Chicken Tinga
Combine all sauce ingredients (tomatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, chili powder, salt, pepper, chipotle hot sauce) in a large saucepan; stir and bring to simmer. Nestle chicken breasts into sauce; reduce heat and cover. Simmer until chicken in tender and shreddable, 35-45 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Increase heat and cook sauce until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Remove skin and bones from chicken breast. Shred meat into small pieces with two forks. Return meat to sauce. Toss to coat and set over medium heat until hot. Serve.
- 14 ½ ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 small white onion finely chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano ideally Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder or more (recipe note #1)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (your choice of mild, medium or hot)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon chipotle hot sauce or more to taste
- 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breast halves ~2 pounds (see recipe notes 2 and 3)
- Stir together tomatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, chile powder, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and chipotle hot sauce in a large saucepan; bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Nestle chicken breasts into mixture, season with salt and pepper. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 35-45 minutes (up to 60 minutes, depending on size of chicken breasts, start checking for tenderness at 35 minutes and stir in ¼ cup or more of water or broth if the sauce begins to stick).
- When chicken breasts are tender and shreddable, transfer to plate until cool enough to handle.
- While chicken cools, cook sauce over medium high heat until thickened (should have a chunky salsa consistency), 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- When chicken breasts are cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin and bones. With two forks, shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Return chicken to sauce and place over medium heat; cook and stir until chicken is coated and heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve as desired.
- Note that chipotle chile powder is made from only smoked and dried jalapeño peppers, not standard chili powder which is a blend of spices. As written, this chicken is fairly mild. For medium spiciness add another ½ teaspoon of chipotle chile powder; for extra spice, add an additional 1 teaspoon or more.
- Be sure to note the weight of the chicken breasts you buy as they vary a lot. As you would guess, the larger the chicken breasts, the longer they will take to be tender and shreddable. If you prefer a boneless option, I recommend swapping in 1 ½ pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs or boneless skinless chicken breasts.
- To use shredded rotisserie chicken or Shredded Chicken for this recipe, follow the instructions for the sauce, but reduce the covered cooking time to 20 minutes. Then reduce the sauce uncovered until thickened to the consistency of a thick salsa. Stir in shredded chicken; reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes to reheat the chicken and allow it to soak up plenty of flavor.