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Tinga de pollo (chicken with chipotle and onions) is one of the tastiest ways to eat chicken. Traditional chicken tinga is made by cooking shredded chicken with onions in a rich tomato and chipotle sauce.
Why We Love This Tinga De Pollo
The details make this recipe incredibly flavorful and addicting. It follows the traditional chicken tinga recipe with all the possible seasonings that a Mexican Abuelita might add.
It’s such a versatile dish that’s also high in protein and low in calories and fat, but you can’t even tell because it’s so delicious. Make sure to check our serving suggestions for some easy and yummy meal ideas.
It’s easy to prepare and surprisingly budget-friendly. To speed up the prep time, you can use a few kitchen appliances – a hand mixer and a high-speed blender. But we’ve made sure to include alternative methods.
What Ingredients Do You Need For Making Tinga De Pollo?
The list of ingredients for this traditional chicken tinga recipe is short and straightforward:
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil (or more if needed)
- 2 large golden onions (one for the broth and one for the tinga sauce)
- 4 cloves of garlic (2 for the broth and 2 for the tinga sauce)
- 1 bay leaf (for the broth)
- 9 oz roasted fresh tomatoes (or the equivalent of canned fire-roasted tomatoes)
- 1 can (3.7 oz) of marinated chipotle peppers (chipotles en adobo), adjust to taste
- 2.2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- Salt to taste (this is a key ingredient)
- A pinch of cinnamon, optional
- 1-2 tsp. brown sugar (if using canned tomatoes)
How To Cook Chicken For Chicken Tinga
Traditional chicken tinga is made with boiled shredded chicken breasts. But don’t assume it’ll be bland just because it’s boiled. Salt, onions, bay leaf, and garlic are added to the water, already giving the chicken breast delicious flavors.
The chicken breasts are then cooked in a rich aromatic sauce with chipotle, onions, and tomatoes. Don’t throw away the chicken broth since you may need it to thin out the sauce while you prepare the tinga. And you can also use it in soups like this comforting Mexican cabbage soup.
How To Prepare Tinga De Pollo Step By Step
Step 1: Prepare onions & garlic
Clean and peel the onions and garlic.
Step 2: Boil the chicken breast
Fill a medium pot with water, leaving about 1 inch from the top, and add 2 garlic cloves, 1 onion cut in quarters, bay leaf, and salt. Bring the water to a boil and add the chicken breasts. Boil for 15-20 minutes or until no longer pink in the center.
Step 3: Rest, shred & store chicken using a hand mixer
Once cooked, let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes. Save the broth for later or for another recipe like this Mexican cabbage soup. Then, place it in a deep bowl and use a hand mixer on low speed to break the chicken into shreds. This method is so much faster than using two forks to do the job.
Step 4: Sauté the aromatics
Cut the onion into thin rounds and mince the 2 remaining garlic cloves. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and cook the onions for about 3 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt, then add the minced garlic and oregano and cook for another 2-3 minutes until soft and aromatic.
Step 5: Blend roasted tomatoes & chipotle peppers with optional cinnamon
Meanwhile, blend the roasted tomatoes and marinated chipotle peppers, and an optional pinch of cinnamon in a blender until smooth.
Step 6: Combine shredded chicken with blended mixture
Pour over the onion and garlic, and add the shredded chicken. Taste and season with salt (and sugar if needed), cover, and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
Step 7: Enjoy your Homemade Tinga de Pollo
Uncover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add some leftover broth if the tinga is too dry. Your tinga de pollo is ready to serve!
Notes & Tips
- Don’t forget to taste and season every step of the way. This is the secret to making the best tinga de pollo (and any recipe for that matter). My Abuelita used to say, if you’re the one cooking and you’re still hungry when the food’s ready, then you weren’t cooking right.
- It’s especially important to season the water while boiling the chicken. The bay leaf, onion, garlic, and salt seep into the chicken as it cooks. The result should be tasty shredded chicken even before you cook it in the tinga sauce.
- If you don’t have a hand mixer, you can use two forks to shred the chicken. Make sure to wait 5 minutes for the meat to settle before you get to it.
- This easy Mexican chicken tinga recipe is pretty spicy, so make sure to adjust the number of chipotle peppers you put in.
- Some of the spices and herbs are optional. You can still make delicious tinga de pollo without bay leaf, oregano, cinnamon, or even garlic. But I highly recommend using them all for maximum flavor.
- For an extra smooth sauce, remove the skins from the roasted tomatoes before you blend them, and then pass the sauce through a colander straight into the saucepan.
- To make roasted tomatoes, wash and remove the stems of the tomatoes, cut them in half, then line them on a sheet pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil and salt (optional), and roast in a preheated oven at 450°F for 25-30 minutes (until they’re shriveled and browned around the edges.
- If you’re using fire-roasted canned tomatoes as a shortcut, you might need to add 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar to balance out the acidity.
What Goes With Chicken Tinga
This mouthwatering dish can be served over nachos, in tacos, burritos, on tostadas, or for making the tastiest sandwiches you’ve ever tried.
Serve them with some refried black beans, rice, and salsa or salsa verde. I like adding some freshly cut avocado or guacamole, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese to make the perfect burrito bowl.
It’s also amazing as an open-faced sandwich with toasted rustic bread, ciabatta, or sandwich bread, fresh avocado slices, and fresh cheese (queso Cotija). If you can’t eat dairy, try some vegan cheese instead.
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 large golden onions
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 9 oz roasted fresh or canned tomatoes
- 1 can of marinated chipotle peppers adjust to taste
- 2.2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- Salt to taste
- Optional: A pinch of cinnamon
- Optional: 1-2 tsp. brown sugar
- Clean and peel the onions and garlic.
- Fill a medium pot with water, and add 2 garlic cloves, 1 onion cut in quarters, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a boil and add the chicken breasts. Boil for 15-20 minutes or until cooked.
- Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. Place it in a deep bowl and use a hand mixer on low speed to break the chicken into shreds.
- Cut the onion into thin rounds and mince 2 garlic cloves. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and cook onions for about 3 minutes. Season with salt, add minced garlic and oregano and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden.
- Blend roasted tomatoes, chipotle, and an optional pinch of cinnamon in a blender until smooth. Pour into the pan, and add the shredded chicken. Season with salt (and sugar if needed), cover, and cook on low for 15 minutes.
- Uncover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add some leftover broth if the tinga is too dry. Your tinga de pollo is ready to serve!