This delicious Chicken Tinga recipe has tender chicken in a bold, chipotle sauce. Use it for tostadas, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, loaded quesadillas and more.

Want more Mexican recipes? Try this Beef Birria, Pozole, Wet Burrito, or Chicken Taquitos!

Chicken Tinga served in a bowl, with tortillas, beans and other toppings on the side.

Why I love this recipe:

  • Versatile – Perfect for tostadas, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or any of your favorite Mexican recipes.
  • Delicious – The homemade sauce is quick to make, and bursting with bold flavor!
  • Fresh – the sauce is made from fresh ingredients, and the final dish pairs perfectly with fresh lettuce, cilantro, and avocado served on top.

What is Chicken Tinga?

Chicken Tinga is a popular Mexican dish that has shredded chicken in a delicious homemade sauce made from tomatoes, onions, adobo sauce with chilis, and spices. It is often used for tostadas, but it can be used in a number of your favorite Mexican recipes!

How to make Chicken Tinga:

Cook Chicken in Broth: Add chicken, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and bay leaf to a pot. Cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked (165 degrees F). Scoop off any foam and remove chicken to a plate to rest. Reserve 1 cup of broth from the pot (discard the rest).

Raw chicken, garlic, onion, and a bay leaf being cooked in water for chicken tinga.

Sauté Onion: Return the emptied pot to the stove over medium-high heat. Add oil and once hot, add whole tomatoes, cooking for 2 minutes. Add onion chunks and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Whole tomatoes and chopped onions being sautéed in olive oil.

Blend Sauce: Add tomatoes and onion to a blender, along with ½ cup reserved broth, 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon, 2 garlic cloves, adobo sauce and chipotle chile, oregano, and cumin and blend until smooth.

Two images showing ingredients in a blender, and then blended for the sauce for Chicken Tinga.

Simmer: Pour mixture back into pot over medium heat. Simmer for at least 5 minutes. Taste and add salt, additional adobo sauce, more seasonings, or reserved chicken broth, as desired, to taste. Shred chicken and add to sauce, tossing to coat.

To Serve as Tostadas: Spread tostada shell with a thin layer of refried beans. Add a scoop of chicken tinga on top. Top with lettuce, queso fresco, cilantro, avocado, and a drizzle of crema. Serve with a glass of horchata if you’d like!

A tostada shell topped with refried beans, chicken tinga, crema, lettuce and cilantro.

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: Prepare the chicken tinga and store in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Heat when you are ready to use. These leftovers are delicious! See recipe notes for Slow Cooker or Instant Pot instructions.

To Freeze: Let the chicken cool completely then place in a freezer safe container or bag and keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. I love to make a big batch of this recipe and freeze half of it to use for chicken tinga tacos on a busy weeknight!

Recipe Variations:

  • To Use Rotisserie Chicken: Skip the first steps of cooking the chicken. Make the sauce, adding ½ cup chicken broth. Stir in shredded rotisserie chicken at the end.
  • Tinga Tacos: Serve in a warm corn or flour tortilla, topped with shredded lettuce, cotija, crema, cilantro and avocado.
  • Spice Level: The recipe as written is fairly mild, unless you add a very large adobo chile. Add more chiles, for more heat.
  • Slow Cooker: Make sauce as instructed in recipe. Place chicken in a slow cooker, and pour sauce on top. Cook on LOW for 5 hours, or on HIGH for 2 1/2. Shred chicken and toss in sauce, then serve.
  • Instant Pot: Make sauce as instructed in recipe. Pour sauce in the instant pot, then add fresh chicken breasts. Place lid on Instant Pot and cook on manual for 9 minutes, with a 5 minute natural pressure release. Remove chicken to shred, then place back in Instant Pot and toss with sauce.

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Recipe

Chicken Tinga served in a bowl, with tortillas, beans and other toppings on the side.
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 45 minutes
Save Recipe

Equipment

Ingredients
 
 

For the Chicken:

For the Sauce:

For Serving:

  • Refried Beans
  • Mexican crema or sour cream
  • Lettuce , finely shredded
  • Queso fresco , crumbled
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Avocado , sliced
  • limes
  • tostada shells , or corn tortillas

Instructions
 

  • Add chicken, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and bay leaf to a pot. Cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cook over medium heat for around 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through; 165 degrees F. Scoop off foam that may rise to the top while cooking. Remove chicken to a plate to rest, and reserve 1 cup of broth from the pot (discard the rest).
  • Return the emptied pot to the stove over medium-high heat. Add oil and once hot, add whole tomatoes, cooking for 2 minutes. Add onion chunks and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and onion to a blender, along with ½ cup reserved broth, 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon, 2 garlic cloves, adobo sauce and chipotle chile, oregano, and cumin and blend until smooth. Pour mixture back into the pot over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes. Taste and add salt additional adobo sauce, more seasonings, or reserved chicken broth, as desired, to taste.
  • Shred chicken and add to sauce, tossing to coat.
  • To Serve as Tostadas: Spread tostada shell with a thin layer of refried beans. Add a scoop of chicken tinga on top. Top with lettuce, queso freso, cilantro, avocado, and a drizzle of crema.
  • To Serve as Tacos: Serve in a warm corn or flour tortilla, topped with shredded lettuce, cotija, crema, cilantro and avocado.

Notes

Spice Level: The recipe as written is fairly mild, unless you add a very large adobo chile. Add more chiles, for more heat.
To Use Rotisserie Chicken: Skip the first steps of cooking the chicken. Make the sauce, adding ½ cup chicken broth. Stir in shredded rotisserie chicken at the end.
Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare the chicken tinga and store in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Heat when you are ready to use. These leftovers are delicious! See recipe notes for Slow Cooker or Instant Pot instructions.
Freezing Instructions: Let the chicken cool completely then place in a freezer safe container or bag and keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. Alternately, make the sauce and pour into a ziplock bag with raw chicken. Freeze, and when ready to use, thaw completely and add to slow cooker, following the slow cooker instructions below. I love to make a big batch of this recipe and freeze half of it to use for chicken tinga tacos on a busy weeknight!
Slow Cooker: Make sauce as instructed in recipe. Place chicken in a slow cooker, and pour sauce on top. Cook on LOW for 5 hours, or on HIGH for 2 1/2. Shred chicken and toss in sauce, then serve.
Instant Pot: Make sauce as instructed in recipe. Pour sauce in the instant pot, then add fresh chicken breasts. Place lid on Instant Pot and cook on manual for 9 minutes, with a 5 minute natural pressure release. Remove chicken to shred, then place back in Instant Pot and toss with sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 193kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 25gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 646mgPotassium: 633mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 568IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 37mgIron: 1mg

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Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Omg … better than my neighborhood taqueria. This had great flavor and was very simple to make . I set everything out and it went pretty smooth. Served with Mexican style rice and refried beans. I topped it with lettuce, diced tomato , sour cream , cheese and cilantro…. Delicious. This is the only recipe I’ll use for tostadas. Thanks for all your great recipes 😊👍🏼

  2. 5 stars
    I accidentally put in a whole small can of adobo sauce and chipotle peppers and later realized it was a much smaller amount needed. I can tolerate the kick but my toddler who normally loves spicy food could not. I rinsed most of the sauce off and added sour cream. Should I add tomato sauce or something else to cool it down? I’m so bummed since I spent a long time on this and my toddler generally loves chicken tinga. Thanks!

    1. Oh no! It sounds like you got a bit more heat than anticipated. Rinsing and adding sour cream were great moves. To further mellow it out, you can add some tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes. This will not only dilute the spiciness but also bring back some of the tangy flavor typical of chicken tinga. Another option is to mix in some cooked rice or beans, which will also help to absorb and spread out the heat. We appreciate your effort and hope these suggestions help salvage the dish for your toddler!

  3. 5 stars
    Delicious! I cooked skin on and bone in chicken breasts, and the stock was great for other dishes. I also added fire roasted tomatoes to the sauce. My family loved it.

  4. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and it was amazing! The spice was very mild and reminded me and my husband of street tacos. I’ll definitely be making this again. For the past six months or so there hasn’t been a week go by that I haven’t utilized two or three of your recipes. Not once have I not gotten rave reviews, so thank you for all of the hard work I know must go into making this happen. Your website has been a huge game changer!

  5. 5 stars
    Easy to make and absolutely delicious! My whole family enjoyed it. I made a double batch on Saturday, and it didn’t last the weekend. Highly recommended!