Chicken tinga is one of the easiest yet most delicious Mexican dishes you can make at home. Ready in just 10 minutes and so versatile!
As much as we love a simply cooked chicken breast, it can be a little redundant.
What is chicken tinga?
Chicken tinga is a classic Mexican dish featuring shredded chicken in a flavorful tomato sauce. The sauce is made of tomatoes, onions, and chipotle peppers.
Why this recipe works
- Healthy. Based on chicken breast and spices, this dish is packed with protein and very little fat.
- Easy to customize. Switch up the spice level or add some other more fragrant seasonings.
- Ready in 10 minutes. It is extremely easy to prepare, with less than 10 minutes of cooking and prep time.
This recipe has a rich flavor, and it’s hard to believe it is made with just a few simple ingredients. Here’s everything you will need:
- Chicken breast. Boneless and skinless chicken breasts cut into strips. You need to get longer strips when you shred the chicken.
- Onion and garlic. The base ingredients of the tinga sauce. Sauteeing onion and garlic before adding the rest of the ingredients softens them and makes them fragrant.
- Tomatoes. I use crushed fire-roasted tomatoes in my chicken tinga recipe to enhance the smokiness of the dish. You can use canned crushed or stewed tomatoes if you don’t have a can of roasted tomatoes at hand. Fresh tomatoes will work too.
- Chipotle chili paste. Chipotle peppers are the ingredient you shouldn’t skip when making this dish. These smoke-dried peppers give the sauce its unique smoky spicy flavor.
- Seasonings. The traditional seasonings used in the preparation of chicken are cumin, oregano, and bay leaf.
- Salt and pepper. To taste.
For the toppings, prepare some diced red onions, sliced avocado, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and Mexican crema.
How to make chicken tinga
This recipe comes together very quickly and has less than five minutes of hands-on time. Ready to whip some up?
Step 1- Sauté onion and garlic
Heat some oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and cook for 5 minutes until translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Step 2- Add tomatoes and season the sauce
Add a can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes to the skillet. After a minute or two, add the chipotle chili paste, spices, and herbs.
Step 3- Cook and shred the chicken
Lower the temperature to medium heat and add the chicken slices. Cook for 15 minutes until the chicken cooks and the sauce thickens. Remove the bay leaf.
Use forks to shred the chicken and mix well.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Use chicken thighs. Substitute chicken breast with the same amount of boneless and skinless chicken thighs for a richer chicken flavor.
- Brown the chicken first. Browning the chicken before cooking it in the sauce helps create a deeper flavor.
- Use leftover chicken. You don’t have to make chicken tinga from scratch. This dish turns out just as delicious and juicy when made with leftover boiled or rotisserie chicken.
- Add sugar. Any sauce made with tomatoes may turn out slightly acidic. Once you have finished cooking the tinga sauce, test the flavor. If you find it to be too acidic, add a small amount of sugar to balance out the flavor of the dish.
- Blend the sauce. The diced onions make the sauce somewhat chunky. If you want a smoother sauce, blend the tomato and onion mixture before adding the shredded chicken to it.
To store: Place leftovers in a shallow container and store them in the freezer for up to five days.
To freeze: Make an extra batch of chicken tinga and freeze it. Place the cooked and cooled chicken in a shallow container and store it in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Reheating: Reheat the chicken in a skillet over low-medium heat. Add a splash of chicken stock or water if needed. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
More chicken breast recipes to try
Frequently asked questions
Tinga sauce has a very rich flavor. It is sweet due to the onions and tomatoes and spicy and smoky thanks to the chipotle peppers. The spices and herbs used in the preparation of the tinga sauce further deepen its flavor.
So long as you can shred it, any chicken cut will work for making chicken tinga, including legs and wings. With this said, boneless chicken breasts and thighs are best for shredding as they have more meat.
Chicken Tinga In 10 Minutes | Easy, Flavorful, Healthy
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- Add the can of tomatoes and cook until the mixture gets warm. Add chili paste and spices and mix well.
- Lower the temperature to medium heat, add the chicken and cook until the chicken cooks through and the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Using two forks, shred the chicken then mix it into the sauce.