Chicken Tinga

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5 from 19 votes
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This chicken tinga recipe uses classic Mexican flavors to make a tender, delicious, restaurant-worthy dish in just 15 minutes. Instant Pot and slow cooker instructions included!

Love easy Mexican-inspired chicken recipes? Try my pollo asado, chicken al pastor, white chicken chili, and chicken fajitas next.

chicken tinga.

As much as I love freshly baked chicken breast, too much of a good thing can be a bit redundant. That’s why my family demands that I jazz it up to make dinnertime exciting again. 

That’s where my chicken tinga recipe comes in. Made with bold Mexican flavors simmered deeply into tender, juicy chicken breasts, it’s a dish that everyone is bound to love.

What is chicken tinga?

Chicken tinga is a classic Mexican dish originating in Puebla, Mexico. It features shredded chicken in a chipotle tomato sauce. When paired with other toppings, this dish makes an amazing filling in chicken tinga tostadas, tacos, tacos dorados, mulitas, and tortas.

Table of Contents
  1. Why I love this recipe
  2. Ingredients needed
  3. How to make chicken tinga
  4. Alternative cooking methods
  5. Arman’s recipe tips
  6. Storage instructions 
  7. More Mexican recipes to try
  8. 15-Minute Chicken Tinga Recipe (Recipe Card)

Why I love this recipe

  • Fast and easy to make. The prep time is virtually nonexistent, and you’ll be out of the kitchen in under 15 minutes. 
  • It’s healthy. It’s signature ingredient is chicken, which makes it high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat. 
  • So versatile. Make chicken tinga tacos, bowls, burritos, or serve it over rice and black beans. This dish is what you make of it. 
  • Alternative cooking methods. I prefer the speed of the stovetop method, but I also tested the Instant Pot and slow cooker methods, just in case.

★★★★★ REVIEW

“I make this for my family at least once a week- it’s PERFECT for weeknight dinners because it’s fast. In tacos, bowls, or over Mexican rice, it’s so versatile”Suzanne

Ingredients needed

  • Chicken breast. Use boneless and skinless chicken breasts cut into strips. Or, if all you have are boneless skinless chicken thighs, use those instead, but note they’ll take longer to cook. 
  • Onion and garlic cloves. Essential aromatics for the tinga sauce.
  • Tomatoes. I used crushed fire-roasted tomatoes in my tinga sauce to enhance the smokiness of the sauce. You can also use canned crushed or stewed tomatoes or even fresh tomatoes. 
  • Chipotle chili paste. The key ingredient in the sauce that gives it its smoky, spicy flavor. You can also use chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, but you’ll want to blend them up until smooth.
  • Seasonings. I used cumin, oregano, and a bay leaf. 
  • Salt and black pepper. To taste. 
  • Toppings. Optional, but I like to serve my chicken with corn tortillas, diced red onions, sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and queso fresco.

How to make chicken tinga

I’ve included step-by-step photos below to make this recipe easy to follow at home. For the full printable recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Step 1- Sauté garlic and onions. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent, then sauté the garlic until fragrant.

sauteed garlic and onion.

Step 2- Build the sauce. Add the can of tomatoes and cook until warm. Stir in the chili paste and spices.

fire roasted tomatoes and spices.

Step 3- Cook the chicken. Lower the temperature to medium heat and add the chicken. Cook until the chicken is done, then discard the bay leaf. Using two forks, shred the chicken and mix it back into the sauce.

shredded chicken in tinga sauce.

Alternative cooking methods

As I mentioned, I prefer the stovetop method for this recipe, but if you’d prefer to cook it in a slow cooker or Instant Pot, I’ve tested it both ways, too!

Slow cooker method: Sauté the garlic and onion in a skillet, then add it to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. Put the lid on and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Then, remove the chicken, shred it with two forks, and introduce it back into the sauce. 

Instant Pot method: Turn on the ‘Sauté’ setting and sauté the garlic and onion, then add the rest of the ingredients. Close the lid and set it to ‘Manual’ for 10 minutes at high pressure. Use the quick release. Once the steam has dissipated, remove the lid, shred the chicken, and stir it in the sauce.

Arman’s recipe tips

  • Brown the chicken first. This is definitely optional, but if I have the time, I like to brown the chicken in a separate pan first. This helps caramelize the skin and give it a deeper flavor. 
  • Save time. You don’t have to make this recipe from scratch. I’ve made the sauce on its own and served it with leftover rotisserie chicken, and it still tastes incredible. 
  • Add a pinch of sugar. Any sauce with tomatoes may turn out a bit acidic. Once I’ve finished cooking the sauce, I like to give it a taste. If it’s tart, add a pinch of sugar to balance it out. 
  • Blend the sauce. If you’d rather have a smooth sauce, blend everything before cooking the chicken.

Storage instructions 

To store: Place leftovers in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to five days. 

To freeze: Transfer the cooled leftovers to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to six months. Let the leftovers thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

To reheat: Microwave leftovers in 20-30-second intervals or simmer in a skillet over medium-low heat.

tinga chicken.

More Mexican recipes to try

chicken tinga recipe.

15-Minute Chicken Tinga Recipe

5 from 19 votes
This chicken tinga recipe uses classic Mexican flavors to make a tender, delicious, restaurant-worthy dish in just 15 minutes. Watch the video below to see how I make it in my kitchen.
Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 1 minute
Cook: 14 minutes
Total: 15 minutes

Video

Ingredients  

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 240kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 26gFat: 10gSodium: 580mgPotassium: 520mgFiber: 2gVitamin A: 465IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 73mgIron: 2mgNET CARBS: 8g
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Arman Liew
Tried this recipe?Give us a shout at @thebigmansworld or tag #thebigmansworld!

Originally published November 2022, updated and republished June 2024

Arman Liew

I’m a two time cookbook author, photographer, and writer, and passionate about creating easy and healthier recipes. I believe you don’t need to be experienced in the kitchen to make good food using simple ingredients that most importantly, taste delicious.

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5 from 19 votes (19 ratings without comment)

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