Tinga is life. Juicy chunks of chicken in a tangy slightly spicy tomato and chipotle sauce is so, so good and I am addicted.
Recently Mike found a new-to-us super authentic Mexican place and since he was feeling like burritos we planned to spend the afternoon with some food to go and a little late-summer picnic. He had already decided on a chicken tinga burrito but I was kind of unsure. I have this thing where I’m super indecisive when it comes to food. I always want to make the best decision possible.
Anyway, Mike ordered his burrito while I waffled between ALL the other choices. His burrito was ready in a flash and I insisted that he eat it right away – because I wanted to taste it too so I could make an informed decision. One bite and I was sold. It was SO delicious. Huge chunks of juicy chicken in a tomatoey chipotle sauce. The plentiful caramelized onions were sweet and smoky and some diced potatoes added a bit of creaminess. I was ded. I had to recreate it the moment we got home.
Tinga is a Mexican dish made with chicken, called tinga de pollo in Spanish. It’s made with shredded chicken and onions simmered in a tomato and chipotle in adobo sauce. Tinga is super popular in tacos or on a tostada with refried beans, lettuce, cheese, crema, and salsa. It’s smoky, with just a hint of heat. It’s SO GOOD I sometimes just eat it as a stew without rice or tortillas or anything. The best part is that it comes together super quickly but tastes like you’ve been simmering for hours.
Making tinga is super easy:
Chipotles in adobo are key to so many Mexican stews and marinades. Essentially, chipotle in adobo are smoked and dried jalapeños rehydrated and canned in tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, and spices. Keep a couple of cans in your pantry, it’s what we do because we use them all the time. They are super versatile and add so much flavor. You can use them in sauces, glazes, marinades, braises, soups, salsas, almost anything. We usually end up using the can in one go, but you can easily just use one or two and save the rest in a container in your fridge (or freeze them) and use them to add extra umami to anything.
The key to making the BEST chicken tinga
Caramelized onions are key. They add sweetness, depth, and umami to the dish. Lots of people want to rush this step, but caramelizing onions takes time. Pro tip: use low heat and don’t move the onions around too much.
How the chicken is cooked is also super important. Most tinga recipes (including this one) start with precooked chicken so it’s important that your chicken isn’t overcooked. My favorite way to cook chicken is to do it in the air fryer. You can also just poach your chicken right in the sauce, especially if you’re making Instant Pot or Crockpot chicken tinga.
Mexican oregano is a different plant than the usual oregano you see in the spice aisle. It’s indigenous to Mexico and has a more woodsy, citrus-lime earthy flavor compared to your typical oregano, which is from the Mediterranean. You can find Mexican oregano in the Mexican aisle at the grocery store and if you can’t, you can sub regular oregano, but try and find some, it makes a difference.
Make a plate and serve it up with Mexican rice, beans, pico de gallo, warm tortillas, shredded lettuce, salsa, guacamole, and tortilla chips
I feel like I can talk about chicken tinga forever but you probably are drooling, so I’m going to let you go so you can get started on dinner!
The best Mexican inspired chicken stew or taco/burrito filling ever
Add the garlic, chipotles, tomatoes, oregano, and cumin to a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Heat up 1-2 tablespoons oil in a frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, slowly, until caramelized and brown, stirring every so often, 5-8 minutes.
If you want a less spicy version of this, use just 1/2 can of chipotle in adobo and if you’re really sensitive to spice, you can use only 1 or 2 peppers from your can of chipotle in adobo.
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 48
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 1.2g8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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