Tinga de Pollo

As I said on Wednesday, Kramer and I have really been missing Mexican food, so we decided to make our own at home. I shared the corn tortillas that I made with you then, and now I present the best chicken tacos that I have ever made. These tacos were nice and spicy while still being a bit sweet, and the chicken was tender and moist. I had always shied away from making tacos with chipotle chilies in adobo sace because I thought it was just another unnecessary ingredient. Wrong! These chilies were what was standing between me and the most perfect tacos.

Chipotle chilies are basically smoke-dried jalapeño chilies, and they’re very popular in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. The chipotle chilies that I used in my recipe were canned in adobo sauce, which includes spices, tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and often other types of chilies, which indeed my cans had. Adobo simply means “sauce” or “marinade”, and this sauce should always be included in whatever you’re cooking when using the canned chipotle chilies because it’s absolutely delicious. These canned chilies go well with chicken, pork, beef, and seafood, as well as vegetables. Tinga de pollo itself means “stewed chicken”, and is typically used to top tostadas or sopas (soups), but I had tacos in mind for my tinga de pollo. It is typically made by stewing shredded or chopped chicken, pork, or beef in a sauce of tomatoes, chilies, and other spices, as I did in this recipe. The result is a delicious dish that is spicy, smokey, and sweet, with the wonderful textures of shredded chicken, chopped tomatoes, and sauteed onions. If you don’t have any tacos on hand, don’t worry! This is a great meal that can even be eaten alone. I added pico de gallo, which is an uncooked salsa of diced onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice. It’s a perfect contrast to the spicy chicken, as it’s cool and refreshing. If you want to try an authentic Mexican dish, this is it!

Tinga de Pollo
Your ingredients.

Tinga de Pollo
If you have leftover chicken, perfect, but if not, do what I did and simply boil the chicken in just enough water to cover it for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through, then shred with two forks. Set aside. Don’t worry about it getting cold, because it’ll heat back up when added to the sauce.

Tinga de Pollo
I then made my pico de gallo so it had some time for the flavors to meld together. Simply dice two tomatoes, a large red onion, and 3 or 4 tablespoons of cilantro, then add about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, and squeeze a wedge of lime over everything. Toss to combine. Let it sit in the fridge so it stays nice and cool.

Tinga de Pollo
Thinly slice your onions, mince your garlic, and add them to a pot of heated oil. Saute until softened over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes.

Tinga de Pollo
In a food processor, combine 28 ounces diced tomatoes, 5 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, and the chicken broth until smooth. Add in the cumin and nutmeg and pulse quickly to combine.

Tinga de Pollo
Pour the sauce into the pot and stir to combine with the onions and garlic and reduce the heat to medium. Allow the sauce to thicken and heat for about 5 minutes, then add in your shredded chicken and allow to reduce for at least 8 minutes, until almost all of the liquid is gone. Season with salt and pepper.

Tinga de Pollo
Use your tinga de pollo to fill your favorite tacos, tostadas, burritos, or enchildadas! I also topped my tacos with queso blanco, but I forgot to add it in these photos.

Tinga de Pollo
I used my tinga de pollo to fill my homemade corn tortillas!

Tinga de Pollo
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 2-2.5 pounds boneless chicken breast
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, sliced thinly
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-5 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (these can be found in most grocery stores in the Hispanic aisle; you will most likely find them in a can or a tin), add depending on the level of heat you prefer; I added 5 chilies because I like my tacos to be spicy
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes (1 large can or 2 small cans)
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste (I tasted mine and didn't feel that it needed either)
  • queso blanco (optional)
Pico de Gallo
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ lime
  1. Place your chicken in a pot and add enough water to cover. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-high. Cook for 15-20 minutes in total, until completely cooked. Remove from the pot and shred with two forks. Set aside.
  2. Make your pico de gallo next so it has time for the flavors to meld together. Combine your diced onion and tomatoes, then add your cilantro, salt, and pepper. Squeeze a quarter of a lime over everything and toss to combine. Adjust your flavors as necessary and place in the fridge while you finish making everything else so it stays nice and cool.
  3. In another pot, heat your olive oil and then add your onions and garlic. Allow to soften while you process your canned tomatoes, chilies in adobo sauce, chicken broth, nutmeg, and cumin in your food processor or blender until smooth. When the onions have softened (about 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat), add the adobo mixture and stir to combine, allowing to heat for 5 minutes over medium.
  4. Add in the shredded chicken and cook for at least 8 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use the chicken to fill your favorite tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or tostadas! Serves 4.


36 Responses

  1. Gini says:

    I’ve always wanted to try to cook with chipotle. This looks delish and easy to make.

  2. Laura L. says:

    Yum!!! I love both of these things. I have always had chicken tinga on tostadas. If you have leftovers, try it on that!

    • Sydney says:

      Laura: I will definitely do that one day! We put the leftovers in breakfast burritos the next morning, though. Delicious!

  3. grace says:

    absolutely no tortillas required! what a flavorful preparation of chicken–thanks for the recipe and method!

  4. Anthony says:

    Okay, now I’m officially starving. 😀

  5. The English Lennox's says:

    Great to see you’ve triumphed on Sonoran food in NYC – Looks great! Hope you and Andie have a fun time (keep her warm!)

  6. Memoria says:

    This dish looks fantastic.

  7. John in Dublin CA says:

    Sydney, you are simply great. How do you come up with this stuff. On top of just moving and just getting married, you continue to cook like a master. Great recipe and yes, I used your tortilla recipe too.

    • Sydney says:

      John: Thank you so much! You’re too kind! Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope you continue to enjoy it!

  8. Kate says:

    Weirdddd! I just used chipotle peppers for the first time and I was instantly hooked. I blogged about it here:

  9. Nicole says:

    Hi, thanks for stopping by. I just took a while to look through your site. Your pictures are so beautiful! So funny that you miss Mexican food from Arizona now that you’re in NY. The same thing happened to me – only I made a stop in DC first. Good AZ-Mexican food is something I literally crave. I just had my poor mother brave customs by bringing me 2 5-lbs. bags of blue corn & yellow corn masa, taco shells (amazingly uncrushed), dried chipotle and jars of chipotle peppers in adobe to Austria when she visited last month. I’ll be trying your taco recipe in the very near future!

  10. Hey Nicole! I didn’t realize you’re in Austria. Whereabouts? I’m living in Berlin, Germany until this summer. I feel your pain re: finding Mexican/Tex-Mex ingredients abroad.

    A cook friend of mine recommended this recipe for soft flour tortillas: http://www.starchefs.com/chefs/RBayless/html/recipe_03.shtml

    Also, the Homesick Texan has a recipe for more puffy, chalupa-like flour tortillas on her blog. They are good, but allow plenty of time for them to rest or they’re impossible to roll out!

    One question re: the chipotles in this recipe. How much of the adobo sauce do you include? If I use, say, 4 chipotles, should I throw in all the sauce in the can?

    • Sydney says:

      Culinspiration: I just added whatever was stuck to the peppers, plus a bit more for taste, maybe a quarter teaspoon.

  11. Oops, clearly I got confused and thought Nicole above was the author of this blog since she wrote “thanks for stopping by.” My bad. The links are good, in any case!

  12. Cynthia says:

    This looks fantastic! I love Mexican food, and I adore chipotle peppers! I try to use them in everything I cook when I’m looking for some spice. Beautiful pictures! =)

  13. mixbakestir says:

    Ok, yum. These look great. I think I will make them this week for our regular taco night, instead of the boring ground turkey version. I use chipotle often but have never made a sauce like this and cooked the chicken in it. Looking forward to this. Thanks for sharing.

  14. […] for tacos, burritos, mixed with eggs for breakfast…whatever, a phenomenal recipe I found at Crepes of Wrath, a food blog which I will be using lots more recipes from in the […]

  15. Sarah says:

    My husband and I got three meals out of this, and each one was delicious! (Tacos, then quesadillas with leftover chicken, then a pizza where we used the sauce instead of tomato sauce and put grilled chicken and slices of fresh mozzarella on top — which was actually probably my favorite.) Thanks so much for the recipe! I’ve added the chipotle chiles in adobo sauce to my list of things I keep stocked in my pantry.

    • Sydney says:

      Sarah: We did pretty much the same thing (except breakfast burritos instead of pizza). The sauce sounds like it would make for a delicious pizza! Thanks for supporting my site :)

  16. Suong says:

    Hi, I’ve been following your site ever since I saw your posts on food_porn @ LJ. I made this for dinner tonight and it’s amazing!! I didn’t use chicken broth because I didn’t have any, so I added some salt to taste and it came out great. I will definitely making this again.

  17. Azalia says:

    Just an FYI sopes is not soup, it’s like a corn tortilla but thick and you deep fry it but it is still soft then you top it with beans and the tinga or other toppings and you add fresh mexican cheese and sour cream and they are very good!

  18. Lisa says:

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. I currently use my mother in laws recipe which is delicious but am excited to try nutmeg and cumin added into the dish verses the oregano and bayleaf she uses.

    It amazes me how many people love Mexican food and yet most people have no idea what this dish is. It is my favorite Mexican dish!

  19. Tiffany says:

    This was so good! I found your website a couple of weeks ago and have been trying a couple of things here and there. This may be my new favorite taco/enchilada filling. I could spend hours browsing these recipes! I am trying the samoas bars for a friend’s birthday tomorrow and hitting up the Mongolian beef as soon as I run out of leftovers!

    • Sydney says:

      Tiffany: This is one of my favorites, too, so I’m glad you enjoyed it! There’s nothing quite like some good, home cooked Mexican food to lift your spirits!

  20. […] the Mexican pasta. Yet again we are indebted to one of our favourite blogs, Crepes of Wrath, for this delicious recipe. This is some of the best homemade Mexican food I have ever had, it wasn’t terrifically […]

  21. Adena says:

    I made this last night to take with me to the Shenandoah this weekend, it came out wonderfully!! I’m not much of a cook, so this is for sure going to impress my friends.

  22. […] it. I’ve been crazy about chipotle chilies in adobo sauce recently (as evidenced by this and this), and I had never had Mexican rice with those kinds of flavors before, plus I thought it would […]

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