Chicken Tinga Recipe
I've been keeping batches of this upgraded Tinga on standby for the last few weeks. It's designed to be not only hotter, but a bit more saucy as well -- kind of like a standalone version that you can throw on a tortilla for an instant meal.
But it still relies on the secret green ingredient:
Yes, those are tomatillos and their tartness makes Tinga come alive! I've tried Tinga versions that use all tomatoes as the base but I find most of them disappointing.
So keep an eye out for fresh tomatillos next time you're at the market. Pull back the husks and buy the ones that have taut, green skin -- if they're wrinkled they are past their prime. More info on working with tomatillos.
I should also mention that this Tinga version has some real heat!
But you can cut the chipotle amount in half for a milder batch. It's always easy to increase the heat, but a little tough to put it in reverse once it's too hot for your palate.
First things first, get those tomatoes and tomatillos roasting: 2 plum tomatoes and 5-6 tomatillos will do the job.
Yes, you can char them in a skillet, but I'm still in the habit of tossing them in the oven (400F).
Tomatillos typically don't need as long to roast as the tomatoes, but I usually just leave 'em in until I need them. I'm also in the habit of cutting out the stems before roasting, knowing that any juices leftover in the roasting pan will be added to the blender.
Next up is the chicken. You could easily use shredded Rotisserie chicken or poached chicken, but lately I prefer the brine-and-bake method.
Start by adding 1/4 cup Kosher or sea salt to a quart of water. Dissolve the salt and then add the chicken breasts, ensuring they are submerged. Cover and let your chicken brine in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
I like to give it a full hour when I can, but even a 30-minute swim will give you a massive bump in flavor. The brine penetrates the chicken and results in moist, properly seasoned chicken -- yum!!
Once brined, just pat dry the chicken breasts and bake them for 20 minutes in the oven (400F) until they are no longer pink inside or their internal temp reaches 160F.
As the chicken bakes, saute 1/2 onion and 4 whole garlic cloves in some oil over medium heat.
Cook until the onion is just starting to turn brown, approximately 5-8 minutes, and then add it to a blender along with the roasted tomatoes and tomatillos. We'll also add 5 chipotles in adobo. Yes, five!
I typically scrape out the seeds of the chipotles as they tend to harden over time. More info on working with chipotles in adobo.
Give it a whirl but I tend to keep this sauce a bit chunky, using pulse blend to combine it.
If you give it a taste at this point it's going to have some real zip, so consider yourself warned! I usually can't resist and I'm always amazed at how much flavor it already has despite using just five ingredients so far.
Heat a glug of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sauce from the blender.
We'll also add:
2 tablespoons adobo sauce
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano What is Mexican oregano?
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper
dash of cumin (optional)
Let this simmer for a few minutes and then add the baked, shredded chicken.
Combine well and then congratulate yourself for whipping up a batch of authentic Tinga.
Let this simmer until everything is at a uniform temperature. Definitely take another taste for salt level -- I added another generous pinch to this batch.
And if you are one of the lucky ones who sees five chipotles in a recipe and thinks "Only five?" then you can always add some more adobo sauce at this point to amp it up even more.
If all went according to plan you've got some lip-smacking Chicken Tinga on your hands -- good enough to eat straight from the pan.
As mentioned, I've been keeping some of this in the fridge for a week's worth of no-thinking-involved meals. I also usually keep some of this black bean puree in the fridge.
I think you can probably guess where this is going right?
Simply add a thin layer of beans and cheese to a corn tortilla in a dry skillet or comal.
Cook over medium heat until the cheese is melted and there are brown spots forming on the underside of the tortillas.
Add some piping hot Tinga and dinner is served!
These are warm, goopy tacos that don't need much else, but of course a final burst of acidity will make them pop even more. A squeeze of lime does the job quite well, but Pickled Onions are a good candidate too.
But the beauty of this Tinga is that it is wildy versatile! Here are some other serving styles I come back to on a regular basis:
Traditional Tinga Tacos
With burritos and tortas being equally good options.
Okay enough chatting, time to start cooking! Give a shout if you've got Chicken Tinga questions on your mind. Keep a batch in the fridge and it will lead to all sorts of quick, satisfying meals.
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Spicy Chicken Tinga
- 2 chicken breasts
- 2 plum tomatoes
- 5-6 tomatillos
- 1/2 onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 5 chipotles in adobo
- 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- dash of cumin (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 8-10 corn tortillas
- sliced Jack cheese (approx. 1 cup)
- lime slices
- olive oil
For the Black Bean Puree:
- 1 can black beans
- 1/2 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 chipotles in adobo
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup water (or stock)
- Give the tomatoes and tomatillos a good rinse. Roast them in a 400F oven for 20-25 minutes.
- To brine the chicken, add 1/4 cup Kosher or sea salt to a quart of water in a mixing bowl. Dissolve the salt and add the chicken breasts, letting them brine covered in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. If the chicken breasts aren't fully submerged then add a bit more water. Once brined, pat dry the chicken breasts and add them to a baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 400F for 20 minutes or until they are no longer pink inside (160F). Once cooked, set the chicken breasts aside to cool and then use two forks to shred them.
- If you're making the beans, start by cooking 1/2 onion and 2 garlic cloves in a glug of oil over medium heat. Once the onion is starting to brown, approximately 5-8 minutes, add 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed), 2 chipotles in adobo, 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and 1/2 cup water (or stock). Let simmer for a few minutes until heated through and then add everything to a blender, combining well. Take a final taste for seasoning and heat.
- For the Tinga, start by cooking 1/2 onion and 4 whole, peeled garlic cloves in a glug of oil over medium heat. Cook until the onion is just starting to brown, approx. 5-8 minutes. Add the onion and garlic to a blender along with the roasted tomatoes and tomatillos, and 5 chipotles in adobo. Combine well. I typically scrape out the seeds of the chipotles but you can consider this optional. Note: for a milder version consider starting with only 1-2 chipotles and increasing from there.
- Heat a glug of oil over medium heat. Add the sauce from the blender along with 2 tablespoons adobo sauce, 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, a dash of cumin (optional), 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some freshly cracked black pepper. Let simmer for a few minutes and taste for seasoning.
- Add the baked, shredded chicken to the Tinga sauce, combining well. Let simmer until everything is at a uniform temperature. Take a final taste for seasoning -- I added another generous pinch of salt to this batch.
- Add a layer of the bean puree and cheese to some corn tortillas. Cook in a dry skillet or comal over medium heat until crispy. Top with Chicken Tinga and serve immediately. Final garnishes can include a squeeze of lime, hot sauce, or pickled onions. Alternatively, you can serve the Tinga on crispy corn tortillas (or tostadas) with avocado bits, raw onion, and Cotija cheese.
- Store leftover Tinga in an airtight container in the fridge where it will keep for a few days.
We recently made some wicked Tinga Tostadas with this recipe! You could also make Chicken Tinga Enchiladas.
Our latest post is a traditional batch of Albondigas -- Mexican Meatballs!
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Oh my Oh wow, both of these recipes are delicious. Both the Tinga and the Beans. Sooo good. Best black beans I've ever made. Truly like the peppers in adobo used a full can between the chicken and the beans... couldn't have been better. Thank you so much - who ever taught you, did you and us a huge wonderful favor !
Ahh good to hear, so glad you tried this one out Brenda -- I make quick meals with those beans all the time, I hope you get tons of use out of them! Cheers.
Charles Michael Waddington
Howdy! Have you tried with chicken thighs boneless?
Hey Chaz! I haven't but I think the Tinga sauce will work quite well with those. Cheers.
Can this be frozen? I have an abundance of tomatillos and tomatoes and I'm looking for ideas for freezing. Thanks
Hi Vicki, most likely you'll be able to freeze it just fine, it's just tough for me to say exactly how the flavor will be impacted as I haven't tried that yet with this recipe. Cheers.
This was great. over 25 ;years ago. s Mexican food after relocating from southern CA to Kentucky for work 25 years ago This was delicious and easy. I tried all of the suggested garnishes, but settled on shopped red onions and Sriracha sauce. We ate it for days. Thanks!!!
Thanks much R, chomping on the leftovers is always a good sign 🙂 Cheers.
Can you make and freeze in single serve batches?
Hey Gale! Most likely yes, but to be honest I haven't tried that with this recipe yet. Cheers.
Rob here from the Philippines ( THE OTHER MEXICO ) this Chicken Tinga Recipe really hit the spot we cooked it in a Pressure Cooker, the chicken just's melts in your mouth, Your Chicken soaking in sea salt water was amazing, we left it over night in the fridge. GOD I LOVE MEAT! I need to find the Aztec God of Meat ~! Anyway we are adding this Recipe to our Menu at our Taqueria over here. It is Easier and better than my abolita's. I deeply appreciate all of your help and information, it has been invaluable in our Taqueria.
I have a request : I would like to see what you have on a recipe for Baja Fish Tacos & what about a Coconut Shrimp Taco with the desiccated sweetened coconut and a mango salsa, OMG that sounds so yummy ! Please let me know, Thanks a million !
Thanks Rob, so glad you tried out this Tinga!
Yeah I don't have a Shrimp Taco on the site yet but here is one for Baja Fish Tacos that I think is awesome:
But of course I might be biased 🙂
Wow really delicious AND incredible recipes!!!!!!!
Also very informative, thank you
So good! Was worried it would be HOT but in the end, nice and spicy. I used chicken thighs, tastes great but a bit hard to pull. But in the end so delicious.
I did the 'cheese trick' as Saul Montiel calls it and that worked like a charm. Basically, you melt a bit of cheese in a pan then drop the tortilla on top of it, push it down a bit and then flip the tortilla.
Although it is not easy to source some of the ingredients it is worth it. Unfortunately, I can’t find any Mexican cheese here ☹
Hey thanks for your note Marielle, so glad this one is a hit for you! And thanks for mentioning that cheese trick 🙂 Cheers.
Cannot say enough good about this recipe other than you have to try it for yourself. Fixed it exactly as written wouldn't change a thing. Can't wait to try another recipe.
Hey thanks for your note Terry! Cheers.
I've made this recipe about 6 times now. It has to be one of my favorite recipes of all time. The Tinga and beans are just so dang good.
Just wanted to thank you for maintaining your site and sharing all of these recipes. I always check your site first to see if you have a recipe for a Mexican dish I have in mind before looking anywhere else. I appreciate that your recipes are always top notch and don't cut corners, which pays dividends in terms of flavor.
Hey thanks much for your feedback Phil! So glad you are finding some keepers and it's good to know the Tinga is on repeat 🙂 Cheers.
I made the recipe today with two 8 oz bags of Butler's Soy Curls and spread the black bean puree on the tacos, crisping them up before serving them with onion and cilantro. They were delicious and I have lots of leftovers. My next experiment will be Birria de Res made with a 4.1 lb. bag of Jackfruit from the Edward A. Jones Co. and sold on Amazon. I am hoping to use some of that for some vegan tamales and the rest for tacos. Thank you so much for publishing the recipes. I learned a lot from your little book and I am still learning now from your website, even though I am a WFPB vegan.
Hey thanks much for your note Rebecca, your adjustments are super helpful to hear! I'm experimenting with meat alternatives more and more lately and it's good to know that you're having success with these recipes. Cheers.
I've made the albondigas soup recipe on this site before with impossible beef before. It was really awesome and vegan!
Ahh that's good to know, thanks Phil!