Chicken Tinga (Tinga de Pollo)
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Tinga de Pollo, or chicken tinga, is simple to make, versatile, and brimming with all the smoky spicy flavor you crave. The smoked chipotle peppers in adobo sauce combined with fire-roasted tomatoes, tomatillos, and other spices is enough to conjure up images of fresh chilis roasting on an open fire. Take another bite — you can almost hear the fire crackling!
One of my favorite things about Mexican Cuisine is how simple, quality ingredients are transformed into some of the most flavorful and versatile foods in the world. This recipe for chicken tinga is a prime example!
While this dish is already simple to make, I’ve removed even more of the time and hassle by making this version in the Instant Pot. Make this chicken tinga recipe tonight and deliver authentic Mexican flavor to your dinner table in less than 30 minutes!
For more mouthwatering Mexican recipes, check out my Pollo Asado, Instant Pot Mexican Chicken, or these Instant Pot Chicken Mole Tacos.
What is Chicken Tinga?
Originating in Puebla Mexico, Tinga, in Mexican culinary terms, implies stewing and shredding meat. It can be made with beef or pork but you’ll find most recipes using shredded chicken.
This technique of stewing and shredding meat is popular in Mexican dishes. What sets the shredded chicken tacos apart is the smoky chipotle chiles and the adobo marinade. It adds smoky flavor and a kick of spicy heat.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Chicken – I like to use half breast meat and half thigh meat, but the choice is up to you. Frozen chicken can be used, but I highly recommend giving it time to thaw for the best results.
- Onion – Adds a pungent, zesty, and savory flavor to the dish.
- Tomatoes – Fire Roasted Tomatoes are tangy and bright with just the right touch of charred sweetness. I prefer the canned variety for this recipe, but feel free to make your own.
- Chipotle Peppers – A key ingredient, these seductively smoky peppers have just the right balance of sweetly smoked and spicy heat. Buy them canned already in sauce or check out these posts to make your own Chipotle Peppers and Adobo Sauce.
- Tomatillos – Tomatillos add a zingy, acidic brightness without making the dish too watery.
- Seasonings – Zesty garlic, sweet honey, aromatic Mexican oregano, and warming cloves come together to form a dynamic, well-rounded flavor profile.
Kitchen Tools / Equipment
You’ll need a couple of appliances to make this recipe. Nothing major, but you really can’t make the tinga de pollo recipe without them.
- Instant Pot – I use the Instant Pot to make tinga de pollo and I love how moist and flavorful the meat comes out. And you just can’t beat pulling dinner together in 30 minutes or less!
- Blender – What more needs to be said? This is vital for getting your stewed mixture smooth and perfect.
Chicken Tinga Video Tutorial
To see how to make the recipe from start to finish, check out the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post!
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN TINGA
- Puree the Sauce. Use a blender to puree the chicken stock, chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, honey, salt, and oregano until smooth.
- Saute Chicken & Sauce. Add some oil to your IP and turn it to the Saute setting. Once hot, add the tinga sauce and cook for about 5 minutes. Next, toss in the sliced onions and chicken. Gently press down on the chicken and onions until they are fully submerged in the sauce.
- Pressure Cook. Close the lid and set the valve to sealed. Select the manual pressure setting and set the timer for 12 minutes. After the timer is finished, allow 5 minutes of natural pressure release.
- Shred the Chicken. Carefully remove the lid from your IP. Remove the chicken and shred. If your tinga sauce comes out too thin, you can turn your device back to the Saute setting to cook, reduce, and thicken it to suit your taste. Return the shredded chicken back to the pot and toss to coat in the sauce.
- Serve & Enjoy. Serve chicken tinga with corn tortillas, avocado, cilantro, onion, and cotija cheese. If desired, you can heat and char your tortillas over an open flame for an added kick of rustic flavor.
How To Serve Chicken Tinga
Chicken tinga is not only intoxicatingly delicious, it’s also versatile enough to incorporate into almost all your favorite Mexican inspired dishes. Here are a few serving suggestions to get you started:
- Chicken Tinga Tacos: Serve with freshly charred tortillas and toppings like lime, avocado, cilantro, onion, lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream.
- Use as a filling for nachos, burritos, empanadas, tostadas, or quesadillas.
- Tinga makes a great topping for your favorite veggie bowls, burrito bowls, or on this Mexican Salad.
- Mix some chicken tinga in with your favorite rice like this Arroz Rojo.
What is the Secret to Shredding Chicken?
To start, it is best to allow your chicken to rest and cool slightly before shredding. This not only makes it easier to handle, it also allows time for the juices in the meat to settle and evenly distribute. About 5-10 minutes usually does the trick.
Once ready to shred, you have options. Of course, there are classic methods of simply using 2 forks or 2 very clean hands to pull the meat apart. These time tested options certainly get the job done but are a bit time consuming.
If you’d like more consistent results (in half the time!) place your cooked chicken in a large mixing bowl and use a handheld mixer to shred the pieces apart. Stop periodically to break up larger pieces and continue blending until the meat is as finely shredded as you’d like. Easy, simple, and effective!
How Do I Store Leftover Chicken Tinga?
Leftover chicken tinga can be stored in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 3-4 months.
You can easily reheat your leftovers on the stovetop, in the microwave, in the oven, or even in your Instant Pot.
This recipe post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking Feb. 10, 2019, has been updated with new content, photos and/or video in March 2023.
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Chicken Tinga (Tinga de Pollo) + Video
- 4 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (See Note 1)
- 1 large yellow onion sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 28 oz fire roasted tomatoes
- 7 oz chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 4 tomatillos
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp oregano Mexican oregano, if you can find it
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- corn tortillas
- cotija cheese or queso fresco
- diced onion
- cilantro chopped
- Purée in a blender the chicken stock, tomatoes, chipotle and adobo sauce, tomatillos, garlic, honey, salt, oregano and clove until smooth.
- Turn Instant Pot to Sauté setting and add oil to pot. When hot add the tinga sauce and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and sliced onion. Press chicken and onion down to submerge and cover with sauce.
- Close lid and seal. Press Manual Pressure and set time to 12 minutes. Allow 5 minutes to natural release.
- Open lid and shred chicken. If too thin of a sauce, turn to Sauté and cook to reduce and thicken. Add chicken back into toss and coat.
- Serve with corn tortillas heated and charred over open flame or warmed along with cotija cheese, onion, avocado and cilantro.
- You could also use 2 lbs boneless thigh meat and 2 lbs boneless chicken breast.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Five stars! We made these for dinner tonight as shown above (with pickled red onion and tortilla). Chicken Tinga is super tasty, satisfying and easy to make.
Thank you for sharing! I am so glad you enjoyed it!
Can it be cook in a different way, if not using a instant pot?
You could cook it in the Slow Cooker Ching. Hope you enjoy it!
Question.. when you make this are you using your own adobo sauce or is it the chipotles in adobo sauce from a can? Just wonder because I am wondering if you can make Tinga using other peppers other than chipotle.
I use my homemade version but you can use any adobo sauce you love! Hope you enjoy them!
Is the kcal per portion or the total?
That would be per portion Tom.
I adore chicken tinga, Kevin! And yours look juicy and bursting with flavor!! These tacos need to happen in our house soon!
Thanks Marissa. Tinga Tacos for everyone!
This is even fun to say! Anything that involves chipotle, count me in! Love that smoky heat! These look like they need to happen soon 🙂
Indeed Dawn, thanks! Great in enchiladas, too.