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 dead. I had to recreate it the moment we got home.

Chicken Tinga | www.iamafoodblog.com

What is tinga?

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.

Chicken Tinga tacos | www.iamafoodblog.com

How to make tinga

Making tinga is super easy:

    1. Blend the sauce. This part is easy, just pop the chipotle in adobo, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and cumin into a blender and blend until smooth.
    2. Caramelize the onions. Take your time and caramelize the onions until they are golden, soft, and drive you wild with how good they smell.
    3. Simmer the stew. Add the sauce to the pan, along with the chicken, bay leaves, and chicken stock and simmer until all the flavors meld and everything is delicious.

Chicken Tinga | www.iamafoodblog.com

Chicken tinga ingredients

      • Chicken. Tinga usually uses chicken that’s already been cooked which makes it come together amazingly fast. You can use leftover shredded rotisserie chicken, or just cook some chicken and shred it especially for tinga. Or you can just shred whatever leftover roast chicken you have in your fridge. I like chicken thighs because they’re super juicy but usually I see tinga made with breast, so it’s up to you whichever you like best.
      • Chipotle in adobo. This is what adds such a huge amount of flavor to your tinga! Chipotle in adobo come in little cans and are ruby red salty-sweet-spicy-tangy-smoky deliciousness. They are the base of so many Mexican stews and marinades. You can pretty much find them in all grocery stores.
      • Tomatoes. Tomatoes add a bit of tang and sweetness to your tinga. We used fire roasted tomatoes for an extra bit of smokiness but you can use regular canned tomatoes or even just sub 4 fresh tomatoes, chopped.
      • Onions. Tinga needs onions. They add caramelized sweetness and so much flavor. Take your time where you’re cooking the onions, you want them to brown but not turn black. Caramelizing onions always takes a long time but the flavor payoff is so worth it.
      • Spices. Tinga is pretty light on the spices, but absolutely necessary is Mexican oregano and cumin. The cumin adds a warm earthy aroma and the oregano adds lemon-y citrus flavors. But only if you use Mexican oregano, which is different than the usual oregano you find in the spice aisle. Mexican oregano can be found near the Mexican food stuffs in the grocery store and it’s pretty cheap to get a bag. If you don’t have any, you can always sub regular oregano, but try and find some when you have a chance.

Chicken Tinga marinade | www.iamafoodblog.com

What are chipotles in adobo?

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.

Instant Pot chicken tinga

  1. Blend the sauce and set aside.
  2. Caramelize the onions on sauté high then add the sauce, raw chicken, and chicken stock to the pot.
  3. Set to 5 minutes at high pressure. Quick release when done.
  4. Open the lid carefully then remove and shred the chicken.
  5. Add the chicken back to the sauce and simmer on sauté high for a couple more minutes until the sauce is reduced.

Chicken Tinga | www.iamafoodblog.com

Crockpot chicken tinga

  1. Blend the sauce and set aside.
  2. Sauté some onions in a pan on the stove and when caramelized, add them to the slow cooker, along with the raw chicken, sauce, and chicken stock.
  3. Set the slow cooker to 2-3 hours on low or 1-2 hours on high. When the time is up, remove the chicken and shred, then add back into the sauce.

Chicken tinga FAQ

The key to making the BEST chicken tinga

The onions:

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.

The chicken:

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.

The oregano:

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.

How to serve chicken tinga

What to serve with chicken tinga

Make a plate and serve it up with Mexican rice, beans, pico de gallo, warm tortillas, shredded lettuce, salsa, guacamole, and tortilla chips

If you have some extra chipotle in adobo, try these recipes:

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!
xoxo steph

Chicken Tinga | www.iamafoodblog.com


The best Mexican inspired chicken stew or taco/burrito filling ever
Serves 4
4.75 from 40 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 7 oz chipotle peppers in adobo 1 small can
  • 15 oz fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano sub regular oregano if needed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock low sodium preferred
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups cooked shredded chicken or 2lbs boneless skinless chicken

Special Equipment


  • Add the garlic, chipotles, tomatoes, oregano, and cumin to a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
    Chicken Tinga marinade | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • 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.
    caramelizing onions | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Stir in the blended sauce, the chicken stock, bay leaves, and the cooked chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy in tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, flautas, with tortillas and rice, or just as is!
    Alternately, if you want to just cook the chicken in the sauce, add the boneless skinless chicken thighs or boneless skinless chicken breasts to the sauce and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the sauce, shred and add back into the sauce.
    Chicken Tinga | www.iamafoodblog.com


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.

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Amount Per Serving
Calories 282 Calories from Fat 48
% Daily Value*
Fat 5.3g8%
Saturated Fat 1.2g8%
Cholesterol 108mg36%
Sodium 1042mg45%
Potassium 339mg10%
Carbohydrates 15.5g5%
Fiber 6.9g29%
Sugar 5.7g6%
Protein 42g84%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  1. Jill says:

    No slow cooker or instapot. How look would I cook it in a Dutch oven?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi jill,
      if you scroll all the way down to the recipe, it details (with photos) how to cook in a skillet or dutch oven :)

  2. Kim says:

    5 stars
    This was super easy and very, very tasty. Used 1/2 can of chipotles and it was perfect spice wise.

  3. Anthony Jacka says:

    4 stars
    You left out the potatoes. I’m curious about your reasoning. When I make it, I use Rick Bayless’ recipe and it never disappoints, potatoes and all.

    1. Stephanie says:

      we enjoy it with potatoes and without potatoes but for the sake of low carb, i left the potatoes out :)

  4. David Grau says:

    5 stars
    Sounds great need to print this or have it emailed

  5. Bianca Costa says:

    4 stars
    I will try to make it, i love mexican food ?

  6. Carol Bull says:

    4 stars
    Sounds wonderful , always looking for new chicken receipes.

  7. Chanel Smith says:

    5 stars
    Best tacos EVER!! All I was missing was pico de gallo. Next time I’m making taquitos San Diego style.

    1. Stephanie says:

      omg yes to taquitos and pico de gallo is a must!! thanks for taking the time to leave a comment :)

  8. Mary says:

    Do you leave the seed in the chili’s from the can?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi mary, yes (they blend up smooth), but if you’re spice adverse, you can remove them :)

  9. 5 stars
    Thanks for your recipe can’t wait to try it. I just love Mexico food and new ways to make it.

  10. Elle says:

    My recipe comes from the area of Queretaro where it is very common to add chrizo. I would not have it any other way!

    1. Stephanie says:

      ooh i will try with chorizo!

  11. Strony says:

    I’ll try to make it this weekend. Thanks for recipe.

  12. Sabrina says:

    great flavors! I’m trying to keep up while still absorbing so many interesting Japanese recipes that you’ve posted and now a new recipe to me in a totally different cuisine! love it, thank you

  13. Kristin says:

    5 stars
    Just made this with some roasted chicken breasts I had in the fridge and it’s a keeper! So good, so flavorful, and so easy! Had it as tacos tonight, but thinking of topping some roasted delicata squash with it for low carb dinners this week!

  14. Jamie says:

    5 stars
    Looks amazing! I know this filling can be used in anything but I’m wondering what tortillas you used for these tacos and how you prepared them. They look super saucy and delicious!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi jamie,
      we used tortillas from a local tortilla factory that we have here in town. but we’ve also used mission tortillas in the past :)

  15. Jonathan Woods says:

    I have hunts diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano. Can I use these in place of the fire roasted tomatoes?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi jonathan,
      yes! it’ll just be missing a touch of that smokey flavor from the fire roasting. it’ll still be really good though. i’ve made this with regular diced tomatoes too!

  16. Donna says:

    5 stars
    Thank you for the recipe. I’m a diabetic and I am always looking for different things to eat and it must be low carb. Everyone loves it!! I had some leftovers and I put some on top of a salad. It was awesome!!

    1. Stephanie says:

      yay! that’s how i eat it too, no tortillas :)
      so happy you guys love it!

  17. Elena says:

    Tried downloading this recipe and it dont let me can u. Please email it to me. It sounds yummy

  18. Elena says:

    I figured it out but thanks anyway i will keep u updated on how they taste hopefully as good as they look

  19. Anjali says:

    5 stars
    This was awesome! Even the salsa by itself would be great to save for other uses.

  20. Joel says:

    5 stars
    This is our go to tinga recipe. I’m going to try a twist on it and smoke the chicken 1st, then shred. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Arielle says:

    5 stars
    This is such a wonderful recipe! We had it on nachos and it was a big hit with everyone in my family. Thank you for sharing!

  22. Anne Staudenmyer says:

    5 stars
    Multi generation family loved it. Served w taco toppings and everyone pigged out. Tacos, burritos, nachos… love the versatility. Would be a great party choice.

  23. Eysan says:

    5 stars
    It was super easy and delicious. I love mexican food.

  24. Michael Jenkins says:

    5 stars
    I’m going to make these per the recipe, but will build each grilled taco with a layer of thin sliced cabbage, the Tinga and some Mexican sour cream on top. That should cool the spiciness just enough. I am considering adding some liquid smoke to the sauce, but will wait until we make it again.

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