Chicken Tinga Tacos

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Robustly flavored Chicken Tinga Tacos start with charred tortillas, and are layered with a quick guacamole, well-seasoned shredded chicken, and quick pickled red onions. These tacos are the best!

Pair Chicken Tinga Tacos with some fresh corn! We love this easy corn salad or elote.

Overhead image of Chicken Tinga Tacos.

Chicken Tinga Tacos

My family is obsessed with these rotisserie chicken tacos (seriously, my boys ask for them at least once a week). I, of course, love them too, but especially love how easy they are to whip together (thank you, rotisserie chicken)!

To please the boys with tacos, but also try a different sauce and seasoning mix on rotisserie chicken, Chicken Tinga Tacos came about.

These tacos have been a weeknight go-to for a few months now, while, of course, still alternating with our other favorite rotisserie chicken tacos. I often make a double batch of these tacos and love eating them for lunches throughout the week, They’re filling, nutritious, and the flavor just keeps getting better and better!

Process shots--images of the red onions being pickled; onions and garlic being sautéed; seasoning and tomato paste being added; and all mixed together.

What does Tinga mean?

Tinga is a Mexican dish made with shredded beef or chicken in a red chili sauce that usually contains onion, garlic, tomatoes, and chipotle peppers.
 
I claim no authenticity for this recipe. The recipe I’m sharing today actually started from this recipe. I made it a few times, loosely following the recipe and my boys loved it. As I’ve continued to make it over the past few months, I started adding in some more seasonings and changing a few other things. We’re obsessed with Chicken Tinga Tacos, so I’m sharing the recipe with you!

Is Chicken Tinga hot?

There are chipotle peppers in this recipe, but it is easy to scale the heat up or down to personal preference. I also have found when the meat is added to a tortilla with a mashed avocado and pickled red onions, the layers of flavor downplay the heat.
  • Little to no spice: Only use 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce surrounding the chipotle peppers.
  • Light spice: Use 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce surrounding the chipotle peppers and 1 tablespoon peppers.
  • Medium spicy: Use 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce surrounding the chipotle peppers and 2 tablespoons peppers.
  • Spicy: Use 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce surrounding the chipotle peppers and 3 tablespoons peppers.

Process shots: adding roasted crushed tomatoes to the onions; then adding the onion and tomato mixture to the blender; blended and poured over the chicken; and being added to the tacos.

How to serve Chicken Tinga Tacos

My personal favorite way to use chicken tinga is on corn tortillas in taco form. I delve more into the details for making a delicious taco in the next section, but below I’m sharing some alternative serving suggestions beyond tacos:

  • Chicken Tinga Tostadas: Layer a tostada shell with mashed avocado, top with the tinga chicken, add some pickled (or raw) red onions, a spoonful of crema or sour cream, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, and some fresh cilantro.
  • Baked Chicken Tinga Tacos: Use this beef taco recipe as a reference guide. Layer crispy taco shells in a casserole dish and layer with chicken tinga meat and freshly grated cheddar cheese. Bake and add pickled or raw red onions, a spoonful of crema or sour cream, a thinly sliced avocado, and some fresh cilantro.
  • Nachos: Layer chicken tinga meat on tortilla chips with a Mexican cheese blend. Top with your favorite nacho toppings or similar toppings described above.
  • Chicken Tinga Burrito Bowls (great for low carb!): Layer cauliflower rice on the base of a bowl and top with chicken tinga meat, drained and rinsed black or pinto beans, a chopped avocado, pickled or raw red onions, a spoonful of crema or sour cream, and some fresh cilantro.

Take these tacos to the next level!

While the meat on its own is pretty dang delicious, I think there are three things that really take Chicken Tinga Tacos to the next level. And the good news is that these steps don’t take all that much extra time!

  1. Using corn tortillas and charring them: While I am a big fan of flour tortillas, I do think corn is best in this recipe. And charring the tortillas does so much for the flavor of the tortillas and texture of the taco as a whole.
    1. Here’s how I quick-char the tortillas: Spray both sides of the tortillas with olive oil cooking spray and char the tortillas directly over the gas flames for a few seconds. Use tongs to flip until tortillas are lightly charred and soft. Immediately fold the tortilla in half (so it will fold into a taco nicely later) and set aside.
  2. Adding quick-pickled red onions: Making pickled red onions can be a process, so I’ve shared my “cheater” quick version which literally takes less than 5 minutes and four ingredients (pantry staples) to make.
  3. Adding guacamole: Nothing compares to a layer of guacamole underneath the chicken (I also think it helps make these tacos less spicy), but honestly, you don’t need to spend too much time making guacamole. I usually just mash up a ripe avocado and add a pinch of salt, pepper, and some lime juice. Easy!
    1. If you don’t love guacamole and would like a creamy element on these  tacos, I’d recommend sour cream or Mexican crema.

Overhead image of Chicken Tinga Tacos, stuffed with pickled red onions, guacamole, and cilantro.

Storing leftover chipotle peppers

There’s nothing worse than using only one or two peppers and not being able to use the rest of the can before it goes bad. Luckily, canned chipotle peppers freeze beautifully! Here’s how to freeze leftover chipotles after using them in Chicken Tinga Tacos:

  • Spread a sheet of parchment paper onto a large pan.
  • Spoon out peppers with sauce, 1/2 inch apart, on to the pan. Place the pan in the freezer until peppers and sauce are frozen solid, about 1 hour.
  • Once frozen, the chipotles and sauce will peel off the tray easily.
  • Add all the frozen peppers to a freezer-safe plastic bag, seal while pressing out any air, and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
  • To thaw: Take as many peppers as needed out of the bag and let stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes or until thawed through (or pop individual peppers in the microwave for 10-15 seconds).

QUICK TIP

When blending hot sauces, keep in mind that the escaping steam could pop the top off the blender if it’s filled too full. If you’re concerned about this, replace the plastic blender lid with a folded kitchen towel and hold in place while you process the steaming liquid. Because it’s not airtight, the towel will absorb the steam–and the splatters!

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Chicken Tinga Tacos

0 from 0 votes
Robustly flavored Chicken Tinga Tacos start with charred tortillas and are layered with guacamole, well-seasoned shredded chicken, and quick-pickled red onions. These tacos are the best!
Print Recipe

Chicken Tinga Tacos

0 from 0 votes
Robustly flavored Chicken Tinga Tacos start with charred tortillas and are layered with guacamole, well-seasoned shredded chicken, and quick-pickled red onions. These tacos are the best!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword chicken tinga
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings (~12-14 tacos)
Calories 225kcal

Ingredients

Quick "Pickled" Onion

  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon white, granulated sugar

Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely minced garlic (~4 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: dried oregano, chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: paprika, dried coriander
  • Fine sea salt and cracked pepper
  • 1 can (14 oz.) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo (we won't use all of it!) (I love La Costena brand)
  • 4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, optional
  • corn tortillas and cooking spray
  • Optional toppings: cilantro, cotija cheese (or queso fresco), large avocado, additional lime juice

Instructions

  • QUICK "PICKLED" RED ONION: In a medium-sized bowl, combine the thinly sliced red onion, red wine vinegar, salt and sugar. Toss to coat. Leave at room temperature and toss every 5 minutes or so, while preparing the rest of the meal.
  • SAUCE: Heat the oil in a large skillet. Once oil is warm, add in the thinly sliced sweet onion and garlic. Sauté for 4-6 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally (nothing should be burning/browning; lower the heat if it is). Add in the tomato paste and all the seasonings: the ground cumin, dried oregano, chicken bouillon powder, paprika, dried coriander, and salt and pepper to taste. (I add 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper.) Toast seasonings for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Again, lower the heat if anything is burning. Add in the crushed tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Lastly, add in chipotle peppers and sauce (See Note 1). Stir and heat for 30 more seconds. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 6-8 minutes.
  • CHICKEN: Transfer the sauce mixture to a large blender and process until completely smooth (See Note 2). Pour the mixture back into the skillet. Add in the 4 cups rotisserie chicken and gently stir to coat the chicken and warm it through. If desired, stir in the fresh lime juice.
  • QUICK "GUAC": While sauce is simmering, I like to whip this up: Place a large, ripe avocado in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add in a pinch of salt and pepper and a few squeezes of lime juice. Mash together and set aside.
  • CHAR TORTILLAS: Spray both sides of the tortillas with olive oil cooking spray and char the tortillas directly over the gas flames for a few seconds. Use tongs to flip until tortillas are lightly charred and soft. Immediately fold the tortilla in half (so it will fold into a taco nicely later) and set aside.
  • ASSEMBLE: Spread the guac in the center of the charred tortillas. Top with a scoop of the chicken, and some pickled red onions. Add your other favorite taco toppings such as some queso or cotija cheese, some fresh cilantro, and another squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Here's a general guideline for how much of the chipotles to add:
  • Little to no spice: Use 1 tablespoon sauce surrounding the chipotle peppers.
  • Light spice: Use 1 tablespoon sauce surrounding the chipotle peppers and 1 tablespoon peppers.
  • Medium spicy: Use 1 tablespoon sauce surrounding the chipotle peppers and 2 tablespoon peppers.
  • Spicy: Use 1 tablespoon sauce surrounding the chipotle peppers and 3 tablespoons peppers.
  • (If all the peppers are large (or larger than a tablespoon measuring spoon), chop the peppers to fill the measuring spoon).
  • See blogpost for how to store leftover chipotle peppers so the rest of the can doesn't go to waste.
Note 2: When blending hot sauces, keep in mind that the escaping steam could pop the top off the blender if it's filled too full. If you're concerned about this, replace the plastic blender lid with a folded kitchen towel. Because it's not airtight, the towel will absorb the steam--and the splatters!

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 6servings | Calories: 225kcal | Carbohydrates: 10.5g | Protein: 24.7g | Fat: 8.7g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 150.7mg | Fiber: 1.6g | Sugar: 6.6g

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