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 ded. I had to recreate it the moment we got home.
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.
How to make tinga
Making tinga is super easy:
- 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.
- Caramelize the onions. Take your time and caramelize the onions until they are golden, soft, and drive you wild with how good they smell.
- 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 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.
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.