Tacos and burritos and bowls, oh my! Smoky Chicken Tinga is a revelation for both its flavor and its versatility. This tender, juicy shredded chicken, slow-cooked in a bold sauce of tomatoes, garlic, and chipotles in adobo, can be served any way you want, to fit almost any diet. Build a savory sundae bar with your favorite taco toppings for unlimited options – and happy bellies.
I remember when Chipotle (the restaurant) became a thing. I remember when specific locations opened and I remember dressing up like a burrito on Halloween to get a free burrito there. It was pretty darn revolutionary (at the time). But you know what my big problem with Chipotle is? Not enough chipotle.
Their website even has this whole screed that states “What’s Chipotle without chipotles? The short answer, not Chipotle.” Chipotle (the dried, smoked jalapeno pepper) is a word you can taste. Smell, even. That signature smokiness. The heat. The big burst of flavor. And know what? If I walk into a Chipotle, I get more sensation from saying the word than I do eating their food. I’m not saying it’s not tasty, I’m saying it’s not chipotley.
Thankfully, my tacobsession has led me down many a delicious path – Chicken Tinga being just one of those. This dish is nothing if not chipotle-forward. Aside from the deep, layered smoky flavor, you’re in for an absolute treat when it comes to the chicken. Moist and tender, this slow-cooked, shredded chicken may just take the place of grilled strips in your taco prep pantheon. If you’ve never had Chicken Tinga before, be prepared to make room for a new go-to.
What is chicken tinga?
A popular Mexican dish of shredded chicken in a flavorful sauce made from tomatoes and chipotle chilis in adobo. (For the purposes of this recipe, we’re using adobo sauce, not the dry spice blend.)
Many recipes start with shredded chicken – while convenient (and quick!) if you have it on hand, you’re staring down a two-step process if you don’t. Cooking chicken tinga in the slow cooker means (1) absolutely moist and tender chicken and (2) chicken that is infused with flavor from the very first step.
Chicken tinga tacos
- It’s the perfect vehicle for traditional taco toppings. Come prepared with avocado (or guac), shredded lettuce, tomato (or pico), cilantro, queso fresco or cotija cheese, sour cream, cilantro… even radishes!
- This chicken will totally work in a tostada or a burrito as well. Serve it how you like it!
Psst…this recipe is also available as a story!
How to warm tortillas
Corn tortillas are best served fresh (life-changing, I promise) and warmed with dry heat on the stove.
- Heat up a skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat.
- Prep a bowl or basket with a very slightly damp towel while the pan is heating.
- Warm the tortilla for 15-30 seconds max on each side.
- Wrap your tortillas in the damp towel to cover and keep warm until serving.
Remember: Corn tortillas and flour tortillas behave very differently because of gluten, or the lack thereof, so always cook with your hands, eyes, and nose.
Chicken tinga bowls
Minding your carbs? Going grain free? Then take a page from the Chipotle (the restaurant) playbook and turn chicken tinga tacos into chicken tinga bowls with just a few tweaks to make them Whole30 or Keto compliant.
Serve over cauliflower rice and shredded lettuce with tomato, avocado, and any other diet-friendly toppings. I highly recommend using my Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice recipe for extra flavor.
Traditional slow cooker vs. instant pot crockpot function
If you don’t have a crockpot and are using the slow-cook function on your Instant Pot, be mind of moisture – the Instant Pot provides a much tighter seal than a traditional slow cooker, which results in a lot less evaporation as the chicken cooks. Without any adjustments, your sauce will probably be more watery than you want it to be. You can adapt this recipe a couple different ways:
(1) Skip the chicken broth. The chicken breasts will release plenty of water content, and combined with the crushed tomatoes, the sauce should be the perfect consistency.
(2) Siphon off some of the excess moisture about halfway through. You’ll then have to wait until until the pot steams off so you can reseal.
Storing and reheating
- Store up to 4 days in the fridge in an airtight container.
- For reheating, warm on the stove over low heat to avoid cooking the chicken any further, using just a splash of chicken broth if you need added moisture.
- Chicken Tinga will keep in the freezer for up to 4 months in a freezer bag. (Don’t forget to squeeze the air out!)
- Defrost overnight in the refrigerator. For quick defrost, submerge the sealed ziploc in cold water until the water comes to room temperature. Repeat the process until chicken is thawed.
More healthy mexican recipes
- Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Mexican Cauliflower Rice
- Instant Pot Chili
- Spicy Chicken Taco Soup
- Mexican Stuffed Peppers
Did you make this chicken tinga? I’d love to know how it turned out, and how you served it! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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Slow Cooker Chicken Tinga (Bowls or Tacos)Print Recipe Rate this Recipe Pin Recipe
- 1 large white onion, sliced
- 2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tsp oregano, mexican oregano if available
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- 14- oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
- ½ c chicken broth
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo
- 1 tbsp adobo sauce
- 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce, or coconut aminos (for Whole30)
- Cauliflower rice, for serving
- Corn tortillas, for serving
- Sliced avocado
- Shredded lettuce
- Queso fresco
- Pico or salsa
- Sliced radishes
- Layer the onions over the bottom of the slow cooker. Nestle the chicken breasts onto the onions, then season with oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Combine the crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, garlic, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and Worcestershire sauce in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour the tinga sauce over the chicken breasts.
- Seal the slow cooker, then program to HIGH 3-4 hours, or LOW 6-8 hours.
- Shred the chicken in the pot, then toss with the sauce until evenly coated.
- Chicken tinga bowls: serve over cauliflower rice and shredded lettuce, with desired toppings.
- Chicken tinga tacos: serve in warmed tortillas, with desired toppings.