Chef John's Chicken Tinga


When I'm at a taqueria, it's hard to decide between the chicken with green sauce or with red sauce. Here's my version of the red sauce. It's great on a crispy tortilla and topped with the usual suspects.

Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
6 servings


  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs

  • 3 peeled whole garlic cloves

  • 1 large yellow onion, halved

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano

  • 4 cups chicken stock

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 1 (7 ounce) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

  • 1 (28 ounce) can peeled plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

  • 2 tablespoons crumbled cotija cheese, or to taste

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, or more to taste


  1. Place chicken thighs, garlic cloves, halved onion, salt, oregano, water, and chicken stock, and water in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat; reduce to medium-low. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

  2. Transfer onion halves to a bowl with a slotted spoon; transfer chicken thighs to a separate bowl.

  3. Pour broth through a strainer into a large bowl.

  4. Heat olive oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Transfer strained liquid to onions. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat; turn heat to medium-low; reduce broth by about half, 15 to 20 minutes.

  5. Transfer reserved boiled onions to a blender. Add chipotle peppers and the adobo sauce. Swirl a bit of water in the can and add to the blender. Add tomatoes. Cover blender with the lid. Pulse on and off until mixture is partially blended. Blend on medium speed until smooth, 1 or 2 minutes. Transfer to pot with broth and onions.

  6. Increase heat to medium-high. Simmer 15 minutes or so, depending on how thick you want the sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low.

  7. Tear chicken into bite-size pieces and add to the pot. Cook another 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish; garnish with crumbled cotija cheese and cilantro.

    close up view of Chicken Tinga taco garnished with cheese and fresh herbs on a white plate
    Chef John

Chef's Notes:

You can substitute 3 1/2 cups of any fresh or canned tomato product for the (28 ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes.

Can be used on tostadas or in burritos, quesadillas, flautas, or tacos.

Top with the usual suspects like shredded cheese, chopped green onions, sour cream, etc.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

483 Calories
30g Fat
14g Carbs
39g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 6
Calories 483
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 30g 38%
Saturated Fat 8g 39%
Cholesterol 137mg 46%
Sodium 1915mg 83%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 39g
Vitamin C 17mg 83%
Calcium 107mg 8%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 592mg 13%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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