Anyone else out there that could eat tacos every day? I’m not talking (taco-ing! sorry…had to) about tacos loaded with a ton of ingredients and boring iceberg lettuce, I mean tacos with a smoky, slow cooked, and shredded meat, and simply topped with white onion, cilantro, and freshly squeezed lime juice. This smoky pulled chicken tinga taco recipe is exactly that, and it’s perfect to make for your friends and family! Whether you want to keep your meals a little healthier or more indulgent, you’re in luck – the chicken tinga in this recipe is obviously delicious with tacos, but it’s so much more versatile than that. Put this smoky pulled chicken on top of nachos, nestled into a healthy burrito bowl or salad, quesadillas, the list goes on.
The method I use to make this dish is essentially goes as follows: sear the chicken meat and set it aside, brown some aromatics, blend aforementioned browned aromatics into a delicious sauce with fire roasted tomatoes and smoky chipotle chiles, place the blended sauce and browned chicken back into the same pot and let it simmer until the chicken is fully cooked, tender, and easy to shred. I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven for this which works really well but you could certainly make this in a crock pot! If using a crockpot, follow the below recipe, steps 1-3 as written, but alter step 4 slightly by adding your blended sauce and browned chicken to the crockpot and cook on high for 3-4 hours, until the chicken registers at 165 degrees Fahrenheit with an instant read thermometer. If using the crockpot, once the chicken is cooked, finish with steps 5 and 6.
As a note – this recipe yields a LOT of chicken, you could probably make 30 tacos with this recipe, which makes it perfect to bring to a party with a large group of people. Save whatever you don’t use to use throughout the week, freeze to use at a later time, or simply halve the recipe if you want to make fewer tacos!
- Pulled Chicken Tinga:
- 3 lbs boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 Tablespoons chopped garlic (this was about 3 cloves for me)
- 2 Tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and roughly chopped (if you can’t find tomatillos, a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar will do the trick)
- ½ Teaspoon cumin
- ½ Teaspoon dried oregano
- 30 Ounces of canned fire roasted tomatoes (I used two 14.5 oz cans of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes )
- 4 Tablespoons of canned chipotles in adobo, chopped (a combination of the actual peppers and the sauce in the can)
- 1 Cup low sodium chicken broth
- Corn tortillas
- Diced white onion
- Freshly chopped cilantro
- Freshly sliced limes
- Optional Taco Toppings:
- Cojita Cheese
- Brown the chicken, one of two ways: Heat olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven and add chicken and cook until nicely browned, about 5-6 minutes. Flip chicken breasts and continue cooking to lightly brown the other side, for about 3-4 minutes, and set aside. OR:
- Grill the chicken breasts on a cast iron grill pan (or a grill), 4-5 minutes per side and set aside - this method imparts an extra smoky flavor to the dish. (Don’t worry if you have larger chicken pieces that don’t finish cooking, you will finish cooking the chicken by simmering it in sauce later on).
- Once you’ve browned the chicken and set it aside, sauté the onion in a dutch oven and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until it’s slightly browned.
- Add garlic, tomatillos, cumin, oregano, and a pinch of salt and and cook until fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes, chipotles in adobo, and chicken broth and stir to combine. Remove from heat, transfer to a blender, and puree until smooth.
- Pour the sauce back into the dutch oven and add the bay leaf. Then add the chicken into the sauce so it’s completely submerged, and simmer until the sauce slightly reduces, and the chicken is completely cooked (when the chicken registers at 165 degrees Fahrenheit with an instant read thermometer.)
- Once the chicken has fully cooked, transfer to a plate to shred; I like to do this with two forks, by using one fork to hold the chicken steady, and the other to pull the chicken into shreds. You could also cut the chicken into small strips and then shred with forks. Stir chicken back into sauce on a low heat so it’s well incorporated.
- Spoon chicken into warmed tortillas (the absolute BEST way is to toast the tortillas directly over a low flame on your stovetop, and flip when slightly charred) and top with diced white onion, freshly chopped cilantro, and freshly squeezed lime juice. Enjoy!
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats.