Chicken Tinga Tacos

I get very excited when holidays are approaching because it gives me an opportunity to try out new recipes. With Cinco de Mayo falling on a Sunday this year, it gave me ample opportunity to plan a big-ish meal.

Oftentimes what dictates my menu is the food I have on hand. I had a wide assortment of frozen meat to choose from but not all my choices were party-friendly. For example, I have one marinated grass-fed sirloin steak in my freezer and two individual portions of frozen salmon. But I also had a huge pork butt roast and several pounds of chicken wings to work with. My original plan was to make some delicious looking al pastor tacos but I put that recipe on hold when I thought about how al pastor tacos were introduced to me.

It was 2009. I was working in Hawthorne, Calif. at a small-ish aerospace company which employed mostly men. I was one of two women in my department. Our department was close and often would go out to lunch or bring food back and then eat together. I was new to Los Angeles and not familiar with local eateries. One day my coworker Charley suggested getting food from King Taco. When I asked what’s good on the menu Charley suggested al pastor tacos or burritos and one of the tool designers hooted with laughter at his suggestion yelling over his cubicle wall, “Al pastor burns on the way in and it burns on the way out!”

Turns out, not an untrue statement. At least the al pastor from King Taco. Since my cousin can’t tolerate overly spicy food, I decided to find a nice mild Chicken Tinga recipe to serve for my guests. I found a good base recipe at Isabel Eats for Easy Chicken Tinga Tacos; I made my recipe longer and more complicated based on Chicken Tinga reviews and suggestions I read on several different blogs and websites.

So here’s the thing about this Chicken Tinga recipe… it’s a bit spicy! I’ve cooked with chipotle pepper before and do not remember thinking of it as overly spicy. I was mildly horrified by the spiciness of the sauce during the test-tasting phase of making this recipe–mainly because I was afraid my cousin wouldn’t be able to stomach the dish (she was able to!). And honestly the spiciness of the dish is nothing that a little bit of sour cream can’t mitigate but proceed with warning if you’re not find of spice.


  • 1 15-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 4 to 6 roma tomatoes, washed and cut into quarters
  • 1 large or 2 medium chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • salt, to taste
  • olive oil
  • 4 lbs bone-in chicken legs shredded chicken
  • for serving: corn or flour tortillas; queso fresco, cotija or monterrey jack cheese; diced onion, chopped cilantro (you can add other favorite toppings like tomato, lettuce, sour cream or guacamole, if you’d like)


  1. Add tomatoes, chipotle peppers, oregano, garlic, salt and onion to large pot. Stir and then add in raw chicken legs. Cook over medium-low heat until chicken is tender enough to fall off the bone; this may take an hour or more depending on your heat setting.
  2. Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool enough to be able to handle the chicken–remove chicken from the bone and set aside.
  3. Blend the tomato mixture in the pot using an immersion blender or dump the mixture into a blender and blend. Return the sauce and/or chicken to the pot. If serving same day, cook over medium-low heat until sauce has thickened/reduced. (I did this step the next day.) The chicken will automatically shred during the second part of the cooking process.
  4. Remove from heat, taste and season with more salt if necessary. Serve warm.

Recipe rating: 

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