Chicken Questions: What Is Tinga de Pollo, Exactly?

If you’re searching for a savory, smoky chicken dish, consider adding Tinga de Pollo to your menu.

Tinga de Pollo, or chicken tinga, is a shredded chicken dish that’s often accompanied by white rice and refried beans. This inviting dish is typically garnished with toppings like avocado and queso de crema.

Traditionally made with few ingredients, chicken tinga is an accessible and simple dish packed with flavor.

But what is Tinga de Pollo? What defines this dish and its flavors? Cooks everywhere swear by their own versions, but the basics of chicken tinga haven’t changed.

Read on to learn exactly what Tinga de Pollo is, its essential characteristics, and how it’s made. After reading, you’ll be ready to craft a hearty meal with easy preparation and big flavors.

What Is Tinga de Pollo?

Hailing from Puebla, Mexico, this shredded chicken dish is prepared in a chipotle-tomato sauce with onions. Chicken is poached, shredded, then cooked in the sauce. All this offers chicken tinga a flavor profile that’s not only smoky and spicy but also slightly acidic and sweet.

Tinga de Pollo Basics

The amount of chicken tinga recipes testifies to the dish’s well-deserved popularity. But despite the variety of Tinda de Pollo adaptations, we can hammer in a few guidelines to make recognizable and delicious chicken tinga.


There are four essential ingredients that make chicken tinga what it is: tomatoes, chipotle, chicken, and onions. Sliced onions are cooked in a hot pan followed by a chipotle-tomato sauce that is simmered until reduced. Finally, poached chicken is added until the sauce reduces even further.

Cut of Chicken

For shredded chicken, use boneless skinless chicken breast. The leanness of chicken breast allows the meat to shred more easily, and bones would just impede and slow down the cooking and shredding process.

Chipotle-Tomato Sauce

Some Tinga de Pollo recipes don’t specify what type of tomato to use, but most use Roma tomatoes. Roma tomatoes, as opposed to other tomatoes, are more flavorful and tangier than other tomato varieties. They’re the ideal tomato for stews, paste, and sauces.

Although some recipes instruct users to make their own adobo sauce with dried chili, most recipes call for ready-made canned chipotle adobo. Alternatively, some recipes use raw or dried chili without adobo. But if you want a more familiar, convenient chicken tinga, canned chipotle adobo will add powerful flavor without sacrificing your time.

You could add as many seasonings and aromatics to your sauce as you’d like, including Mexican oregano, thyme, etc. But many recipes use simple immersions with garlic, salt, chicken broth, and pepper. Some don’t use any broth. Simpler variations of Tinga de Pollo will still provide punchy flavors.


Use any type of onion on hand except for red onion. Red onions tend to be milder than other types. Its flavor can’t hold up against the chipotle-tomato sauce. They also have a less tender texture, and won’t soften in the pan as well as other onions.

Serving Suggestions

Tinga de Pollo is delicious with any carby vehicle. They’re traditionally eaten with white rice, but you could add refried beans and garnishes like avocado, shredded lettuce, sour cream, etc. You can also use them as fillings or toppings for tostadas, tacos, tortas, and more. Their ability to transform any meal gives chicken tinga its stellar reputation.

Cooking Tinga de Pollo

The cooking process for Tinga de Pollo is fairly standard across the board. Although different recipes may require a few extra steps, we’ll illustrate how approachable chicken tinga is. You can also use a recipe with detailed instructions and a specific set of ingredients such as this Tinga de Pollo recipe.

1. Poach the Chicken

Add chicken to a large saucepan with water or chicken stock, adding ingredients such as celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaves, etc if using. Bring to a boil or simmer before reducing to low heat.

Let the chicken poach until fully cooked and its internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and allow the chicken to cool in the stock. Reserve some of the stock, if using, for your sauce.

2. Make the Sauce

While the chicken is cooling, add tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, chipotle peppers, and a few tablespoons of the canned adobo sauce to a blender. Add other aromatics, seasonings, and stock if using. Blend until completely smooth.

3. Cook Down Your Sauce

Heat up a separate pan over medium-high heat and add vegetable oil. Cook your onions until translucent. Then add your garlic. Once everything is cooked through, add your chipotle-tomato sauce. Let the contents of your pan cook for a few minutes until somewhat reduced.

4. Shred and Add the Chicken

Remove the chicken from the stock, and use two forks to shred the chicken apart. Add the shredded chicken to the simmering sauce, stirring until all the chicken is coated.

5. Let Simmer

Let the contents of your pan simmer for several minutes until everything has reduced. Cook until the sauce has thickened to a stew-like consistency.

Get Ready to Dig In

That’s it! Chicken tinga’s prestige precedes the complexity of its preparation. Approachable and delicious, this dish can function as an easy midweek meal or a weekend event.

So if you’re still asking, what is Tinga de Pollo? It’s the answer to your busy schedule, the subject of your culinary dreams, and the star of tonight’s menu.