Tinga de Pollo (Smoky Chicken in a Tomato-Chile Sauce)

A smoky, spicy braised chicken that makes for the perfect taco filling.

Tinga de Pollo

Tinga de pollo is a truly winning taco filling. It’s just saucy enough, rich in flavor and spice, with a soft-but-not-mushy texture from the braised chicken. Using dark meat chicken thighs boosts the flavor and juiciness of the dish, and chipotle chiles, Vanns Mexican Oregano, and Vanns Ground Cumin give the dish a smoky, spicy, herbal flavor that really stands out when wrapped in a warm corn tortilla. This dish also works very well as a filling for tamales, tortas, or burritos, or as part of a rice bowl - top brown rice with a scoop of tinga de pollo, a scoop of black beans, some guacamole or salsa, a roasted vegetable, and you have a wonderful, healthy meal!

Spices used in this recipe

Oregano, Mexican
Cumin Ground
Bay Leaves
Salt, Kosher


  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 large tomatillo, husk removed, rinsed, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. Vanns Mexican Oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. Vanns Ground Cumin
  • 1 14-oz. can fire-roasted diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 chipotles chiles, roughly chopped, plus 2 Tbs. adobo sauce from one can of chipotle chiles in adobo
  • 1/2 cup homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
  • 1 Vanns Bay Leaf
  • Vanns Kosher Salt, to taste

To serve:

  • Warm corn tortillas
  • Tomatillo salsa, or other salsa of choice
  • Chopped white onion and cilantro
  • Crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese
  • Lime wedges


  1. In a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place chicken thighs skin-side down in the pot and cook for about 6 minutes, until skin is deeply brown. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes, until the other side is lightly browned. Place thighs on a plate, leaving the fat in the pan, still on a medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped onions and smashed garlic cloves to the pan and cook until onions are starting to brown around the edges, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatillo and cook for about 4 minutes, until browned around the edges. Add the oregano and cumin and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the fire-roasted tomatoes, chipotle chiles, and adobo sauce, and stir to combine everything in the pan. Remove the pan from heat.
  3. Allow the pan to cool for 10-15 minutes, and then use an immersion blender or regular blender to puree until smooth. Transfer the sauce back into the pan and add the chicken stock, bay leaf, and 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt. Stir to combine, and bring the pot to a gentle boil over medium heat. Place the chicken thighs in the sauce, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the meat registers 165°F on a meat thermometer, or releases only clear juices when cut open.
  4. Remove the chicken thighs from the sauce and allow to cool on a plate. Remove the sauce from the heat and discard the bay leaf.
  5. When chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat into strips, discarding the skin, large pieces of fat, and the bones. Stir the shredded meat back into the sauce and warm through over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and taste for salt, seasoning to taste. Remember that you’ll be adding some salty queso fresco and tangy lime juice to the equation while building your tacos!
  6. Serve the tinga de pollo in warm tortillas, topped with salsa, onion, cilantro, and crumbled queso fresco. Serve with lime wedges on the side for squeezing.

Serves 6. Adapted from Serious Eats.

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