Slow Cooker Chicken Tinga is one of those recipes that you can't get enough of. Not only is it extremely easy to make, it can be used in so many different ways. Tacos, burrito bowls, tostadas, nachos, and enchiladas to name a few.
My favorite is a simply chicken tacos topped with red onion, cilantro, cotija cheese, and a squeeze of lime juice. This chicken tinga recipe is a great option for meal prep because it is so versatile.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, there are many other ways to make chicken tinga and I go over how to make this recipe using several different cooking methods in the written post. So, no matter what type of cooking appliance you choose to use, you can certainly make this delicious chicken tinga recipe
Absolutely! That is a great way to have dinner on the table in just minutes. Simply make the sauce, shred your precooked chicken and warm it through on the stove or in the Ninja Foodi using the sear/sauté function.
Yes. Chicken Tinga will freeze fine, just make sure that it is completely chilled before freezing and get as much air out of your freezer bag or freezer container as possible. When properly stored in an airtight container, it will last at least 6 months in the freezer.
What to Serve With Chicken Tinga
This Mexican recipe is great served with refried beans, seasoned black beans, Mexican rice, or any other Mexican dishes you love. Fried Corn tortillas are a must, in my opinion! Here are some of my favorite recipes that you can serve with your chicken tinga or make with the chicken tinga filling.
Ingredients & Substitutions
I used boneless skinless chicken breasts in this recipe, but you could certainly use chicken thighs instead. The chicken thighs might take a little longer in the slower cooker, so plan on an extra 30-60 minutes to get them cooked enough that they shred easily.
You don't even have to use chicken if you don't want to, pork would work, or you can make them vegetarian by simmering jack fruit in the sauce and you'll have a delicious filling for whatever you want to make.
Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
Most of the flavor in this Slow Cooker Chicken Tinga Recipe comes from the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, so if you omit it, you will create a different recipe. I only used a small amount and the result was a very mild spice, so if you are worried about it being too spicy, it isn't. If, you absolutely can't have any spice, then I would use some onion powder, garlic powder, maybe a touch of cumin and about a tablespoon of smoked paprika instead of the peppers in adobo sauce.
If you like spicy food, definitely add in another chipotle pepper and a little more of the adobo sauce or a pinch or two of dried chipotle chilis.
Fire Roasted Tomatoes
Fire roasted tomatoes are going to bring the best flavor to this recipe, but if you can't find them, you can use regular diced tomatoes or even a tomato puree to make the sauce. Or, you can make your own fire roasted tomatoes on the grill or in the oven using broil.
Spices & Other Ingredients
I used a sweet onion in this recipe, but you can certainly use a yellow onion or you can skip the onion and use about ½ tsp of onion powder in the sauce instead. Many recipes call for a bay leaf and you can certainly add that to the slow cooker and then remove it before shredding the chicken.
I used peeled garlic cloves in the sauce, but if you don't have any, try about ½ teaspoon of garlic powder instead.
The toppings you use are completely up to you, but here are some of my favorites when making tacos with chicken tinga.
- Fresh avocado slices
- Mexican Crema or sour cream
- thinly sliced jalapeno peppers
- fresh cilantro
- diced cherry tomatoes
- diced red onion
- freshly squeezed lime
- crumbled cotija cheese
How to Make Chicken Tinga in a Pressure Cooker
How to Make Chicken Tinga in a Pressure Cooker
The only reason I didn't use my Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot to make this recipe is because I wanted to be able to throw in the thick sauce and not worry about it triggering the water notice. However, you can certainly make this same recipe using the pressure cooker function with just a few modifications.
The chicken will give off its own juices during the PC time, so I would keep the added thin liquid to a minimum. To modify this recipe for an electric pressure cooker, this is what I suggest.
- Place the salted chicken pieces on the bottom of the inner pot and add ½ cup of chicken broth or stock. Put the sliced onions on top.
- Put the tinga sauce into a pan, covered and put it on a rack or trivet above the chicken.
- Pressure cook on high for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken, with a full natural release.
- Remove the chicken and place it on a cutting board to shred. Dump the liquid from the inner pot.
- Combine the shredded chicken with the sauce and you can serve now or continue to the next step to get the browning if you have a crisping lid.
- Return the sauce coated chicken to the inner pot and close the crisping lid. AC on 400℉/200℃ for 5-10 minutes. Tossing the chicken after 3-5 minutes.
- Serve & Enjoy
How to Make Chicken Tinga on the Stove
There are a few ways you could make this recipe on the stove, but I think the easiest way is to boil the chicken in a lightly seasoned broth, shred it and then use a skillet to heat it up with the sauce.
You could also use leftover roasted chicken, shred it and combine it with the sauce in a skillet and reheat it.
The one thing I would do differently if using pre-cooked chicken is to simmer the sauce for about 10-15 minutes to cook the garlic and blend the flavors. You can do this before you blend the sauce or after.
How to Make Slow Cooker Chicken Tinga
Usually, this recipe takes 3-4 hours on low slow cook, depending on how your slow cooker cooks. I used the Ninja Foodi slow cook function and 4 hours for 2 large (about 10-12 ounces each) chicken breasts was perfect in 4 hours.
However, you can cut that time in half by making some modifications to your chicken breasts, so before you get started, decide if you want it to cook over a 4 hour period of time or a 2 hour period of time.
Different slow cookers cook at different rates, meaning that some heat up quicker and cook food quicker. If you have a crockpot, I would definitely check on the chicken after 3 hours of slow cooking if using whole chicken breasts and after 1 hour using the modified version. It is possible to overcook the chicken and it dries out and becomes stringy.
Preparing the Chicken
I recommend salting your chicken pieces a few hours prior to cooking, but if you don't have time for that, salt them and let them sit out for about 30 minutes to warm up some. Cold chicken will take longer to cook.
I use fine grind sea salt or kosher salt to salt the chicken, if you only have table salt, use it sparingly.
If you plan on cooking the chicken for 4 hours in the slow cooker, you only need to trim up the chicken breasts. However, if you want to cut the time down to 2 hours, you will want to cut the chicken breasts in half through the middle to create two thinner cutlets. Then cut those cutlets in half. I used 3 large chicken breasts and had 6 smaller pieces of chicken that cooked in 2 hours verses 4.
I use a Close 'n Cut to easily cut my chicken in half, but you can do with a regular long knife and slice through the chicken. For this recipe, it doesn't matter if the pieces are perfectly even.
Close 'n Cut method
Slice up the onion now, so you can use the ends in the sauce.
Making the Tinga Sauce
There are several ways to make the Tinga sauce, but the easiest way is in the blender or a food processor.
To reduce food waste, I use the ends of the onion I sliced to add to the sauce. Here is how I cut them.
Simply add all the sauce ingredients and use the highest speed on your blender to create a smooth sauce. If using a food processor, process the sauce ingredients until they are as smooth as you can get them.
Using 2 of the chipotle peppers with 1 Tablespoon of the adobo sauce resulted in a very mild spice in the sauce. Especially if you add the touch of sugar, this is a very pleasant flavor and very mild heat. You can certainly use more peppers and sauce to make the sauce spicier.
Slow Cooking Chicken Tinga
Place the chicken pieces in the bottom of the slow cooker pot or the inner pot of the Ninja Foodi. Place the sliced onions on top and pour the tinga sauce over the onions. Turn the slow cooker on HIGH and set the time for 4 hours if using whole chicken and 2 hours if using cut up chicken.
Put the lid on and if you are using the Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot, make sure the valve is vented.
When the chicken is done and easily shredded, remove it from the slow cooker. I usually temp the chicken and like to be around 200℉/93℃. I find that the chicken shreds easily when the temp is a little higher and don't worry, the chicken does not dry out.
Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred it into small pieces.
If your sauce is too thin, either transfer it to a sauce pan and simmer on medium high heat to reduce it or use the Sear/Sauté function on the Ninja Foodi to reduce it. You want the sauce to be about the consistency of a spaghetti sauce.
Add the chicken back into the Ninja Foodi (or a large bowl if you aren't using the Foodi) and combine with the sauce. At this point, you can serve the chicken tinga.
However, I like to use the Ninja Foodi on Air Crisp to get a little browning. I found this to improve the texture and develop even more flavor.
So, if you have the Ninja Foodi or a crisping lid for your Instant Pot, then use the Air Crisp or Air Fry function on 400℉/200℃ for 5-10 minutes. I like to move the chicken around mid way through the crisping time.
Now the fun part! Use the chicken tinga to make tacos, burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, nachos, tostadas. Mix it in with rice and beans and put it over leafy greens for a delicious salad. Anything you want!
I made Chicken Tinga Tacos! You can use any toppings you like to create your own perfect taco!
Slow Cooker Chicken Tinga
- 2.5 lbs chicken breast boneless, skinless
- ¾ sweet onion sliced
- Combine all the sauce ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- Lay the chicken breasts on the bottom of the slow cooker and top with onion slices.
- Pour the tinga sauce over the top. Slow cook on HIGH for 4 hours. See notes below for reducing cook time.
- When the chicken has reached a shreddable consistency, remove the the chicken breasts and shred on a cutting board. If the tinga sauce is liquidy, reduce it by half either using sear/sauté on the Ninja Foodi/Instant Pot or a saucepan on the stove.
- Toss the chicken with the sauce and serve. *If you have the Ninja Foodi, use the crisping lid on AC 400F for about 5-10 minutes for a slight char on the chicken. It's delicious that way.
- To make Chicken Tinga in 2 hours instead of 4, cut the chicken breasts in half through the middle and then in half lengthwise. The smaller and thinner pieces will cook to a shreddable consistency in 2 hours on HIGH.
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.
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