Easy to make, this Instant Pot Chicken Tinga has minimal prep work and the Instant Pot does the rest. Shredded chicken is enveloped with a tomato sauce flavored with chipotle, cumin, and oregano. It’s perfect for tacos, taco bowls, burrito bowls, quesadillas, or tostadas. This chicken can be made ahead for meal prep and it freezes perfectly as well. It’s also gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo making it allergy friendly for many.
If I had to pick just 1 food to live on for life, it would probably be tacos. Pasta is way up there too, but overall tacos win out for their lively flavor and sheer versatility!
This extra easy Chicken Tinga made in the instant pot is the perfect taco filling. But it’s also perfect for taco bowls, quesadillas, and burrito bowls. It pairs well together with fresh salsas like my Pico de Gallo, Mango Salsa, or Caramelized Pineapple Salsa as well as avocado or guacamole.
You’ll find all my serving suggestions below so you can create some epic meals with this Mexican-inspired shredded chicken. And another great thing about this recipe is you can make it ahead for meal prep. That way you can make bowls through the workweek or freeze it for super easy meals later.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Chicken – boneless skinless chicken breasts, chicken thighs, or a mix of both works well in this recipe. Chicken thighs are a touch harder to shred by hand, but the stand mixer tip below makes quick work of them. Chicken thighs tend to be a bit moister, but this recipe works well with chicken breasts too.
- Onion & garlic – are sautéed together and then blended into the sauce to create depth of flavor.
- Fire-roasted diced tomatoes – fire roasted adds an extra depth of flavor to this recipe, but you can use diced tomatoes if you can’t find fire roasted.
- Chicken broth – look for low sodium so you can add salt to taste in this recipe.
- Apple cider vinegar – adds an element of acidity that pairs well with the chipotle and tomato. You can use red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar, but apple cider vinegar is traditional.
- Spices – chipotle powder, cumin, and oregano all create wonderful flavor in this recipe. I used to include bay leaf which is traditional, but you can’t tell the difference without it. So in the interest of simplicity, I’ve eliminated it. Chipotle in adobo sauce made from chipotle peppers is what’s traditionally used, but it contains sugar and sometimes additives. I use chipotle powder instead to keep this allergy friendly.
How to make this recipe step by step
Important: don’t skip this step! It’s crucial to scrape up the browned bits so you don’t get a BURN signal from the Instant Pot.
Step 3: Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the blender container and blend until mostly smooth with small bits.
Step 4: Pour the sauce into the Instant Pot container, and add the chicken.
Turn the chicken to coat it in the sauce before setting the lid to sealing in the Instant Pot to pressure cook. I find 8 minutes of cooking time to be perfect for chicken thighs and 10 minutes for chicken breasts.
Step 5: When the chicken has finished cooking, use the manual release pressure valve. When the instant pot is safe to option remove the lid and take the chicken from the sauce. Use the sauté function to reduce the sauce.
Then using 2 forks, shred the chicken, or add it to an electric mixer with a paddle attachment.
Step 6: Add as much of the reduced sauce to the shredded chicken, stir to combine, and serve.
Ways to serve this
- Use this shredded chicken Tinga any way you love to eat Mexican-inspired food. It’s great as a taco bowl as pictured. But it’s also great as a taco, quesadilla, lettuce wrap taco, or even in a salad.
- This Mexican dish is perfect served with corn tortillas, refried beans, cotija cheese, and your choice of salsas. I’ve listed out my favorites below in the tips.
- You can also use this chicken in a burrito bowl. Check out my Carnitas Burrito Bowls for a full list of burrito bowl ingredients and sub in this chicken Tinga for the carnitas.
Chicken Tinga is a Mexican shredded chicken in a tomato sauce flavored with chipotle, cumin, oregano, garlic, and onions. It’s sometimes served on a tostada, but it makes the perfect taco filling, or meat for a burrito bowl, or tucked inside a cheesy quesadilla.
Tinga sauce is a tomato chipotle sauce flavored with cumin, oregano, and usually bay leaves. But let’s face it, who can really tell if bay leaves are in there or not? So I’ve taken leave to omit them and make this instant pot version even easier.
- To store – place any leftover shredded chicken Tinga into an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
- Make ahead – this recipe is the perfect make-ahead recipe because it reheats perfectly. Just remember any leftovers won’t keep as long. Once the chicken Tinga is made you can refrigerate it for 3-4 days, or freeze it as directed below.
- Reheating – place the chicken Tinga into a saucepan or skillet and heat covered over medium heat until hot, stirring as needed. Add water only as necessary to prevent the chicken from sticking. Or you can also microwave it to reheat.
- To freeze – place any leftover cooled chicken into an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight before reheating as directed above.
Tips & Tricks
- Save time by adding the cooked chicken Tinga to the mixing bowl of an electric stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment to quickly shred the chicken.
- We usually keep it simple and serve this chicken Tinga over steamed rice with chopped fresh cilantro, tomatoes, and avocado. Shredded lettuce, minced red onion, cheese, and sour cream are also nice to add.
- Go all out and make your own salsa: Pico de Gallo, Mango Salsa, or Caramelized Pineapple Salsa all go perfectly with chicken Tinga. When fresh tomatoes aren’t in season, try my Restaurant Style Salsa which uses canned tomatoes. A batch of my Best Guacamole is also a really tasty pairing.
Dietary Options & Substitutions
- Dairy-free – this recipe is dairy-free as written. But if you want to serve the chicken Tinga as a bowl meal, try my Cilantro Lime Dressing as a drizzle over the top in place of the usual cheese and sour cream. It’s full of bright fresh flavor and lightly creamy making it the perfect dairy-free sauce for any Mexican-inspired bowl.
- Paleo – the chicken Tinga is paleo as is. But to make a bowl, try piling the chicken Tinga over my Roasted Sweet Potatoes and drizzle my Cilantro Lime Dressing over the top along with any of the above-mentioned salsas and diced avocados.
More Mexican Recipe Inspiration
- Instant Pot Carnitas
- Instant Pot Barbacoa
- Instant Pot Salsa Chicken
- Slow Cooker Salsa Beef
- Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken
Final note: I’ve simplified my original recipe by eliminating the bay leaves because you can’t tell the difference. I also reworked it to remove the tomatillos which are sometimes difficult to find.
I really hope you enjoy this Instant Pot Chicken Tinga! If you do get a chance to make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Instant Pot Chicken Tinga
- 1 tbsp avocado oil - olive oil or cooking oil of choice
- 1 small onion - peeled and roughly diced, 8 ounces
- 2 cloves garlic - roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup chicken stock - low sodium, see notes
- 14 ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 tsp chipotle powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt - or to taste
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs - or chicken breasts
Make a bowl:
- steamed rice, roasted sweet potatoes, or tortillas
- chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and avocado - or salsa, see notes
- sour cream & cheese
- Add apple cider vinegar and the rest of the chicken stock to the blender container along with the diced tomatoes, chipotle, cumin, and sea salt to taste. Blend until mostly smooth, then add the oregano and blend just to combine.
- When the chicken has finished cooking, remove the chicken from the sauce. Use the sauté function to reduce the sauce. Then using 2 forks, shred the chicken, or add it to an electric mixer with a paddle attachment.
- Add as much of the reduced sauce to the shredded chicken as desired before serving.
This recipe was originally published in 2019 and has been updated with new photos, and more tips and information.