Chicken Tinga Tostadas is a delicious Mexican-inspired dish featuring tender shredded chicken simmered in a smoky tinga sauce. Cook the chicken either in the instant pot or slow cooker for the ultimate versatility! Served on crispy tostada shells with refried black beans and cheese for a satisfyingly easy weeknight meal!
Why You'll Love this Recipe
- Easy to make. This recipe is so simple to make, great for beginner cooks or busy weeknight meals.
- Versatile: Chicken tinga is a versatile dish that can be served in a variety of ways. It is often served on tostadas, but the tender chicken can also be used to make the most delicious chicken tinga tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and more!
- Choose your cooking method! This Instant Pot or slow cooker chicken tinga recipe is absolutely delicious however you choose to cook it!
- Make this dish in the Instant Pot and you can prepare dinner, from start to finish, in less than an hour. (p.s. speaking of quick, this Instant Pot corn on the cob will be your new favorite way to cook fresh corn!)
- If you have more time, utilize the crock pot to get a head start on dinner. The chicken will slow simmer in the tomato sauce to become fall apart tender!
- Bold flavors: The combination of fire-roasted tomatoes and chipotle chilis in adobo sauce creates a rich and smoky flavor profile.
- Meal Prep: Chicken tinga is a dish that tastes even better the next day. It's great for meal prep or enjoying leftovers for lunch or dinner.
- Chicken: The recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but feel free to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs if you prefer.
- Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes: Fire-roasted tomatoes add a bit more flavor to your sauce.
- Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce: Chipotle peppers impart delicious smoky flavor to this dish. Did you know these spicy peppers are actually jalapeño peppers that have been dried and then smoked? I always have a can of these in my pantry because they add the perfect amount of heat and depth of smoky flavor to many dishes, like this chipotle chicken chili. The unused portion keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks at a time if stored in an airtight container.
- Spices: Cumin and Mexican oregano add authentic flavor to the sauce.
- Optional garnishes: Choose from a variety of garnishes to enhance your meal! Fresh cilantro, freshly squeezed lime juice, diced red or yellow onion, avocado slices, queso quesadilla cheese, cotija cheese, or queso fresco are all great options. Choose one or a few!
* See recipe card below for full list of ingredients and amounts.
How to get the seeds out of a Chipotle pepper: take a pepper out of the can. With a knife, make a slit lengthwise in the pepper and open it up. You'll likely see a bunch of seeds. Use the back of your knife to scrape them out. Then use the remaining flesh of the pepper.
How to Make Chicken Tinga
- Step 1: Toss the sauce ingredients into the blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Reserve about 1 cup of the sauce for serving.
- Step 2: Place the chicken in the Instant Pot or Slow-cooker. Measure the amount of sauce you have remaining and add enough water or chicken broth to equal at least one cup. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
- Instant Pot: Cook 12-15 minutes on high pressure.
- Slow Cooker: Cook on Low 4-5 hours, or on High about 2-3 hours.
- Step 3: Remove the chicken and shred with two forks or using a stand mixer.
- Step 4: Put the chicken back into the sauce and keep warm until ready to serve.
Pro-tip: For either cooking method, always make sure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
How to Serve Chicken Tinga
- Spread one tostada with warmed refried black beans.
- Top with shredded chipotle chicken, reserved tinga sauce, and queso quesadilla cheese.
- Pop them under the broiler on low to warm everything up and melt the cheese.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado, or diced red onion.
Chicken Tinga chan be served in several different ways, all equally delicious!
- Tacos: instead of tostadas, serve the shredded chicken, beans, and cheese inside your favorite soft corn tortillas or hard corn taco shells.
- Quesadillas: sandwich all of your delicious ingredients inside two tortillas and cook in a small sauté pan until golden brown.
- Nachos: make a bed of nacho chips and pile the beans, chicken, and cheese on top. Bake in a hot oven until the cheese is melted.
- Burrito Bowls: Serve the Chicken Tinga fixings over a bowl of Instant Pot steamed white rice. Serve over cauliflower rice for a low carb option.
What to Serve with Chicken Tinga
- Serve Chicken Tinga with cilantro-lime brown rice or Mexican rice.
- A simple side salad dressed with cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
- Restaurant-style chipotle salsa or roasted-chili corn salsa.
- Creamy guacamole would also be delicious.
For more recipe inspiration, check out this roundup of sides for fajitas that would also pair well with this dish.
Chicken Tinga, or Tinga de Pollo, is a dish that originated in Puebla, Mexico. This classic Mexican dish is prepared with shredded chicken in a sauce made from tomatoes, chipotle chilis in adobo, and onions.
Chicken Tinga can have a mild to medium level of spiciness, depending on personal preference and the amount of chipotle peppers used in the recipe. You have control over the level of spiciness by adjusting the quantity of chipotle peppers you include in the sauce. If you prefer a milder version, use fewer chipotle peppers and be sure to remove the seeds and ribs from the peppers.
The tomato-based sauce used to simmer Chicken Tinga bears a resemblance to the vibrant flavors of tomato salsa. Infused with chipotle peppers, the sauce acquires a delightful hint of smokiness and spiciness, adding depth to the dish.
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Chicken Tinga Tostadas: Instant Pot or Slow Cooker
- 15 ounces fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo + 2 teaspoon of the sauce, seeds removed, see notes
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 2 bay leaves
For Tostada Assembly
- 1 package tostada shells
- 15 ounces refried black beans
- 1 cup queso quesadilla cheese, shredded
- Optional garnishes, such torn cilantro leaves, diced red onion, diced avocado, or sour cream
Make the Tinga Sauce
- Place fire roasted diced tomatoes, chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, onion, garlic cloves, cilantro, lime juice, oregano, cumin, and salt into the jar of a blender. Blend until smooth. Reserve 1 cup of sauce for serving.
Instant Pot Method
- Place chicken and bay leaves in the Instant Pot. Add enough water to the remaining tinga sauce to make 1 cup of total liquid. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
- Seal the lid and set the Instant Pot to the poultry setting. Adjust the time to 12-15 minutes depending on the size of the chicken pieces.
- Allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes before venting. Remove the lid.
- Remove the bay leaves. Shred the chicken with two forks and return it to the sauce to keep warm until serving.
- Place chicken and bay leaves in the slow cooker. Add enough water to the remaining tinga sauce to make 1 cup of total liquid. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
- Cover and cook on Low for 4-5 hours or on High for 2-3 hours.
- Remove the bay leaves. Shred the chicken with two forks and return it to the sauce. Cover and set the slow cooker to keep warm until serving.
Assembling the Tostadas
- Microwave the refried beans in a microwave-safe dish for about 1 minute until warmed. Stir.
- Spread refried black beans on each tostada shell. Top with shredded chicken, reserved sauce, and a sprinkle of cheese.
- Serve immediately or melt the cheese by placing the tostadas under a low broiler. Top with cilantro and other desired garnishes.