With Summer upon us I’ve been craving the festive flavor of tacos, and I’m not talking about the kind that comes in a kit like Mom used to make on Tuesdays. I’ve been thinking of something more flavorful and authentic with tons of fabulous flavor!
After experimenting with a few different recipes, I came up with this one for Chipotle Chicken Tinga Tacos. The term “tinga” refers to a Mexican dish with shredded beef or chicken in a smoky sauce. In this recipe, the smokiness is imparted by chipotle peppers in adobo although tomatoes are also sometimes used. Chipotles are smoked jalapeño peppers which are usually sold in a can immersed in a delicious sauce or “adobo” comprised of paprika, oregano, salt, vinegar to preserve and enhance the flavor.
During my taco bootcamp, I discovered a few things that, for me, are essential for the perfect taco: (1) limes – their citrusy deliciousness provides the perfect flavor and balance for the spicy chicken that lemons just can’t; (2) sour cream – if you like it spicy (and boy, do we!) you’ll need a little something to take the edge off while also providing amazing texture; (3) cilantro – this herb is the embodiment of Summer whether it’s used in salsa, guacamole or to garnish tacos; (4) warmed corn tortillas – warm store bought tortillas over the gas flame on your stove and get a little char on the edges for maximum flavor.
These Chipotle Chicken Tinga Tacos can be prepared in just under an hour and are worth every ounce and minute of effort – I promise! Feel free to experiment with whichever garnishes you find most delicious – we’d love to hear about it in the comment section below. As for what to drink with them? A cold glass of your favorite beer would be perfect or, if you’re feeling the Mexican vibe, opt for our delicious Watermelon Jalapeño Margarita with Smoked Salt.
“Chipotle Chicken Tinga Tacos”
2.5-3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 of a 7-ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
3 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (NOT white wine vinegar)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 ripe avocados, diced
1/2 head of Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
4-5 fresh limes, cut in to wedges
1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
Fresh, warm corn tortillas
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange chicken thighs in a single layer on a baking sheet and season with Kosher salt and pepper. Cook chicken until almost done but still a little pink inside, approximately 20-25 minutes. Remove chicken from oven and, when cool enough to handle, shred the meat using 2 forks.
2.) In the meantime, cut the onion in half and then slice it thinly into 1/4-inch thick half rounds. Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium sized pan over medium heat. Saute the sliced onion until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add a pinch of Kosher salt to the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook the onions, stirring occasionally, for approximately 20-25 minutes, until they become golden brown but not burned.
3.) For the sauce, add the caramelized onions, chipotles with adobo sauce, garlic, vinegar, and a pinch of Kosher salt and pepper to a blender and process until smooth.
4.) Heat the canola oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Before the skillet gets too hot, add the sauce to the pan and cook until it darkens to a rusty brown and thickens slightly, 3-4 minutes. Add the shredded chicken thighs to the pan, stir to coat with the sauce and cook until no longer pink at all, 5 minutes. Season to taste with Kosher salt and pepper.
5.) Serve the shredded chipotle chicken with warmed tortillas and other accoutrements including cilantro, lime wedges, avocado, sour cream, and shredded cabbage.