Chicken Tinga Tacos

Chicken Tinga Tacos

There’s never a bad time for tacos, or for grilling. Cooking these classic Mexican street food tacos – literally one of the first recipes I ever learned, via Rick Bayless’s classic book Authentic Mexican – combines the need for winter grilling with a simmered (and stew-like) stovetop sauce that keeps you out of the fucking awful weather for most of the recipe’s running time. That’s enough to keep it a solid February staple. Come summertime, it’s not a bad idea to make the tinga on a side burner (if you have one) and brush the thighs with it while cooking. The chicken thighs, not the ones on your shameful, shameful body.

One word of advice: Chipotles and adobo lend the smoky spice that you think of when you hear the word “tinga.” I find the level of spice incredibly pleasing. But that heat can creep up on people who don’t like spicy food rather quickly. For those people, consider a big reduction in ingredient – maybe a teaspoon of adobo and quarter of a seeded chipotle.

Second note: Why canned tomatoes? It’s winter, and even after fire roasting, grocery store tomatoes are going to suck. If you’re reading this in summer, then adjust for your favorite home-grown farmer’s market tomatoes by brushing them with oil and grilling them for a couple of minutes.

The Setup

2 lb chicken thighs
Olive oil, to brush
2 tbsp Kosher salt
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
1 large russet potato, skin-on
1 1/2 tbsp bacon fat or cooking oil
1/2 lb Mexican-style chorizo, casing removed
1 white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz canned fire-roasted tomatoes
2 chipotle chiles, sliced
1 tbsp adobo sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp demera sugar
Kosher salt, to taste
1 red onion, halved and sliced
1/2 cup lager beer
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 jalapenos, sliced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
5 tbsp Kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
Crumbled farmer’s cheese, to serve
Tortillas, to serve


1. Mix the salt, thyme, oregano, and black pepper.

2. Lightly score the chicken thighs. Brush with oil and season with the spice mixture. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop that unpeeled, unadorned potato in there like an Irish portager. Let it cook for 8-10 minutes, until it’s slightly tender, but not gnocchi or mashed potato-level tender. Drain it and let it cool, then dice it into 1/2″ squares.

4. Heat the bacon fat in a large skillet over medium heat and add the chorizo. Break it up and let it render and cook through for about 10 minutes. Remove the chorizo, but leave the fat.

5. Add the onion and cook until soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook another minute.

6. Add the beer, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any stuck-on bits, then the tomatoes and the chorizo. Cook 5 minutes.

7. Add the potatoes, chipotles, and adobo seasoning, along with the chicken stock. Simmer for 10 minutes while you pickle the vegetables.

8. Pack the red onion, carrots, and jalapenos into a canning jar or heatproof bowl. Heat the vinegar, salt and sugar in a saucepan with a cup of hot water until it boils and the salt and sugar dissolve. Do you have one of those old-ass apartments where the water turned all the way to hot will burn the shit out of you? Perfect for this use.

9. Pour the pickling liquid over the mixed vegetables and seal the jar or cover with a pan or plate. Set aside.

10. Heat your grill to medium-high. Clean and oil the grate. Grill the chicken thighs for 12-14 minutes, turning frequently, until they reach 165. Turning them frequently will help the thighs cook more evenly in spite of their fucked-up shape.

11. Remove and rest for 5 minutes while you add the vinegar and sugar to the tinga, taste for seasoning, and remove from the heat. Warm up your tortillas and chop up the chicken as lovingly as you can with a mean-ass cleaver. Serve the sauce over the chicken on tortillas, topped with pickled vegetables and the cheese.