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chicken tinga for Tram

Tram’s birthday was three weeks ago and we had not yet had time to get together and celebrate. Not until this past Saturday, after the twins were down for the night and Steve was at a Diamondbacks game.

Tram and fam

She had texted me the night before to see if Saturday would work and if it was OK if we stayed in and had take-out. The staying-in part was perfect but the take-out … not so much.

chicken tinga

I decided to make my slow cooker version of Chicken Tinga. Chicken breasts and slow cookers aren’t something that always goes together. We are so accustomed to cooking with boneless skinless chicken breasts that we sometimes forget how wonderful bone-in and skin-on chicken can be. For this recipe, the bones and the skin are a must – don’t worry – they are both removed and discarded before being served.

The bones and the skin keep the white meat from turning to shoe rubber and being dry and tasteless. They are essential for this long and slow cooking process.

tiny bones

The most important part of this recipe is to take extra time and precautions to find any and all bones and bone fragments that may be left on the meat or in the sauce. See those tiny bones and bone bits on the bottom edge of the plate in the photo above? That’s what I’m talking about. Since the chicken cooks a long time, the bones get very brittle and break easily, so follow the recipe on how and when to search them out and discard them. How terrible it would be if someone choked or cracked a tooth!

drain tomatoes

Also, be sure to drain the canned tomatoes well. Plenty of juices are given off by the meat and the vegetables during the cooking process. The liquid that remains already needs to be reduced, so having all that extra tomato liquid will make the process take twice as long. Plus I’ll be posting a fabulous recipe later this week where you can put the tomato juice to good use, so save it. Or freeze it and add it to your next batch of soup or pitcher of Bloody Marys.

tinga veggies

Chicken Tinga

  • 6 bone-in and skin-on chicken breast halves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large white onions, divided
  • 2 red bell peppers, divided
  • 1 bunch green onions, divided
  • 4 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 large jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed and minced
  • 6 chipotle chilies in adobo, chopped
  • Two 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes, (regular or fire-roasted) well-drained


  • Reserved diced onion, bell pepper, and green onion
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sliced radishes
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Crumbled queso fresco
  • Salsa
  • Diced avocado
  • Warmed corn and flour tortillas and/or crunchy taco shells

Use paper towels to pat dry the chicken breasts, then season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.

melt butter in evoo

Melt the butter in the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the chicken, in two batches, until well browned on each side (about 5 minutes per side).

brown chicken

Transfer chicken to slow cooker.

hold back

While the chicken is browning, prepare the vegetables. Peel and roughly chop all but 1/3 of one of the onions. Core and seed the bell peppers, and roughly chop all but about 1/3 of one of the peppers. Slice all but 2 of the green onions.


Finely dice the remaining 2 green onions and the pieces of onion and red bell, they will be used for garnish.

lovely fond

Once all the chicken is transferred to the slow cooker, add the roughly chopped onion, bell pepper, and green onion to the skillet, along with the tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeño. Sauté vegetables over medium heat, scraping up the browned bits (the fond) in the bottom of the skillet.

saute veggies

Sauté for about 8 minutes or until the onion if soft and translucent.

clean skillet

Transfer sautéed vegetables along with the drained tomatoes, chopped chipotle, and oregano to the slow cooker. (Look how clean that skillet is! All the fond goodness is in the slow cooker now.)

Set slow cooker to HIGH and cook for 30 minutes. Turn the slow cooker to LOW and cook for another 5 hours.

lift out chicken

Carefully lift out the chicken, it will be falling apart. Do your best to keep the pieces together to prevent the bones from falling back into the pot.

remove skin and bones

Let cool until able to handle, then remove the skin and bones from the breasts. Shred with your hands, taking your time to find any and all of the small bones that may have broken away.

Strain the liquid in the slow cooker and let the solids in the strainer cool until able to handle. Use your finger and press and pinch on the solids to find any small bones that may be left behind.

all garnishes

Return the liquid, the solids from the strainer, and the shredded chicken to the slow cooker and cook on LOW for another 20 minutes while you set out the garnishes and tortillas for a “Make Your Own” taco or burrito bar.

remove lquid

Before serving, use a ladle to push down into the slow cooker and lift out the extra juices, you should have between 1 ½ to 2 cups. Transfer to a saucepan or even that same skillet, if you haven’t washed it, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce by half and then return the thickened liquid to the slow cooker and give it all a good stir.

taco fixings

Set up your Taco Bar and enjoy.

tram plate

Serves 8 to 10

Linda plate

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1 comment

1 Tram Mai { 04.11.16 at 9:32 AM }

THIS WAS SOOOOOO DELICIOUS!!!! I can’t wait to make this!! What a GREAT birthday dinner- homemade with lots of love!!! Thanks so much Linda!!! xoxo

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