Tinga de Pollo y Papas

Most of what we in the United States think of as Mexican food is derived from the post-conquest cuisines of the border states of Chihuahua and Sonora. The Spanish influence is seen in the heavy use of cheese and meat which were virtually unknown in pre-Columbia Mesoamerica.  Farther south in Puebla and Oaxaca the food retains more of its traditional character. Chef and cookbook author Rick Bayless champions this distinctly more interesting cuisine. This recipe, which I adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen (New York: Scribner, 1996), pp 322-323, is an example from Puebla. Traditionally, tinga does not contain potatoes but Bayless’s use of them gives the dish an interesting texture and flavor. And, after all, potatoes are in the same botanical family and originated in the same area of South America as do tomatoes. In Mexico City, tinga is served on crispy tostadas topped with queso fresco and a slice of avocado. I usually present it with a plate of warm corn tortillas, shredded sharp cheddar, and avocado if I have some.


Garlic, unpeeled

3 or more cloves

Canned chipotles en adobo

2 or more to taste

Tomatoes, diced or whole

1 14-ounce can

Chicken fat, oil, lard, or combination

30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons) divided use

Chicken thighs, skinless*


Boiling potatoes

3 or 4 medium, about 250 grams (½ pound)

Onion, yellow or white

1 medium, about 125 grams (¼ pound)

Dried oregano, preferably Mexican

1 teaspoon


To taste

Tortillas, corn or flour, to serve

3 or 4 per person

Avocado slices and cheese, to garnish

To taste

* bone-in are best.


Put the garlic cloves, unpeeled, in a small dry skillet over medium heat, turning from time to time, until they have softened. When cool enough to handle, remove the peels and put into a food processor or blender along with the chipotles and tomatoes with their juice. Process to a smooth puree.

Warm 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) of the fat in a heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. When nearly smoking, pour in the puree and cook, stirring often, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Lower the heat to medium-low and submerge the chicken thighs in the sauce. Cover and simmer until the meat is done, about 25 minutes. Remove the thighs to a plate, leaving as much sauce as possible behind. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones in large shreds.

Using the coarse grating disk of the food processor or a hand grater, shred the potatoes. Roll them into a kitchen towel and squeeze out as water as possible. Thinly slice the onion. Add the remaining fat to a large non-stick skillet (I use a 12” one) over medium heat. Cook the potatoes and onions, tossing or stirring regularly, until well browned. Pour in the sauce, sprinkle on the oregano, and fold in the chicken. Heat through and season to taste with salt.

Turn the finished tinga into a warmed serving bowl. Present with warmed tortillas and garnishes.


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