Shredded Chicken Tacos (Tinga de Pollo)

My brother and sister-in-law gave me a sous vide machine for Christmas. What a fun new world to explore! I started out using it to make the best hard-cooked eggs I’ve ever eaten in my life. I stepped it up a notch to make this incredibly saucy and moist taco filling.

This recipe was adapted from the America’s Test Kitchen book Sous Vide for Everybody: The Easy, Foolproof Cooking Technique That’s Sweeping the World. I substituted feta for the Cotija cheese and served the tacos in corn-wheat tortillas. Amazing.

Yield: Serves 6

Sous Vide Time: 3 to 5 hours at 180F/82C

For the Chicken:

  • 2 pounds (900 g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed (I used 2.5# pounds- about 10 thighs)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T (28 g) vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1 onion (140 g), halved and sliced thin (I used a sweet onion)
  • 2 T (32 g) minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp (2 g) garlic powder
  • 1 tsp (2.5 g) ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp (1 g) ground cinnamon
  • 1 14.5 oz (410 g) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 tsp (2 g) brown sugar
  • 1 tsp (3 g) grated lime zest (I used the zest of 1 lime)
  • 2 T (30 g) freshly squeezed lime juice

For the Tacos:

  • 12-18 (6-inch) corn or corn-wheat tortillas, warmed
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 oz (57 g) Cojita or feta cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
  • 6 scallions (90 g), minced
  • minced fresh cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • rice and refried beans, for serving, optional

To Make the Chicken:

  1. Using sous vide circulator, bring water to 180F/82C in 7 to 12-quart container. (I filled my 12-quart container with 9 quarts of water.) I prepared the filling while the water was heating.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 1 T (14 g) oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.
  4. Brown half of chicken, 3 to 4 minutes per side; transfer to plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.
  5. Heat remaining 1 T (14 g) oil in now-empty skillet until shimmering.
  6. Add onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.
  7. Stir in chipotle, garlic powder, cumin, and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  8. Stir in tomatoes and sugar, scraping up any browned bits.
  9. Transfer mixture to blender and process until smooth, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down sides of blender jar as needed. (I used a Vitamix.)
  10. Place chicken and any accumulated juices and sauce in 1-gallon ziplock freezer bag and toss to coat.
  11. Seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible.
  12. Place bag into second 1-gallon ziplock freezer bag and seal.
  13. Gently lower bag into prepared water bath until chicken is fully submerged, and then clip the top corner to the side of water bath container, allowing remaining air bubbles to rise to top of bag. (I used a binder clip.)
  14. Reopen 1 corner of the zipper, release remaining air bubbles, and reseal bag.
  15. Cover and cook for at least 3 hours or up to 5 hours. (I cooked mine for 5 hours.)
  16. Transfer chicken and sauce to large bowl, let cool slightly, and then shred chicken into bite-size pieces using 2 forks.
  17. Stir in lime zest and juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To Assemble the Tacos:

  1. Spoon chicken into center of each tortilla. Serve with avocado, cheese, scallions, cilantro, and lime wedges.
  2. Serve with rice and refried beans, as desired.

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