Instant Pot Chicken Tinga Bowls
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Easy Instant Pot Chicken Tinga Bowls loaded with all your favorite toppings! These chicken tinga bowls are quick and easy to meal prep and taste amazing over cilantro lime rice, quinoa, or caulirice!
Homemade grain bowls are a go-to around here. And these Chicken Tinga bowls just made it to the top of the list!
One night a week, I’ll make us bowls. You know, where you make the protein, grab the rice or quinoa from the fridge, and top it with things like sliced carrots, cucumbers, or quick-pickled onions and call it a meal. Before these Chicken Tinga bowls, we had salmon sushi bowls weekly. Bowls like these are a sensation for your mouth and eyes. Color, texture, and tons of sweet, spicy, creamy, and pickled elements come together in harmony. But hold the phone – I haven’t told you the best part!
To make these Chicken Tinga bowls, all you have to do is blend a bunch of ingredients in the blender, toss it over the chicken, and let the pressure cooker cook it for you! It’s about 10 minutes of hands-on time (and you can certainly make a double batch and store a stash for later.)
I say, what’s not to love here?
What is Chicken Tinga?
Chicken Tinga is a shredded chicken dish made with tomatoes, seasonings, and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. The recipe is said to have originated in Puebla, Mexico.
What do you need to make Chicken Tinga in the instant pot?
- Chicken: You can use both boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs for this recipe. Either will do. Once we pressure cook the chicken, we’ll shred it and add it back to the pot to allow it to soak up all that Tinga sauce!
- Chipotle Peppers: these are available in the canned foods aisle in most grocery stores. They’re packed in adobo sauce. You’ll need 1-3 peppers depending on how spicy you like your food. You’ll also need adobo sauce (the peppers come packed in it.)
- Garlic: We’re using a generous amount of garlic in this recipe as it’ll mellow out quite a bit as the chicken cooks. Feel free to use less if you aren’t a fan.
- Onions: You’ll need a ½ cup of chopped yellow onions. You don’t have to chop the onions too precisely for this recipe; we’ll blend them with all the ingredients listed here (other than the chicken!)
- Tomatoes: You can use canned or fresh tomatoes for this recipe. I usually use canned tomatoes unless tomatoes are in season.
- Herbs + Spices: You’ll need a handful of spices from the spice cabinet. You’ll need smoked paprika, dried oregano, ground cumin, and chili powder (mild or hot according to preference.)
- Vinegar: I used a splash of apple cider vinegar for this recipe. If you don’t have any on hand, use red wine vinegar in place.
- Chicken Stock: the stock is added to help blend the other ingredients and have enough liquid in the instant pot to build pressure and cook the chicken.
What can you use for topping son your Chicken Tinga bowls?
- Base: You’ll need steamed broccoli rice, cauli-rice, brown or white rice, or quinoa to start. We’ll toss this with lime and cilantro to make cilantro lime rice/quinoa/cauliflower rice.
- Pickled onions
- Sliced tomatoes: I like to use cherry or grape tomatoes, but Roma tomatoes or beefsteak tomatoes cut into cubes would work too.
- Avocados: I use them sliced up, but you can certainly smash them with a hint of lime juice and a dash of garlic powder too if you’d like!
- Black Beans: I use cooked, canned beans that are drained and rinsed. Refried black beans or my Cuban-inspired black beans would also work here.
- Charred corn: you can grill the corn on a grill or a gas stove. You can also purchase charred or grilled corn from the freezer section of select grocery stores and defrost it before adding it to your bowl.
- Minced jalapeños: You can spice this up with fresh serrano peppers or minced jalapenos or pickled jalapenos if you’d like. We left these out as there was plenty of spice in the Chicken Tinga.
- And pretty much whatever else you like!
How to make the best homemade Chicken Tinga bowls:
- Make the sauce. Add chipotle peppers, garlic, onions, tomatoes, seasonings, vinegar, and chicken stock into a blender and blend them until smooth.
- Sear the chicken. Then, add the oil to the instant pot on the saute setting and let it get nice and hot. While it’s heating up, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Then, sear the chicken breasts in the instant pot for about a minute on each side. The point is to create extra flavor before pressure cooking. This isn’t mandatory; you can add the sauce right to the chicken and let it pressure cook as well to save time if you’re in a rush. Then, pour the sauce on top of the chicken, seal the lid, and pressure cook until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken breasts; use two forks or these handy dandy claws to shred the chicken. Add the shredded chicken back to the instant pot and let it soak up that sauce for at least 5 minutes before plating.
- Make Chicken Tinga Bowls. While the chicken is soaking up the sauce, toss the cooked rice with lime juice and cilantro. Then, plate the bowls with rice, shredded Chicken Tinga, avocado slices, pickled onions, and anything else you’d like!
FAQs about Chicken Tinga:
- Can you use the meat in tacos? Yes, of course! You can certainly use the chicken tinga meat in tacos, burritos, on a tostada, in Crunchwraps, and anything that you like!
- Do I have to use all the toppings you listed? Nope! You can use all, some, or even a couple of the ingredients for the bowls. It’s whatever you like!
- Can I use chipotle pepper paste instead of whole peppers? Lately, I’ve seen these in stores (which makes life soo much easier than storing 90% of the can in the freezer after using them.) You can certainly use the pepper paste here. I’ve used 2 tablespoons (in place of the peppers and adobo sauce,) and for us, it was just a little spicier than what we can handle. Start with 1 or 1 ½ tablespoons if you aren’t a huge fan of spicy food!
- Can I make Chicken Tinga in the slow cooker? I’m confident that you can, but I haven’t tried it myself. YOu’ll want to sear the chicken and make the sauce the same way. Then, pour the sauce over the chicken and allow it to cool on the low setting for 4-6 hours or until the chicken breasts/thighs cook through to 165ºF when checked with a meat thermometer.
- Can I freeze this for later? Yes, you can! You can certainly make a double batch or freeze half of this for later if you don’t think you’ll be able to use it up in a couple of days. Easy to defrost and make bowls at a later date!
If you like this recipe, you might also like these bowls:
- Instant pot Korean beef bowls
- Salmon Sushi Bowls
- Beef Shawarma Bowls with Persian Rice
- Crispy Chicken Banh Mi Bowls
- Cuban Mojo Chicken Quinoa Bowls with Mango Salsa
- Weeknight Chana Masala Rice Bowls
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
- 1-3 canned chipotle peppers + 1-2 tablespoon adobo sauce
- 8 cloves garlic
- ½ cup yellow onions, chopped
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned works too)
- ½ teaspoon EACH: smoke paprika, dried Mexican oregano, ground cumin AND chili powder (Mexican)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cups cooked rice
- 1-2 tablespoon lime juice (1 tbsp if it’s caulirice)
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- For serving: Pickled red onions, sliced tomatoes, sliced avocados, black beans, charred corn, etc.
- BLEND: Add the chipotle peppers + adobo sauce, garlic, onions, tomatoes, seasonings, apple cider vinegar, chicken stock, and a small pinch of salt to a blender and blend until smooth.
- INSTANT POT: Heat the oil in the instant pot on the sauté setting until screaming hot. Season the chicken breasts with 1 ¼ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Add the chicken (in a single layer) and sear for roughly 1 minute on each side. Then, pour in the prepared tinga sauce and add the bay leaf. Cover the instant pot and let pressure cook on high for 15-18 minutes (larger chicken breasts will require additional time.) Allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes.
- FINISH: Remove the lid and shred the chicken using two forks. Make sure the instant pot is on the ‘keep warm’ setting so that the chicken stays warm as it soaks in the sauce. Remove the bay leaf, and add the chicken back to the instant pot. Let it soak up the sauce for a few minutes. Add the chopped cilantro and lime juice to the warm rice and toss to combine. Taste and adjust with additional lime juice if desired. Add rice to bowls, top with prepared Chicken Tinga, and top with pickled red onions, sliced tomatoes, avocados, charred corn, black beans, and serve with additional lime wedges!
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