This Mexican chicken tinga taco recipe with grilled corn, pickled shallots and purple cabbage makes a fantastic soft taco with authentic pollo de tinga and quick pickles of pink shallots and purple or red cabbage. A feast for the eyes as much as the stomach, this meal will brighten up your lunch or casual dinner.
Our easy Mexican chicken tinga taco recipe makes warm soft flour tortillas with delicious (muy delicioso!) Mexican chicken tinga – or tinga de pollo – grilled corn charred on a griddle pan, zingy pickled purple shallots and pickled purple cabbage, sprinkled with crumbly Mexican cotija and aromatic coriander. Douse it all with your favourite Mexican hot sauce and close your eyes and you might just hear mariachis.
We’re punctuating our Cambodian recipe testing with Mexican cooking again here in Siem Reap – and Moroccan, Malay or rather Cape Malay, and dishes from Myanmar. If I would have known we’d still be staying home and cooking our way through Covid some 18 months into the pandemic, I would have suggested to Terence that we work our way through the global cuisines alphabetically. Although if we’re up to ‘M’ now… I don’t even want to think about that.
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Mexican Chicken Tinga Taco Recipe with Grilled Corn, Pickled Shallots and Purple Cabbage
Our Mexican chicken tinga taco recipe with grilled corn, pickled shallots and purple cabbage does not make a traditional chicken tinga combination in Mexico – not in our experience, anyway – but the chicken tinga or tinga de pollo itself is based on an authentic Mexican tinga de pollo recipe.
An authentic Mexican chicken tinga taco recipe would typically call for avocado rather than char-grilled corn. Avocado is always wonderful, especially on tacos. However, chicken tinga, which is essentially comprised of shredded chicken, has a soft texture and avocado is soft, so we felt our’s needed a little crunch, hence corn.
Another difference is that authentic tinga de pollo in Mexico is mostly served on the larger crispy corn tostadas rather than the smaller soft tacos. We’re using soft wheat flour tortillas here to create our tacos, but by all means use crispy tostadas if you can get them or want to make them.
Perhaps this is where I should clarify that if you haven’t been to Mexico, tacos are soft and made from either corn or wheat flour tortillas and tend to be on the smaller size, although you’ll come across larger tacos too. It’s north of the border, in the USA, in a Mexican-American fusion known as Tex-Mex food, where tacos are crunchy and folded.
This combination of chicken tinga, char-grilled corn, pickles, and cotija would actually work nicely in any of those vehicles! If given a choice, we prefer warm soft corn tortillas for our chicken tinga tacos, but we can only get hold of wheat flour tortillas right now. Just a few tips to making our Mexican chicken tinga taco recipe.
Tips to Making this Mexican Chicken Tinga Taco Recipe
Some tips to making this Mexican chicken tinga taco recipe with grilled corn, pickled shallots and purple cabbage. Firstly, do start with making your quick pickles of purple shallots and/or purple cabbage (or red cabbage), as the longer you leave them the better.
These quick pickles don’t take long to prepare. The amount of ingredients we’ve specified will make you enough pickles for this meal with some leftovers for your leftover chicken tingas – which is fantastic with arroz rojo or red rice! – but you could double the amount, as they go so well with so many things.
To make the quick pickles, all you need to is slice the purple shallots and shred the purple cabbage, then place each ingredient in a separate glass jar or container with a lid. Combine the ingredients in a bowl – the juice of the limes, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar – and stir everything well until the sugar has dissolved.
Next you need to divide that pickling liquid between your jars/containers of purple shallots and cabbage, press the vegetables down, and if you don’t have enough liquid (they need to be covered), just top the jars up with vinegar, give them a stir, put the lids on, and refrigerate them until you’re ready to assemble your tacos.
UPDATE: we’ve since published recipes for Mexican pickled onions/ shallots and pickled cabbage. You’ll find the links in the first paragraph of this post.
The Mexican chicken tinga is easy to make, you can’t overdo it, and it makes fantastic leftovers, as I mentioned. We highly recommend tucking into your leftover tinga de pollo with arroz rojo or red rice, and we’ll share a recipe for the rice soon.
As we recommend in the recipe below, while the chicken tinga is cooking, you should grill your corn cob. A griddle pan is easiest and it will give you those lovely charred marks. Husk the corn cob, brush the cob lightly with soft butter or olive oil, season it with a pinch of salt, and place it on the hot dry griddle pan.
Use long tongs to turn your corn cob every couple of minutes, so you get those nice black char marks. It should only take around 8-10 minutes or so. I say in the recipe “done to your liking” as I know a lot of people like to cook corn for longer, but we like our corn firm.
When the corn cob is done, stand it up on a cutting board, holding the top of the corn cob with one hand, and with the other hand, using a sharp knife, slice the kernels off as close to the core of the cob as you possibly can. If you get the knife really close to the core, it will come off in large pieces of corn kernels, which always looks cool.
Lastly, you can warm the soft flour tortillas over the same dry griddle pan that you cooked the corn on. We like the tortillas a little brown, but don’t over-do them as you still want them soft not crunchy.
Divide the chicken tinga and corn between the tacos, then garnish with the quick pickles, Mexican cotija (or another similarly white cheese if you can’t get hold of cotija), and fresh coriander, and serve with dishes of pickles, cotija cheese, lime quarters, coriander, and hot sauces. Enjoy!
Mexican Chicken Tinga Taco Recipe
- 2 medium purple shallots/onion - sliced
- 100 g purple/red cabbage - shredded
- 6 limes - juice only
- 4 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp sugar
- 500 g / 2 chicken breasts
Chicken Tinga Sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 garlic cloves - peeled & crushed
- 1 carrot - small & grated
- 1 tsp dried coriander
- ½ tsp dried cumin
- 100 g chipotles in adobo
- 200 g onion - diced finely
- 400 g tinned tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp chilli powder - optional
- 1 corn cob
- 1 tsp butter or olive oil
- pinch of salt
- 2 to rtillas - large soft flour/corn
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander - cilantro leaves
- 100 g Mexican cotija cheese - or a salty white cheese such as feta
- 1 lime - quartered
- hot sauces or salsas of your choice
- First make your quick pickles of purple shallots and purple/red cabbage as the longer you leave the pickles the better: slice the purple shallots and shred the purple cabbage and place each ingredient in a separate glass jar or container; in a bowl, combine the juice of the limes, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar, stir well until the sugar has dissolved, and divide between the jars of shallots and cabbage; press the vegetables down, and top the jars up with vinegar if needed to ensure they’re covered, then refrigerate.
- To poach the chicken, place in a saucepan or pot with a lid. Add the chicken and cover with room temperature water.
- At this stage you can add aromatics if you want – such as garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns – but as this chicken is going into a spicy sauce we'll just add a little salt.
- Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer. Cover with the lid and check at around 8 minutes. The best way to check for doneness is to use an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. When this measure 74°C, the chicken is done.
- Transfer the poached chicken to a cutting board, allow to cool, then shred into bite-sized pieces.
- In a saucepan add all the tinga sauce ingredients and bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes. Add extra liquid (water or chicken stock) to end up with a reduced sauce.
- While the chicken tinga is cooking, grill the corn cob: husk the corn cob, brush it lightly with a teaspoon of soft butter or olive oil, season with a pinch of salt, and place it on a hot dry griddle pan; use tongs to turn the cob every couple of minutes, so you get nice black char marks, for about 8-10 minutes or so, or until done to your liking. Transfer to a cutting board to cool a little, then stand the corn up, holding the top of the corn with one hand, and with the other use a sharp knife to slice the kernels off the cob.
- Warm the soft flour tortillas over the dry griddle pan, then transfer them to plates and assemble your tacos: divide the chicken tinga and corn between the tacos, and garnish with the pickled purple shallots and purple cabbage, crumbly cotija cheese, and coriander.
- Serve with dishes of pickles, cotija cheese, lime quarters, coriander, and Mexican hot sauces.
Please do let us know in the comments if you make our Mexican chicken tinga taco recipe with grilled corn, pickled shallots and purple cabbage as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.