These Chipotle Chicken Tacos are made with braised chicken thighs and chipotle peppers for a spicy, smoky, and tender chicken taco that is jam-packed with flavor. Made entirely in one skillet, this easy chipotle chicken taco recipe is perfect for your next taco night. Serve on warm tortillas with your favorite taco toppings.
I love going all out on taco night. Homemade tortillas, fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, and plenty of lime margaritas to go around.
And these shredded chipotle chicken tacos are hands down my favorite taco night recipe. They're easy to make, super flavorful, and pair well with all of your favorite taco toppings.
Inspired by a dish known as chicken tinga, these chicken chipotle tacos feature shredded chicken thighs cooked to tender, juicy perfection in a chipotle-flavored braising liquid. And the best part? They're made entirely in one pan for quick and easy cleanup!
So, if you're looking for a new taco recipe to enjoy this summer, give this chipotle chicken taco recipe a try!
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Why You'll Love This Recipe
- One-Pan- The chicken is seared and braised all in one skillet for quick and easy cleanup after dinner.
- Flavorful- Smoky, spicy, and delicious, these shredded chicken tacos with chipotle sauce really pack a punch in the flavor department.
- Customizable- Chipotle chicken pairs well with an endless variety of taco toppings.
- Perfect for Taco Night- This recipe can easily be scaled up for a crowd.
Here are some notes on the key ingredients. For the full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Chicken Thighs- I prefer chicken thighs over chicken breasts because they have a little more flavor and stay moist longer.
- Chipotle Peppers- Canned chipotle chiles are smoked jalapeños that are typically found packed into a can with adobo sauce. Use 1 to 2 whole chipotle peppers, depending on your heat tolerance.
- Tortillas- I always use homemade sourdough discard tortillas with any taco recipe I make at home. Keeping a batch stored in my freezer makes dinner prep even easier!
- Onion- Thinly slice the onion into strips so it blends in well with the shredded chicken.
- Garlic- One clove of finely minced garlic rounds out the flavor of the braising liquid.
- Ketchup- Balances the heat of the chipotle peppers with a little sweetness.
- Chicken Stock- Used as a flavorful braising liquid.
- Olive Oil- Opt for light olive oil instead of extra virgin olive oil. Light olive oil has a higher smoke point, which is helpful when searing chicken.
- Seasonings- A simple blend of smoked paprika, salt, and pepper pairs well with the flavor of chipotle peppers.
🌱 Sustainability Tip: Bone-in chicken thighs are usually less expensive than boneless chicken thighs and are easy to debone yourself. Then, you can use the bone to make homemade chicken stock.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways you can try customizing this chipotle chicken taco recipe to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- Chicken Thighs- I've also made this recipe with chicken breasts and it works well.
- Chipotle Peppers- Swap chipotle peppers for diced bell pepper for a mild version of this dish.
- Tortillas- Use flour tortillas, corn tortillas, low-carb tortillas, or serve the shredded chipotle chicken over rice instead.
- Onion- Replace the fresh onion with ½ to 1 tablespoon of onion powder.
- Garlic- Swap one clove of garlic for ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Ketchup- Substitute ketchup for adobo sauce or tomato paste.
- Chicken Stock- Use chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water in place of the chicken stock.
- Olive Oil- Any high-heat, neutral-flavored oil can be used in this recipe. Try avocado oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil.
- Seasonings- Chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and other Mexican spices can be added to or swapped for the smoked paprika.
- Gluten-Free- Look for a brand of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce that is labeled gluten-free. Some brands use flour in their sauce so, check each label carefully.
- Beer-Braised- Swap the chicken stock for your favorite beer to make beer-braised chipotle chicken tacos. I've done this in the past and it's delicious!
- Honey- Add a tablespoon of honey to the braising liquid to make honey chipotle chicken tacos.
- Extra Spicy- For an extra kick, swap the ketchup for some of the adobo sauce the chipotle peppers were packed in.
- Mild- Only use one chipotle pepper or leave them out entirely and use diced bell pepper instead.
Here are some notes on any special equipment I used to make this recipe.
- Deep Skillet with Lid- I use my enameled Dutch oven or a deep cast iron skillet to make these chipotle chicken tacos. A deep stainless steel skillet works as well. Just make sure the skillet you're using has a lid.
Step by Step Instructions
Here is how to make these one-skillet chipotle chicken tacos.
Step 1: Season and sear the chicken. Heat oil in a large, deep cast iron skillet or stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika and add them to the hot skillet. Sear the chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken thighs to a plate.
Step 2: Sauté the onions. Add the onions to the skillet and cook until softened and beginning to brown. Then, stir in the garlic, chipotle peppers, and ketchup and sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes.
Step 3: Braise the chicken. Pour in the chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any fond that built up. Add the chicken and its juices back to the skillet. Spread the chicken thighs out evenly in the skillet and cover it with a lid. Braise for 45-60 minutes or until the chicken is very tender.
Step 4: Shred the chicken. Remove the chicken to a plate and shred it with two forks. Add the shredded chicken back to the skillet and continue simmering until most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve on tortillas with guacamole, salsa, cheese, and any other toppings you like!
Tips for Success
- Use a pot with a lid. Make sure the skillet or pot you're using has a tight-fitting lid. The lid traps in steam, which is essential for braising.
- Sear the chicken well. Getting a good sear on the chicken thighs helps build flavor in the dish.
- Don't stress if your chicken sticks. Chicken thighs are stickier than chicken breasts. Don't worry if a few pieces are left clinging to the skillet after searing. They'll unstick when you add the chicken stock.
- Warm the tortillas. Warm tortillas in the microwave or in a skillet before serving.
What to Serve With Chipotle Chicken Tacos
I always serve these easy chipotle chicken tacos on my Homemade Sourdough Discard Tortillas with Guacamole, Cucumber Pico de Gallo, and Cilantro Lime Garlic Sauce. Shredded lettuce, pineapple salsa, cabbage slaw, shredded cheese, and sour cream also make delicious taco toppings.
Storage and Reheating
How to Store
- Refrigerator- Store leftover shredded chipotle chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freezer- According to the USDA, cooked chicken can be stored in the freezer for up to 4 months for best quality.
How to Reheat
If frozen, allow the shredded chicken to thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
- Stovetop- Add a few tablespoons of water or chicken stock to a small saucepan or skillet and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Add the shredded chicken and heat, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until warmed through.
- Oven- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the chicken out into a thin layer on a rimmed baking sheet or in a casserole dish. Drizzle with a small amount of water and cover with aluminum. Heat the chicken for 5-7 minutes or until fully warmed through.
- Microwave- Add the chicken to a microwave-safe bowl along with a small amount of water. Cover the dish with a damp paper towel and microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds or until hot.
The filling for these shredded chipotle chicken tacos can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Then, reheat the chicken in a skillet with a splash of chicken stock before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
These shredded chipotle chicken tacos are made with tender chicken thighs, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, onion, garlic, and chicken stock for the best chipotle chicken tacos ever.
Chicken thighs are the best chicken for shredding. They contain more fat and connective tissue than chicken breasts, which helps them retain moisture and shred very easily when braised.
Chipotle chicken tacos pair well with an endless variety of toppings. My favorites include guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and cabbage slaw.
I haven't tried making this recipe in a slow cooker or instant pot, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work. I recommend searing the chicken before adding it to the slow cooker for more flavor.
More Taco Recipes
Chipotle Chicken Tacos
- 2 tablespoons light olive oil
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- ½ tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ large white onion thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce minced
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 8 small flour tortillas for serving
- Heat oil in a large, deep cast iron skillet or stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika and add them to the hot skillet. Sear the chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken thighs to a plate.2 tablespoons light olive oil, 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, ½ tablespoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Add the onions to the skillet and cook until softened and beginning to brown. Then, stir in the garlic, chipotle peppers, and ketchup and sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes.½ large white onion, 1 clove garlic, 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, 1 tablespoon ketchup
- Pour in the chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any fond that built up. Add the chicken and its juices back to the skillet. Spread the chicken thighs out evenly in the skillet and cover it with a lid. Braise for 45-60 minutes or until the chicken is very tender.1 cup chicken stock
- Remove the chicken to a plate and shred it with two forks. Add the shredded chicken back to the skillet and continue simmering until most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve on flour tortillas with guacamole, salsa, cheese, and any other toppings you like!8 small flour tortillas
- Quick Tip: Make sure the skillet or pot you're using has a tight-fitting lid. The lid traps in steam, which is essential for braising.
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator or up to 4 months.