This post was updated on January 23, 2020 with new images and descriptions!
Let me blow your mind: You do not need cheese to make good Tex-Mex. These Chipotle Chicken Tacos don’t have cheese and don’t need it!
I know that sounds kind of crazy, but some of the best tacos are cheese-less tacos. If done right, all you need is a flavorful, spicy filling with some light toppings and you’ll have some of the best tacos out there.
Even though I’ve made a bunch of different tacos on Macheesmo, I’ve never made chipotle tacos which is shocking considering which is shocking considering how much I love canned chipotle peppers. I chose to pair the chipotle with chicken because chicken can be a bit bland on its own unlike say, beef tongue, which makes some of the best tacos around.
Turns out that if you simmer anything in a chipotle sauce, it gets pretty darn flavorful!
Cooking the Chicken Taco Filling
I decided to simmer the chicken in some shallow water with a bunch of aromatics which would hopefully give it some extra flavor and also keep it tender so it shreds easily.
Very roughly chop all the ingredients for the chicken and toss them in a large high-walled skillet or just a pot.
You can use chicken thighs or chicken breasts for this recipe. I prefer chicken thighs though.
Add enough water to just barely cover the chicken and bring it all to a simmer.
Let this simmer, covered, for about 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked.
Making the Chipotle Sauce
While your chicken is cooking, you can get your sauce started. The sauce is pretty flexible, but the one thing that’s definitely not optional is the chipotle peppers.
If you haven’t cooked with these guys before, you can find them in the latin section of your grocery store. They come in a can and they pack a punch.
I used four full peppers with seeds in my sauce and Betsy said it was too spicy. I thought it was really good though. You might start with two or three and work up if it isn’t spicy enough for you.
Basically, just add all your sauce ingredients to a blender and give it a whirl!
Finishing the Chipotle Chicken Filling
Shred your chicken once it has cooled slightly, pour the sauce into a large skillet (yes you can use the same one you used for the chicken). Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it start to reduce down a bit.
When your chicken is shredded, add it to the sauce and continue to cook it until the sauce is nice and thick and sticking to the chicken.
Toppings for Chipotle Chicken Tacos
Some people think that a taco isn’t a taco without toppings like cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc. You could do that with this taco, but I went with some slightly more subtle flavors that are also a bit more traditional.
These toppings give the tacos some acidity that’s definitely needed. They really brighten up the flavors nicely.
I normally just prepare a big plate of radish, cilantro, lime, and thinly sliced red onion and people can kind of help themselves to toppings of their choice.
What to Do with Chicken Water?
The only other thing I’ll mention about this meal is that the stock that you end up with from cooking the chicken is basically a very light chicken stock. After pulling your chicken out of it, strain out the veggies and you can store it for later use in soups or for risotto!
How to Make These Tacos Kid-Friendly
I didn’t want to make an entirely different taco recipe for my children so I just scooped out a few portions of the chicken and patted them dry on some paper towels. The paper towels removed 80% of the chipotle sauce and my kids were able to happily eat the tacos!
This is a great traditional taco preparation that doesn’t require the time or effort of some of the other tacos I’ve made and the flavors are really solid. Give it a shot if you want to experiment with some fun tacos and flavors!
Chipotle Chicken Tacos
- 1 blender
- 3 pounds chicken thighs or breasts, or some of both
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 stalks celery
- ½ onion
- Small handful of peppercorns
- 2 dried chile peppers
- Handful of cilantro
- 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
- ½ Cup stock from cooking chicken or water
- 2-4 whole chipotle peppers, with seeds
- 2 Tablespoons Adobo sauce, from Chipotles
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano
- 1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¼ Cup cilantro
- 1 lime, juice only
- Small Flour Tortillas
- Radishes, diced
- Red onion, sliced
- Add chicken ingredients to a large skillet with high walls or just a pot. Add enough water to just cover the chicken and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked, about 20-30 minutes.
- Remove chicken and let cool for a few minutes. Strain stock and save for later! Once chicken is cool enough to handle, remove skin and excess fat and shred.
- For sauce, combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until combined.
- Add sauce to a large skillet and bring to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.
- Add chicken to sauce and continue to simmer until sauce is really thick and sticking to chicken well.
- Serve tacos with a variety of toppings including red onion, radishes, limes, and cilantro.