Chipotle Chicken Tacos are an easy weeknight meal ready in just about 30 minutes! Spicy and a bit sweet, chicken thighs are cooked in a sauce made with chipotle peppers, onion and lime. And, with a creamy chipotle lime sauce for the final touch!
Note: this post was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2021 with improved instructions and new photos.
Tacos are a go-to meal for my family, everyone loves them and they are easy to customize to suit any taste with a variety of toppings. And tacos you can make in a hurry? Even better! You can make these chipotle chicken tacos in about 30 minutes, including a creamy chipotle lime sauce as an extra-special finishing touch. This is truly a weeknight meal worth getting excited about!
And before I go on, I need to make it clear that these tacos are by no means authentic in any way, just my own creation. But they are a bit spicy, a bit sweet, a bit saucy, and so, so delicious. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
- Chipotle Peppers: these are canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, you can find them in the Mexican section of the supermarket. They are quite spicy, so if you don't like heat you will likely want to reduce the amount called for in the recipe.
- Onion: I like using a sweet onion, like Vidalia, because I think it helps balance out the heat from the chipotle peppers. But, any onion you have on hand would work just fine.
- Limes: the recipe doesn't call for a precise measurement for the lime juice, as the amount of tartness desired can depend on your own tastes. So, you will probably want to buy a few extra limes, to make sure you have enough in case one or two aren't very juicy and also as a garnish. I usually end up using about 4 limes; 3 limes for the recipe and 1 additional lime cut into wedges as a garnish.
Really love 30 minute chicken recipes? Check out this favorite for Stovetop Chicken Enchiladas!
Step by step photos
1. Sauté the onion in a bit of oil until softened and beginning to brown.
2. Blend the onion, salt, sugar (optional), chipotle peppers, lime juice and water until mostly smooth. Set aside.
3. In the same pan used for the onion, heat some additional oil. Cook the chicken thighs just until they start to develop some browning on the outside.
4. Add in the chipotle sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the chicken is cooked through. Make sure to scrape up any brown bits that developed on the bottom of the pan from cooking the onion and chicken!
5. While the chicken is simmering, mix up the ingredients for the creamy chipotle lime sauce.
6. Once the chicken is finished cooking, serve the chipotle chicken in warmed tortillas with any toppings you like, drizzled with the creamy chipotle lime sauce!
Tips and tricks
- For the best taco experience, make sure to warm the tortillas up before serving. You can do this multiple ways, the easiest ways I think are to use either the oven or microwave. I include instructions on how in the notes section of the recipe card below!
- To make the chipotle sauce for the chicken, I like using a stick (immersion) blender because it's easy and there are less parts to wash. But, if you don't have one, you can easily use a food processor or regular blender.
- As I mentioned in the Ingredients notes section above, a lot of the flavors in this recipe can be adjusted to suit your own tastes, including the level of sourness from the limes and the heat from the chipotle peppers. If you ever unsure about how much to add, start with less, taste, and then add more if needed!
Of course, spice level is a very subjective thing, but just to give you an idea I would say these tacos are spicy but don't rise to the level of uncomfortable or overpowering. But again, that's just how I perceive the level of spice, and I would say I'm usually a "medium spice" type person. If you don't like spicy things, cut way back on the chipotles, give the sauce a taste, and then add more if needed.
On the other hand, if you really love spice, of course feel free to add more! You can even chop up a whole chipotle pepper and add it into the creamy chipotle lime sauce for even more flavor and heat!
I prefer to use chicken thighs because they can hold up to the longer cooking time while simmering in the chipotle sauce without getting tough.
If you would like to substitute chicken breasts, my recommendation would be to remove the chicken pieces from the pan after browning, then simmer the chipotle sauce on its own for a few minutes to let it reduce, then add the chicken pieces back in at the end to finish cooking. That way, they won't overcook in the amount of time it takes to reduce the chipotle sauce.
Tacos are so versatile and there are so many topping options! My favorite toppings for these chipotle chicken tacos are finely shredded cabbage (adds a nice crunch and a "bed" to catch all that chipotle sauce), black beans, chopped cilantro, and an extra squeeze of lime!
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Chipotle Chicken Tacos are spicy, a bit sweet, saucy and topped with a creamy chipotle lime sauce. Ready in only about 30 minutes!
For chipotle chicken:
- 4 teaspoons neutral oil (canola, vegetable, grapeseed, etc.), divided
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 medium onion (preferably sweet onion)
- ¼ cup canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (see note 1)
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- ¼ cup water
- juice of 1 - 2 limes (depending on your taste and how juicy your limes are)
- warm corn or flour tortillas (see notes 2 - 3)
For creamy chipotle lime sauce:
- ⅓ cup mayo
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- ½ teaspoon salt
- juice of ½ - 1 lime (depending on your taste and how juicy your limes are)
- 2 ½ teaspoons liquid from can of chipotle peppers (see note 4)
- 1 tablespoon water
- lime wedges
- shredded cabbage
- black beans
- shredded cheese
- Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. While the pan is heating up, chop the onion into roughly ½ inch pieces. When the oil is hot, add the onion to the pan and sprinkle with salt to taste. Cook for 3 minutes, or until slightly browned on the edges and softened, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat off but keep the pan on the stove.
- If you have a stick (immersion) blender: remove onion from the pan and place into a small, straight sided heat-proof container (like a 2 cup glass measuring cup or wide-mouth jar). Or, place the onion in the bowl of a food processor or blender.
- To the container with the onion, add the chipotle peppers, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar (optional), ¼ cup water, and juice from 1 - 2 limes. (If your limes are very juicy, you may only need one; if they are small or not very juicy, or if you really like lime flavor, use 2 limes.) Blend until mostly smooth; a little texture in the sauce is ok. Set aside.
- Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the same pan over medium high heat. While the pan is heating, cut excess fat off the chicken thighs if necessary and chop the chicken into small pieces.
- Add the chopped chicken into the hot pan in an even layer. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Let cook without moving the chicken pieces for 2 - 3 minutes until some browning has developed, then stir the chicken and allow to cook, untouched, for another 1 - 2 minutes until some browning has developed on the other side.
- Turn the heat down to medium and pour in the chipotle sauce. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula, then let simmer for 6 - 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the excess liquid has absorbed from the sauce and the chicken is cooked through.
- While the chicken is cooking, whisk all the creamy chipotle lime sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Serve with warm tortillas and toppings of your choice.
- For my tastes, ¼ cup chipotles resulted in a level of heat that I would call spicy but not overpowering. Because spice tolerance is very subjective, take caution and use less at first if you don't tolerate spice well.
- You can warm your tortillas in the oven or microwave. If you want to use the oven, wrap tortillas in foil and preheat the oven to 350 degrees right before starting to cook. When the oven is preheated, place tortillas in the oven while you finish making the recipe. They should be warm by the time the chicken is ready to eat.
- If you want to use the microwave to heat the tortillas, wrap a stack of 6 (or less) in wet paper towels, place on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave on high for 30 seconds. If they need more time, microwave for another 15 seconds. Microwaving should be done right before you are ready to serve the tacos.
- If you want more heat in your sauce, you can mince ½ to 1 whole chipotle pepper and add it to the sauce along with the juice.
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