Saucy Mexican shredded chicken…yeah, I know the title is a mouthful. And this dish? It’s a mouthful of deliciousness. Toasty chile pasillas form the base of this sauce. Add in peppercorns, cumin, and oregano, and this chicken will be your next addiction.
What I love about this dish is that it is full of flavor without being overly spicy. The extra sauciness makes this dish perfect for serving over rice or dunking corn tortillas. And it can be eaten in so many different ways! Tacos, nachos, quesadillas, tostadas, burritos, over rice, as a filling for tamales…you get the idea!
What’s in saucy Mexican shredded chicken?
The above photo shows just some of the ingredients used in this dish. Check the recipe card for all the specifics!
- Pasilla chiles: find these in the Hispanic aisle of major grocery stores, in specialty Mexican markets, or order online
- Chicken broth: store-bought or homemade is fine here
- Onion: I use white
- Garlic cloves
- Whole cumin
- Dried oregano
- Vegetable oil: I use canola
- Bay leaves
- Cooked, shredded chicken: left-over rotisserie chicken would work great here!
Ground vs. whole spices
I love using whole spices in this dish…whole cumin and peppercorns. Don’t panic if you don’t have whole spices though. If you only have ground, my suggestion would be to start with the following substitutions:
1 tablespoon whole cumin = scant 3/4 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon peppercorns = scant 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
If you want to learn more about measuring and substituting whole and ground spices, check out this article from Epicurious. It will also walk you through how to measure spices depending on how they are ground and how old they are.
And, of course, you should always taste as you go! I think the balance is just right with the whole spices I used and measured, but you might want more or less. So feel free to do what works for you!
Protein Substitution Ideas
I have only made and tested this recipe as written, with chicken and chicken broth. But I have a couple of ideas on how to change this up!
This sauce is hearty and versatile, so why not try this with shredded pork or beef?
If you are looking for a vegetarian version of this dish, I would try substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth, and using sliced and sauteed oyster mushrooms in place of the meat.
How to make saucy Mexican shredded chicken
Here, I will walk you briefly through the steps on how to make this dish, but please check the below recipe card for the full ingredients and process steps.
Heat the broth and toast the chiles
Start by measuring out and heating your chicken broth in a pot until simmering. While your chicken broth is warming up, start toasting your chiles.
To toast your chiles, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. One by one, place a dried chile in the hot skillet and push down lightly with a spatula. Flip over after about 15 seconds to toast the other side. Repeat this process for each additional chile.
The toasted chiles will slightly change color and might puff up a bit. The heat will release the chile peppers’ aroma, so they will be more fragrant after toasting.
Clean and soak chiles
Once the chiles are toasted, remove the stems, seeds, and veins. Tear the chiles into large chunks and soak in a bowl covered with warmed chicken broth for about 7-10 minutes, or until the chiles are softened.
Make the sauce
Once the chiles are softened, add the chiles, the soaking broth, onion, garlic, and spices to a blender. Blend on high until the sauce is smooth.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and using a fine-meshed sieve, strain the sauce from the blender into the skillet. Use the back of the spoon to push the sauce through the sieve. Add the remaining chicken broth to the sieve to help loosen the sauce. Continue to strain the sauce into the skillet.
Once you have strained as much as possible through the sieve, take the leftover pulp from the sieve, put it back in the blender, and add a bit of the sauce from the skillet to the blender. Blend again on high and strain the sauce in the blender again through the sieve. This will help get some extra mileage out of your sauce!
Discard any remaining chile pulp.
Assemble the final dish
Add bay leaves and salt to your sauce and allow it to simmer on the stove for 8-10 minutes to let the flavors blend together. Add in the shredded chicken, mix it into the sauce, and let it heat through for about another 5 minutes.
And now, you have a deliciously saucy, Mexican-style chicken…perfect for topping tostadas or nachos, or for filling tacos, quesadillas, and tamales!
FAQs and Tips
Is this sauce an adobo?
We happen to call this dish pollo en adobo here at our house in Mexico, but it is not an adobo in the true sense. The reason? It doesn’t have vinegar.
Author Ricardo Muñoz Zurita notes in the Larousse Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Gastronomía Mexicana, that adobos are thick sauces made with dried chiles, spices, and vinegar. The meat is then marinated in this sauce for several hours before being cooked low and slow. He makes note that the vinegar is what differentiates adobos from other types of salsas. Adobos have vinegar. Other salsas? Not necessarily.
What can I use Mexican shredded chicken for?
The options are limitless! We usually eat this shredded chicken with Mexican rice and warm corn tortillas. It would be amazing in burritos, bowls, tacos, quesadillas, or nachos! What about Mexican-inspired shredded chicken sliders for game day? I used this chicken for tamales and loved it! So, let your imagination run wild!
What should I serve with saucy Mexican shredded chicken?
I mentioned above that we normally eat this dish with Mexican rice. Here are some other side dishes that would work well:
I love this dish with tangy pickled red onions and habaneros. Or you could simply top it with sliced radishes and onions.
How do I know when my chile peppers are correctly toasted?
Dried chile peppers can go from toasty to overly toasty quickly. My best advice for you is to watch and smell. The chile should just start to slightly change color and should become fragrant. On my stove, in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, I literally count out loud 15 seconds per side.
Overcooking a chile will make for a bitter sauce. If you think you accidentally took a chile too far, don’t worry. Just set it aside, select another one, and try again.
How do I select dried chiles?
The older and drier the chile, the less flavor it will have in the final dish. Sort of like how dried spices lose their oomph if they are too old. I like to feel the chiles before I buy them if I have a chance. If they are soft and pliable, they are fresher and will have more flavor. If possible, avoid brittle, crumbly chiles.
So, are you ready to try making saucy Mexican shredded chicken? Please leave a comment and rating if you make this recipe!
Source: Rebeca Díaz, Cuernavaca, Morelos Mexico
Saucy Mexican Shredded Chicken
- 10 pasilla chiles ~2.5 ounces, 70g
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 white onion ~1 oz, 32g
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
- 1 tbsp whole cumin
- 1.5 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil I use canola
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt to taste
- 4 cups shredded chicken
- In a medium pot, heat chicken broth to a simmer.5 cups chicken broth
- Meanwhile, heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat and place the chiles in the skillet to toast, pushing down slightly and turning halfway through, about 30 seconds total. The chiles should slightly change color and have a toasty aroma. I toast my chiles one at a time to prevent burning and ensure each chile is properly toasted.10 pasilla chiles
- Remove stems, seeds, and veins from the chile peppers. Tear into large chunks and place in a glass bowl.
- Once the broth is warm, pour enough broth over the chiles to cover them. Allow them to soak for about 7-10 minutes, or until softened.
- Once the chile peppers are softened, place them in a blender with the soaking broth, onion, garlic, peppercorns, cumin, and oregano. Blend on high until smooth. This should yield about 3 cups of sauce.1/4 white onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp whole peppercorns, 1 tbsp whole cumin, 1.5 tbsp dried oregano
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over med-high heat until shimmering (2-3 minutes). Strain the sauce into the skillet, using the back of a spoon to help push the sauce through the sieve. Add the remaining broth gradually to help push the pulp through the sieve.2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Place the pulp from the sieve back in the blender. Add a bit of sauce from the skillet to the blender and blend on high to process any remaining bits of chile and spices. Strain the remaining sauce into the skillet. Discard any remaining pulp.
- Add the bay leaves to the sauce and salt to taste. Stir and heat to a simmer. Continue simmering about 8-10 minutes.3 bay leaves, Salt to taste
- Add in the shredded chicken, stir to incorporate. Taste the sauce for salt and adjust seasoning if necessary. Allow the chicken to heat through, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.4 cups shredded chicken
(The below nutrition label is included as a courtesy. Our terms and conditions explains our nutrition policy.)