Who doesn’t love tacos? Living in Texas, tacos are foundational in the local food pyramid and a format for any breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are one of our favorite foods, so much so that the Taco Chronicles on Netflix is must-watch television in our household. Tacos are one of those dishes where pretty much anything goes…beef, chicken, seafood, veggies – and then there are all the choices for toppings! The variety of tacos seems endless, but these red chile chicken street tacos are one of our all-time favorites.
What Are Street Tacos?
Street tacos are made on smaller corn tortillas that easily fit in one hand and can be eaten in three bites. The tortillas are typically stacked in layers of two to help hold in all the delicious fillings. In a restaurant or food truck, they usually come in a serving size of three to five tacos and are served open-faced, filled with chicken, beef, pork, or a variety of other “meats” (sometimes it’s better not to ask.) Usually topped with onions, cilantro, and salsa, street tacos might be little in size but they are packed with flavor.
This recipe for red chile chicken street tacos is easy to pull together for a weeknight meal – or serve them as part of a taco bar at your next get-together.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
The full ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
There are so many recipe options for tacos but for this recipe, the red chile sauce made with Guajillo chiles is key!
- Guajillo Chiles are part of the Holy Trinity of Chiles which includes Ancho, Arbol, and Guajillo. They are a dried pepper with a tangy, bright, fruity flavor. They are perfect for salsa, moles, marinades, and stews. Toasting the chile helps to bring out the deepness of the flavor and improves the taste, but toast them with caution because they can become bitter if they get scorched. If you can’t find Guajillo chiles at your local grocery they are available on Amazon or you can substitute with additional Ancho chiles.
- Ancho Chiles have a smoky flavor when dried and vary in spiciness. They have a mild to medium heat with a lightly smoky, fruity flavor.
- We prefer to use boneless skinless Chicken Thighs for their richer, more intense flavor, but chicken breasts can easily be substituted.
- Vegetable stock can be substituted for Chicken Stock.
- Toppings are a personal preference but we recommend chopped Cilantro, Cojita Cheese, and Avocado.
How to Make Red Chile Chicken Street Tacos
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: This chicken with chile sauce is great for leftovers so make a little extra for a spicy lunch during the week.
1. Prepare the Chiles: In a medium saucepan over medium heat begin to warm the chicken broth and apple cider vinegar. While the stock is heating up prepare the chiles by carefully cutting open the dried chiles to remove seeds. Preheat a cast-iron skillet then roast the chiles for approximately 1-2 minutes until they begin to turn brown and have a fruity smell. Place the roasted dried chiles in the saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour chicken stock, chiles, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, and ground cumin into a blender and blend until smooth.
2. Cook the Chicken: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the chicken thighs in a baking dish and cover with chile sauce. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until chicken is able to be shredded with a fork. Cooked chicken can either be shredded with a fork or roughly chopped.
3. Assembly: Over an open gas stovetop flame on medium/low heat corn tortillas until lightly charred on the edges (approximately 10 seconds per side). Stack together 2 tortillas and place 1-2 tablespoons of chicken in each taco. Top with fresh cilantro, red onion, and a sprinkling of cojita cheese. Serve with a few slices of limes and a side of avocado or guacamole. Note: Tortillas can also be heated on a medium-size skillet or griddle until golden brown in some spots (approximately 30 seconds per side).
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Be careful not to over-toast the chiles or you will get bitter-tasting chiles. You will know they are done when they begin to give off a fruity smell and resemble leather.
- You can use store-bought, pre-cooked shredded chicken which is our quick go-to after a busy day. Toss the pre-cooked chicken in sauce and then heat it in the oven.
- If you are using street-size corn tortillas then you will want to double stack them; for traditional size tortillas, a single tortilla will work perfectly to hold in all the filling. Our preferred method for heating up tortillas is over an open gas flame or on a cast-iron skillet or comal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
Chicken breasts can be substituted for chicken thighs but chicken thighs really are better both for their tenderness and flavor.
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Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this recipe, we recommend checking out some of these dinner options:
- Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa
- Caramelized Onion Mushroom Swiss Turkey Burger
- Grilled Marinated Flank Steak
Red Chile Chicken Street Tacos
- Small Cast Iron Pan
- Baking or Casserole Dish
Chicken with Chile Sauce
- 20 oz chicken thighs (approx 4 larger boneless thighs)
- 3 dried guajillo chiles
- 3 dried ancho chiles
- 1 ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 ½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoon Mexican oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 32 street taco corn tortillas
- crumbled cotija
- diced red onion
- chopped fresh cilantro
- sliced avocado or guacamole
- lime wedges
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Cut open dried chiles and remove seeds.
- Roast dried chiles on a pre-heated cast-iron skillet for approximately 20-30 seconds per side. Chiles will begin to have a fruity smell and darken, resembling leather. Be careful not to over toast. Tear or cut the toasted chiles into pieces.
- In a medium saucepan simmer the chicken stock, apple cider vinegar, and roasted dried chiles for 10 minutes.
- Pour the chicken stock, chiles, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, kosher salt, and ground cumin into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Place the chicken thighs in a baking dish and cover with the chile sauce.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes or until chicken is able to be shredded with a fork.
- Shred chicken with a fork or rough chop then let it sit in the chile sauce for 5-10 minutes prior to preparing tacos.
- Over an open gas stovetop flame on medium/low heat corn tortillas until lightly charred on the edges (approximately 10 seconds per side). Stack together 2 tortillas and place 1-2 tablespoons of chicken in each taco. Top with chopped cilantro, red onion, and a sprinkling of cojita cheese. Serve with a few slices of limes and a side of avocado or guacamole.