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Chicken Tacos

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These chicken tacos are a healthier spin on traditional beef tacos — and they’re just as good, if not better.

When my kids were little, I came up with some weeknight traditions to make dinnertime special and fun for my family. One of our favorites was Taco Tuesdays. The kids would come home from school on Tuesdays all “Yay, it’s taco night!” and it made deciding what to make for dinner easy for me. We made all sorts of different tacos — shrimp tacos, carne asada tacos, and Baja fish tacos — but these chicken tacos were always the kids’ favorite. Even now as young adults, they still love them! They’re a healthier spin on hard-shell beef tacos, and they’re just as good, if not better.

What you’ll need to make Chicken Tacos

Step-by-Step Instructions

To make them, begin by chopping the vegetables. You can do this in a food processor if you like; just be sure not to purée them.

Normally, I don’t believe in hiding vegetables but in this case, I dice them very small so my kids don’t notice them (or at least they can’t pick them out).

I figure what they don’t know won’t hurt them, and one night where I’m not nagging them to eat their vegetables is good for all of us.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the vegetables.

Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until soft.

Add ground chicken and spices use a wooden spoon to break chicken into small pieces.

Turn the heat to high and use a wooden spoon to break the chicken into small clumps; cook until the chicken is partially cooked, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, then turn the heat down to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking chicken into smaller clumps, for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Meanwhile, heat the shells in the oven. To serve, spoon the chicken inside the shells and top with shredded lettuce and cheese.

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Chicken Tacos

These chicken tacos are a healthier spin on traditional beef tacos — and they’re just as good, if not better.

Servings: 12 tacos
Total Time: 30 Minutes


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (any color), finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground chicken (not extra-lean all breast meat)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce (1 cup)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (see note)
  • 12 hard taco shells
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce or red cabbage, optional for topping
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, optional for topping


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and just starting to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken, paprika, ancho chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne (if using), and salt. Increase the heat to high; use a wooden spoon to stir and break the chicken into small clumps. Cook until the chicken is partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking chicken into smaller clumps, until chicken is cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  4. Meanwhile, remove the taco shells from the package and lay sideways on baking sheet. Pull the stack apart, overlapping the edges slightly. Bake for 6-7 minutes, or until crisp. Spoon the chicken into the shells and serve with toppings.
  5. Note: To save time, you can chop the bell peppers and onions in a food processor; just be sure not to purée them. You can also use 1 teaspoon ground coriander in place of the fresh cilantro; add it along with the other spices.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 2 tacos
  • Calories: 460
  • Fat: 27g
  • Saturated fat: 6g
  • Carbohydrates: 26g
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 30g
  • Sodium: 1086mg
  • Cholesterol: 130mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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  • Hi Chef Jen!
    I’ve made this a few times–always a success. I typically make it with ground turkey, and it turns out well 🙂

    • — Angela Bennett on January 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Chef, I’m wondering if I can use finely Shredded chicken instead of ground chicken? Thanks!

    • — Rachel on December 11, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Rachel, is the chicken cooked? If so, I suppose you could but you’ll only need to heat it through so I’d add it to the pan after the tomato sauce has been simmering for several minutes.

      • — Jenn on December 12, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thanks!! It is cooked, so I’ll heed your advice and add it at the end! Thanks so much!!

        • — Rachel on December 13, 2022
        • Reply
  • I’ve made this a hundred times and love it. Unfortunately my in laws won’t eat ground chicken so would I need to make any modifications to the cooking process if I were to substitute with ground beef? Would 80/20 beef work or should I go leaner?

    Thanks and hope you make a 3rd cookbook.

    • — Andrew on August 29, 2022
    • Reply
    • Glad you like these! Ground beef will definitely work here without any modifications. I’d probably go with 85/15. Please LMK how they turn out with beef!

      • — Jenn on August 30, 2022
      • Reply
  • Made this tonight, grocery was sold out of chicken so I used beef and small amount of chorizo. It was wonderful! Your recipes are perfection! Thank you, Jenn!

    • — Teresa on August 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn!
    I would like to use chopped frozen peppers in this recipe. How much would I use? Thank you again for your amazing recipes! Your site is the only recipe site I use! Every recipe is just awesome! Love your site and your cookbooks! I also love the fact you can read others comments. Thanks for a great cooking experience!


    • — Denise on August 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Denise, So glad you like the recipes! I’d guesstimate you’ll need about 1.5 cups of chopped peppers. 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 16, 2022
      • Reply
  • I think I’ve made this 2 or 3 thousand times. So great. Thank you for giving us all a healthier (and better) spin on tacos. Cheers!

    • — Chad on August 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is my 2nd review for this recipe. I tried this with both chicken and beef separately- and while the chicken is good, the beef was AMAZING. I’m relatively nutrition conscious so used it with 96% lean/4% fat beef (the most lean one I found) – and it tasted surprisingly decadent and fulfilled my occasional Taco Bell craving — guilt free!

    • — Michelle on July 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn,

    Thank you, the best tacos I’ve ever had. I made it using ground beef as I was kind of chicken’d out at the time and had the ground beef. It was so tasty that I skipped the usual store bought taco sauce that you need for the store bought taco kits, just put a dollop of sour cream and and some diced grape tomatoes on top along with the shredded lettuce and was in heaven. I’ll definitely be trying it with the ground chicken in the future. Your step by step guidance and suggestions in all of your recipes are invaluable.

    Thanks again

    • — Jim on June 15, 2022
    • Reply

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