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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.

Plate of chicken tacos.

When my kids were younger, I came up with some weeknight traditions to make dinnertime fun and special for my family (kudos to past me; I’m much less ambitious now!). Taco Tuesdays was a huge hit. Every Tuesday, they’d come home from school all excited because, “yay, it’s taco night!” We whipped up everything from shrimp tacos to Baja fish tacos, yet these simple chicken tacos were consistently their top fave. Now, even as young adults, their love for them hasn’t waned. These are a lighter take on traditional hard-shell beef tacos, and they easily hold their own in the taste department.

What you’ll need to make Chicken Tacos

Taco ingredients including hard taco shells, tomato sauce, and garlic.

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.

Vegetables in a food processor.

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.

Food processor of finely chopped vegetables.

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

Chopped vegetables in a skillet.

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

Skillet of cooked, chopped vegetables.

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

Ground chicken and spices in a skillet with vegetables.

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.

Tomato sauce in a skillet with ground chicken.

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.

Cilantro in a skillet with ground chicken.

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

Chicken tacos on a plate with salad.

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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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  • Once again, you have another great recipe! My husband told me he was tired of the packaged tacos, but still had a craving for tacos. I know exactly where to turn for an amazing recipe. You did not disappoint. The taco recipe above was incredible and will never have another boxed taco again. Spicing was just perfect. Meat was so tender.
    Thank you for always taking the time with your recipes to be sure we have the best one out there. It’s always so nice to know that whatever recipe I choose from your site or cookbook is going to be company worthy and delicious thank you thank you thank you!

    I’m wondering if I could turn this into a casserole!? Maybe rice on the bottom then tortillas chopped up then the meat mixture? What do you think?

    • — Shelly Bartz on April 8, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Shelly, thanks for your very kind words about the recipes – so glad you like them and that the tacos were a hit! I think turning this into a casserole is worth a try but not certain how it will translate. If you try it, please LMK how it turns out ! Another alternative is to look online for a chicken taco casserole recipe that’s already been proven.

      • — Jenn on April 9, 2024
      • Reply
  • I loved these, but my family found them too spicy. What should I cut down on to limit the spiciness? Thanks

    • — Melissa B. on April 8, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Melissa, glad you liked them but sorry you found them too spicy. Did you use the optional cayenne pepper? (That’s the only thing that would add heat here. If so, I would just omit it.) If not, is there a chance you used chipotle chili powder instead of ancho chili powder?

      • — Jenn on April 8, 2024
      • Reply
  • This is such a great taco recipe! My four boys devour this every time, and my husband and I love to put this over TJ’s mexican cauliflower rice. Also a great way yo have a “taco night” with a white meat alternative. Making it again tonight.

    • — Maaike Kahn on March 7, 2024
    • Reply
  • DELICIOUS! I didn’t have ground chicken, so used chicken thighs instead and just cut them into VERY small pieces. Another great recipe! THANK YOU!

    • — Kim Dean on January 2, 2024
    • Reply
  • Thank you so much for this recipe. It was delicious. Five stars all day long. Your recipes are healthy and will be my go to from now on

    • — Natonya Thomas on November 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • This was the first recipe I made from this website. The tacos were different from other tacos that I’ve had. I really liked all the onion and peppers minced up with the ground chicken (gave it a somewhat fruity aroma). Thanks to that recipe, I have now found a new ally in the kitchen with this website!

    • — Chris on September 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • Can you freeze this taco meat?

    • — Heather on August 1, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on August 2, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thanks! Can you give me instructions how to make it after it has been frozen?

        • — Heather on August 2, 2023
        • Reply
        • I’d reheat it in the microwave or in a skillet on the stove until just heated through.

          • — Jenn on August 2, 2023
          • Reply
          • Thank you! Would you reheat it that way straight from the freezer or thawing it first?

            • — Heather on August 3, 2023
          • I’d thaw it first.

            • — Jenn on August 3, 2023
          • I thought that this recipe was delicious. The only thing that I changed was that I used one large white onion (instead of the yellow onions). I read somewhere that white onions are used in Mexico for a lot of their cooking. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes!

            • — Chris Shew on August 18, 2023
  • This combo of Spanish + Mexican = delicious, out of the ordinary tacos that are made in our household. I absolutely loved this recipe. I don’t know why some people felt this was bland – maybe their spices are old? All of my spices, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, and chicken were fresh and this came out so delicious. A great variation from the standard California tacos I usually make.

    • — Kris on July 7, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made these tonight as per the recipe and agree with some of the other comments. These tasted sweet to me and somewhat bland. Will not be making again.

    • — Andrea on June 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • I have made this many times because I love this recipe! I love a delicious ground beef taco but I would choose this over ground beef any day! The spices with tomato sauce is a perfect delicious balance and the added cilantro puts it over the top! Thank you, Jennifer!

    • — Cynthia on June 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • Your website is my go to for recipes. Everything turns out as expected and is always delicious. I happen to have a VERY picky 10 year old eater who decided she was ready to try tacos. Let’s just days it was a triple serving clean plate type of dinner. She raved as did my husband. This is a wonderful family taco night recipe.

    • — Nita Bonilla on May 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • Must say I was expecting the addition of tomato to make the taste more like enchiladas. And I did like the full and richness the blended vegatebles brought to some degree. But on second tasting it felt like all the vegetables (I think especially the onions) made it taste like ragu/Bolognese. That’s not particularly texmex for me and a bit of-putting honestly.

    Will have to experiment with the veggies and spices… And god what an awful website. Endless scrolling up and down.

    • — David on May 11, 2023
    • Reply
    • My mom used to say, if you’re not going to say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!

      • — Maria on October 15, 2023
      • Reply
  • Another hit. Used ground turkey, and I will never use another recipe. Couldn’t be better.

    • — Cindy on April 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • Best! And better than beef!!!!
    Jenn, I love your recipes and this one is a WINNER 🙂 Ground chicken is crazy good here and the tomato sauce is the secret weapon!!! I’ve made this 2x in the last week so I could freeze some for lunches. Thank you for writing recipes that truly work!!!! You have a great gift…thanks for sharing it with us. Xoxo

    • — Jenn F. on March 11, 2023
    • Reply
    • 💗

      • — Jenn on March 13, 2023
      • Reply
  • It tasted kind of sweet. I make tacos all the time so I’m not sure what happened. Maybe I added too much tomato sauce. Other than that they were pretty good but I will probably try a different recipe next time.

    • — Rachel on March 1, 2023
    • Reply
  • Can you substitute Sofrito for the peppers/onions/sauce? If so how much would you use if I’m only making 1lb of meat (half the recipe).

    • — Jen on February 28, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Jen, sofrito should work. I’m not certain how much you’ll need, but I’d guesstimate 1 to 1.5 cups.

      • — Jenn on March 2, 2023
      • Reply
  • This is one of my favorite go to recipes. I tried using only half the amount of tomato sauce tonight and like that even better.

    • — Kathleen on February 20, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi! I made this and it was a hit with my whole family! That’s a miracle around here. I served it with soft toasted tortillas and sliced pickles red cabbage tomatoes and cucumbers. Thank you for another keeper

    • — Chaya Kurz on February 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • 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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