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

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  • 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, 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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  • Fantastic flavor! So much better than the taco seasoning packets I grew up on. I can easily get 3 dinners out of this (feeding only 2 people). I do tacos for the first couple of nights then we switch to taco salads or nachos on day 3. Thanks Jenn for another amazing recipe 🙂

    • — Stephanie on June 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • I have made this many times and continue to go back to it as a super quick, easily and family friendly recipe to make on a weeknight. Most recently I paired with a cilantro/lime rice, diced tomatoes and sliced avocado. I’ve also made it with tofu as we are trying to eat less meat and it turned out great (fools my husband!). For the tofu, I cooked the veggies separately and cooked the tofu by crumbling it up. Add it to a pan heated on med-high with some neutral oil, flatten it and let it crisp up for about 5 min, flip and break it up and continue cooking until it it all browned. Then add the veggies and follow the recipe as it.

  • I get soooo frustrated!!!!! I am a single, retired female who loves good food but gets so upset b/c all the recipes are for large families!!!!! I am dairy-intolerant, which is easier to deal with than trying to reduce all the recipes from 8-12 servings to fit ME! I ALWAYS WANT TO HAVE AT LEAST 2-3 SERVINGS so that I have leftovers.

    However, trying to reduce recipes from 8-12 servings is very difficult. A lot easier to enlarge recipes from 4-6 than that.

    Can anyone help me???? Not nice to kick us to the curb!

    • — Ms. Dale Goodloe
    • Reply
    • Hi Dale, I know it’s got to be very frustrating to see so many recipes that are intended for a number of people. I’ve considered adding a scalable feature to the blog but have come across too many technical roadblocks to make it feasible. Regarding this particular recipe, it’s intended to serve 6 people (2 tacos per serving) so you could always cut the recipe in half.

      Also, I have a section of freezer-friendly recipes that you may want to check out. That way you can make a full meal and then portion it into smaller containers to freeze for future dinners. Hope that helps at least a bit!

      • I cut this in half pretty easily for my family of 3 with some fudge factor on the spice measurements. I had a serving of it left over for work lunch which I always appreciate! I think you could also freeze any leftovers from this if you weren’t going to use them within a few days.

      • Hi Dale, I am also single and don’t like to make recipes intended for 4 – 6 servings. I use an app called AnyList to store and scale my recipes. AnyList can import the recipe ingredients and instructions so you can save it to categories. Then you just “scale” the recipe by 1/2, 1/3 or whatever you choose. I hope you find it useful.

        • — Carmen Fergason on November 6, 2022
        • Reply
        • Hi Carmen, thanks so much for sharing that info! I just recently heard about AnyList and it sounds like a great tool!

          • — Jenn on November 7, 2022
          • Reply
    • Hi Dale,

      I hear you, it’s just my wife and I so we frequently half recipes. The absolute BEST tool for this, in my opinion, is an app called AnyList. It’s an amazing shopping list manager with outstanding recipe functionality. You can just click a button on (almost) any recipe page (they need to be coded the right way, 95%+ are, including Jenn’s).

      Once it’s imported, it’s as easy as clicking a button to scale to whatever size you like. There is a free version but I’ve paid for years because it is literally one of the most useful programs I own!

    • No need to get angry. There are plenty of recipes online for cooking for 1-2 people. I have also seen cook books available in the book stores for recipes specific for two people.

  • Great recipe! I substitute salsa for the tomato sauce to spice it up a little more. Bomb tacos!!!!

  • Could you use chicken breasts ? Thanks Margo

    • Hi Margo, if you’re referring to ground chicken breasts, while it would work, I think this is much better with ground chicken that has a bit of fat in it. If you’re referring to sliced whole chicken breasts, unfortunately, that won’t work.

  • Absolutely excellent! Thank you for the delicious recipe! Can this be vacuum sealed, frozen, and re-heated?

    • Glad you liked them! Assuming you mean the chicken mixture, yes, that’s perfectly fine. 🙂

  • Excellent recipe! I used a poblano pepper instead of green or yellow pepper, along with a red pepper. We ate ours on lettuce cups. They were the best tacos we’ve ever had. Thank you for the great recipe!

    • — Valerie P Gallagher
    • Reply
  • So much better than packaged seasoning kits! This was delicious! Thanks again for a spot on recipe!

  • Hi Jenn – I’m not a fan of paprika and would like to skip it. Will it have a significant impact on end product? Should I replace it with something else? Many thanks! Your blog is THE BEST!

    • — Monica in Toronto
    • Reply
    • Hi Monica, You can omit it; they will still have plenty of flavor. Enjoy!

  • BRAVO! These are the best I have ever made! I used ground turkey and no one….not even the picky eaters….could tell it was turkey! I’m throwing out those packages of taco seasoning mix!!
    Thank you, Chef Jenn….your recipes are wonderful!

  • I make these tacos all the time. I do use ground turkey instead of ground chicken. I usually double the recipe and either freeze some or share with our daughter and her family. I have made numerous recipes by Jennifer and I love them all. Thank you!

  • Delicious and so happy to get some extra veggies in there.
    We had them with green cabbage because that was what I had.
    Also, I only used 1 lb of ground chicken and it was perfect.

    • — Karen Flindall
    • Reply
  • This is my favorite chicken taco recipe. I look for this whenever I am craving tacos and find myself debating with my husband between this and the beef enchiladas. We don’t have great Mexican restaurants where we live, so it is nice to fulfill the craving with Jen’s recipes.

  • Great recipe – I cut it in half for just 2 of us. And my boyfriend doesn’t miss the beef because it’s super flavorful.

  • Easy and tasty, my favorite kind of recipe. My family gobbled these up! Even my picky son. I do find them a tad sweet. I don’t mind, but I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for making them less sweet.

    • Hi Kelley, Glad the family enjoyed them! The only thing that may add any sweetness is the tomato sauce, so I’d buy a no-sugar-added version of tomato sauce next time you make these. Hope that helps!

  • I didn’t love this recipe. I followed the recipe exactly as instructed. The taste was okay. I will not be making this again.

  • This is the best taco recipe! I did but back on the cayenne pepper and the chili powder the second time around, as it was pretty spicy. I do not miss red meat in this dish at all, and the chicken is healthier! Also, had not thought to use shredded cabbage instead of lettuce-I love the added crunch!

  • Fantastic recipe! Will never use another taco seasoning packet again.

  • Been following you since your first blog post, and you are my go-to for every holiday and dinner. This is my son’s favorite dish, and he asked for it for his first dinner back from college. The recipe works well with ground turkey, too!

    • — Donna and Dave Shahrabani
    • Reply
  • Good basic taco meat recipe. Easy and I had everything on hand to make.
    I used ground turkey instead of chicken and had to leave out peppers.
    I added a little hot sauce to give sauce a little more kick. Overall a good go to recipe.

  • This is a regular in our recipe rotation – quick, easy, and tasty! I don’t have any changes – it’s perfect as-is.

  • Love this recipe! Great flavor. I usually make it with ground turkey.

  • I will never use a taco seasoning mix again! This is so much healthier and tastes fantastic. As usual, Jen’s little tips make the meal better…..definitely take the few extra minutes to warm the taco shells!

    • — Jill DeMichiel
    • Reply
  • These are the best chicken tacos! They come together so easily for a weeknight dinner and are kid approved. Our kids love the leftovers in quesadillas.

  • Another great recipe from Jenn. This is one of the recipes my hubs relies on heavily when he’s responsible for dinner and he hasn’t messed it up yet! It’s a testament to the ease and clarity of Jenn’s recipes and the efforts she makes to perfect them! Thanks as always!

  • I’m obsessed with this recipe. I didn’t have ground chicken so I used ground turkey. I tripled the recipe and froze half. So, so good!!!! I also added one jalapeño for a little heat. Even better the next day.

  • I didn’t use bell peppers but this was still great. I made this on the weekend and froze it so we had two very quick/easy mid-week meals. With the stand & stuff style corn tortillas, we crisped them in the oven first. Then added taco meat and shredded cheese and back into the oven to melt the cheese before putting on the other toppings. It was SO good but we also enjoyed leftovers on flour tortillas. This recipe is a keeper.

  • My husband could only get ground turkey and not ground chicken at the store. Do you have any suggestions for using turkey in place of the chicken? I don’t want to lose any flavor. I love your recipes (my family does too!), both on your web site and in your cookbook. I must make one of your recipes at least 2-3 times a week. I am looking forward to your new cookbook. Thanks so much for sharing your talents Jenn. ~Cathy

    • — Cathy Dunsmore
    • Reply
    • Hi Cathy, so glad you like the recipes! 🙂 It’s fine to use ground turkey here without sacrificing flavor. Hope you enjoy!

  • This was delish!! However, next time I will cut back on the cayenne pepper-I love spicy foods, but this was a little too much spice. I also served with black beans and shredded cabbage, rather than iceberg-was a great crunch on the tacos. Will def. make again!

  • Winner winner chicken dinner!! It’s a perfect recipe! I’d give this 10 stars if I could, because the whole family loved it including the pickiest of eaters. I hardly strayed from the recipe except I omitted the cayenne. The roasted tomato salsa goes perfectly with these tacos. I’ve been a long time follower of Jenn and Once Upon A Chef, but for some reason finally tried this one. Thank you Jenn!!! ❤️

  • Awesome recipe! I’ve made it so many times, and it’s our fave for easy stay-in-weekend dinners. I usually double the recipe, and freeze about 7 ziplock bags with 400 grams (more than enough for two very hungry people!) in each.

  • Soooo good! My one year old loved it!! I didn’t have 2 lbs of chicken so I added a drained can of black beans, it was amazing!!!

  • Absolutely some of our family’s favorite tacos! 🌮

    • Pretty good but not my favorite

  • I can’t get hold of ancho chilli powder . What can I use instead? Ground chilli?

    • Yes, regular chili powder will work here. If you like heat, you could go with chipotle chili powder. Hope that helps!

  • Love this and all your recipes! Can you make ahead and freeze?

    • Glad you like this! Yes, the chicken mixture can be frozen. 🙂

  • I made these last night for dinner and they were wonderful! Recipe was easy to follow. I think I like them better than standard beef tacos.

  • Very nice mix of spices ! Tasted wonderful and everyone enjoyed the chicken tacos with the red cabbage and chihuahua cheese topping!
    thank u!

  • Just made this this– a great, flavorful recipe that my kids really enjoyed. Can the filling be made ahead? If so, how would you suggest reheating?

    • Glad everyone enjoyed them! Yes, you could definitely make the chicken mixture ahead. I’d reheat in the microwave.

  • Taco Tuesday is elevated with this extremely delicious and easy recipe! I’ve made it with ground turkey and it’s so yummy! It’s a great dinner for a busy weeknight when we have sports and activities. Our kids love it and even their friends have asked their parents to make it. It’s been shared with a lots of people!! It makes more then enough for our family of five (3 hungry boys)!!

    • — Alyson Abramson
    • Reply
  • Loved it! Great way to sneak in veggies. The tacos were tasty & reheat well! Good for making taco salad as well.

  • Can this recipe be used with ground beef? Thank you.

    • Yep — hope you enjoy!

  • It seems to me this makes way more than 12 tacos. Is this correct?

    • 12 servings is correct. Hope you enjoy if you make them!


  • These chicken tacos were really delicious! I used yellow and orange bell peppers. I made some guacamole to go with them and offered sour cream and salsa as sides. Much better than the beef version! Thank you so much for another great recipe!

  • This was a very good recipe I will definitely use it again.

  • Made this for tacos later this week and took a sneak taste – SO delicious! I don’t like using the store-bought taco seasoning mixes, tend to be very salty and we don’t do much heat with our 4-year-old. This was just perfect, great balance of flavors, really easy and ‘invisible’ vegetables as a bonus! Pulled together very quickly with the vegetables in the food processor. I highly recommend this to anyone with kids who needs something make-ahead or same day.

    • Can I use taco seasoning packet for this? Thank you!

      • — Madison McGourty
      • Reply
      • Hi Madison, I’ve never used a taco seasoning packet for this. While I think you can get away with it, you may need to omit the added salt as I believe those packets contain salt. Also, I’m not sure how much of the packet you’ll need. Please LMK how the tacos turn out if you try it!

  • I don’t make tacos a lot because I don’t enjoy the seasoning envelope. I’ve tried using less, different brands, mixing my own etc. Jenn, this recipe is delicious! The flavors are great! I’ve been looking for a chicken taco recipe lately and this one definitely fits the bill! Thanks so much!

    • — Marianne Alicata
    • Reply
  • Best tacos I’ve ever made. The meat also reheats very well. It stays saucy and doesn’t dry out. Love love love this recipe!

  • These were so good! Fresh, flavorful and so much healthier than the preservative-laden taco mix from the grocery store. Only change I made was to dice 2 tomatoes and use those instead of the tomato sauce. Thanks again for another simple yet delicious recipe.

  • I live in Texas so we have plenty of options for great tacos, but I made these for dinner and everyone loved them. Sauteeing the veggies and cooking them with the meat is brilliant – it gave the chicken an amazing flavor. Topped with cheese, lettuce, yogurt, and avocado made these a new family favorite. Thanks Jenn!

  • Hi I made this for dinner tonight and it was a winner (as is every recipe I tried so far) I served it in whole wheat wraps and also added some Splenda to the chicken. Thank you

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