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Mama Juanita’s Tostadas de Tinga

My husband and I are on a pretty tight budget. We are actually living off of about $80 a week on groceries – that’s like $12 a day for two people; which is like $2 a meal per person, if my math is correct.

One way we’ve found that saves a lot of money on chicken is to purchase a whole frozen chicken and break it down ourselves, instead of buying packs of chicken breasts or wings or some other part already butchered.

I usually take the ribs, neck and other unused bones and boil them to make a stock, and then pick the meat off those bones to use in dishes.

Today, as I started separating good meat from bone and cartilage, I remembered family members doing the same as I was growing up.

I started thinking about my grandma.

Mama Juanita.

Mama Juanita was one of the most loving and caring women I’ve ever known. When my family moved to Mexico from Venezuela, we moved in with her and my grandpa for a few months, and I learned so much from her, and about her, in that time.

I learned that when she got married to my grandpa – whose mother died years prior to their marriage – she took on the responsibility of her husband’s young brothers, who were orphaned. She adopted them, becoming a mother of four immediately upon marriage.

She and Grandpa then went on to have six daughters and a son, and Mama Juanita’s job for most of her life was to be a mother and wife.

She showed love through actions … and through food.

I began thinking of one of the first foods she taught me how to make – Tostadas de Tinga, which is a common dish in Mexico made of shredded chicken and a tomato-based sauce on top of a fried tortilla.

I was a 14-year-old junior high student and had just gotten home from school. I looked around and realized that my mother had already bought groceries and uncooked food was in the kitchen, and I was home alone.

But I was hungry. I didn’t want to wait for mom to come home and cook.

I already knew how to cook rice, so I was pretty sure I could handle any other culinary challenge. So I decided, after seeing the ingredients at my avail, to make Tostadas de Tinga.

But the problem was that I didn’t know how to make the staple dish.

So I called Grandma, then walked about a block to her house, grocery bags in hand, knowing that she would teach me how to prepare the dish. Honestly, I was hoping that she would just cook the meal for me and I’d learn as she cooked.

So I brought the groceries to her kitchen and prepared to help Mama Juanita with the meal she would surely make for me.

Something she always said (and now my mom says) is that “Somebody that helps is always welcome,” and I was sure that I was going to be a good helper.

But Grandma had different plans.

She sat down and explained each step to me as I completed each task, from peeling and cutting onions to placing the meat on the tostada shell.

So that day, I learned how to make Tostadas de Tinga, and I’ve never forgotten.

Mama Juanita passed away in 2012, but she left plenty of great memories and great food. And it’s amazing how those foods can bring back those memories!

I loved my grandma; and she loved me. My name – Johana – actually derived from “Juana,” which I take pride in because I know I will always have a piece of her with me.

Tinga Recipe

[Tinga can be eaten several ways – in tacos, on tostadas (my preferred way, with sour cream and queso fresco), with rice and beans, or a myriad of different ways.]


1 Large chick breast, shredded

3 Tomatoes

½ White Onion

2 Cloves of Garlic

Small bunch of fresh Cilantro (not enough to make the sauce green, just try to use your common cooking sense)

1 Cup Chicken Stock

1 Chipotle Pepper in adobo sauce (canned chipotle or fresh)

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

1 tsp Cumin


1. Cut onion in thin slices and sauté on medium heat

2. While onions are cooking, blend tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, chipotle and about ½ cup of chicken stock

3. When onions turn translucent, add blended mix.

4. Add cumin to sauce and stir.

5. After about 5 min on medium heat, add chicken to sauce and continue stirring.

6. Add salt and pepper.

7. Let cook 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

*You will have about ½ cup of Chicken stock left over. This is so if/when the Tinga begins to dry out, add more chicken stock to keep saturated.

**If you want the Tinga spicier, blend more chipotle with some chicken stock and add to mix.

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