These spiced chicken tacos with plum salsa are a wonderful combination of warm spices and a sweet and tangy salsa. The chicken is coated with an easy sauce that was inspired by the flavors of mole poblano. Mole sauces (there are may different versions of mole) are complex and slow cooked but I like quick and easy recipes. So I created a sauce that has many of the flavors of mole but takes just 5 minutes.
Warm Spiced Chicken Sauce
The sauce for the chicken is a combination of cocoa powder, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne pepper. Cinnamon and cocoa powder with chicken? Yes! Those warm sweet spices are wonderful with a savory dish and are components in many Mole sauces. I use a very similar spice rub in my baby back ribs recipe. The spices are toasted in a pan to enhance their flavors and then mixed with agave and oil to create a wonderful smooth coating for the chicken.
Even if you don’t like spicy food, I highly recommend using at least half of the cayenne pepper. A small amount of cayenne will act more as a flavor enhancer than a spicy element.
Sweet, tangy and spicy. You can’t go wrong when you combine these flavors. Chopped sweet plum, tangy lime juice, bitter green onion and some serrano pepper make for a perfect combination. See below for some advice on the spice level in the salsa.
Which Pepper to use for Salsa
I prefer serrano peppers because they are on the milder side of hot peppers. However, and this is a big however, hot peppers of the same type can vary wildly in levels of heat. So taste a small piece of the pepper. Based on your preference for spicy heat and the heat of the pepper, you decide how much to add to your salsa. When I am serving a crowd with mixed preferences for heat, I just add a little and put the rest of the minced pepper in a bowl for diners to add their own.
On the other hand, if you want a much spicier salsa, you can swap out the serrano pepper for a jalapeno pepper. These are usually much hotter and will add a nice kick to your plum salsa.
Cooking Chicken for Tacos
To make it an easy preparation, I use boneless skinless chicken. You can use thighs or breasts – whatever your preference. I cook just about everything on the grill (I have even been known to “bake” chocolate chip cookies on the grill) so I grill the chicken. Another easy cooking method for boneless skinless chicken is to cook it in the oven. I like doing it this way because it means very little babysitting and I can prepare other parts of the dish in the mean time.
I went with the traditional corn tortillas for my chicken tacos with plum salsa. My local grocery store carries Guerrero Corn Tortillas which are gluten-free. If you prefer corn-free. grain-free tortillas, Siete Foods has several different kinds of certified grain and gluten-free tortillas. The cassava and chickpea flour ones are quite good but need to be warm to keep them from tearing.
Tacos with Plum Salsa
- 8 gluten-free corn tortillas
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken dark or white
- 2 limes cut into wedges
- choppped cilantro for garnish
- 2 firm plums
- 1 lime
- 1 stalk green onion
- 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 serrano pepper
- 3 pinches salt
Sauce for chicken filling
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbsps agave maple syrup or honey if you prefer
- 3 Tbsps oil neutral oil like sunflower or avocado
- Prepare the chicken
- Sprinkle the chicken with a light coating of salt on both sides.
- Cook the chicken on the grill around 4-6 minutes per side. Or bake on a sheet pan in the oven at 375°F for about 20 minutes. Depending on the size and thickness of your chicken, cooking time will vary from 20-30 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking . . .
- Make the Plum Salsa
- Dice the plum into 1/4" pieces and chop the green onion stalk into small rounds. Set aside half of the chopped onion for garnish.
- Cut the serrano pepper in half and remove the ribs and seeds. Taste a small piece. Serrano peppers are usually on the milder side of spicy. Based on the heat level of your pepper and your preference for heat, use the entire pepper for spicy. If you prefer medium, use 1/4 to 1/2 of the pepper.** Mince the pepper.
- Cut the lime in half.
- Place about 1/3 of the chopped plum in a small mixing bowl and mash it with a fork to break it down a little bit. It does not need to be pureed. Just hit 10-12 times.
- Add the remaining diced plum, green onion and serrano. Add the chopped cilantro, the juice of the lime and 3 pinches of salt.
- Stir well and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
- Make the filling sauce
- Place the cocoa powder, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne in a small skillet. Heat over a medium-high heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add the oil and agave. Simmer, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Do not leave it in the pan, as the residual heat will burn the spices.
- Make the chicken filling
- Once the chicken is cooked, cut it into 1" strips and place in a mixing bowl.
- Use your hands or 2 forks to shred it.
- Toss it with the oil and spice rub mixture.
- Assemble the tacos
- Wrap the stack of tortillas in a kitchen towel and warm in the microwave for 20 seconds. Keep them covered while assembling your tacos. This will keep them pliable.
- Place a spoonful of chicken onto the tortilla, top with salsa, chopped onion and cilantro. Serve with a wedge of lime.