Smoked Chicken Tacos with Pickled Pink Lady Apple and Tarragon Slaw

Smoked Chicken Tacos with Pickled Pink Lady Apple and Tarragon Slaw
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About This Recipe

When one thinks of Napa Valley, the immediate image might be of sprawling vineyards and bottles of the finest wine. But there's another culinary secret that has been making waves in our local gatherings, and it's our take on the classic chicken tacos recipe. Here in wine country, our palate is as sophisticated as it is diverse, which has given rise to this delicious dish - Smoked Chicken Tacos with Pickled Pink Lady Apple and Tarragon Slaw.

At the heart of this delicacy is the smoked chicken. Smoking is an ancient culinary technique, but when used with chicken for chicken tacos, it gives the meat a deep, intense flavor that is both rich and tantalizing. The key to a perfect smoked chicken recipe lies in the choice of wood chips and the marinade. In our version, we opt for a mix of applewood and mesquite, combining the fruity and earthy aromas. Several local butcheries, like The Fatted Calf in Napa, provide excellent quality chicken that is perfect for smoking.

However, what sets this chicken tacos recipe apart is the combination of smoked chicken and the vibrant flavors of Pink Lady apple slaw. Pink Lady apples, with their sweet and tangy flavor, are a favorite in the Napa and Sonoma regions. When pickled, these apples add a delightful zing to the dish. Combine them with the aromatic tarragon herb - a herb that has a slight anise flavor - and you have an apple slaw recipe that is both refreshing and intricate.

The magic happens when the smoky goodness of the chicken melds with the tanginess of the pickled apples. The tarragon herb subtly elevates the flavors, and before you know it, this chicken for chicken tacos transforms into a gourmet treat that's right at home in the culinary wonderland of Napa Valley.

Yet, any dish from this region feels incomplete without the perfect wine pairing. The smoked chicken's richness and the apple slaw's crisp acidity demand wines that can either complement or contrast these flavors. A local Chardonnay, like the one from Cakebread Cellars, with its full-bodied profile, can mirror the dish's creamy tones. For those looking for a classic choice, the refreshing Rosé from Cline Cellars in Sonoma can stand up to the smoked chicken's intensity. And if you're in the mood for something a tad adventurous, try a Grüner Veltliner - its peppery notes and bright acidity offer a delightful counter to the dish's creamy slaw.

But the story of these tacos isn’t just confined to a main course. Imagine starting with a sun-drenched tomato salad, fresh from a local vineyard garden, followed by our smoked chicken tacos. Round off this meal with a light lemon sorbet, perhaps from Three Twins Ice Cream in Napa. Such a menu is perfect for a summer afternoon lunch, with the breezy Californian wind as your backdrop.

For visitors to Napa or Sonoma, trying this smoked chicken tacos recipe is a must. And if you’re not one for cooking, there are plenty of local eateries that offer their takes on this dish. But for those who cherish the essence of wine country and wish to recreate its magic at home, this recipe is your ticket.

In the end, it's not just about the smoked chicken or the pickled apples; it's about the spirit of Napa Valley. It’s about honoring traditional recipes, adding a local twist, and ensuring that every bite takes you on a journey through the rich culinary landscape of Northern California. This chicken tacos recipe embodies the Napa ethos - it’s familiar, yet sophisticated; traditional, yet innovative. And just like a bottle of fine wine from our region, it's something you'll cherish and remember for a long time.

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Pink Lady Apples

Pink Lady Apples are not just any ordinary fruit. Originating in Australia, these apples boast a unique blush skin and a tantalizing blend of tartness and sweet flavors. What truly sets them apart for our chicken tacos recipe is their crisp texture, even after pickling. Being naturally high in both sugar and acid, they maintain a juicy crunch, making them perfect for our apple slaw recipe. Their vibrant hue and inherent sweetness also offer a delightful contrast to the smoky richness of the smoked chicken, giving the tacos a balanced and refreshing edge. When you bite into a taco, that burst of tangy, crunchy apple is the Pink Lady working its magic!

How to Perfectly Smoke Your Chicken

  1. Choosing the Right Chicken: Opt for boneless chicken thighs; they remain juicy and are packed with flavor.
  2. Marinade Matters: Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. This ensures the flavors penetrate deeply.
  3. Wood Chips: For this smoked chicken recipe, use a blend of applewood and mesquite for a balanced smoky aroma.
  4. Low and Slow: Maintain a temperature between 225°F to 250°F. Smoke the chicken for 1-2 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  5. Rest: Once smoked, let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before shredding. This retains the juices and ensures tender chicken for chicken tacos.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I use a different apple variety for the slaw? While Pink Lady apples are ideal due to their flavor and texture, you can substitute with Honeycrisp or Fuji apples. However, adjust the pickling time as softer apples may become too mushy.
  2. What if I don’t have a smoker? No worries! You can still make a delicious smoked chicken recipe using your oven. Use liquid smoke for flavor, and roast your chicken at a low temperature to mimic the slow-cooking process of smoking.
  3. How can I store leftover smoked chicken? Store any leftover smoked chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently to avoid drying it out.
  4. Any alternatives to tarragon herb in the slaw? If you can’t find tarragon, you can use fresh dill or fennel fronds. Both will provide a slightly different, yet delightful, aromatic touch to the apple slaw recipe.
  5. I have a nut allergy. What can I use in place of mayonnaise in the slaw? For those with allergies, substitute mayonnaise with a blend of yogurt and a splash of apple cider vinegar. It will give your coleslaw and apple recipe a tangy, creamy texture without the nuts.

Tips for Success

  1. Balance Your Flavors: When making the pickled apple slaw, taste as you go. Depending on the sweetness of your apples, you may need to adjust the sugar or vinegar to achieve the perfect balance.
  2. Shred Chicken While Warm: It’s easier to shred the smoked chicken while it's still warm. Use two forks to pull apart the meat to get that desired shredded texture for your chicken tacos.
  3. Serve Immediately: To enjoy the full range of flavors and textures, serve the tacos immediately after assembling. The contrast between the warm smoked chicken and the cool, crisp apple slaw is part of what makes this dish truly special.

Recipe Overview

Smoked Chicken Tacos with Pickled Pink Lady Apple and Tarragon Slaw
Lily Anderson
6 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, smoked and shredded
  • 6 small tortillas, warmed
  • 2 Pink Lady apples, julienned
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, for garnish

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Begin with the pickled apples: In a bowl, combine red wine vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the julienned Pink Lady apples and red onion. Allow this mixture to sit for at least 20 minutes, occasionally stirring.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lime juice, tarragon, and jalapeño. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Combine the pickled apple mixture with the mayonnaise blend to create the tarragon slaw.
  4. To assemble the tacos, lay out the warmed tortillas and evenly distribute the shredded smoked chicken amongst them.
  5. Top each taco generously with the tarragon slaw.
  6. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
  7. Serve immediately with your choice of side or beverage.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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