This Mexican Pollo Asado yields the most juicy and flavorful chicken ever! It is full of bright and zesty flavors and perfect for an easy weeknight dinner.
I recently tried their pollo asado and let me say it was love at first bite. How did they make the chicken so juicy and flavorful? Well, I had to recreate it, and now my family enjoys it too.
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What is pollo asado?
Pollo asado means “roasted chicken” or “barbequed chicken.” It’s a Mexican twist on baked or grilled chicken that is marinated in citrus juice, spices, achiote paste, and garlic. It elevates simple grilled chicken and transforms it into an ultra-flavorful and juicy meat that is perfect for tacos, burritos, or on its own!
It’s been a delicious and flavorful way to change up my family’s dinnertime routine. You’ll love it too, because:
- It’s versatile. Like they do at Chipotle, we love to use this juicy Mexican chicken in all our classic Mexican dinners or as a protein option in sandwiches and wraps, too.
- Perfect texture and flavor. The texture of the chicken is crispy on the outside, juicy, and moist in the middle. It’s got a smoky, tangy, and subtle citrus flavor that works so well together.
- Oven or grill option. In Winter, we typically roast the chicken in the oven, but come summertime, it’s a firm favorite on the grill.
This pollo asado recipe is so easy to make, and besides the chicken and some Mexican staples, there isn’t much else needed to make. Here is what you’ll need (exact measurements in the recipe card):
- Chicken thighs. Skin-on and bone-in chicken thighs. I’ve tried this with boneless skinless chicken thighs and it didn’t hold the flavor as nicely as I liked. I also experimented with chicken breast fillets, but it wasn’t as juicy.
Pollo Asado marinade
- Citrus. Juice of both a lime and an orange is needed. I prefer squeezing my own, but if you only have it in a bottle, that is fine to use, too.
- Olive Oil. Or vegetable oil. You can also use butter too.
- Vinegar. For a subtle zesty flavor and tang. Any vinegar works, including white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
- Achiote paste. Achiote paste is a condiment made by blending ground achiote seeds with other spices. Thanks to the vinegar and seeds, it has a sweet, smoky, and peppery flavor. It alsogives this chicken it’s signature red color. You can find this unique seasoning at most grocery stores, online, or in specialty food stores. If you can’t find this, swap it out for soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce.
- Garlic. Always use fresh garlic over the dried kind- the flavor is unmatched, especially as a marinade for meat.
- Mexican spices. I kept things simple with a blend of Mexican oregano, ground cumin, black pepper, onion powder, and salt.
How to make pollo asado
Making this dish is ridiculously foolproof and besides a little prep, the oven or grill takes care of ALL the hard work!
Step 1- Make the marinade: Combine the orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, vinegar, achiote paste, garlic, oregano, cumin, onion powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
Step 2-Marinate the chicken: Whisk this with a fork to fully combine, then add the chicken to a large bowl and pour the marinade over it. Make sure to fully coat the chicken on all sides, then cover and let the chicken marinade for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours in the refrigerator.
Step 3- Prepare the chicken: When the chicken is almost done marinating, preheat the oven to 200C/400F and let the chicken sit at room temperature before cooking.
Step 4- Bake the chicken and serve: Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake the chicken for 30 minutes.
Can I grill pollo asado instead?
Yes! I actually prefer grilling this chicken during the summer months and it’s just as easy as baking! Here is how to grill it:
- Prep the chicken as instructed.
- Clean the charcoal grill grates, lightly grease them, then preheat them to medium-high heat.
- Grill the chicken skin side down for 5-7 minutes on one side, then flip and grill for another 4-5 minutes.
- Continue grilling the chicken, flipping it every few minutes until it is fully cooked.
Just remember to cook the chicken on the light side of the grill, away from indirect heat (direct heat will char the outsides but keep the insides under-done).
Recipe tips and variations
Marinate for longer. While 30 minutes is ample time for this chicken to marinate, I prefer marinating it for at least 4 hours or even overnight. I find the chicken absorbs even more flavor and actually yields a more tender piece of chicken.
Reserve some marinade. I like to baste the chicken regularly throughout the cooking process with the leftover marinade, as this adds more flavor and moisture to the meat.
Rest the chicken. As with any chicken recipe (especially ones with darker meat), let the chicken rest for 4-5 minutes before serving. This allows the internal juices to re-distribute.
Use a meat thermometer. It’s the easiest way to tell when your chicken is done. To know if you’re chicken is fully cooked, test the thickest piece with a meat thermometer for an internal temperature of 74C/165F.
Add some spice: If you are a spice fiend like I am, add some extra heat to the marinate. I find fresh chilis to be a little too overpowering, so a touch of dried cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes are great, or even a drizzle (no more than 1 1/2 teaspoons) or a chili sauce.
What to serve with this dish
My family loves to enjoy this chicken as the protein star during our Mexican night dinners. Inspired by Chipotle, I serve this with cilantro lime rice, warm tortillas, and some refried beans.
Other delicious ideas include Mexican rice, a corn salad, and let’s not forget lashings of salsa and guacamole.
To store: Store leftovers in an airtight container or wrapped in aluminum foil in the fridge. Stored this way, it will last up to 4 days in the fridge.
To freeze: Store cooled leftover chicken in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
To reheat: Transfer leftovers to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 177C/350F for 10-12 minutes or until fully reheated. If the chicken is wrapped in foil, do not unwrap it and bake it in the foil.
More Mexican dinners to try
Frequently asked questions
No. Achiote paste combines achiote powder, oil, spices, and vinegar and is a thick paste, whereas the powder comprises of dried and ground annatto seeds.
Yes! When made exactly as written, this dish is suitable for celiacs.
- Whisk together all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, except for the chicken, until combined.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to four hours.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F and let the chicken sit at room temperature.
- Lightly grease a large baking tray and arrange the marinated chicken thighs on it.
- Bake the chicken for 28-30 minutes, or until crispy on the outside.
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