My quest for the best grilled chicken recipe continues with Pollo Asado, tender, juicy grilled chicken with a Yucatecan-style marinade of achiote paste, citrus, and onion.
Of all things grillable, I do believe grilled chicken is a family favorite. The flavor of the charcoal grill just does something special when it crisps the juicy skin of a chicken. It’s magic, I’m telling ya.
We like it so much that seasoning chicken pieces with simply salt and pepper and tossing it on the grill is one of our go-to weeknight dinners but what I’ve really been craving is the next level pollo asado you get from the roadside stands in the Yucatan peninsula.
Have you had it? I’ve been trying to recreate it for years. If you’ve never been blessed with Yucatecan grilled chicken let me try to describe it for you. It is a perfect blend of spices, garlic, and citrus juices but what seals the deal is achiote paste. It not only adds a gorgeous rust color but a savory tang that is irresistible.
What is Achiote Paste?
Achiote paste is not exactly paste at all but comes in a soft brick made from Mexican spices such as coriander seed and Mexican oregano, vinegar and annatto seed. This paste (also known as recado rojo) is the dominate flavor of Yucatecan food in Mexico like Cochinita Pibil. You can find it at your local Latin grocery store.
The Yucatán isn’t the only place that loves achiote. It is used throughout the Caribbean in places like Cuba and Puerto Rico where it is commonly made into an oil to add color and flavor to dishes.
You will sometimes also see achiote powder but this is not the same thing. Achiote powder is finely ground annatto seeds without the spice blend added.
You will often see paprika suggested as a substitute but really the only thing they have in common is the color. Achiote paste is pretty easy to find these days but of course you can always get it online if your grocery store doesn’t carry it.
Ingredients To Make Pollo Asado
- 1 whole chicken (about 3 pounds) or 3 pounds of chicken pieces
- Garlic cloves
- Fresh cilantro
- Lime juice
- Ground Cumin
- White onion
- Orange juice
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- Achiote paste
- 2 tablespoons Olive oil
How To Make Pollo Asado
The longer you let the chicken marinate, the better this pollo asado recipe will be. I like to let it sit overnight but you can give it as little as 30 minutes.
Cut chicken into pieces. If you are using a whole chicken cut into 10 pieces or skip this step and use 10 pieces of bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. This can be chicken breast, thighs, drumsticks, wings, or a combination. You should have about 3 pounds of chicken total.
If you want to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs the grill time will be significantly less, about 8-10 minutes per side.
Prep marinade ingredients. Slice onion, chop cilantro, peel garlic, juice the citrus, and gather the rest of the ingredients for the pollo asado marinade.
Blend marinade. Combine everything but the chicken in the blender and blend on high until smooth.
Marinate chicken. Place chicken in a single layer in a large baking dish or other container and pour marinade over the chicken. Turn the chicken pieces so they are covered in marinade. Seal the airtight container, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but best overnight.
Grill chicken. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat but only put charcoal in about half of the grill. If using a gas grill, leave one of the burners off. Remove chicken from the refrigerator while you wait for the grill to heat.
Once the grill is hot, clean the grates and oil them then place the chicken, skin-side down and cover with the lid (but make sure the top and bottom air vents are open all the way) for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes check the chicken to see if any pieces are in an area of the grill that is too hot and they are burning. If so, move them to a cooler area of the grill.
Close the lid (again, make sure your vents are open) and let cook, undisturbed for 20 minutes.
Flip chicken, putting any pieces that are cooking too quickly to the cooler side of the grill, and cook with the lid closed for another 20 minutes or until they are cooked through, the meat and skin is starting to pull away from the bone and the chicken is firm to the touch.
If you want to be really sure, insert a meat thermometer or an instant read thermometer into the thickest piece, it should have an internal temperature of 165°F.
Serve. Serve immediately or transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200°F oven for up to an hour.
What to Serve with this Pollo Asado Recipe
Of course you can’t just serve this Mexican chicken recipe and call it a meal. Here are a few ideas for rounding out the menu:
- Cut the grilled chicken into pieces and serve it in this Smoky Chile Relleno Rice Bowl.
- Do like the Mexicans do and serve with warm tortillas, rice, and salsa.
- Or serve with one of our favorite salads like this Kale Salad with Roasted Peanuts and Queso Fresco or Romaine with Avocado and Grapefruit Vinaigrette .
- Start the meal with a large bowl of Smoky Chipotle Guacamole and then try my easy Mexican Red rice recipe that you bake in the oven.
- Cook up a skillet of Blistered Shishito Peppers.
More Grilling Recipes To Try!
- Love marinated chicken recipes? Try my Grilled Chicken Fajitas.
- Learn how to make Tacos Al Pastor at home! Don’t skip the sweet and tangy Grilled Pineapple Salsa.
- Find step-by-step instructions for making perfect grilled pork chops.
- You’ve got to try the spice blend on these Grilled Fish Tacos with Sweet Corn Salsa. It’s spicy, but so good!
- Try Grilled Red Wine and Garlic Marinated London Broil.
- Go for Grilled Veggie Skewers with Smoky Chile Vinaigrette.
- How about this fan favorite? Grilled Asparagus Salad with Olive-Chile Dressing.
Pollo Asado is the Spanish Word for Delicious!
What do you think? Best grilled chicken status or what? Let me know when you try it by snapping a pic and tagging me on Instagram @holajalapeno and #holajalapeno so I can see or leave me a comment below (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating) ! Also, sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!
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