Juicy chicken is coated in a bold and flavorful pollo asado marinade and then grilled or roasted to tender perfection. This pollo asado recipe, also referred to as pollo asada, is full of citrus and Mexican spices, including achiote powder!
Pollo Asado is amazing on its own, but if you’re looking to beef it up, it pairs nicely with flour tortillas, pico de gallo, mango pico de gallo, and 4-ingredient guacamole. Many of the same toppings we use on Birria (for Birria Tacos and Birria Ramen).
Table of Contents
What Is Pollo Asado
Pollo asado is a bold chicken recipe popular in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Caribbean. The chicken marinade is comprised of citrus juices, achiote powder, coriander, paprika, Mexican oregano, garlic and more. It’s one of the most flavorful chicken marinades.
Traditionally, pollo asada is make with bone-in chicken thighs or leg quarters, however we go with what cut we have on hand, usually skinless and boneless chicken thighs.
Is pollo asado spicy? Not as written below. We created this recipe for the masses. If you want to amp up the heat go ahead and throw in some chili powder or cayenne pepper.
Pollo Asado Meaning
Pollo Asado translates to roasted or barbecued chicken. “Pollo” translates to “chicken” in English while “Asado” (or Asada) translates to “roasted” or “barbecued” in English.
The Spanish word “pollo” translated to English means “chicken,” and asado means “roasted” or “barbecued”, so pollo asado means roasted or barbecued chicken.
Annatto seeds, native to the tropical areas of the Americas, are ground to make the colorful achiote powder. Achiote is used as a food spice, food colorant, fabric dye, cosmetic colorant, and the list goes on. The beautiful red color of the chicken comes from the achiote powder. Its flavor profile is nutty, peppery and a light bit sweet. You can pick up achiote powder for the latin section of your grocery store or from Amazon.
Pollo Asado Marinade
While the list of ingredients looks long it only takes less than 10 minutes to prepare since chopping is limited to the citrus fruits and garlic. The variety of elements lend to a complex and dynamite flavor profile – tangy, earthy, nutty and bright all in one. Try not to skip over any element to get the full experience.
Mexican Chicken Recipe
This roasted chicken recipe (pollo rostizado) is shockingly easy considering how complex the dish is. It really shows what the right mix of spices can do to a simple ingredient like chicken. Only 3 basic steps are involved:
- Marinate the Chicken – Only marinate your chicken for 1-4 hours. Any longer and you’ll end up with rubbery chicken. Blah.
- Set up the Grill – You’ll use indirect cooking, which means only one side of the burners will be lit, leaving the other side unlit. For a charcoal grill, lit charcoal should only be on one side of the grill, while the other stays charcoal-free.
- Grill the Chicken – Grill for 10 minutes (skin side down) on the direct heat side of the grill. Flip the chicken over and place on the indirect side of the grill. Close the lid and grill for another 15-20 minutes, until an internal temperature of 175 degrees F is reached (or 165 degrees F for chicken breast).
- Cut of Chicken – Any cut of chicken will do. Think whole chicken, chicken quarters, chicken breasts, chicken thighs, etc. We recommend dark meat for this particular Mexican chicken recipe as to ensure it stays juicy after cooking.
- This is a great recipe to use in your weekly meal prep schedule. Make the marinade and refrigerate it for up to 5 days. 1-4 hours before cooking, slather it on the chicken to marinate.
- Trader Joe’s Pollo Asado – this is not a copycat recipe for Trader Joe’s Pollo Asado. We love T.J., but homemade is the way to go.
- You can freeze the chicken and marinade together for up to 3 months. Just defrost in the refrigerator like you would any other chicken recipe.
- Store cooked chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Achiote Chicken Uses
So. Many. Things. Basically anything we make with Carne Asada, we also make with pollo asado. Just swap in the pollo asado for the carne asada.
- Pollo Asado Tacos – similar to our beloved Carne Asada tacos! Would be awesome topped with pickled red onions or pickled peppers.
- Pollo Asado Nachos – Just swap equal parts carne asada steak for our achiote chicken (Carne Asada Nachos).
- Pollo Asado Fries – Just swap equal parts carne asada steak for chicken (Carne Asada Fries).
- Pollo Asado Quesadilla – tuck chicken into a large flour tortilla and top with guacamole, sour cream and cheese (cheese quesadilla). Instant Pot refried beans would also be a great addition.
- Pollo Asado Fajitas – Swap out the existing protein for this chicken (Chicken Fajitas or Steak Fajitas).
- + Mulitas, Tostadas, Tortas, Taquitos or Flautas!
Pollo Asado Side Dish Ideas
- 2-3 lbs Chicken Thighs, Legs or Breast (*Note 1)
- ¼ Cup Orange Juice
- 1 tbsp Lime Juice
- 1 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
- 1 tbsp Achiote Powder (ground annatto seed)* (*Note 2)
- 1 tbsp Ground Coriander
- 1 tbsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tsp Smoked Paprika (*Note 3)
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 2 tsp Dried Mexican Oregano (*Note 4)
- 1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Ground Cumin
- ⅛ tsp Ground Cloves
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
MARINATE THE CHICKEN:
- Remove any excess fat from the chicken and add to a large Ziploc Bag.
- Add all the marinade ingredients to a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and pour over the chicken. Seal the bag and massage with your hands to ensure all surface areas of the chicken are coated.
- Place the bag in the refrigerator and let marinate for 1 hours to 4 hours.
GRILL THE CHICKEN:
- Pre-heat the grill to medium heat and set up for indirect cooking.
- Remove the chicken from the Ziploc bag and shake off any excess marinade. Discard the remaining marinade. Place the chicken on the direct heat side of the grill (skin side down if not using skinless). Grill for 10 minutes with the lid down. Flip the chicken and move to the indirect heat side of the grill and grill for 15-20 minutes. Grill until the internal temperature is 175 degrees F (or 165 degrees F for chicken breast)
ROAST THE CHICKEN:
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the Ziploc bag and shake off any excess marinade. Discard the remaining marinade. Transfer the chicken to a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the internal temperature is 175 degrees F (or 165 degrees F for chicken breast)