Pollo Asado (Mexican Grilled Chicken)
Pollo Asado is a mouth-watering Mexican chicken dish that is marinated in a flavorful combination of citrus juice, achiote paste, and spices, then grilled to perfection. Serve it up alongside your favorite side dishes for a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!
If you’re looking for a chicken dinner recipe so delicious it tricks you into thinking you’re at your favorite Mexican restaurant, look no further than this Pollo Asado. This delicious dish is easy to make and packed with tons of incredible flavor.
This chicken is marinated with orange juice, lime juice, achiote paste, and a savory blend of spices, then grilled to juicy, charred perfection. It also cooks in just 15 minutes, making Pollo Asado the perfect easy weeknight meal. Make tacos, burrito bowls, or serve it with grilled veggies, beans, and rice.
The key to achieving such an amazing flavor profile lies in the marinade. The combination of citrus juices, olive oil, spices, and ultra-flavorful achiote paste results in an unbeatable dish that is as colorful as it is delicious.
Personally, I love serving Pollo Asado alongside a bowl of Mexican Cauliflower Rice and Quick Refried Beans. However, this healthy and delicious chicken entrée tastes great with just about anything. Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think!
Chipotle restaurant fans? If you are a loyal Chipotle customer, this dish will remind you of the new Chipotle Pollo Asado that's cooked on the plancha with spices, cilantro, and lime juice. This super popular protein is usually served with cilantro lime rice, corn salsa, and pico de gallo for a copycat burrito bowl at home. We also love these Copycat Fajita Vegetables and Carne Asada.
Mexican food is something we love here at Slender Kitchen. Make sure not to miss this Pollo Ranchero, Pollo Pibil, Bistec Ranchero, or Steak Tacos!
What is Pollo Asado?
Pollo Asado is a traditional grilled chicken dish from Mexico, meaning literally grilled (asado) chicken (pollo). The base for this dish is a marinade made with achiote paste, a popular dark red seasoning blend from Mexico made from ground annatto seeds and spices.
In Mexico, normally a whole chicken is marinated and then it is butterflied or spatchcocked and grilled on a charcoal grill until the skin is super crispy. It is often served with corn tortillas, salsa, rice, and beans.
Pollo Asado is beyond easy to make and comes together using just a few key ingredients:
- Chicken: For this recipe, you can use boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs. To make sure the chicken is a uniform thickness, you might need to pound the chicken breasts down. Bone-in, skin-on chicken can be used as well, just adjust the cooking time.
- Citrus juice. I like to use a combination of fresh orange juice and fresh lime juice to add a ton of freshness and enhance the flavors of the delicious marinade. Fresh is always best, but you can use orange juice from a carton if needed.
- Achiote paste: Achiote paste is made from ground annatto seeds combined with ground cumin, Mexican oregano, garlic, and vinegar. It has a peppery aroma and subtle, earthy flavor. If you can’t find any, achiote powder will also do the trick. If you can't find either, there is a recipe for a substitute below.
- Spice blend: You will need a combination of cumin, coriander, Mexican oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper to season the chicken. If you can’t find Mexican oregano, regular oregano will work fine as well.
Pollo Asado Recipe Tips
Here are my top tips and tricks for making the best Pollo Asado:
- Make it spicy. Looking for a kick? Add some crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, or a few dashes of hot sauce to the marinade.
- Add cilantro. Fresh herbs go a long way in brightening up a dish and adding tons of fresh flavor. To complement this dish, I recommend cilantro.
- Clean your grill. For best results, you make sure to clean your grill before cooking the chicken. A clean grill ensures your chicken will have direct contact with the heat, giving this dish that beautiful, photo-worthy sear.
- Pound your chicken. For tender, juicy chicken, this step is essential. Pounding your chicken breasts helps to ensure that the chicken cooks evenly and will come out nice and tender.
- Let it rest. After your chicken is done cooking, it’s important to let it rest for around 5-10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the chicken, ensuring that every bite is as juicy as possible.
Ways to Serve Grilled Mexican Chicken
Pollo asado is extremely versatile and can be served as the main dish or used in many different Mexican dishes. Here are some of the most popular ways to serve it.
- Tacos: Gran some warm tortillas and pile in chopped chicken, cilantro, diced white onion, and your favorite salsa. Try it with salsa verde, pineapple salsa, or even this mango black bean salsa. It's also delicious in a chicken taco bowl.
- Burritos: Grab a flour tortilla and add cooked rice, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and avocado for a filling and delicious burrito.
- Burrito Bowls: Copy Chipotle's famous dish and layer rice, beans, fajita vegetables, salsa, cheese, and sour cream in a hearty bowl.
- Quesadillas: If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, turn this into a Healthy Chicken Quesadilla.
What to Serve With Pollo Asado
This dish is inspired by one of my favorite Mexican entrées and tastes fantastic with just about anything. Not sure what to pair with it? Here are some of my favorite side dishes to serve with this grilled chicken recipe:
- Grains: You truly can’t go wrong with serving Pollo Asado alongside a simple bowl of rice. I like to pair it with brown rice, quinoa, Mexican Cauliflower Rice, or this Cilantro Rice Cauliflower Rice.
- Beans: For a hearty and satisfying meal, serve this dish alongside your favorite cooked beans. Pinto beans, refried beans, or black beans all work great.
- Veggies: For a low-carb meal, serve this dish alongside your favorite cooked vegetables. Personally, I’m a sucker for Grilled Peppers or these Easy Grilled Onions. This Grilled Avocado is also so good with chicken,
- Salad: Pollo Asado is a great protein source to use for topping off your favorite salads. I love serving it over a Mexican-inspired salad like this Black Bean and Corn Salad or this Southwest Quinoa Salad.
How long does grilled chicken need to marinate?
Pollo Asado should be left to marinate for at least an hour to achieve maximum flavor, but feel free to let it sit for longer! Just don’t let the chicken marinate for longer than 4 hours, as the citrus juice will start breaking down the chicken at that point.
If you are marinating the chicken for more than 30 minutes, marinate the chicken in the fridge. Then let it come to room temperature before grilling.
Leftovers & Storage Tips
Looking to save your leftovers for later? No problem! This dish is very storage-friendly. To store leftover chicken, allow it to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight storage bag or container. Then, you can store it one of two ways:
- In the fridge for up to 5 days.
- In the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
Leftover marinated chicken can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Store it in an airtight container. Let it defrost fully before grilling it or cooking it in the oven.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this healthy Mexican-inspired recipe:
How do I know when my chicken is done?
Pollo Asado grills for about 5 minutes on each side. However, an easy way to tell when your chicken is cooked through is to make sure it has reached an internal temperature of 165°F at the thickest part.
What can I use instead of achiote paste?
If you can’t get your hands on any achiote paste or powder, you can easily make a substitute at home. Simply combine paprika, white vinegar, dried Mexican oregano, minced garlic, and cumin, and voila.
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1.5 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 small garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
Can pollo asado be cooked in the oven?
Pollo Asado can be baked in the oven instead of on the grill. After the chicken marinates, remove it from the marinade letting the excess drip off. Place it in a baking dish, making sure it is in a single layer. Bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked to 165 degrees. Tent it with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.
It can also be cooked in a heavy cast-iron skillet. Once the pan is hot, add a touch of oil. Then cook the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side. Make sure to cook the chicken in a single layer, not overcrowding the pan.
How should I cooked chicken with skin on the grill?
If you are cooking with bone-in chicken, it will take longer on the grill and comes out best over indirect heat. To do this, light only half the burners on a gas grill. Then start the chicken on the direct heat, cooking for about 5 minutes per side until it has nice grill marks. Start with the skin side down.
Then move it to the indirect heat and let cook for 20-30 minutes until cooked through to 165 degrees. The exact cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken.
Let rest for 10 minutes, tenting with foil so it stays warm. This same method works with a charcoal grill.
Is this dish healthy?
Yes! This dish is made with a combination of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs, which are some of the leanest sources of protein. It’s low in carbs, calories, and fat, yet high in protein, fiber, and nutrients. When paired with healthy side dishes like vegetables and whole grains, this is a perfectly healthy meal.
Pollo Asado (Mexican Grilled Chicken)
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- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (or chicken breast)
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp achiote paste (or powder)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp oregano (Mexican is best)
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
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- Nutritional Information
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
If using chicken breasts, make sure to pound them down into uniform pieces or cut them horizontally into smaller cutlets so they cook quickly and evenly.
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