If you're a fan of Chipotle you have likely heard of pollo asado, a delicious Mexican grilled chicken that's bursting with flavor. This traditional dish is perfect for a summer barbecue or a cozy family dinner.
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And while Chipotle may have removed this from their permanent menu, this pollo asado recipe is going to be on regular rotation in your house!
It's made with chicken breasts or thighs soaked in a zingy, citrusy, spicy marinade, then grilled until tender and juicy. This recipe could not be easier, but yields the most flavorful chicken.
📖Why This Recipe Works
This delicious chicken dish is perfect for when you're craving Mexican food, but don't want to have to leave the house.
You can add it to rice bowls, wrap it in warm tortillas to make a burrito, use it in soft tacos, on top of homemade tostadas, or use it in place of the BBQ chicken on these nachos! The possibilities are endless!
And whats more to love...
- It's just like Chipotle's pollo asado, but you can make it right at home. Okay, my personal opinion is I liked it better than the original.
- This recipe really couldn't be simpler, or quicker! You need a total of 5 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking. Oh, and it makes great meal prep too! Store it in the fridge for a few days or wrap it up and store it in the freezer for easy weeknight meals!
- This recipe utilizes the perfect marinade ingredients to create the absolute best flavor. Citrus juices, sweet, spicy, smoky spices, garlic...it doesn't get better than that!
Here are a few tips and notes to keep in mind before you gather your ingredients for this juicy chicken recipe!
Orange Juice and Lime Juice - I recommend using fresh orange and lime juice for the best flavor. If you'd rather save the time, pre-squeezed juices will work just fine too.
Oil - I recommend using vegetable oil since it has a more neutral flavor. Other oils, such as olive oil, have a more distinct taste that comes through too much in some recipes. But feel free to use any neutral oil you like. Avocado oil and grapeseed oil are good options.
Cilantro - We're adding fresh cilantro to the marinade, then saving a little bit for a garnish before serving.
White Wine Vinegar - The acidity in vinegar and citrus is what helps the chicken become so tender. Rice vinegar is a good substitute.
Seasonings and Aromatics - We're starting off with the classic onion and garlic combo, then seasoning with a blend of smoked paprika, kosher salt, dried oregano, cumin, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Chicken - You can use boneless skinless chicken thighs, tenderloins, or breasts. Keep in mind that they will cook at different rates.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
- Spice it up. Like a little extra heat? Add more red pepper flakes or a sprinkle of cayenne to the marinade.
- Use another meat. If you want to try this with another popular protein, you could definitely follow the same recipe using turkey, pork, beef, or even tofu. Just keep in mind that all cooking times will be different.
⏲️How to Make Pollo Asado
This delicious chicken recipe comes together in no time at all!
STEP 1 - Make the Marinade
Our pollo asado marinade is arguably the most important part of the whole recipe. It's what adds all of the flavor!
To make the marinade, combine half of the oil in a blender with orange and lime juice, oil, onion, garlic, cilantro, white wine vinegar, and all of the seasonings. Puree until smooth.
Because we are going to use the leftover marinade for the sauce, it is important to completely puree the marinade.
STEP 2 - Marinate the Chicken
Now that the marinade is ready to go, it's time to add in the chicken!
Place the chicken into a container or plastic zip-top bag, then pour the marinade mixture in with it. Toss gently to coat, then cover and marinate for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
I know. It's hard to wait. But marinating is the key to the most tender chicken. The longer it marinates, the better the texture will be!
Don't, however, let the meat marinate much longer than 12 hours. If it sits too long, that can also negatively affect the texture.
As the chicken marinates, toss it every few hours to make sure that flavor is evenly distributed throughout the meat.
Step 3 - Heat the Marinade
Don't discard the marinade! Once the chicken is done marinating, remove it from the mixture, then pour the marinade into a small pan. Bring it to a boil and allow it to cook for 2 minutes.
Just like your chicken, the marinade needs to reach 165 F degrees to be safe to eat.
STEP 4 - Grill It Up
Our last step is to cook the chicken. And, of course, we're doing it on the grill for the most authentic Chipotle chicken flavor.
If you don't have access to an outdoor grill, a grill pan will work too. You can also use a regular cast iron skillet, but your chicken won't have those delicious-looking grill marks.
First, preheat the grill to at least 350ºF.
Soak a towel in the remaining oil and use that to lightly grease the grill grates. This helps prevent the chicken from sticking! Cleaning the grill grates with a grill brush also helps prevent the chicken from sticking.
Place the chicken on the grill over indirect heat, cook for 5 minutes, then flip over and sear the chicken for another 3-5 minutes. Keep in mind that the cooking time depends on the size of the chicken you're using. Chicken breasts will also cook longer than chicken thighs.
Once the chicken is cooked through, pull it off of the grill, brush on the cooked marinade, then cut it into cubes and serve as desired! I like to add a little bit of chopped cilantro and fresh limes for a lovely presentation.
🥗What to Serve with Pollo Asado
While this pollo asado is definitely flavorful enough to eat by the forkful all on its own, it's definitely best served alongside any of your favorite rice side dishes. Try cilantro lime rice or chimichurri rice.
Top with Chipotle's classic fajita veggies, black beans, or pinto beans, and your favorite toppings.
The classic Chipotle toppings are corn salsa, pico de gallo, or guacamole. Sour cream and cheese are welcome too!
You can serve this copycat recipe over our classic house salad to make a flavorful chicken salad.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tip
- Traditional pollo asado contains achiote paste. This recipe was written to mimic the flavors we love about chipotle's pollo asado, but using common ingredients easily found at most grocery stores.
- If you decide to use achiote paste in this recipe, remove the vinegar and paprika and cut the oil, onion, ground cumin, and oregano in half.
Leftover chicken should be cooled completely, then stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If you want to freeze it, wrap it tightly in a freezer-safe container or bag and store it for up to 3 months.
When you're ready to serve again, thaw the chicken overnight in the fridge if frozen, then warm it in a pan on the stove or in the microwave until heated through.
More Easy Chicken Recipes
💬Frequently Asked Questions
Without getting into too much of a Spanish lesson, it is technically asado since it needs to match the masculine word "pollo". However, both asado and asada will communicate the same thing!
Pollo asado can have a little bit of a spicy flavor thanks to the crushed red pepper flakes. It's definitely milder in spice, though. If you like a little extra heat, feel free to add more red pepper flakes. If you don't like the heat, just leave them out.
Yes, you can use bone-in chicken in this recipe. However, it is recommended that you do this when serving the chicken as the main course, rather then deboning and chopping it. You will also need to alter the cooking time. You can follow the cooking instructions in our BBQ chicken thighs recipe for specifics.
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📖 Printable Recipe Card
Pollo Asado (Chipotle Copycat)
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¼ cup vegetable oil divided
- 1 small onion roughly chopped
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro plus more for garnish
- 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 pounds chicken breast or chicken thighs boneless and skinless
- Add half the oil and all the remaining ingredients, except the chicken, to a high speed blender. Puree until smooth.½ cup orange juice, ¼ cup lime juice, ¼ cup vegetable oil, 1 small onion, ¼ cup fresh cilantro, 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika, 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 3 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Place the chicken in a container or ziptop bag, pour the marinade over the chicken and toss to coat. Close or cover and marinate, at least 2 hours or overnight. Toss every few hours.2 pounds chicken breast or chicken thighs
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off the excess. Transfer the excess marinade to a small pan. Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes.
- Preheat your grill to at least 350 F degrees. Lightly oil the grates with a towel soaked in the remaining oil.
- Cook for 5 minutes and then flip and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, brush or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Brush on the cooked marinade. Cut the chicken into cubes and sprinkle on chopped cilantro.
- Store the cooled chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Traditional pollo asado contains achiote paste. This recipe was written to mimic the flavors using common ingredients. To use achiote paste in this recipe remove the vinegar and paprika, and cut the oil, onion, cumin, and oregano in half.
- Grill, gas or charcoal
Here are a few things to keep in mind when working with raw chicken:
- Clean thoroughly. Anything that touches the raw meat, including hands, kitchen tools, and dishes, should all be washed well after.
- Check the temperature. I recommend using an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken before cooking. It should be 165ºF.
- Cook the marinade. In most cases, you would just discard the marinade. Since we're using it to garnish our chicken, it needs to be cooked first. The heat kills off any bacteria that may be left behind from the raw meat.