The other day a reader asked why I didn’t have a recipe for pollo asado and I had to look and they were right. So to set the record straight and say I do I decided to share my How To Make Pollo Asado recipe. It’s a fantastic and authentic version of the juicy and flavorful chicken that hails from Mexico and Cuba.
Typically the chicken is marinated 2-4 hours (often times overnight) in garlic, Mexican oregano, ground cumin and citrus juices of lime and orange. The sweet and slightly smoky essence comes from achiote paste and I offer a make at home alternative if you can’t find the achiote paste in any nearby markets.
This is fantastic grilled and then shredded with lots of fresh lime juice squeezed over in tacos.
It can be served with rice, beans and grilled onions and jalapeños, but I keep it simple most times with grilled fresh corn tortillas, lime and fresh cilantro for that easy Taco Tuesday alternative.
Achiote Paste can be found in most Latin markets and is a deep red and not only gives that authentic red colored chicken, but give a slightly peppery, smoky flavor. You can read more about achiote paste in my post Achiote Oil, Paste and the Annatto Seed.
If you can’t find achiote paste I have made an alternative in the recipe below, although I have seen annoto seed powder in some Mexican and Asian markets. While the chicken is grilling I like to purée the marinade in a blender and baste the chicken often. Discard it when done grilling, it is not to be used for dipping since it’s not cooked and raw chicken was in it!
If you want to try other recipes with achiote paste check out my Yucatan Tostadas, Achiote Pan Seared Chicken on Southwest Rainbow Hash, or as a side try my Mexican Grilled Corn. Enjoy!
My take on How To Make Pollo Asado starts with marinating chicken in orange and lime juice, oregano, cumin, garlic and achiote paste for 2-4 hours or overnight. Grill & eat! Prep Time does not include marinating overnight.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp Mexican oregano
- 4 oz achiote paste optional (See Note 1)
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 5-lb. whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, and achiote paste (if using, See Note 1) and cook for several minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Set aside.
Put cooled achiote garlic mixture, orange juice, and lime juice in a large Ziploc freezer bag. Add chicken pieces, seal bag, and massage chicken and marinate 2-4 hours or overnight. Any longer will toughen the chicken. We want TENDER. (See Note 2)
- Preheat grill to 350°F to 400°F. Remove chicken from marinade; and set marinade aside.
- Grill chicken, covered, until an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F when inserted into thickest portion of each piece. About 20 to 30 minutes. I do not turn them over during cooking, no need for grill marks.
Meanwhile while chicken is grilling: purée marinade and baste chicken often throughout grilling. Discard when done.
1. I break up and smash the achiote paste as best I can in the marinade mixture, making sure it's blended in. You can also puree in a blender for a smoother mixture after it cools. If it is not to your liking I here is an achiote spice blend substitute:
Achiote Paste Alternative
- 1 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- Combine in a small bowl and use to marinate chicken along with other seasonings and usually citrus juice.
2. Acid bases include vinegar, wine, citrus juice, and tomatoes. Acidic marinades might actually toughen chicken. So when using a highly acidic marinade for chicken, add a little olive oil and/or minimize marinating time. With the garlic, spice and achiote mixture included up to overnight (8 hours) is OK.