Pollo Asado Recipe

5 from 48 votes

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

This pollo asado recipe creates a juicy grilled chicken dinner that starts with a quick and easy lime juice, Mexican spices and achiote marinade. Use my recipe tips and video to make a fantastic Cinco de Mayo meal!

squeezing lime over barbecued chicken thighs


Grilled and roasted meats are very popular in Mexican cuisine. From chicken fajitas to barbacoa beef and chipotle carne asada, Mexicans are skilled at creating dishes with a great balance of smoky and spicy flavors and pollo asado is no exception!

What is Pollo Asado?

The Spanish word “pollo” translated to English means “chicken”, and asada (or asado) means “roasted” or “barbecued”.

Pollo asada (also spelled pollo asado) is a flavorful marinated chicken dish with roots tied to Mexico and Cuba. The Mexican pollo asado marinade features freshly squeezed citrus juices and Mexican spices, including achiote, which gives the dish a beautiful red color.

The chicken pieces are almost always grilled over indirect heat, but as the name implies, it is sometimes roasted in the oven. Here I use chicken thighs, but other cuts of chicken can include chicken breast. Perfect to eat as is with any Mexican side dish or cut into strips for tacos.

side by side photo collage of Mexican grilled chicken

💲💲 MONEY SAVING TIP:
Many people aren’t aware of this, but most grocery stores with a butcher will break down a whole fryer chicken for you at no charge. All you have to do is buy the whole fryer from that store and then take it to the butcher counter and ask! 

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Chicken– You’ll need 5 pounds of bone-in chicken for this Mexican chicken recipe. The budget-friendly route is to buy what’s known as a “whole fryer chicken”, which you can then cut into individual pieces. If you aren’t comfortable breaking down a chicken into pieces yourself, get one that’s already broken down.
  • Achiote paste– Achiote paste (also known as recado) is a flavorful spice made by grinding annatto seeds and combining them with vinegar, garlic and other spices. Generally, the paste is sold in small, 4-ounce blocks. Deep red in color, achiote has a slightly peppery, smoky flavor. You can read more about achiote paste in my post Achiote and the Annatto Seed.
  • Orange and lime: Orange and lime juice to create a delicious citrus flavor base for the marinade.
  • Seasonings: I used a mix of cumin, kosher salt, black pepper, Mexican oregano.
overhead image: block of achiote paste on counter with small bowl of achiote powder and bunch of cilantro

How to Make Pollo Asado

  1. Marinate the chicken a minimum of 45 minutes, but I recommend 4 hours or up to overnight. Unlike beef, poultry doesn’t have any tough connective tissue that needs to be tenderized. It starts to break down and the texture gets mushy. While it’s OK to marinate overnight, any longer would be far too long if the marinade or rub has a high acid base (vinegar, wine, citrus juice and tomatoes, etc).
  2. Prepare the Grill. To prevent your pollo asado from burning, it’s important to set up your grill for indirect cooking. This just means that one side of the grill will be hotter than the other.
    For indirect cooking on a charcoal grill, place your lit charcoal across half of the grill and leave the other half empty.
    To indirect cook on a gas grill, only turn half of the burners on.
  3. Grill your chicken. Remove the chicken from the pollo asado marinade and shake off any excess. Place the pieces skin side down on the direct heat side of the grill, close the lid and let it cook for 10 minutes. Open the lid and move the pieces to the indirect heat side of the grill. You can flip the pieces over if you’d like to, but it isn’t necessary. Close the lid and continue cooking for another 20 minutes, or until the chicken internal temp reaches 165°F on a probe cooking thermometer.
  4. Cook on the Stovetop: Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook for 5 to 10 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the meat, until cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 160-165°F on an instant read thermometer.
  5. Bake in the Oven: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer on a large foil-lined baking dish. Bake the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 160-165°F on an instant-read thermometer (chicken thighs and tenders need 15 minutes. Medium to large breasts need 20 to 25 minutes).
brushing marinade onto pieces of pollo asado on a grill

Achiote paste substitute

If you need a substitute, it’s easy to make. For this pollo asado recipe, you’ll need 2 ounces of paste. To make the substitute, combine the following ingredients together in a small bowl:

  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin

Looking for other ways to use achiote paste?

Make my recipe for Yucatan Chicken Tostadas or Achiote Pan Seared Chicken.

Pollo Asado Recipe Serving Suggestions

Anything that you enjoy eating with grilled chicken will be delicious with Mexican grilled chicken. Good choices include this Mexican rice recipe or mashed potatoes, grilled cactus, and Mexican black beans and corn.

platter of pollo asado

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pollo asado the same as chipotle chicken?

Pollo asado is a citrus based, tangy, grilled chicken with achiote paste giving it it’s distinct red color while chipotle chicken highlights the smoky, earthiness heat of the chipotle pepper.

What is achiote paste?

Achiote paste (also known as recado) is a flavorful spice made by grinding annatto seeds and combining them with vinegar, garlic and other spices. Generally, the paste is sold in small, 4-ounce blocks. Deep red in color, achiote has a slightly peppery, smoky flavor.

Do I need achiote paste?

I say yes, but if you can’t find it I have an achiote paste substitute listed in the recipe card with ingredient substitutions to make your very own. If anything you could just add some smoked paprika.

Where do I buy achiote paste?

Look for achiote powder and paste in the ethnic foods aisle of most larger grocery stores. If you’re unable to find it there, almost all Latin markets carry it or you can purchase online.

Share this recipe on Pinterest!

Love this recipe? Share it with the world on Pinterest.

Still Hungry?

Subscribe to my Newsletter, follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube for all my latest recipes and videos.

squeezing lime over barbecued chicken thighs

Pollo Asado

5 from 48 votes
This pollo asado recipe creates a juicy grilled chicken dinner seasoned with citrus, Mexican spices and achiote. It’s the perfect Cinco de Mayo meal!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Marinate Time: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, and achiote paste (See Note) and cook for several minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Set aside.
  • Add cooled achiote garlic mixture, orange juice and lime juice to a bowl and whisk to combine. Reserve 1/4 cup of marinade in the bowl to use for basting the chicken as it grills. Add remaining marinade to a 1 or 2 gallon Ziploc freezer bag. Add chicken pieces, seal bag, and massage the bag, then transfer to a refrigerator to allow the chicken to marinate a minimum of 45 minutes, but I recommend 4 hours or up to overnight (8 hours). 
  • Grilling: Preheat grill to 350°F to 400°F. Remove chicken from marinade, then discard the bag of marinade. We will be grilling with indirect heat.
  • For indirect cooking on a charcoal grill, place your lit charcoal across half of the grill and leave the other half empty. To indirect cook on a gas grill, only turn half of the burners on (for mine I keep the top Medium, middle Low and the bottom Medium).
  • Grill chicken, covered, until an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F when inserted into thickest portion of each piece, about 20 to 30 minutes. As chicken is cooking, use reserved marinade to baste the pieces every few minutes. I do not turn the chicken pieces over during cooking, as there is no need for grill marks.
  • Cook on the Stovetop: Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook for 5 to 10 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the meat, until cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 160-165°F on an instant read thermometer.
  • Bake in the Oven: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer on a large foil-lined baking dish. Bake the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 160-165°F on an instant-read thermometer (chicken thighs and tenders need 15 minutes. Medium to large breasts need 20 to 25 minutes).

Video

Notes

Most achiote paste is packaged in 4 ounce cubes. We will only need 2 ounces, save remainder for another use. 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.
BELOW is an achiote spice blend substitute, enough for this recipe. 
Achiote Paste Alternative
  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
Combine in a small bowl and use to marinate chicken along with other main recipe seasonings and usually citrus juice.
Marinate a minimum of 45 minutes, but I recommend 4 hours or up to overnight. Unlike beef, poultry doesn’t have any tough connective tissue that needs to be tenderized. It starts to break down and the texture gets mushy. While it’s OK to marinate overnight, any longer would be far too long if the marinade or rub has a high acid base (vinegar, wine, citrus juice and tomatoes, etc). So when using a highly acidic marinade for chicken, add a little olive oil and/or minimize marinating time.

Nutrition

Calories: 455kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 866mg | Potassium: 337mg | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 240IU | Vitamin C: 19.4mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 2mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): Pollo Asado Recipe

Kevin

Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

Free Bonus
5 Secrets to True Tex Mex
Essential recipes & tips for delicious Tex Mex cooking!

email image

Explore More

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

169 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    For two years now, this has been our go-to for grilled Mexican chicken. We love it for salads, tacos, you name it and it’s come in handy for parties and large crowds. Thanks, Kevin, for this amazing recipe.

      1. 5 stars
        This is my favorite recipe for pollo asado! I generally use dried oregano leaves. I only have ground oregano. Do I reduce the ground amount by half?

      2. I would suggest trying the Mexican oregano, it makes WORLD of difference in this Tawn. Typically from leaf to ground is a 1 to 3/4 ratio. You can find the Mexican oregano in most markets in the Mexican food section and read more about it here.

  2. 5 stars
    Incredible! Seriously so much flavor. I cook all the time and I made my own paste. Worth the time and effort and making the actual chicken is easy. I made breast, tenders, thighs and a whole chicken was made in cast iron in the oven. This is phenomenal!

  3. 5 stars
    After reading all the wonderful reviews, I had to try this. It is excellent!
    I couldn’t find achiote paste so I used achiote powder instead of the paprika in the “alternate achiote paste” recipe.
    The marinade is so great and worth the time it takes to prepare. I used boneless, skin-on thighs and grilled them with direct heat. My friends raved about the chicken.
    Thank you so much! It’s a keeper! The best!!