This pollo asado features marinated chicken in a mixture of lime and orange juice, Mexican herbs and spices and achiote paste to achieve it’s signature red-orange color. Grill it, roast it in the oven or even make it in the slow cooker!
There’s nothing better than tender and juicy pollo asado right off the grill!
This Mexican grilled chicken is flavorful, easy to make, and perfect for weeknight meals. Serve the chicken with your favorite Mexican side dishes, or slice it into strips to serve in tacos!
What Is Pollo Asado?
Pollo asado is Mexican grilled chicken that’s been marinated in a mixture of citrus juices, spices like cumin, oregano, paprika, and, most notably, achiote paste, which gives the chicken its signature orange and red color.
Pollo asado is typically grilled, but you can also roast it in the oven or even make it in a slow cooker. (Instructions for all three methods can be found in the recipe card below.)
What Is Achiote?
Achiote is a spice made from ground annatto seeds that has a slightly peppery and earthy flavor. It’s used in various Latin cuisines and is well known for the bright orange and red color that it gives anything it’s cooked with (similar to how turmeric can stain things yellow).
Achiote is found in various forms – whole seeds, ground into a powder, or formed into a paste. For this recipe, we’re using achiote paste.
Achiote is typically found in Mexican or Asian specialty markets or in the international foods aisle of your local grocery store. If you can’t find it near you, you can get it online.
- Chicken: I like to use chicken thighs since they are juicer and hold more flavor, but you can also use chicken breasts.
- Achiote paste: This gives the marinade its signature bright red-orange color. Achiote paste is made of annatto seeds, vinegar, garlic, and peppery spices. You can find achiote in most Mexican grocery stores, but if that’s not an option, you can easily find it online.
- Orange and lime: You’ll need orange and lime juice to create a delicious citrus flavor for the marinade.
- Seasonings: I used a mix of kosher salt, oregano, smoked paprika, ground coriander, black pepper, ground clove, and ground cumin.
- Vinegar: This helps tenderize the chicken so it’s soft and juicy. I used white wine vinegar, but you could also use distilled white vinegar.
How to Make Pollo Asado
- Combine: Whisk together orange juice, olive oil, lime juice, white wine vinegar, achiote paste, ground coriander, smoked paprika, dried oregano, ground cumin, a pinch of ground cloves, minced garlic, salt and black pepper.
- Marinate: Place the marinade in a large storage bag, add the chicken thighs, seal, and mix everything together. Refrigerate for 2-6 hours, but no longer than 8 hours.
- Grill: Preheat the grill to 350°F-375°F and grill chicken over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess liquid. Place the chicken skin side down, close the lid, and grill for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Cook: Flip the chicken over, move it to the indirect heat side of the grill, close the lid and cook for another 15-20 minutes.
- Serve: That’s it! Serve the chicken with a nice squeeze of fresh lime juice and enjoy!
- Don’t have achiote paste? You can leave it out completely or substitute regular paprika in its place, but the flavor will be slightly different.
- Make sure not to use any plastic to marinate the chicken since the achiote powder can stain your container.
- If using charcoal, simply place the lit charcoal on one side of the grill. Never lit a charcoal grill before? Learn how to start a charcoal grill.
- If you can’t use a grill, no worries, this can be cooked on a stovetop, baked in the oven, or in a slow cooker! Instructions are included in the recipe card below.
- Grill pan. If you can’t use a traditional grill for this recipe, you can use a grill pan instead. This one is my favorite.
- Instant read thermometer. One of my favorite kitchen tools! Helps me make sure that meat is cooked to the proper temperature.
If you’re looking for some delicious Mexican sides to pair with your pollo asado, here are a few of my favorites:
Storing and Freezing
Pollo asado can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
To freeze, place the marinade and chicken in a freezer storage bag ahead of time and store it in the freezer until it’s time to eat. Take the bag from the freezer the night before and let it thaw completely in the fridge. Grill it the next day for lunch or dinner, and enjoy!
- ¼ cup orange juice (about 1 medium orange)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lime juice (about ½ lime)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons achiote paste (about 1.5 ounces*)
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2-3 pounds chicken thighs or legs, trimmed of excess skin and fat (boneless and skinless, or bone-in and skin-on)
- Vegetable oil, for greasing grill
- Add all the ingredients except the chicken in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Place the chicken in a large glass bowl or gallon-size storage bag and pour in the marinade. Toss everything together to coat, cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours. (Do not marinate longer than 8 hours.)
- To grill: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and lightly oil the grates with vegetable oil. Grill the chicken 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.
- To cook on the stovetop: Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken 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.
- To bake: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on a large foil-lined baking dish. Bake the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 160-165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Chicken thighs and tenders need about 15 minutes. Medium to large breasts need 20 to 25 minutes.
- To make in the slow cooker: Add all ingredients into a large slow cooker plus ½ cup chicken broth or water. Mix together to coat the chicken, cover, and slow cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for about 4-5 hours.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate, loosely tent it in foil, and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Don’t have achiote paste? You can leave it out completely or substitute regular paprika in its place. It won’t quite have the same flavor, but it will still be delicious!