This easy Pollo Asado recipe is marinated in a mixture of lime and orange juice, Mexican herbs and spices and achiote powder 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 an 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 powder or paste, which gives the chicken it’s 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.)
Achiote? What’s that?
Achiote is a spice made from ground annatto seeds that has a slight 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 stains 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 powder.
Achiote is typically found in Mexican or Asian specialty markets or in the ethnic aisle of your local grocery store. If you can’t find it near you, you can order it on Amazon here.
How to make Pollo Asado
The first step is to make the marinade. Whisk together orange juice, olive oil, lime juice, white wine vinegar, achiote powder, ground coriander, smoked paprika, dried oregano, ground cumin, a pinch of ground cloves, minced garlic, salt and black pepper.
Next, refrigerate and marinate the chicken. Place the marinade in a large gallon size storage bag along with 2-3 pounds of skin-on bone-in chicken thighs, legs or a mix of both cuts. Seal the bag, mix everything together and refrigerate for 2-6 hours, but no longer than 8 hours.
You could also marinate everything in a large baking dish or bowl, but just make sure it’s not plastic since the achiote powder can stain your container.
You could also use boneless skinless thighs or breasts if you prefer.
Prepare the grill. Preheat the grill to 350°F -375°F and prepare it for indirect cooking by lighting the burners on one half of the grill and leaving them off on the other half. (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.)
This creates a zone of direct heat and a zone of indirect heat that’s perfect for getting that crispy skin without burning the chicken and overcooking it.
Grill chicken over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess liquid. Place the chicken skin side down on the direct heat side of the grill, close the lid and grill for 8 to 10 minutes. The skin should be crispy and golden brown.
Flip the chicken over, move it to the indirect heat side of the grill, close the lid and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken reaches a temperature of 165°F on a thermometer.
That’s it! Serve the chicken with a nice squeeze of fresh lime juice and enjoy!
If you’re looking for some delicious Mexican sides to pair with your pollo asado, here are a few of my favorites.
More grilling recipes
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- 1/4 cup orange juice (about 1 medium orange)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon achiote powder (ground annatto seed)*
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2-3 pounds chicken thighs or legs, trimmed of excess skin and fat (I used skin-on bone-in thighs, but you can use skinless and/or boneless if you prefer)
- cooking oil, for greasing
- Make the marinade: Add all ingredients except chicken in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Marinate: Place chicken in a large gallon size ziploc bag and add the marinade. Close the bag, massage together to coat all the chicken and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours. (Do not marinate longer than 8 hours or the chicken will get tough and begin to break down.)
- Prepare the grill: Preheat grill to medium heat (350°F-375°F) for indirect cooking. This means light the burners (or charcoal) on one half of the grill, and leave them off on the other half. This creates a zone of direct heat and a zone of indirect heat. Grease the preheated grill grates to prevent sticking by wiping them down with a folded paper towel that's been soaked in vegetable oil.
- Grill: Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess liquid. Grill chicken skin side down over direct heat for about 8 to 10 minutes with the lid closed as much as possible, until the skin is crispy and golden. Flip chicken over, move to indirect heat and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, until the meat is firm and the temperature registers 165°F. (Don't have an instant-read thermometer? Here's the one I recommend.)
- Don’t have achiote powder? 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!
- Not a fan of skin-on bone-in chicken? You can use skinless boneless chicken thighs or chicken breasts, too! Just make sure to adjust cooking times accordingly.
- To make in the oven – Marinate chicken according to instructions above. Remove chicken from marinade and shake off any excess liquid. Place chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil and bake in a 400°F oven for 30-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken. The internal temperature should read at least 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.
- To make in the slow cooker – Add all ingredients into a large slow cooker. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth or water, mix together to coat the chicken and cover. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for about 3 hours.
- Nutritional information calculated using 2 lbs chicken thighs.