Pollo Asado Recipe (Mexican Grilled Chicken)
One of my favorite meals to order on a busy weeknight is pollo asado. It’s a huge thing here in Texas! Whole chickens are marinated and cooked over giant open-flame outdoor rotisseries served with salsas, tortillas, rice, and beans. I knew that there was a way tot make pollo asado at home, and here we are!
This pollo asado recipe is flavorful and juicy, a little smokey, with a hint of spice. It’s big on flavor with low effort–the perfect recipe for all your future cookouts! Serve with warm tortillas, salsa verde, limes, Mexican rice, and refried beans.
What is Pollo Asado?
The Spanish word “pollo” in English means “chicken,” and asado means “roasted” or “barbecued” so pollo asado means roasted or barbecued chicken. This isn’t any old roast chicken. Pollo Asado is deeply flavorful chicken marinated in a mixture of citrus juices, cumin, oregano, and achiote powder. Achiote gives the chicken its signature reddish color. You’ll find variations of Pollo Asado in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Caribbean. This recipe is Mexican-inspired.
What is Achiote?
Achiote is made from ground annatto seeds and is used as a culinary spice, food colorant, and commercial dye. As a spice, it is slightly nutty, sweet and peppery.
Achiote is native to the tropical areas of the Americas, including the Caribbean and Mexico. You can find achiote most readily in paste form in the Hispanic section of most grocery stores.
How to Make Pollo Asado
This Pollo Asado recipe is super easy to make – just marinate and cook!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Chicken. You will need a whole chicken for this recipe. For easy and even cooking, it’s best to spatchcock the chicken–instructions below!
- Achiote Paste. Achiote paste is made from ground annatto seeds. It’s a staple in Mexican cooking.
- Citrus. A blend of orange and lime juice make this marinade zippy and fresh.
- Onion. 1/4 white onion adds lots of flavor.
- Garlic. Is it even a good recipe without garlic?
- Spices. Cumin, coriander, and oregano are traditional Mexican spices.
- Cilantro. Chopped cilantro stems add tons of freshness. Serve the chicken with the tops!
- Olive Oil. A bit of olive oil in the marinade helps the skin get nice and crispy!
- Prep the chicken. While it’s not necessary, spatchcocking the chicken makes it cook quickly and evenly. It’s a great technique to learn and easier than you think! Watch the helpful video below to learn how.
- Make the marinade. This marinade is so easy to throw together! Throw everything into a food processor or blender and blend til smooth–it’s that easy!
- Marinate the chicken. Place the chicken in a large baking dish and pour the marinade over. Make sure it’s a glass or ceramic dish, the achiote paste may stain plastic. Marinate for at least 4 hours, up to 24 hours.
- Clean the grill. To keep the chicken from sticking, make sure your grill grates are clean. Lightly grease them before grilling the chicken.
- Grill. To keep from burning the chicken, indirect heat cooking is best! If you’re using a gas grill, light the outside burners only. If you’re using a charcoal grill, move all the hot coals to one side. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and shake off any excess. Grill the chicken over the heat skin-side down for 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over, move it to indirect heat, cover the grill, and grill for 1 hour or until the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 F.
- Slice and serve. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with warm tortillas, salsa, beans, and rice for a traditional dinner.
How to Spatchcock a Chicken
I use this technique for all poultry! It takes a tiny bit of work, but it’s so worth it. You’ll never have a dry chicken or turkey again. Both my herb roasted chicken and my dry-brined turkey call for spatchcocking and you’ll never go back after you’ve tried it!
Watch this helpful video below to spatchcock like a pro! Remember to freeze the backbone and save it for homemade chicken stock.
Best Cuts of Chicken for Pollo Asado
I love using a whole chicken for pollo asado! You get all the best parts of dark and white meat and it’s easy to feed a family. However, this recipe is great for chicken legs and that requires zero prep. You can also use boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Adjust your cooking times accordingly!
How to Roast Pollo Asado
Even if you don’t have a grill, you can still easily make pollo asado in the oven. Follow the exact same steps up until the grill. Place the chicken skin side up on a baking sheet lined with foil. Preheat an oven to 325 F and roast for 45 minutes. Then crank the heat up to 425 and roast for another 25 minutes.
Once the chicken registers 165 F, switch on the broiler for 5 minutes until the skin is crispy and slightly blackened. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Freezing Pollo Asado
The best part of this recipe? You can freeze it in the marinade or cooked! Place the chicken in the marinade in a freezer-safe ziplock bag, press as much of the air out as possible, and seal it. Freeze for up to 6 months.
To defrost: Transfer the frozen chicken to the refrigerator and defrost for 2 days. Prepare the chicken according to the recipe after defrosting.
Other Mexican-Inspired Recipes to Try Now
This post contains affiliate links from which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links allow me to keep providing great recipes for free and I never recommend products that I don’t love and personally own.
Pollo Asado Recipe (Mexican Grilled Chicken)
- 3-4 lb. whole chicken spatchcocked (see instructions above)
- 1/4 white onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 orange juiced
- 1 lime juiced
- 2 tablespoons achiote paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Place the chicken in a large glass or ceramic baking dish or a 2-gallon ziplock bag.
- Combine the marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Pour the marinade over the chicken and really work the marinade into it all over. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours, up to 24 hours.
- Clean your grill grates and lightly grease them. If using a gas grill, preheat the burners on the outside to medium heat. If using a charcoal grill, push the hot coals to one side of the grill.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess. Grill the chicken over direct heat, skin-side down for 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and transfer it to indirect heat. Cover the grill and grill for 1 hour, or until the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 F on a meat thermometer.
- Remove the chicken from the grill and rest 10 minutes. Slice and serve.