Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by Carne Diem
Method: GrillJump to Recipe
This chipotle marinated chicken is some of the best grilled chicken you will ever try. This Mexican Pollo Asado recipe is made with chicken marinated in sour orange, chipotle, achiote and spices, and then grilled until tender and juicy.
I first fell in love with Mexican style grilled chicken while doing research for my post on The Best Tacos in Kansas City. Restaurants like El Pollo Rey and El Pollo Guasave served up juicy grilled chicken that had been perfectly marinated in citrus and spices and grilled perfectly on a wood fire grill. After several variations I have finally come up with a version that I am proud to share. Juicy and flavorful chicken halves are marinated in a sour orange and chipotle marinade before hitting the grill.
Table of contents
What is Pollo Asado al Carbon?
Also known as Mexican charcoal chicken, this dish is famous across Mexico. Typically, whole or half chickens are marinated and then roasted or cooked over a live fire or on a grill. The smoky Mexican grilled chicken is typically served with tortillas, grilled onions, and other toppings and frequently eaten as a taco filling.
Making the Pollo Asado al Carbon
To make the Mexican charcoal chicken you will need to prep and marinate your chicken and then cook it on your grill.
Prepping chicken for Mexican grilled chicken
We like to do whole chicken halves for our pollo asada. Typically, we break down whole chickens as this tends to be the most cost-effective method. You can, however, just cook chicken halves or even make the recipe with individual cuts of chicken, you will just have to adjust the cooking time. We try to use chickens that have not been injected with a brining solution.
For more great chicken recipes on your grill or smoker, check out our Spatchcock Chicken, Grilled Chicken Spiedini, Smoked Dry Rubbed Chicken Wings, Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken, and Smoked Fried Chicken.
Prepare the Marinade for the Chipotle Marinated Mexican Chicken
To make the marinade for the Pollo Asado you will need achiote paste, chipotle pepper in adobo, sour orange juice, salt, and Adobo seasoning.
Blend all of the marinade ingredients until smooth. Reserve 1 cup of the marinade for basting the chicken and place in the refrigerator. Use the leftover chipotle in adobo peppers to make some Mahi Mahi Tacos with Chipotle Crema and Mango Salsa or in your favorite recipe.
Marinate the chicken halves with the remaining marinade and place in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours. I would not recommend going much longer than overnight with the marinade as the citrus can the chicken rubbery if left to marinate too long.
What is achiote paste?
Achiote paste is a reddish paste made from annatto seeds. Achiote imparts a subtle earthy and slightly bitter flavor to foods. It can be found in most Latin markets or can be purchased on Amazon for a reasonable price.
Substitutes for Sour Orange
Typically, you can find sour orange juice in most Latin markets. If you can't find sour orange juice locally, you can substitute 5 parts orange juice and 1 part lime juice. Sour Orange is also available on Amazon for a reasonable price.
Making the Pollo Asado on your BBQ grill
When you are ready to cook, heat your grill to medium high heat, about 400 degrees. Set up for direct and indirect heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard all of the used marinade.
Traditionally Pollo Asado al Carbon is cooked over charcoal or wood, but feel free to use your favorite BBQ grill. We have made some mouthwatering grilled Mexican chicken on our Yoder Pellet grill as well as our Breeo firepit.
We like to keep our basting liquid warm on the grill. If you do not have room to do this, be sure to warm the basting liquid before you use it. Don't baste with cold liquid.
Cook the chicken over indirect heat. Flip and baste the chicken about every 15 minutes. After about 45 minutes, move the chicken to the direct heat. We like this method as you are able to get more smoked/charcoal flavor on the chicken before moving to direct heat to crisp up the skin.
Continue to flip and baste the chicken every 5-7 minutes until cooked. Chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh. Depending on the size of the chicken, cook time is typically 60-75 total minutes.
Be sure to check out more of our favorite Mexican foods cooked on your grill or smoker:
- Trompo Al Pastor Tacos on Your Grill
- Beer Braised Beef Cheek Barbacoa
- Carne Asada Street Tacos
- Cochinita Pibil on your Grill or Smoker
Serving your Mexican Charcoal Chicken
Serve up your Pollo Asado al Carbon with some warm tortillas, grilled or pickled onions, Charro Beans With Hickory Smoked Bacon, Best Fresh Guacamole, and Puerto Rican Arroz Con Gandules: Rice with Pigeon Peas. Wash it down with some spicy Mango Habanero Margaritas or a Mezcal Paloma.
The chipotle marinated grilled chicken can be eaten as a standalone meal or used as a taco filling.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pollo asado al carbon is translated to grilled chicken over charcoal. This tasty dish of marinated grilled chicken is popular across Mexico.
White meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Dark meat is more tender if cooked to at least 185 degrees, but it is also safe to eat at 165 degrees.
The Mexican grilled chicken is best reheated by wrapping leftovers in foil and reheating in a 350 degrees oven. Reheat for about 15-20 minutes or until heated back through.
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Pollo Asado al Carbon
- 4 Chicken Halves
Marinade and Basting Sauce
- 1 Can Chipotle Peppers in Adobo
- 3 Cups Sour Orange Juice or 2.5 cups Orange Juice and 0.5 Cups Lime Juice
- 1.5 Ounces Achiote Paste
- 2 teaspoons Oregano
- 1 teaspoon Adobo Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- Blend all of the marinade ingredients until smooth.
- Reserve 1 cup of the marinade for basting the chicken and place in the refrigerator.
- Marinate the chicken halves with the remaining marinade and place in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours.
- Heat your grill to medium high heat, about 400 degrees. Set up for direct and indirect heat.
- Cook the chicken over indirect heat. Flip and baste the chicken about every 15 minutes. After about 45 minutes, more the chicken to the direct heat.
- Continue to flip and baste the chicken every 5-7 minutes until cooked. Chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh. Depending on the size of the chicken cook time is typically 60-75 total minutes.