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Red Chile Marinated Grilled Chicken

Red Chile Marinated Grilled Chicken

Chicken pieces marinated in a spicy, flavorful red chili sauce, then grilled or baked. Pollo adobado recipe.

Photography Credit:Elise Bauer

This is some of the best chicken I’ve ever eaten – grilled, roasted, baked, whatever. Juicy, spicy, tender, lipsmackin’ good.

Here’s the deal, there are two ways to make this recipe. One way entails making your own red chile sauce from scratch, using dried ancho and guajillo chiles that you can usually only find at a specialty Mexican market. Even our local Whole Foods doesn’t carry these dried chiles.

The second method starts with a base of canned red chile sauce, which is a little easier to find in a regular supermarket, and saves quite a few steps.

I’ve made this recipe both ways. As you might expect, if you have access to the dried chiles and can make the time to make your own sauce base, it’s totally worth it for the extra intensity and depth of flavor.

The good news is that if you can’t get a hold of the dried chiles, or you don’t have the time, canned red chile sauce works fine as a base for this sauce. Red chile enchilada sauce works too, though you may need to add some chili powder to it to increase the heat. In any case you are going to pump up the sauce a bit with ground cloves, cinnamon, and cumin.

The sauce is slightly acidic. So, as with marinating chicken overnight with yogurt or buttermilk, a long marinating time in this sauce will help the chicken be surprisingly moist and tender.

This recipes is adapted and inspired by Diana Kennedy’s Barbacoa de Pollo in The Art of Mexican Cooking.

Red Chile Marinated Grilled Chicken Recipe

Making the sauce from scratch, our chicken ended up quite spicy hot, almost like jerk chicken. Using canned sauce as a base, even one with medium heat, most of the heat was lost in the cooking process. If you like your chicken spicy hot, and you are using a canned sauce, I recommend starting with one that is graded "hot".

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, preferably thighs, trimmed of excess skin and fat
  • Salt
  • 1 1/4 cup Mexican red chili sauce, either homemade* or canned (if you are gluten intolerant and are using canned chili sauce, make sure to read the ingredients on the can, some makers put wheat products in their sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white or cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • A couple of turns on a black pepper grinder
  • A pinch of dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

Garnish

  • Avocado slices
  • Thinly sliced lettuce or cabbage
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Cilantro

* To make your own homemade sauce, take 2 ancho and 2 guajillo chiles, open them up, remove the stems, seeds, and ribs. Lightly toast the chiles on a medium griddle or cast iron pan for a minute or two, flattening them down with a metal spatula. Place the chiles in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let soak for 10-15 minutes, until chiles are softened. Place chiles, 1 1/4 cup of the soaking water, 1 clove of garlic, a pinch of salt, in a blender. Blend until completely smooth. Put mixture through a strainer to strain out any solids. Proceed with the recipe, but don't add any more garlic to the sauce.

Method

1 Simmer chili sauce and spices to make the marinade: Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan on medium heat. Add the chili sauce. Add vinegar (2 Tbsp if using canned sauce, 4 Tbsp in you've made your own sauce), cloves, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, oregano and garlic.

Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let cool.

2 Marinate chicken: Sprinkle salt over all the chicken pieces on all sides. Put chicken pieces in a non-reactive bowl or a large freezer bag. Add the marinade, make sure all pieces are coated well with the marinade.

Marinate in the refrigerator at least one hour, preferably overnight.

3 Grilling Instructions: Remove the chicken from the refrigerator before starting up the grill. Preheat your grill, allowing for a space on the grill for cooking the chicken with indirect heat. (If using coals, move all the coals to one side of the grill, if using gas, after the grill is hot, turn off one of the burners.)

Brush the grill grates with olive oil. Make sure the chicken pieces are well coated on all sides with the paste-like marinade.

Place the chicken pieces on the indirect heat part of the grill (not over a flame or coals). Cook, covered, for 25-30 minutes, turning the pieces over after the first 15 minutes. Try to keep the temperature in the grill around 350°F. Chicken is done when juices run clear, breasts have an internal temperature of 165°F and thighs 175°F.

3a Roasting Instructions: If you aren't in a grilling mood, you can roast the chicken pieces in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the chicken pieces in a roasting pan, skin-side up. Cook for about 45-50 minutes, until breasts have an internal temperature of 165°F and thighs 175°F.

4 Serve with garnishes: Serve garnished with sliced avocado, sliced lettuce or cabbage dressed with a little vinegar and oil, sliced radishes and cilantro.

Makes for great leftover chicken to cut up and put into tacos.

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Red Chile Marinated Grilled Chicken Recipe

  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, preferably thighs, trimmed of excess skin and fat
  • Salt
  • 1 1/4 cup Mexican red chili sauce, either homemade* or canned (if you are gluten intolerant and are using canned chili sauce, make sure to read the ingredients on the can, some makers put wheat products in their sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp white or cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • A couple of turns on a black pepper grinder
  • A pinch of dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Avocado slices
  • Thinly sliced lettuce or cabbage
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Cilantro

1. Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan on medium heat.
2. Add the chili sauce.
3. Add vinegar (2 Tbsp if using canned sauce, 4 Tbsp in you've made your own sauce), cloves, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, oregano and garlic.
4. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Remove pan from heat and let cool.
6. Sprinkle salt over all the chicken pieces on all sides.
7. Put chicken pieces in a non-reactive bowl or a large freezer bag.
8. Add the marinade, make sure all pieces are coated well with the marinade.
9. Marinate in the refrigerator at least one hour, preferably overnight.
10. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator before starting up the grill.
11. Preheat your grill, allowing for a space on the grill for cooking the chicken with indirect heat. (If using coals, move all the coals to one side of the grill, if using gas, after the grill is hot, turn off one of the burners.)
12. Brush the grill grates with olive oil. Make sure the chicken pieces are well coated on all sides with the paste-like marinade.
13. Place the chicken pieces on the indirect heat part of the grill (not over a flame or coals).
14. Cook, covered, for 25-30 minutes, turning the pieces over after the first 15 minutes.
15. Try to keep the temperature in the grill around 350°F.
16. Chicken is done when juices run clear, breasts have an internal temperature of 165°F and thighs 175°F.
17. no grill If you aren't in a grilling mood, you can bake the chicken pieces in the oven.
18. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the chicken pieces in a roasting pan, skin-side up.
19. Cook for about 45-50 minutes, until breasts have an internal temperature of 165°F and thighs 175°F.
20. Serve garnished with sliced avocado, sliced lettuce or cabbage dressed with a little vinegar and oil, sliced radishes and cilantro.
21. Serves 4-6.


For the brine:

In a large bowl, whisk warm water with the honey, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir until salt and honey dissolve. Add the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. Before cooking the chicken, make sure to bring it to room temperature on the counter for up to 2 hours.

For the glaze:

In a small bowl, mix together the apple cider vinegar, honey, and red pepper flakes until the honey dissolves. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Set aside.

For the chicken:

Heat a grill to high heat. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towel. Put the chicken onto a plate and drizzle all over with olive oil. Add the chicken to the grill. Cook the dark meat for about 6 minutes then flip. Cook the breasts just a minute or two less and flip (usually when the meat is ready to flip, it'll release very easily from the grill). With a basting brush, coat the chicken with the apple cider vinegar and honey mixture every minute until the chicken is done cooking, about 6 minutes more.

Remove to a plate and drizzle with honey and a little sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes.


The marinade for this chicken is insane. It really is. The flavour is so good and I honestly think you’ll regret it if you don’t make a double batch. Because I promise, you will eat more than your fair share.

I call this “real” Thai Grilled chicken because it’s on the right side of that “line” between authentic and westernised. As with any traditional dish from any country or region in the world, there is no such thing as “the” recipe. Whether it be fried rice, chili con carne, paella, bolognaise or a beef bourguignon, there are countless variations, from family recipes passed down through generations to high end modern interpretations by top chefs around the world.

BUT….there’s a line. A line between a recipe staying true to its roots and being completely westernised. Not that there is anything wrong with westernising something. In fact, some of the most popular (and delicious!) Asian dishes in western countries aren’t even found in Asia – like Singapore noodles.

This Thai Grilled Chicken is a classic example of staying on the authentic side of the “line”. Even throughout Thailand, there are so many variations of Gai Yang. Different from region to region, restaurants to street food vendors to home style versions. But there are two key ingredients that make this authentic Thai – lemongrass and fish sauce. Omit either of these, and you can’t call it “real”!

In addition to lemongrass and fish sauce, the marinade for this chicken is packed full of other classic Thai ingredients – loads of garlic, a touch of sweet and a great hit of chili.

Traditionally, Gai Yang is served with a dipping sauce. I like making this with chicken thighs because it is such a juicy cut. And with such juicy chicken with a thick glaze on it, I find that a dipping sauce is not necessary. So instead, I incorporate the flavour of the dipping sauce into the Marinade.

Throughout Thailand, you’ll find Gai Yang made with different cuts of chicken and even butterflied whole chicken (my favourite – except I can’t get through a whole chook myself!!). You can make this with you favorited chicken cut, just adjust the cooking time. It is traditionally cooked over hot coals so you get that wonderful smokey flavour. But whether you cook this on your grill or even on your stove top, I promise you one thing – this will be the BEST Thai grilled chicken you’ve ever had. I really am not exaggerating when I say this almost converted a vegetarian into a carnivore.

Happy grilling! – Nagi x

MAKE A MEAL OUT OF IT – SERVE THESE ON THE SIDE

Crunchy Asian Slaw on the side – great all rounder Asian salad that goes with all Asian foods

Asian Sesame Dressing for any fresh salad or steamed vegetables

And more of my favourite Asian Chicken recipes

All these are ideal for grilling but can also be cooked on the stove

Yakitori Chicken – Japanese chicken skewers on my mother’s Japanese recipe website, RecipeTin Japan

Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken – infused with beautiful Vietnamese lemongrass flavours

Thai Coconut Chicken – added richness and flavour from a coconut marinade

Asian Chicken – marinated in a great Asian marinade that’s sweet sand savoury

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Recipe Summary

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • ½ (16 ounce) bottle Italian-style salad dressing
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon pepper
  • salt to taste

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Place in a shallow glass bowl and pour salad dressing over it. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Lightly oil grill and preheat to medium high.

Remove chicken breasts from marinade. Season with lemon pepper and salt to taste. Grill over medium high heat for 10 to 15 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.


Grilled Ancho Chicken

When I was thinking about a chicken dish for the grill, I thought it might be fun to put our spin on the beer can chicken recipe. I've used an ancho chile paste to season both the chicken and the beer. While there's some preparation involved in making the paste, it stores well in either the refrigerator or freezer so it can be made ahead.

Over the years, I've used many different vertical roasters and I finally found one that I think works the best. It's made by Mr. Bar-B-Q and is available in either a non-stick or stainless finish. It's called the Grill Wok Chicken Roaster and I like it because it's very stable, it has a large cylinder for holding the beer chile mixture, and it has built-in handles on two sides. The handles allow you not only to remove the chicken when it's done safely and easily, but it also lets you rotate the chicken as it's grilling for more even cooking. Check out the gadget section of October, 2010 newsletter for information on where to buy this roaster.

Ingredients

  • Ancho Chile Paste
  • 8 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 8 medium (about 4 ounces total) dried ancho chiles
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, whole or freshly ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds, whole or freshly ground
  • A scant 1/4 teaspoon cloves, whole or freshly ground
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • Salt
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer (I used Negra Modelo)
  • 1 5 to 6 pound whole chicken roaster, rinsed and patted dry
  • Finishing salt

Instructions

Lay the unpeeled garlic in a dry non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Roast until the garlic has softened and blackened in spots, about 15 minutes. Cool, then discard the papery skin and place into a blender jar.

While the garlic is roasting, break off the stems of the chiles, tear the chiles open and discard the seeds. Toast the chiles a few at a time in your medium-hot skillet . Open them out flat, lay them on the hot surface skin-side up, press flat for a few seconds with a metal spatula (if the temperature is right you’ll hear a faint crackle), then flip them. (If you pressed them just long enough, they’ll have changed to a mottled tan underneath. If you see a slight wisp of smoke, it’s okay, but any more than that will mean burnt chiles and bitter taste.) Toast the other side. Transfer the toasted chiles to a bowl, cover with hot water and let rehydrate for 30 minutes. Use a plate to weight down the chiles to ensure even soaking. Drain and add the soaked chiles to the blender. Add the oregano, black pepper, cumin, cloves, and chicken broth. Blend until smooth. Press the puree through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl discard the skins and seeds that remain behind in the strainer. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Divide the puree in half. You'll use half for this recipe. Place the other half in an airtight container and refrigerate for several weeks or you can freeze it for later use.

Preheat one side of the grill to medium. You'll want to maintain a temperature of 325 degrees during the cooking time so adjust your grill accordingly.

Pour the beer into a 2 cup measuring cup and mix in 1/4 cup of the ancho paste. Pour a portion of the beer mixture into the cylinder, filling it almost to the top. Using a silicone brush, brush the inside cavity of the chicken with a thin layer of chile paste. Place the chicken onto the cylinder with the legs resting on the bottom of the platform. Fold the wing tips behind the back of the chicken. Paint a thin layer of the chile paste over the entire surface of the chicken. Don't make this too thick or it'll burn while the chicken is roasting. Liberally sprinkle salt over the entire surface of the chicken. Place the chicken in the center of the side of the grill without the heat. Start the grilling process with the back of the chicken facing the hot side of the grill. Pour the remaining beer mixture through the top of the chicken to refill the cylinder several times during the grilling process. Once the white meat of the chicken reaches 140 degrees, brush on the remaining chile paste over the entire surface of the chicken. Continue grilling for another 5 minutes or until the white meat registers 145 degrees. There will be carry over cooking after the chicken is removed from the grill. Total cooking time is between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 hours. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving. You can use the beer chile mixture from the cylinder as an au jus for the chicken if you'd like. Cut up the chicken and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle a finishing salt over the top of the pieces as a final seasoning for the chicken.


What is In Spicy Chicken Marinade

Inside this spicy chicken marinade, you’ll find red chili paste, honey, garlic, fresh ginger, and lime juice.

The red chili paste (or Sriracha) adds heat. The honey makes the flavors “stick” to the meat -pun intended- while adding a touch of sweetness.

The acidity to balance out the marinade comes from the lime, which also helps tenderize the meat, and the garlic and ginger are aromatics to add depth of flavor.

While there are many variations to spicy chicken marinades, some are smoky, and others are fire hot the simplicity of this recipe makes it both doable and tastes amazing.


Brine the chicken:

  • In a large bowl, combine 2 cups boiling water with the sugar and salt and stir to dissolve. Let cool completely. Add the chicken breasts, cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Make the chile oil:

  • In a medium skillet, lightly toast the cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Grind the seeds to a powder in an electric spice grinder and transfer to a medium bowl. In the same skillet, toast the chiles over medium heat, pressing on them with a spatula, until fragrant and darker in spots, about 1 minute per side. Remove the stems and seeds and grind in the spice grinder—you’ll need 3 Tbs. ground chile. Add the ground chile, cayenne, garlic, and 1 tsp. salt to the ground spices, and then stir in the oil and vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt or vinegar if necessary. Stir before using.

Grill the chicken:

  • Prepare a medium gas or charcoal grill fire. While the grill heats, remove the chicken from the brine, pat dry with paper towels, and let sit at room temperature.
  • Toss the chicken with 2 Tbs. of the chile oil. Grill the chicken without moving until golden brown grill marks form, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip the chicken and grill until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes. Holding your knife at an angle, cut the breasts crosswise into 1/2 -inch-thick slices and let cool to room temperature. Serve with the remaining chile oil on the side.

Make Ahead Tips

The chile oil can be made up to several hours in advance, or up to a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

The chicken can be grilled up to 6 hours in advance. Refrigerate and return to room temperature for serving.

Recipe Notes

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Ingredient Spotlight


HOW LONG DO YOU MARINATE CHICKEN?

This grilled chicken marinade is best if allowed to do its thing for at least four hours so the chicken can reap the benefits of the tenderizing properties, but I would aim for 12 hours for maximum benefit.

What if I’m short on time?

If you can only marinate the chicken for 30 minutes, then marinate at room temperature to expedite the marinating process, however, don’t marinate longer than 30 minutes at room temperature otherwise dangerous bacteria can grow and lead to foodborne illnesses. Brushing the reserved marinade (that’s never come in contact with the chicken) on the cooked chicken will also help amplify the flavor if you’re short on time.

Can I marinate chicken too long?

For maximum benefit, marinate the chicken for 12 hours, but don’t push it too much longer than that otherwise the acid in the marinade can break down the muscle fibers too much and make your chicken mushy.

SHOULD YOU POKE HOLES IN CHICKEN BEFORE MARINATING?

No, you should NOT poke holes in the chicken before marinating. This actually drains out the valuable juices and will result in less juicy chicken. You can cut slits in thick pieces of chicken like chicken legs to reach deeper into the protein, but never holes.

CAN YOU FREEZE CHICKEN IN THE MARINADE?

Yes! If you can’t get to cooking your marinating grilled chicken within 12 hours, just pop it in the freezer – another perk of using sealable plastic bags. When it’s time to cook, just thaw and cook immediately. You don’t want the chicken to marinate again or it can become mushy.


In a small bowl, whisk the ingredients for the marinade together until fully blended. Pour HALF (approx. 1/4 cup) of the marinade into a shallow dish.

Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate/marinate chicken for at least 2 hours (turning occasionally to coat), for best taste results! Cover and set the remaining marinade (approx. 1/4 cup) aside until ready to serve (this is the salad dressing). There is no need to refrigerate.


Tips To Make The Best Recipe

Chicken Breast can also be used. Make a slash on the chicken that helps to infuse the flavors and also chicken breast tends to cook faster.

Marinade the chicken with spices, seasoning, herbs, and lemon for a minimum of 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight to get the juicy grilled chicken.

Grill the chicken, with light basting as required. The basting technique is a must retain the moisture in the chicken.

If you are not a fan of too many spices, stick to pepper and salt, lemon juice, and some herbs it works well too.

I urge you to use the freshly ground ginger garlic paste to get the most authentic flavors!