Pollo al Carbon

Pollo al Carbon Recipe Video (scroll down for marinade recipe)

Carlos is back to show how to make pollo al carbon! This is a Mexican grilled chicken recipe, akin to those found at Pollo Regio or El Pollo Loco. Whole chickens, spatchcocked, or chicken quarters are soaked and basted in a citrus-achiote marinade then slow-roasted over charcoal for an hour and some change. Best served with Mexican rice and charro beans.

You might also like this recipe for carne asada tacos!

pollo al carbon

Served with Mexican rice and charro beans

Pollo al Carbon Recipe


Pollo al Carbon

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4.9 from 14 reviews

  • Author: Carlos Lamas
  • Yield: 4-6 1x


  • 23 pound chickens or 6 pounds chicken quarters
  • Oil for brushing on the grill
  • Marinade:
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice (about 45 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 3 tablespoons Maggi seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 ounces achiote paste
  • 2 tablespoons of chicken bullion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  1. For whole chickens, remove the back bone and flatten (see post on spatchcock chicken for demo)
  2. Combine marinade ingredients in blender and whizz to liquefy the achiote paste.
  3. RESERVE 1/2 cup marinade. Pour the rest over the chicken and cover. Marinade 2-4 hours.
  4. Prepare a grill with a hot side and a cool side (meaning, pile all the coals onto one half of the grill)
  5. Lightly oil the grill
  6. First, lay chicken bone-side down on the hot side of the grill. Replace the cover and let sear 2-3 minutes.
  7. Move chicken to cool side of the grill and cover. Cook 20 minutes.
  8. Turn chicken, baste heavily with marinade, Cover and cook on the cool side another 20 minutes.
  9. Turn chicken, baste heavily with marinade, Cover and cook on the hot side another 20 minutes.
  10. Turn chicken, baste heavily with marinade, Cover and cook on the hot side another 20 minutes.
  11. After 80 minutes, your chickens will be cooked!
  12. Serve with lime wedges, salsa, rice and charro beans

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Chickens almost ready!

Chickens almost ready!


  1. The Other Randy on June 13, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Quite often I come across recipes that call for an ingredient that I don’t have and aren’t available in mainstream grocery stores (or so I think…I just don’t know where to look for it). Then months later I find the ingredient and buy it only to realize I have no recollection of what recipe called for it. That’s how I happened to have achiote paste in my pantry. I can’t recall how old it is. Do you happen to know what the shelf life of achiote paste is?

    • Barbara on June 13, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      My package has the expiration date printed on the outside of the box, and on the plastic wrapper inside.

    • Hilah on June 15, 2015 at 9:19 am

      Aha! I have had this exact thing happen to me. I had a pack of achiote paste in my pantry for probably a year at least, until it had turned into a small brick. Blender to the rescue. I broke it up as much as I could and then put it in the blender with some liquid things and it worked just fine. So I think you could relatively safely not worry about expiration.

      • Metuschelah Myrtil on December 15, 2016 at 12:47 pm

        Hi, I was wondering about the aount of time I need to marinate the chicken before cooking it? Plus, I don’t have a grill at home. So can I actually bake it in the oven? If so, how many degrees do I need to preheate my oven, and how long do I need to bake the chicken per side?

    • Belle on October 11, 2017 at 8:51 pm

      Its mostly used for coloring food. Just add it to rice or beans whenever you’re making it so you wont waste it. Or you can make this lovely chicken again! I would add a bit of cayenne though…Belle likes her chicken spicy!

    • Gabriel M Avila on December 8, 2019 at 4:44 pm

      Why not print the recipe, and write the missing ingredient on it. Then file under missing ingredients alphabetically.

      • Hilah on December 10, 2019 at 1:59 pm

        That’s a good idea!

  2. Clay Paul on June 13, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Fantastic Hilah.. I have grilled chicken for years.. Your show is great. As an older cook that enjoys the cooking and the beveraging, it is nice to see you younger folks participating that good activity.. Oh my main comment was the new achiote marinade activity. It looks quite nice.. Thanks

    • Hilah on June 15, 2015 at 9:17 am

      Thanks! I agree cooking and beveraging together is a marvelous pastime 🙂

      • Don on May 27, 2016 at 1:22 pm

        Sometimes you also have to smoke yourself when smoking chicken and beveraging…

  3. Diane on June 13, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Okay, I don’t eat meat, but damn that is a thing of beauty! Also, if I bring tequila, can I come over for drinks?

  4. Andrew on June 15, 2015 at 5:05 am

    Kudos to you and Carlos,

    I went to a friend’s wedding in Mexico DF about 15 years ago, and have been cooking – or trying to cook – the best version of traditional Mexican that you can in Tasmania. I’ve been using achiote for a while now, and love the way you’re using this. I’ll be firing up the grill tomorrow night. Can’t wait for you guys to help me get my masa on!

    • Hilah on June 15, 2015 at 9:13 am

      You will love this chicken, Andrew!

  5. Bill on June 15, 2015 at 7:46 am

    I just picked up a couple of bottle of Mojo marinade by Badia. The ingredients seem close to the recipe. Any experience with it?


    • Hilah on June 15, 2015 at 9:12 am

      Nope, never have seen that one.

  6. Bob on June 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    What? No money shot? You do not actually eat the chicken on the video? WTF?

  7. Jerry Mankovsky on June 17, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Another 5 star recipe from Hilah and her friends!! You are amazing!

  8. Adam the Reluctant Gringo on June 17, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    So I live in the Northeast US where the closest thing we have to Mexican food is Chipotle and, yes, I am aware that is not even remotely close.

    That being said we went to our local Mexican market. We found achiote paste pretty quickly, but not Maggi seasoning. They had some other Maggi-brand products, but not the seasoning sauce. What can I substitute? Soy sauce?

    • Hilah on June 17, 2015 at 8:06 pm

      Soy sauce is a great substitute, Adam. Braggs liquid amino acids are similar, too.

    • CJ on February 25, 2017 at 11:17 am

      Where in the NE? We have an outstanding Mexican restaurant in Wilkes-Barre, PA. El Rey Azteca! Spent a month in TX & NM last Oct. didn’t find one that could begin to compare (but I have developed a passion for Hatch Chilis)!

  9. Maureen on June 18, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    The chicken looks really good! I think I’m starting to love Pollo Al Carbon. I mean what’s there not to love about it, right? I love this recipe, Hilah. Thanks for sharing it! 🙂

  10. Beth on June 26, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Delicious! My chickens were a little bigger, but were ready in 4 twenty minute flips. Served with charro beans and rice. I don’t want to talk about the rice but the beans and chicken SuperGOOD!

  11. Melissa on July 13, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Now that you’ve moved to California, will this be the end of cooking with Carlos??

    • Hilah on July 13, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      Nope! Already planning for him to come out and shoot with us later in the year 🙂

  12. Tiffany on October 10, 2015 at 7:43 am

    I’ve always loved this style of chicken and always wondered if I could ever learn. Then I found your video! How awesome is that?!
    My only question and concern is, can I do this on my outside gas grill? Charcoal grills aren’t allowed at my apartment 🙁

    • Hilah on October 11, 2015 at 10:06 am

      That should work, Tiffany! As long as your grill has the ability to have a hot side and a cooler side.

  13. Katie on November 3, 2015 at 5:14 am

    Wondering if I can make this in the oven like your Spatchcock chicken?

    • Hilah on November 3, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      That would work like a charm! I’d marinate it and roast it like the spatchcock recipe, basting just once at the midway point. No need to flip it.

  14. john gerace on December 3, 2015 at 9:06 am

    Loved the youtube video. Keep it up. Great Job. I’m an Austin TX resident and those pollo al carbon look as good on tv as most I’ve eaten !!! Good show.

    • Hilah on December 3, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Thanks, John!

  15. Eyal Dior on January 11, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Look good! What can replace achiote paste and Maggi seasoning? Can’t get them where I live…

    • Hilah on January 11, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      Hi! Use soy sauce for the Maggi. For the achiote, try a couple tablespoons of paprika and a little more garlic.

  16. Josh Fuller on March 20, 2016 at 5:51 am

    Can I do this recipe on a smoker and just increase the cooking time?

    • Hilah on March 20, 2016 at 9:49 am

      Hi Josh,
      I have never smoked a chicken but I assume you could.

  17. BT on April 9, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Great recipe. Tastes very similar to the local carbon shops here in North texas. But, do you have a recipe for the green “avocado” sauce they typically serve with it? IMO, it’s like peanut butter and jelly.. one just isn’t the same without the other!

    • Hilah on April 9, 2016 at 7:54 am

      Hey BT!
      While there’s no avocado in it, this creamy green salsa is pretty close to the one you’re talking about! Make it with jalapeño or serrano chiles.

  18. RB Brown on May 23, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I have been wanting this recipe for a very long time. This is my favorite chicken and yours is just as good as restaurant. I thank you for this. Will be using this recipe for a very long time!!!

  19. eric shepherd on July 1, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    so i live in northern ca. i often buy roadside mexican bbq chicken that this recipe reminds me of. i can not wait to try this out. i am in charge of the upcoming Q duties for the family fourth of july festivities.This sounds like just the fare for the day. Beers , watchin the Q and some more beers. I thought i might add some beer or even some tequila to the marinade. Hilah whatya think of that. I am also gonna q some onions and peppers along side the birds. I will also wood fire the whole shlameel. i will let you now what the gang thinks of the recipe. Hilah i thanks for all the cool recipes and such.

    • Hilah on July 2, 2016 at 9:21 am

      I think a little beer would be great, Eric! Happy fourth!

  20. ISH on July 2, 2016 at 10:31 pm


    Can’t wait to try the recipe, chicken looks great and I bet it taste just as well. One question, I want to use gas grill, what grill temperature would I be grilling at ?

    • Hilah on July 3, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      I don’t really know, but I would start with turning one side of the grill onto medium-high and the other side on low

  21. Erin Drummond on July 6, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    I’ve been craving pollo al carbon for years since moving back stateside from Mexico! Can’t wait to try this recipe, my mouth is watering just thinking of it! Quick question, do you think it could be cooked on a Big Green Egg? There’s no real way to get a hot/cold side with the BGE, but temp is easily controlled and I could back down to 250 for a slow cook after searing.

    • Hilah on July 7, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Hi Erin! I don’t know. Never used a BGE before. I think your plan sounds like it would work, but I bet you can find instructions online and just follow those with this marinade to get a close-enough pollo al carbon!

  22. Anadelia on July 19, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    This chicken recipe is a God sent!
    Made it for my fiance and kids they flipped for it fresh pico de gallo and queso fresco topped it off!!! Boy o boy this was one for the family recipe book ❤ ❤ ❤????????????????????????

    • Hilah on July 20, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Hooray! So nice to hear, Anadelia! 😀 <3

  23. John on August 22, 2017 at 6:46 am

    What specific kind of Maggi Seasoning is in the marinade? Maggi makes several “seasonings”. I found your site last week looking for cream gravy. The Daisy Duke outfit was hilarious. I didn’t believe that the Betty Crocker cook book my mother gave me was right, but it’s basically the same. I love the that these are recipes that are able to be done by real people and the result is tasty. I made the Mexican Rice last night. Amazing just like the restaurants. And in chili rellenos. Their always bland in the restaurants. I’m going to try it myself leaving in the seeds. Any way what’s the Maggi for the Pollo al Carbon ? I’m going to try it in my smoker. Thanks. JDB

    • Hilah on August 22, 2017 at 10:15 am

      Hi John!
      It’s the Maggi seasoning sauce. If you’re getting it in a Mexican market, it might be labeled Maggi “Jugo”
      So glad you are enjoying my recipes! 🙂

  24. Pedro on September 17, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    I forgotten to reserve some of the marinade, can I still use the marinade that’s been marinating in the chicken?

    • Hilah on September 18, 2017 at 7:15 am

      Hi Pedro,
      There is a risk of contamination between raw and cooked chicken. If it was me, I would not worry to much about it, since the chicken is cooked for the final 20 minutes on the hot side of the grill. But to be even safer, you could skip the last baste and just let it cook “naked” for the last 20 minutes

  25. Isaias on October 2, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    Tried this recipe last night. The only place I veered was that I used my pellet grill @ 375 with hickory pellets. The smell was intoxicating and the results were amazing. Thank you for sharing this fine recipe.

    • Hilah on October 3, 2019 at 9:29 am

      So happy to hear that, Isaias!

    • Rod Moore on October 1, 2020 at 9:03 am

      Excellent recipe,mine came out perfectly. Cooked on an Oklahoma Joe’s drum smoker.

  26. Iris H on December 14, 2019 at 9:07 am

    This week was my third time making the chicken. It has come out phenomenal each time. Thanks for the great recipe! It’s relatively simple but the flavor is amazing.

  27. Teri on July 31, 2021 at 7:09 pm

    The flavor was great, but the cook time and over hot coals was too much. The chicken looked great when I had it on the “cool” side. After one session over the coal side, it was burnt. When I turned them over for the last 20 minutes, I moved them to the middle, but still too hot. Charred skin. Next time, I’m going to reduce cooking time to 30″ on each side (one turn) and only on the cool side. But the flavor was delicious!

  28. Tom on January 25, 2022 at 7:35 pm

    Hello, I’m Tom and I’m from the future. 7 years in the future…to answer your questions.

    Lets get what everyone always asks sooner or later out of the way. Bengals.

    Achiote as packaged sealed in plastic has a shelf life from manufacture of about 5 years. If it isn’t soft when you squeeze it, hard achiote is old achiote and you’ll have a hard time breaking it down to use it.

    Once open, wrap up any unused portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for up to six months.

    I just made the above marinade. No problems at all putting everything into a blender bottle and shaking it up to break up the achiote and the boullion. Took about 5 minutes to make it up in total. Now the waiting begins…

    • Hilah on February 8, 2022 at 11:39 am

      Ha! Thanks for the achiote tips, Tom 🙂

  29. Marta on September 15, 2023 at 4:20 pm

    Fabulous flavor! Easy to prep. Great on the pellet smoker. We used the marinade with chicken & pork butt.

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