Chicken Loco

All, Favorites, Mexican, Poultry

This grilled chicken recipe came about as I was trying to come close to the flavor of Pollo Loco’s grilled chicken. It’s citrus-based, like theirs, but not quite the same. I have a hunch their recipe is simpler, but what the heck, this recipe turned out so good I may stop trying to improve it. It certainly has been a big hit with the eaters around here.

One of the ingredients I use is annatto (achiote); a spice that not only provides flavor but also color. If you can’t find it, make this anyway; this chicken was plenty good before I added the annato.

I found the annatto in a plastic bag on a supermarket pegboard with other Latin American spices and herbs. You need to grind up the seeds, and they are pretty hard. A spice grinder would be handy here (I used my little Magic Bullet).

Everyone seems to know (or think) that the Pollo Loco recipe is based on pineapple juice. But since it’s from Mexico, I can’t help but think there’s lime juice in there as well. Anyhow, this is good.


2 chickens, quartered
6 ounces pineapple juice
5 ounces orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons oil
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground annato (achiote)


Pineapple juice comes in little 6 ounce cans, which I keep on hand for cooking. That’s where the 6 ounces came from. Five ounces is half a little plastic bottle of un-refrigerated orange juice, which I also keep on hand, and I figured 10 ounces was too much, so I drank half of it.

Quarter the chickens, rinse them off, and set them aside. Mix all the other ingredients and pour into one or more plastic bags and add the chicken. Massage a little, and let marinate for 1/2 hour to a day or more, in the fridge.

When it’s time to cook, remove the chicken from the marinade, save a little for basting, and discard the rest. Grill the chicken over medium coals (or gas flame) for 40 -45 minutes, until the legs move freely, juice from the thigh runs clear, or the internal temperature gets up to 170 degrees F. Turn the chicken every ten minutes or so during this period, and also move the pieces around so they cook as uniformly as possible. You can baste the chicken with the marinade for the first 30 minutes, but the basting liquid must have time to cook. It’s been in the raw chicken, you know.

A few flare-ups are OK, and add flavor to the meat. If the flare-ups come up past the chicken and it’s obviously going to turn the chicken to charcoal, move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill, and maybe use a spray bottle to water down the flames a bit.

Serve with cole slaw, refried beans, corn on the cob or whatever else you like. As I said, everyone so far has loved the flavor of this chicken!

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