Recipes > Achiote-Marinated Grilled Chicken

Achiote Marinated Grilled Chicken


Grilled chicken is marinated in the flavors of Mexico...achiote paste, lime juice, oregano, cumin and chipotle - just to name a few.
  • Serves: 4
  • Active Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr - 4 hrs
  • Views: 309,660
  • Success Rating: 100% (?)
    0% - I fed it to the dog


Step 1: Making the Achiote Marinade

Making the Achiote Marinade
  • 2 oz achiote paste (ground annatto seed paste)
  • 2 to 3 limes (approx. 6 tbsp)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (white or red)
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbsp chipotle adobo sauce (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Into a small bowl, break up the achiote paste. Add the oregano and cumin and mash with a fork.

Next, add the lime juice, vinegar, oil, garlic and chipotle sauce. Mix to combine then add the salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Add a touch more salt or pepper, if needed.

If you like things a bit more spicy, you can add some of the chipotle peppers from the can. Some people even add toasted and ground chile de arbol to the marinade for extra heat.

Step 2: Marinating the Chicken

Marinating the Chicken
  • one 3 to 4 lb chicken (preferably brined)


If you have brined the chicken, remove from the brine and pat dry. Next, butterfly the chicken.

Take half of the marinade and set it aside. Take the remaining marinade and rub it all over the chicken. Even rub a bit under the skin so it will penetrate the meat somewhat.

Once done, place the chicken into a suitable container and cover. Marinate in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours or overnight. You can cook the chicken immediately, but it will not have the same depth of flavor.

Step 3: Grilling the Chicken

Grilling the Chicken


When you are ready to grill the chicken, preheat the barbecue to medium-high. Then turn off the middle burner so the chicken cooks over indirect heat. This will also help to prevent flare ups from any fat on the chicken.

Alternatively, you can also bake the chicken in the oven at 350 F for about an hour.

Once the grill is hot,, remove the chicken from the marinade. Let the excess marinade drill off before placing it breast-side up onto the grill. Let the chicken cook for approximately 30 minutes with the lid closed. Check occasionally to ensure the chicken is not flaring up or burning.

Step 4: Flipping the Bird

Flipping the Bird


After about 30 minutes, turn the chicken over to cook on the other side. Let cook for another 10 to 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Once done, let rest for about 10 minutes while you heat the remaining marinade.

Step 5: Preparing the Remaining Marinade

Preparing the Remaining Marinade
  • 1/2 cup (reserved marinade)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


To prepare the reserved marinade, simply heat it in a small pot. Remove it from the heat and add a bit of oil. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Step 6: Carving the Chicken

Carving the Chicken


Once the chicken has rested, carve and serve. Serve individual portions of the sauce or pass a bowl around so guests can help themselves to more sauce if they like.

Chef's Notes

The achiote-marinade is a Mexican marinade from Yucatan. The primary flavoring ingredient is annatto seeds, which are hard red seeds of the annatto tree. The paste is available in many grocery stores, but it can also be ordered online.

This dish goes particularly well with Char-Roasted Red Peppers and  Traditional Couscous or even Moroccan Couscous. Any leftovers would also be great in quesadillas or tacos.


  • Jenny G
    Jenny G
    I made this recipe yesterday but instead of buying a whole chicken (I thought it was too much for the 2 of us) I made it with chicken thighs. I marinated them for 4 hours and then grilled them on the BBQ … what an AMAZING! recipe. The flavors were great. In Mexico when we use achiote instead of lemons we use oranges but they are a very specific kind of orange, very acidic so the lemons work great too. It was a hit! Even Kris (my 2 year old) ate a whole thigh, and that’s a huge compliment ’cause he normally doesn’t eat anything other than yogurt and mac & cheese. Next time I’m going to make chicken wings =). Thanks for another great recipe!!!!
  • Brian J
    Brian J
    Wanted to make this for tomorrow, but have not been able to locate the Achiote Paste / Ground Annatto Seed Paste. Am I looking in the wrong location? Is this something that I need to prepare from scratch, or is it normally bought in a tube / can? I was in the Hispanic section of my grocery store, but could not locate it. Your help would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks!!
  • Brian J
    Brian J
    I did finally find the Achiote Paste. I located a Hispanic supermarket and sure enough, it was easily found. What a FANTASTIC recipe. I did brine as suggested. The chicken came out perfectly cooked, juicy and tender. The achiote marinade on this was perfect.... what a wonderful smell! Had a couple of neighbors asking me what I was cooking because it smelled so good!! Woke up this morning with the linger of the smell of the dish.... WOW!! What a nice fragrance to awake to! This was absolutely perfect! Thanks for a great recipe.
  • Tricia G
    Tricia G
    Thanks for another great receipe, If I cant get to the states, I have trouble getting the sth american spices eg; achiote, we dont get that stuff in Australia ,so I did the Australasian version, a little tweaking, lots of chillie and lime/lemon and coriander and a very fragrant spicy dish, tricia
  • Lauren L
    Lauren L
    Hi Terry! Thank you for your great questions. You can totally substitute another oil for the grapeseed- Sunflower, olive, safflower or others. If using thighs, I would use bone-in, skin-on for the most flavor. Brining is always a good plan if you have the time. Enjoy! Lauren
  • Coraina P
    Coraina P
    What if you don’t own a grill. Can you do it in the oven?
  • Sandy S
    Sandy S
    Hi Coriana, Good question! Yes, you can absolutely use this marinade for a chicken, and then use standard roasting technique. Good luck! Cheers, Sandy
  • Elsa K
    Elsa K
    Just ordered some Achiote paste from Amazon planning to cook this chicken on BBQ
  • Riaz M
    Riaz M
    we cant get achiotte paste in the uk what can i use as a close substitute and the right amounts of said substitute?thank you
  • Eric W Rouxbe Staff
    Eric W
    Hi Riaz, here's an example of an achiote paste recipe: ~Eric
  • Riaz M
    Riaz M
    Eric the example you shared contained achiote but in the UK we can't get that.
  • Riaz M
    Riaz M
    We can't get annatto seeds easily in the UK
  • Eric W Rouxbe Staff
    Eric W
    Hi Riaz, if you cannot source achiote paste or annatto, please skip them. But, know that the finished product will be different from the intended outcome. ~Eric

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