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The Best Pollo Asado Tacos

This super easy Pollo Asado recipe will become your go-to Mexican street tacos! Marinated, juicy chicken with citrusy flavor in warm tortillas. Make these for your next taco night!

I know that we have a traditional way of making chicken tacos here in America, and I'm not knocking it! I love a good chicken taco made with shredded chicken and taco seasoning. But, when we spent time in Mexico, we were always amazed how much FLAVOR was in a simple chicken taco.

Cue this recipe, Pollo Asado! "Pollo" means "chicken" in Spanish, and "asada" means roasted. The secret to this yummy chicken is the marinade!

A photo of the ingredients for pollo asado marinade

When you look at the ingredient list for pollo or carne asada, you may think to yourself, "Wow, that has too many ingredients!" Hang in there! I promise it's worth it.

I know the ingredient list for this recipe looks long, but this delicious recipe is actually super simple. And, most of the work is done ahead of time with the amazing marinade!

A photo of pollo asada tacos on a white plate with a lime

But wait, do I need achiote?

The marinade is a mixture of citrus juices and seasonings like chili powder and garlic. Typically, this recipe would call for achiote powder or achiote paste, which can be hard to find. Especially here in the Midwest!

But don't worry, you can still make super flavorful chicken for your Mexican cuisine without achiote! I've experimented with different ingredients, and I think this marinade is as close as you can get without it.

Baked asada chicken on a baking tray

In this Easy Pollo Asado Taco recipe, we use common ingredients that most folks already have on hand. I make my chicken in the oven, but it's traditional to charcoal grill pollo asada, so feel free to throw your marinated chicken on your outdoor grill instead! I include instructions for both in the recipe card, below.

Also, you can cook your chicken on the stove top using a grill pan over medium-high heat.

A bowl of cubed chicken asada

What Type of Chicken for Pollo Asado Tacos?

You have some flexibility as to what cut of chicken you use for these chicken street tacos! I almost always use boneless skinless chicken thighs, but feel free to use chicken breast as well.

Honestly, whichever cut of chicken is on sale at your local grocery store (or already in your freezer) is the right choice!

Recipe Substitutions:

I always think it's best to use what you have on hand whenever possible! Here are a few ingredient substitution suggestions:

  • Substitute lemon juice for lime juice
  • Use cubed pork shoulder or pork loin (boneless) instead of chicken
  • Use sirloin steak or sirloin tip roast (cubed) instead of chicken
a photo of raw chicken in pollo asada marinade in a Ziploc bag

The Best Toppings for Pollo Asado Tacos:

The toppings you use on your tacos is a personal decision! But, my personal version of the BEST chicken taco is chicken asado in warm corn tortillas topped with salsa verde, queso fresco, fresh cilantro, queso fresco and a dash of hot sauce.

As they say though, you do you! Here are a few amazing flavor combinations that will be awesome on your Pollo Asado Street Tacos:

  • Top with pickled red onion or diced white onion, fresh cilantro and queso fresco
  • Make them American style with shredded cheese, shredded lettuce and red salsa
a photo of a platter of pollo asado tacos topped with pickled red onion

Side Dishes:

I have to be honest that I don't always make a side dish to go with these tacos. Sometimes I just serve chips and salsa, and call it good! But, if you're in the mood to make a side dish, here are a few good pairings:

A photo of a hand holding an assembled pollo asado taco

Storing Leftovers

Only assemble the amount of tacos that you will eat at that time. Store leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

I love using leftover chicken on nachos made with tortilla chips, store bought queso dip, and toppings! You can also use this tasty chicken on burrito bowls. It's great for meal prep.

A photo of pollo asado tacos in taco trays
a photo of a platter of pollo asado tacos topped with pickled red onion

Pollo Asada Tacos

Yield: Serves 6-8
Prep Time: 8 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours 30 minutes

This super easy pollo asado recipe will become your go-to Mexican street tacos! Marinated, juicy chicken with citrusy flavor in warm tortillas. Make these for your next taco night!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 16 street sized corn tortillas (or flour tortillas)

For the marinade:

  • ⅓ cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • ⅛ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder (or 1 teaspoon fresh garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

For the quick pickled red onions:

  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

For toppings:

  • chopped cilantro
  • cotija cheese
  • quick pickled red onions
  • (optional) diced avocado
  • lime wedges
  • alternative toppings: shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, pico de gallo, salsa, sour cream

Instructions

  1. Marinate Chicken: Add chicken to a large, gallon-sized Ziploc bag, or any large resealable plastic bag.
  2. In a medium bowl, add marinade ingredients. Pour over the top of the chicken and seal the Ziploc bag, squeezing out as much excess air as possible. 
  3. Place chicken in the refrigerator and allow it to marinate for at least 4 hours, up to overnight. 
  4. Make the Quick Pickled Onions: Add sliced red onion to a small bowl, then rinse with cold water to help remove the bite of the onion. 
  5. Drain the water, then vinegar, sugar, salt and peppercorns. 
  6. Cover, and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before serving.
  7. Cook the chicken: 
  8. To Bake the Chicken: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit with an instant read thermometer. 
  9. To Grill the Chicken: Grill chicken over hot, direct heat for about 5 minutes per side, until the internal temperature of the chicken reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit with an instant read thermometer. 
  10. Remove from the oven or grill and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Transfer the chicken toa cutting board, then dice the chicken to prepare for tacos. 
  11. Spoon diced chicken into soft taco shells and top with chopped cilantro, cheese and red onions and a squeeze of fresh lime, or the toppings of your choice.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 387

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