Delicious earthy Mexican Chicken Adobo, or Adobo de Pollo, is an authentic recipe loaded with traditional Mexican flavors. Three types of chilies, tomatoes, spices and more make up a spicy sauce for a showstopping chicken recipe.
If you love authentic Mexican food you'’ll love this recipe. It is the family recipe of a friend of mine in Mexico. We've made it in their authentic way slimming it down a bit along the way, while keeping the traditional ingredients and flavors. The resulting chicken is earthy, spicy (we've toned it down from the original recipe) and full of rich soul-warming flavors.
This exciting chicken recipe can be everything from a main dish entrée to shredded for adobo chicken tacos with some corn tortillas. The chicken mixture can be used in so many ways. We've shared some favorites below.
What is Mexican Adobo Chicken?
The word adobo comes from the Spanish word 'adobar' which mean marinade. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as: "a paste or marinade made from chili peppers, vinegar, herbs, and spices, used in Mexican cooking."
The adobo portion of this recipe is really a sauce which bakes with seared chicken. The end result is moist, tender chicken and a fantastic deep red sauce you'll love. It's a simple recipe with jaw dropping flavor.
What makes this skinny?
Any type of chicken can be used to make Adobo de Pollo. My friend's family cuts up a whole chicken and uses that. Chicken thighs are also popular.
Because we wanted to slim it down while keeping the authentic flavors and sauce ingredients we did a couple things:
- Used boneless skinless chicken breast instead of fattier cuts with skin. This is the leanest cut of chicken and perfect in this recipe.
- We also reduced the oil to use enough to achieve the recipe results without over doing it
- Because we opted for skinless chicken we swapped in chicken stock for water (the original recipe) to add more flavor without loads of calories
Recipe Ingredient Notes
Boneless skinless chicken breasts. You'll need 2 pounds of chicken breasts. The number of chicken breasts for this size can vary wildly. Try to select a total of 6 breasts (each will be a little over 5 ounces which is a normal portion size).
Fat-free chicken stock. You'll need 1 ½ cups of either chicken stock or chicken broth.
White onion. You'll need a small onion, peeled and sliced. Because it will be pureed as part of the sauce there is no need to chop it.
Chilies. To make this adobo de pollo in an authentic way you'll need three types of dried chiles: ancho chilies, guajillo chiles and pasilla chilies. You should be able to find them in the international section of most grocery stores or online. It's the combination of the three types of chilies that gives the sauce the earthy classic flavor.
Roma tomatoes. These will be cooked and part of the sauce. Use roma tomatoes which have a strong tomato flavor and less liquid than other types of tomatoes.
Cinnamon stick. You'll use a quarter of a 1 ½-inch stick of cinnamon.
Cloves. Use ground cloves not whole cloves (½ teaspoon).
Garlic cloves. Just peel them. They'll be sautéed then added to the blender for the sauce. No dicing required.
How to Make Mexican Adobo Chicken (Adobo de Pollo) - Step-by-Step
STEP 1. Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Clean the chilies by removing the seeds and the veins (refer to images below).
STEP 2. Make the sauce
In a non-stick large skillet, add 2 teaspoons oil (vegetable oil or olive oil) over medium-high heat and sauté the onion with the garlic until golden brown. Place in the blender (photos 1-2).
Add the chilies to the skillet along with ½ cup of the chicken stock over medium-high heat. Cook about 5 minutes, turning the chilies over midway through using tongs to soften and allow them to become aromatic. This may require doing in batches. Remove and place in the blender (photos 3-4). Make sure they don't burn because this will make the taste bitter.
Add the tomatoes and spices (salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon and cumin) to the skillet (photo 5). Sauté to soften the tomatoes (a few minutes) (photo 6). Add the tomatoes to the blender with the apple cider vinegar and remaining chicken stock.
Blend until smooth.
STEP 3. Sear chicken
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet. Sear the chicken breasts on both sides over medium heat for 1 minute per side. Remove from heat.
STEP 4. Cook chicken in sauce
Place the chicken into a baking dish. Cover with the sauce from the blender (flip the chicken to over to fully coat)(photo 7).
NOTE: there should be 4 cups of sauce so plenty to coat the chicken and to save some for other uses. Or feel free to use it all.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the chicken registers 165 degrees F internal temperature.
How to shred the chicken
This delicious chicken can be eaten whole or shredded. Shredding the chicken opens up lots of ways to use it.
It can be used in other dishes as noted below, frozen in portions for future meals or used for meal prepping. If shredding the chicken place chicken back it the sauce to coat. This adds more flavor and moisture to the shredded chicken.
Our favorite shredding trick:
When the chicken is cooked place it in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Run the mixer on low just until the chicken is shredded to your desired fineness. It's the easiest way to to do it.
Or shred chicken using two forks.
Though we've toned down the heat from the original recipe it still has some spicy heat. Dairy products as the one thing that tames spiciness. If you shred the chicken to add it to another dish, add some non-fat plain Greek yogurt or reduced fat sour cream to cut the heat.
How to use the sauce
The recipe makes 4 cups of the Mexican adobo sauce. This is more than enough for baking the chicken so you can use it all or save some in a jar in the refrigerator for other things.
- It would make a perfect marinade for grilled chicken (marinate and cook on a charcoal grill or gas grill for those great grill marks). Or a delicious sauce to put on top.
- Add some to scrambled eggs
- Over roasted potatoes
- Drizzled in soup to spice it up
How to Use the chicken
- Eat as a main dish protein
- Add to quesadillas, chicken adobo tacos, burritos or tostadas
- Burrito bowl. Think our Air Fryer Greek Chicken Bowl with the Mexican cauliflower rice, fresh tomatoes, shredded iceberg lettuce, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt (a sour cream replacement), some shredded cheese, pico de gallo, and some lime wedges for a squeeze of lime juice. You can even add black beans and slices of jalapeno pepper.
- Add it cubed or shredded on a cool green salad
How to Store
Store the prepared chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Store the sauce in a sealed jar (or container) for up to 1 week.