The Meatwave

Mexican Roadside Chicken

Mexican Roadside Chicken View Recipe

I'm back! You may have never known I was gone—except you astute observers who noticed a lack of a new recipe last week—but I was speeding through the awesomely surreal landscape of West Texas, making a few good barbecue stops along the way, which was immediately followed by the wedding of Meatwaver extraordinaire Mike when I returned. Although I may have been away from the computer (thank god), my mind never wandered far from the Meatwave. As I found myself hiking in 100 degree weather in Big Bend, peering into Mexico from the banks of the Rio Grande, I was remembering this roadside chicken, which was not only one of the best chickens I ever made, but one of the best I had ever eaten.

Roadside Chicken

What made this recipe all the more outstanding was it started as a mere afterthought—on a day I was prepared to make skirt steak fajitas, I realized at the last minute that one Meatwaver was not of the beefy persuasion, and ran out and grabbed a bird and flipped to this recipe from Mexican Everday, which was the final straw for this oft-used book that turned into a collection of loose pages that day.

Roadside Chicken

I combined the wet rub for the bird that consisted of ancho chile powder, oregano cloves, cinnamon, garlic, cider vinegar, orange juice, and salt. Sure it sounded like a tasty combo, but nothing as earth shattering as I would later find out it would become.

Roadside Chicken

I brushed the butterflied bird with the rub and put it over the cool side of a two-zone fire and let it roast over medium-heat until the breast meat hit 165, about 45 minutes.

Roadside Chicken

During this time, I kept the lid close, so the absolutely beautiful bird that emerged was a complete surprise. The drool was flowing when I feasted my eyes on the picture-perfect, mahogany-skin that the rub created.

Once the bird was taken off the grill, during the painful rest waiting to get the first bite, I was only able to keep my grubby fingers off it by occupying myself with grilling a bunch of green onions that would be served alongside the chicken.

Roadside Chicken

Finally, time to eat, and the feast for the eyes quickly gave way to its succulent flavors—an earthy and acidic combination enlivened by the chicken's juiciness, all of which paired very nicely with the green onions. The recipe also called for tomatillo salsa, which I did have, but there was so much flavor packed into that chicken itself, there was little need for anything additional, even though it did add even more greatness. I already knew I loved Mexican food, but if this is what's considered "roadside" food across the border, next time I'm that close to this culinary mecca, I may have to cross that river and indulge in more of these delights!

Print Recipe

Mexican Roadside Chicken

  • Yield 2-4 servings
  • Prep 5 Minutes
  • Inactive 5 Minutes
  • Cook 50 Minutes
  • Total 1 Hour


  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • A big pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus a little more for the onions
  • 1 large chicken, about 3 lbs, butterflied
  • 2 large bunches of green onions or knob onions
  • A little olive oil for brushing the onions
  • Grilled tomatillo salsa, for serving


  1. Light a chimney 3/4 full of charcoal. While the charcoal is lighting, mix chile powder, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, vinegar, orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of slat together in a small bowl.
  2. When the charcoal is fully lit and covered in gray ash, pour coals out and arrange them on one side of the charcoal grate, keeping the other side empty. Place the chicken over the cool side of the grill, skin side down, and brush exposed side with the wet rub. Flip the chicken over and brush the other side with the rub. Cover the grill and cook, basting occasionally with any remaining rub, at 350 degrees until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the breast, about 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the grill and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. While the chicken is resting, brush the onions with olive oil and season with salt. Place the onions over the hot side of the grill and cook until tender and browned, about 5 minutes per side.
  4. To serve, cut the chicken into quarters, top with green onions and tomatillo salsa.

Adapted from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

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  1. Keeley Bookmarked! Now if only I could figure out how to properly split a chicken...

    I'm enjoying your blog :)

  2. Josh @Keeley D'oh! I should have posted a how-to on that before this! I smell a new Meat Tips in the near future...

    Until then, this video will get you going.

  3. Dave Oh yeah! I love picking these up from the pollo asado ladies.

  4. TC Damn, that is one nice lookin' bird there, I'd say just about perfect.

  5. Heather Jacobsen That's look delicious. Nice photography too. We're planning a trip to Big Bend in the fall. Maybe you can share more of your experiences. Thanks!

  6. Josh @Heather Jacobsen Big Bend is awesome! Whenever I can find time to edit my photos, I'll be sure to share.

  7. Rob Maybe it's just too close to dinner for me to have seen this, but this might be the most delicious thing I've ever seen.

  8. Keeley If the thunderstorms stay away, we're having this for dinner tonight. I used two bone-in breasts and 4 drumsticks... until I can get up the nerve to split a whole chicken! We're having beans and rice on the side.

  9. mtrono I make these roadside chickens in a similar way, but next time I will add the vinegar and OJ. Sounds awesome!

    I make a dry rub from the La Parilla book by Red Hearon (this is from the 90s) and marinate overnight with some olive oil.

    Similar to yours, but take whole dry ancho chilis & a few dry chipotles, quickly fry in oil to puff and then grind in a blender with a mess of garlic, mexican oregano and kosher salt. It forms a thick paste. Spread on a cookie sheet and keep in the oven overnight with only the light on (that's all the heat you need to dry it). Grind again in the blender to form a rough dry rub that will last months.

    You can use this rub for ANYTHING and people will love you. Suggestions: grilled corn, skirt steak (for tacos), rub on pork butt and smoke all day long & shred for pulled pork.

  10. Mike I've used the marinade recipe from Rick Bayless on chicken wings then load them up on my Rib-o-later. Great for a large crowd.

  11. Margarita Saw this recipe on a show last night. I would love to try it but here is the problem: I live in an apartment building and do not own a grill. Is there a way to adapt this recipe for a regular oven? I would very much appreciate any suggestions!

  12. Josh @Margarita You can try making this in a 350 degree oven. If it doesn't brown and darken like on the grill, finish the chicken by quickly putting i under the broiler until the skin starts to brown and crisp.

  13. Stephanie Used this recipe as a wet rub for grilled chicken wings. It was fantastic. Perfect balance of sweetness and a hint of spicy. Thank you!

  14. Michael Josh,
    Is this grilled indirectly with just charcoal, or might a chunk of cherry , apple or pecan give the bird some added flavor?. I'd suggest Mesquite (Native to Texas/Mexico), but it can be too strong if used wrong

  15. Josh @Michael This is done with just charcoal, but a chunk of cherry or apple would do no harm. I personally steer clear of mesquite for anything except beef. The flavor is so strong and it's too easy for things to get overly smoky quickly.

  16. Big Al Mesquite is what the Mexican guys grilling outside of Food City use for this chicken.

  17. Fritz Josh - What are your thought on incorporating a rotisserie for this cook?

    Do perfect using the coal containers that come with weber or just spread them by hand for 2 zone cooks?

    Thanks. Fritz.

  18. Jenni One question, Instead of charcoal I have a gas grill. Do use the same amount of time and directly on the heat or still to the side?

  19. Josh @Jenni Still use indirect heat, keeping the grill around 350°F. Instead of time, it's best to go by temperature. I know the original recipe said 165°F in the breast, but I've been pulling my chickens off the heat at 160°F at the highest nowadays, more like around 155°F to make sure the meat is as juicy and flavorful as it can be.

  20. Weave I've only made this once following the RB recipe out of Everyday Mexican (last night) and it was indeed delicious. As I was reading through your post I noticed you show this recipe as "adapted" and I was interested in discovering what your adaptations were, mainly because I am curious if anyone has tried marinating a chicken in this marinade for a number of hours or possibly overnight, and what sort of results they had. While analyzing it the first ingredient in the recipe jumped out at me because RB's recipe calls for 1.5 tablespoons, not teaspoons as yours does. I wasn't sure if this was an intentional modification or a simple gaffe. I've only had the recipe the one time, but the amount of chile in it seemed about right to me and I'd be surprised if you cut it down by 2/3rds and still ended up with such a gorgeous bird with that deep reddish brown skin. Anyhow, great recipe and thanks for posting especially with such great pictures.

  21. Christina Borg This was absolutely delicious!
    Mexican roadside chicken, it definitely is. I marinated the chicken for 4 hours after splitting, then baked it on a rack in the oven at 225 for 3 hours and than BBQ it for 1/2hr basting often. I also doubled the sauce. It was perfect..

  22. Lori I found this recipe a few days ago and we made it today. OMG! This tastes so much like the chicken we buy at a Mexican grocery store!! It's so good!! We don't have a traditional charcoal grill, but my husband saw he could use charcoal in his bullet smoker. We use a Meater thermometer and it was the juiciest chicken we've ever had. This will now be a regular made meal during the grilling season. I'd give it 5 thumbs ups if I had 5 thumbs!!