Garlic, chile, and cumin roast chicken is a superb version of a beloved Mexican dish. The combination of garlic, chile, and cumin in the marinade infuses the pieces of chicken. The result? Chicken with a deeply smoky and just-spicy-enough flavor.
Adapted from Pati Jinich | Treasures of the Mexican Table | Mariner Books, 2021
This garlic, chile, and cumin roast chicken is from the state of Hidalgo in central Mexico. Yet you’ll find versions with different names in other parts of the country as well. In San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo, and Oaxaca, it goes by pollo ajocomino (garlic cumin chicken), the name I use. In Guerrero, people call it chile ajo (chile-garlic). I guess it would be a tongue twister to call it chile ajo comino (chile-garlic-cumin). But chiles are at the heart of the marinade, with each seasoning in perfect harmony and none overpowering.
The types of chiles vary according to the region. I use a mix of anchos and dried chipotles, which gives the sauce a smoky and adobo-like flavor.—Pati Jinich
Garlic, Chile, and Cumin Roast Chicken FAQs
How long can I marinate garlic, chile, and cumin roast chicken?
You can marinate the chicken for up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated.
What’s the best cut of chicken to use for this recipe?
The beauty of this recipe is that you can use any combination of chicken pieces that you prefer. All legs, all thighs, a combination of whatever you want. You can also take an entire chicken and cut it into separate pieces, if you like.
Garlic, Chile, and Cumin Roast Chicken
- 4 dried ancho chiles stemmed and seeded
- 2 dried chipotle chiles preferably moritas, stemmed
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 15 garlic cloves peeled
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more if needed
- 1/3 cup olive oil plus more for the baking sheet
- 3 1/2 to 4 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (8 to 10 legs, thighs, and/or halved breasts)
- 1 cup canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
- Place the ancho and chipotle chiles in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, pushing the chiles down into the water from time to time to submerge, until they soften, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and fish out the peppers from the saucepan. Don’t toss the cooking liquid! When they are cool enough to handle, remove the seeds from the chipotles.
- Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast, stirring or shaking the pan constantly, until fragrant and very slightly darkened, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Immediately move to a small bowl or plate.
- Place the chiles in a blender, along with 1/2 cup (120 ml) of their cooking liquid. Add the garlic, cumin seeds, salt, and olive oil and purée until smooth. Scrape into a large bowl and let cool slightly.
- Add the chicken to the chile-garlic marinade and turn to coat each piece thoroughly. The chicken can be marinated up to 2 days ahead, covered and refrigerated.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
- Generously oil a large rimmed baking sheet. Place the chicken skin-side down on the baking sheet and coat with any marinade remaining in the bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt. Roast until the marinade begins to darken and the chicken takes on some color, about 15 minutes.
- Reduce the temperature to 375°F (190°C), turn the chicken pieces over, and spoon on any marinade and juices from the baking sheet. Pour the chicken broth onto the baking sheet and return to the oven.
☞TESTER TIP: If the baking sheet you are using doesn’t have high sides, wait until the chicken is back in the oven before pouring in the chicken broth.
- Roast until the chicken is cooked through to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) and juices, if any, run clear when pierced with a knife, 40 to 50 minutes.
- Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This was a delicious roasted chicken dish with a rich savory flavor and a subtle, friendly heat. Very few ingredients are involved in this chile paste and yet the slight charring from the oven heat really helps it deliver.
I prepared this with chicken thighs and would recommend cooking to temperature instead of according to the time after the flip, since whether you refrigerated the chicken in the marinade for 2 days or whether they sat at room temp for an hour you’ll likely have vastly different cooking times. Mine were a room temp marinade for an hour and were done 15 minutes after the flip, though someone who starts with cold meat will need longer. Finally, while this is personal preference, I felt they needed a little acid to finish and squeezed half a lime over the chicken pieces before serving.
Served hot, drizzled with lime juice, alongside some roasted vegetables and rice.
Autumn ushers in roasting season for me. My go-to roasting method is to spatchcock a whole chicken but an assortment of different pieces of chicken is always enjoyed by my family.
I don’t use dried chiles much so I was a little intimidated but the garlic, chile, and cumin roast chicken recipe was extremely straightforward and easy. The most involved steps were getting the seeds out of the chiles and peeling lots of garlic cloves but those were in actuality pretty easy tasks. After making the marinade in the blender, there weren’t many remaining steps other than roast, flip the chicken and add the chicken broth.
Unfortunately, I was unable to marinate the chicken for longer than the pre-heating time. Still, the final product was full of smoky garlic flavor. It was complex but the spice level still worked for my children. I served my chicken with roasted Brussel’s sprouts and macaroni. Next time, I will certainly try to marinate the chicken longer but I will definitely be making this recipe again. And this recipe makes me want to try using dried chiles more often.
This garlic, chile, and cumin roast chicken came out picture perfect and so intensely flavorful, even if you don’t have time for marinating in advance. Whipping together the paste was the most fun because it ended up with a thick reddish-brown marinade that clung to the chicken perfectly.
Originally posted November 28, 2021
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This garlic, chile, and cumin roast chicken recipe cooks quickly, easily, and tastes great. I found that all the prep (of which there’s not that much) can be done while the dried peppers are simmering. The rub can also be easily used in other ways, like whole chicken, kabobs, vegetable roasting, and by swapping out other dried peppers you can get some nice variation on flavor.
It’s also good to note that this is not a particularly spicy recipe, though by increasing the chipotles one could easily change that. For an even quicker dinner, I would recommend preheating your oven as you simmer the peppers.
This was eaten hot with fresh-made corn tortillas and a green salad. I didn’t marinate the chicken in advance.