Chipotle Chicken Recipe (Copycat)

Skip the restaurant and make your own copycat Chipotle Chicken recipe at home. The marinade is quick, easy, healthy, and tastes even better than the real thing! Make white meat or dark meat and follow my instructions for either baking or grilling.

Round out your Chipotle menu with my cilantro-lime rice, guacamole, fajita veggies, and corn salsa! Add steak and sofritas so your friends and family have even more choices.

Skip the restaurant and make your own copycat Chipotle Chicken recipe at home. The marinade is quick, easy, healthy, and tastes even better than the real thing! Make white meat or dark meat and follow my instructions for either baking or grilling. 

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Chipotle Mexican Grill chicken is my go-to meal when I want fresh food FAST. Nothing tastes better than a giant burrito or bowl filled with rice, beans, veggies, guacamole, and of course, the chicken.

The cornerstone of my order at Chipotle is always the chicken. It's tender and juicy, packed with flavor, and perfect on everything. And whether you want to grill it, sauté it, or bake it in the oven, I've got all your options covered!

Want to make Chipotle Chicken for a crowd? Use the handy slider in my recipe card to adjust the quantity up. It's just that easy!

How to Make Chipotle Chicken Marinade

That smoky, spicy flavor in Chipotle's chicken comes from two primary ingredients: Dried ancho chiles and adobo sauce.

To create this flavor, you can:

  1. Buy Ancho Chile powder online (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link)
  2. Make your own Ancho Chile powder
  3. Soak Dried ancho chiles (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link)

Marinade Method 1: Using Ancho Chile Powder

Ancho Chile Pepper powder is available for purchase (see link above), or you may make your own.

1/4 cup of the powder is equivalent to 2 oz. of the peppers (stems and seeds removed, ground up).

Add this fragrant, warm flavor to your spice cabinet in just a few minutes with my recipe for Homemade Ancho Chile Powder. Much cheaper than store-brought!

Marinade Method 2: Soaking Dried Ancho Chiles

  • Slow-Soaking the dried ancho chiles takes at least 12 hours. Once the chiles are soft, I like to open them up, remove the stems, and rinse out the seeds (I recommend using kitchen or latex gloves).  For additional heat, add in seeds from the chipotle peppers.
  • Quick-Soaking method was identified by one of my readers (THANK YOU, RYAN!). To shave 12 hours off this recipe is nothing short of a miracle. You toast the dried chiles in a skillet and microwave them in water. It works perfectly!

Chipotle does not use red onion in their marinade. However, the recipe tastes better with it, so it comes down to this philosophical question: Do I post the recipe that tastes closest to Chipotle's recipe, or do I post the recipe that tastes the best? I kept the onion.

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender.

A square photo of the dark red Chipotle Chicken marinade in a food processor.

How to Cook Chipotle Chicken

If you've ever been to the restaurant, you know Chipotle grills their boneless, skinless chicken thighs on a flat-top grill.

Here are your cooking options at home:

  1. Stove-top skillet (indoor, similar to Chipotle's method)
  2. Gas grill (outdoor, minimal cleanup)
  3. Baked in the oven (cover with parchment paper for juicy chicken every time)

Photo collage of three photos, the right in the upper right hand corner is the seasoned chicken covered in parchment paper, below is a seasoned sliced chicken breast, and the upper left are three seasoned chicken breasts in a white baking dish.

I always recommend cooking chicken to 165 degrees. But, in culinary school, we cook chicken to 160 degrees and then allow the chicken to rest. It will go up another 5 degrees or so with what we call "carry-over cooking."

Skip the restaurant and make your own copycat Chipotle Chicken recipe at home. The marinade is quick, easy, healthy, and tastes even better than the real thing! Make white meat or dark meat and follow my instructions for either baking or grilling. 

4.99 from 89 votes

Chipotle Chicken Recipe (Copycat)

Skip the restaurant and make your own copycat Chipotle Chicken recipe at home. The marinade is quick, easy, healthy, and tastes even better than the real thing! Make white meat or dark meat and follow my instructions for either baking or grilling. 
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword chicken
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 133kcal
  • 1/2 medium red onion coarsely chopped (see notes)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from a small can of Chipotle peppers
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder or 1 ounce dried ancho chiles, soaked, see recipe notes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or rice bran oil, plus more for the cooking surface
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (see notes)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken

To make the marinade (see recipe notes for dried chiles method):

  • To the bowl of a food processor or blender, add red onion, garlic, adobo sauce, ancho chile powder, olive oil, cumin, dried oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Blend until smooth. Pour into a measuring cup and add water to reach 1 cup.
  • Place the chicken in a large freezer-safe plastic bag. Pour in marinade, close the bag, and mash until chicken is evenly coated. Place the plastic bag in a dish and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.

To make the chicken on the stove:

  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add chicken to the pan and cook, turning occasionally, until the temperature reaches 165 degrees on an internal thermometer. Depending on the size of your skillet, you can cook the chicken in batches.
  • Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Chop into small pieces. Season to taste with salt. Serve on tortillas or in bowls with additional toppings as desired.

To make the chicken on the grill:

  • Preheat over medium-high heat. Coat with 2 tablespoons oil. Grill the chicken in batches, turning occasionally until the internal temperature reaches 165°F on a thermometer and bits of caramelized fond have begun to cling to the outside of the chicken, 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1 - 2 tablespoons oil to your grilling surface between batches.
  • Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Chop into small pieces. Season to taste with salt. Serve on tortillas or in bowls with additional toppings as desired.

To bake the chicken in the oven (preferred method for white meat):

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking dish with oil or nonstick spray and arrange chicken in a single layer. Cover with parchment paper, tucking the paper around the chicken so it is completely covered. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken reaches 165°F when tested with an internal thermometer.
  • Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Chop into small pieces. Season to taste with salt. Serve on tortillas or in bowls with additional toppings as desired.

Recipe Notes

To make the marinade with dried ancho chiles (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link):
  1. Quick-Soaking method for ancho chiles: Remove stems and seeds from dried chiles (wearing gloves is recommended). In a dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the chiles until fragrant but not smoking, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and add 4 cups (1 quart) water and 2 Tablespoons adobo sauce. Microwave on HIGH for 6 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Add peppers to the food processor, using the reserved cooking liquid to rinse as much adobo as possible from the canned chipotle peppers in Step 2.
  2. Slow-Soaking method for ancho chiles: Place in a bowl and add enough water to cover completely. Top with a small plate or bowl to weigh down the chiles so they are completely submerged. Soak at least 12 hours or overnight. Drain well.
You can use either Italian or Mexican oregano. They have different flavors (Mexican oregano tastes more like marjoram) but both taste great in this recipe. Feel free to use whatever you have.

Nutrition

Calories: 133kcal

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  1. Katherine Seaton

    Excellent!5 stars

  2. Ervin D Fowlkes

    This was amazing with Chicken thighs. So juicy and actually better than Chipotle. Chipotle can be too salty some days. Thank you for sharing.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Thanks so much Ervin! I’m glad you like it! :D -Meggan

  3. Angela

    What do you do with the chipotle chili’s? I don’t see it incorporated into the recipe.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Angela, it’s true they aren’t in the recipe (you could add them if you wanted to, but they would make it so very spicy!). My favorite way to use chipotle chiles are in Chicken Tinga (https://www.culinaryhill.com/chicken-tinga/). Another good option is my Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers (https://www.culinaryhill.com/vegetarian-stuffed-peppers/). You could also mix them in with mayonnaise for a spicy sandwich spread if that sounds good to you. I usually put them in the freezer until inspiration strikes! I hope this is helpful. Thanks! -Meggan

  4. Jonathan P

    Delicious recipe! I will definitely be enjoying my burrito bowls all week!
    However I am confused about the nutrition, it says 8 servings at 133 calories each… is that just for the marinade? Or does that include the chicken? When I logged all the ingredients in MyFitnessPal, it came out to 366 calories when divided into 8 servings.5 stars

  5. Ryan

    Has anyone tried cooking the chicken in a slow cooker with the marianade? Wondering how it’d turn out before experimenting.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Ryan, I have only reheated it in a slow cooker, never cooked it the first time that way. I imagine the flavor would be fine, but you’d miss the crispy, caramelized edges that come from a grill or cast iron skillet. But, that texture loss aside, I assume it would be fine? Thanks for the question! -Meggan

  6. Sowmiya

    Hi Meggan, 

    I tried for the first time today your Chipotle chicken, fajita veggies and guacamole recipe and it was a super hit with my family, esp my 8 year old picky eater!!! The recipe was everything I hoped it would be and more. My search for Chipotle chicken bowl has come to an end with your recipes !!! I used the exact ingredients the recipe called for and it made all the difference!! 

    Thank you so much , it’s such a relief that the whole family approves of it. phew !!!5 stars

  7. This recipe is amazing! I baked boneless, skinless, organic thighs for 45 mins (they seemed a little thick) and they came out amazing!5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Hi Ann! I’m glad you loved it! :D

  8. kc

    i simplified for 5 pounds and only if you’re using the ancho chilli powder.

    ~~~~~~

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    All in the marinade:
    1/2 red onion
    7 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
    3 cloves of garlic
    1 teaspoons of cumin
    1 teaspoon of Italian dried oregano
    1 tablespoon of salt
    1 teaspoon of pepper
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 tablespoons ancho chili

    Protein:
    5 pounds of chicken
    . “““““““““““““““““` Make sure it is a cup, if not add water. Then blend it or processor, really well! Put all in bag or bowl to marinate for 30min or more.

    Then cook with adding to 2 tablespoons to put in pan to cook with. Then add chicken. Cook and let it caramelize on each side, don’t flip immediately so it can happen.5 stars

  9. Amr

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was so good!!!5 stars

    1. Meggan

      I’m so happy you liked it! :D -Meggan

  10. I’m confused you list 2tbs of the chili powder but all the comments say 1/4 cup also you list add water to reach 1 cup but in the comments you say 2 cups what is the right way?

  11. Lacy C

    Hi, do you use ground oregano or whole oregano?  Thanks! 5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Lacy, I use the whole-leaf kind. Thanks for the question! -Meggan

  12. Lisa Schultz

    So with the Chile’s in adobo sauce you strain out the Chile’s and just use the sauce right?? 

    What do you do with the chilies you strain the sauce off?

    I used ancho chili power option. 

  13. Sherae Zaccardi

    I am so confused. I found your recipe awhile back and made it once and we all liked it. It didn’t have a lot of flavor but with all the other items tasted good so I knew I wanted to keep it in family dinner rotation. Last night I was going to make the marinade so I came back to your site and read through all of the comments. In one post you said to someone that it should make 2 cups. The time I made it and followed the instructions to a T it was less than one cup. I read where you said to the man, with the can of peppers, the oil, and a few other ingredients it was unbelievable to only produce one cup. I read the recipe and it says to just use two tablespoons of the sauce without the peppers but I wanted to follow your comment so I used the whole can. I am so confused because the recipe says 2 tablespoons of oil yet the comment said 1/4 cup of oil. Can you please help me with the ingredient list? Also is this chicken going to be extremely spicy because I used the entire can?

    Thank you so much for sharing your recipe.

    1. meggan

      Hi Sherae! I’m so sorry for all the confusion. The recipe has evolved over time, so you probably made it back when it was made with dried ancho chiles, and now it’s just being made with ancho chile powder. But if you read the comments, many will reference that old recipe. To further complicate things, the original recipe was for 10 pounds of chicken, but the new version is for 5 pounds. Why would I change the recipe? Basically I had too many options in the post, people were getting confused, and overwhelming people wanted the simplest way to make it. So that’s what the recipe is now. But if you made it the old way, you will wonder what on earth is going on.

      And to your question of is the chicken going to be extremely spicy with a whole can of adobo… YES. But I’m a few days late replying to your comment, so you probably figured that out by now. I’m so sorry for the confusion.

      Here is the original recipe:

      *This recipe yields 2 cups of marinade, enough for 10 pounds of chicken. 5 pounds of chicken = 20 servings, 4 ounces chicken per person.

      Prep Time 20 minutes
      Cook Time 1 hour
      Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
      Servings 20 servings

      Ingredients
      1 (2 ounce) package dried Ancho Chiles quick-soaked or using the overnight method (see notes)
      1 (7 ounce) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
      1 red onion coarsely chopped (see notes)
      6 cloves garlic
      2 teaspoons cumin
      2 teaspoons dried oregano (see notes)
      Salt and freshly ground black pepper
      1/4 cup olive oil or rice bran oil, plus more for oiling the cooking surface
      5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken
      US Customary – Metric
      Instructions
      To make the marinade with dried chiles (see recipes notes for substituting Ancho chilie powder):
      Split open each softened ancho chile and rinse the inside to remove the stem and all seeds (wearing gloves is recommended). Place in the bowl of a food processor or blender.

      Strain adobo sauce into a small bowl, pressing down on the peppers to extract as much liquid as possible (you should have at least ¼ cup). For an especially spicy dish, add chipotle pepper seeds to taste. Add strained liquid to the food processor. Discard chipotle peppers or reserve for another use.

      Add red onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, 2 tablespoons salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper to the food processor. Pulse several times until a coarse paste develops.

      With the motor running, pour ¼ cup oil through the feeding tube and continue to process until smooth. You should have two cups of marinade. Reserve one cup for immediate use and freeze the remaining for future use.

      Meanwhile, place half the chicken in a large freezer-safe plastic bag. Spoon in half the marinade, close the bag, and mash around to distribute. Add remaining chicken, remaining ½ cup marinade, and repeat the mashing until all chicken is evenly coated. Place the plastic bag in a dish and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.

      To cook on a grill, indoor grill pan, or cast iron skillet (preferred method for dark meat):
      Preheat over medium-high heat. Coat with 2 tablespoons oil. Grill the chicken in batches, turning occasionally until the internal temperature reaches 165°F on a thermometer and bits of caramelized fond have begun to cling to the outside of the chicken, 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons oil to your grilling surface between batches.

      Remove to a cutting board and chop into small pieces. Season to taste with salt. Serve on tortillas or in bowls with additional toppings as desired.

      To bake in the oven (preferred method for white meat):
      Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking dish with oil or nonstick spray and arrange chicken in a single layer. Cover with parchment paper, tucking the paper around the chicken so it is completely covered. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken reaches 165°F when tested with an internal thermometer.

      Remove to a cutting board and chop into small pieces. Season to taste with salt. Serve on tortillas or in bowls with additional toppings as desired.

      Recipe Notes
      ¼ cup Ancho Chili Pepper powder may be substituted for the dried Ancho chiles. Skip step 1 and add the powder with the other spices in Step 3. After processing the marinade in a food processor, pour into a measuring cup. Add water to reach a total of 2 cups of marinade.
      Slow-Soaking method for ancho chiles: Place in a bowl and add enough water to cover completely. Top with a small plate or bowl to weigh down the chiles so they are completely submerged. Soak at least 12 hours or overnight. Drain well.
      Quick-Soaking method for ancho chiles: Remove stems and seeds from dried chiles (wearing gloves is recommended). In a dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the chiles until fragrant but not smoking, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and add 4 cups (1 quart) water and 2 Tablespoons adobo sauce. Microwave on HIGH for 6 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Add peppers to the food processor, using the reserved cooking liquid to rinse as much adobo as possible from the canned chipotle peppers in Step 2.
      Chipotle doesn’t have red onion in their marinade. In the past they may have, but right now they don’t. However, I’ve tried it with and without the red onion, and it’s better with the red onion. If you decide to omit the red onion, you won’t have 2 cups of marinade, but you can always add more water or oil to get to 2 cups if you want to.
      Use regular (sometimes called Italian) oregano. Mexican oregano is completely different and tastes like marjoram.

  14. Linda

    Hi, I’m sorry… I’m a little confused after reading the comments and your blog/watching the video. I am trying to make this this weekend for about 35-40ish people. I don’t have a chance to test out the recipe. In your comments, you say that the ingredient list you wrote up is good for about 10lbs of chicken. Is that still true? Or is what is currently written on the ‘Ingredients’ good for ~5lbs of chicken? Also, in your video it doesn’t show you adding any water into a measuring cup, but we should not skip that step of adding water to the marinade, right? Just wanted to make sure. Also, do you think it would be ok to precut all the chicken, then marinate, and then cook it? Or is it better to marinate the chicken thigh whole, cook the entire thigh and then cut up? Thanks for any advice you may have!

  15. Wow! That is the ultimate comfort food. I haven’t had chipotle chicken in a long time. I think I’ll be making this soon. My heart goes out to you. Thanks!5 stars

  16. Rabia Razzauqe

    Hello Megan! Thank you so much for this. I had a quick question-
    I’m having a Chipotle Bar Party tomorrow, and I wanted to see- could this recipe be made in a crock pot and be adapted to make chipotle flavored shredded chicken?

    Could I just throw everything in the crock pot with some broth and shred it or would you have any other suggestions on modifying it?

    Thank you!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Rabia, I’m so sorry I didn’t reply to you in time. The answer is, you can definitely make it in a crockpot and shred it. Did you try it, or did you plan something else because I never replied? So sorry about that. I’ve made it in a crockpot before and it works really well. I hope your party was a success! Thanks!

  17. Nicole Marie

    This recipe is best!! I love Chipotle and this recipe right here taste just like their chicken. This makes me soo happy!
    I made the chicken along with the guacamole and cilantro lime rice. Followed the recipe and marinated the chicken over night. Then the next day, my husband threw it on the grill. It was absolutely delicious, juicy and filled with flavor! Can’t wait to make this again. 
    Thank you for sharing this recipe along with the rest. You’re amazing!!5 stars

  18. Ida Kelsey

    Do you have any recipes that use those leftover chipolte peppers that were in the adobe sauce. I hate to toss them but don’t want a bunch of lost peppers in my freezer.5 stars

  19. Josh Dunn

    Can I just use a Chipotle pepper or two from the can with adobo sauce instead of dealing with finding ancho in my small town?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Josh, yes absolutely! You can do whatever you want. The recipe will still taste great. And I know what you mean, I live in Southern California and sometimes those anchos just aren’t around like you’d expect them to be! Proceed. And you’ve played with chipotle peppers before right? So you know they are really spicy? Okay good. :D

  20. Gretchen

    I added about 1/2 cup cos the marinade only made half a cup. Is that too much water? I cooked the chicken in the skillet, but the meat was really thick. I’m going to try to cut the chicken meat into thinner pieces. Not giving up on this marinade yet.5 stars

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