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 90 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

Comments

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  1. 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

  2. Gretchen

    Tried this today, marinated the chicken for 4 hrs and it didn’t have any flavor and the chicken was dry. What am I doing wrong? Will the thickness of the chicken breast matter? Does adding water as mentioned in the steps dilute the flavor of the marinade? Was really hoping to like this recipe.4 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Gretchen, how much water did you add? And did you cover the chicken with parchment paper as directed? The thickness of the chicken breast could matter if you did not adjust your baking time based on it. So for example if you were cooking chicken breast cutlets, they would cook much quicker and potentially get tough and rubbery. However, the parchment should help prevent them from drying out.

  3. Rabiya Chaudry

    Hi Megan,

    Quick question. I am making this recipe for a large amount of people (50) and was wondering if it will make a different if I were to marinate and bake the chicken breast as cut up pieces or will that just ruin it all.

    Thanks!
    Rabiya5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Rabiya! You make me laugh! You can definitely bake it, you’ll be fine. Cover the chicken with a piece of parchment paper while you back it so the moisture is trapped and the chicken stays juicy. You’ll be just fine! It’s going to taste amazing! Please note 4 pounds of chicken will serve 8 people. My recipe was wrong, it said 4 pounds of chicken served 20 people (obviously that’s crazy). I just fixed it. Sorry for the confusion. Please let me know if you need anything else!

  4. Rebecca

    Thank you for this recipe. It looks absolutely delicious.

    I am just wondering:
    How does a 4 oz serving have 20 g of fat? 
    Chicken (16 g fat x 4 lb = 64 g)
    Olive oil (14 g fat x 4 tbsp = 56 g)
    Total fat, approximately, is 120 g. Divide that by 20, and a 4 oz serving should have about 7 g of fat. 

    I am trying to monitor my macronutrients, and I want to make sure I am not missing something. Thank you again.5 stars

    1. Rebecca

      Oh, thank makes sense. Thank you, Meggan! You are awesome! 5 stars

    2. meggan

      Hi Rebecca, I’m so sorry for all of the confusion here! First, I use a 3rd-party nutrition label generator which access a nutrition info API, the same as sites like MyFitnessPal use. So that’s one thing. The 2nd thing is, the nutrition label was generating completely inaccurate so I’m REALLY glad you pointed this out to me. For one thing, it was using 5 pounds of chicken WITH SKIN, but the chicken should be boneless skinless. Also, the recipe is not for 20 servings. It used to be (I used to have the recipe make 10 pounds of chicken) but I scaled it down to 4 pounds of chicken, so now it serves 8. So an entirely new label is on the site. If you feel like taking a look, I hope you are much more satisfied with what you find! The last one was a total disaster. So sorry about that.

  5. Nick

    I tried this recipe and it’s great. I have a question though. Why no vinegar. On Chipotles site vinegar is one of the ingredients for the chipotle chicken.5 stars

    1. Nick

      No problem. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I’m going to try your others!5 stars

    2. Nick

      Yeah it also contains no chili powder. https://www.chipotle.com/ingredient-statement

    3. meggan

      The ancho chile powder is basically simulating the flavor of the dried Chipotle chiles you see pictured in their ingredient list. It’s the same thing – they are showing it without the adobo sauce. However, I have friends that work there and the marinade shows up in a bag and they can’t even say for sure what’s in it. I have tried making the chicken with just chipotles in adobo, without the ancho chile powder, and I don’t think it tastes quite right. However, I should probably try making it with the adobo and see how it tastes.

    4. meggan

      That’s fascinating! They changed their recipe. I swear I’m not making this up – I live and die by their ingredient list. It’s how I formulate all of the Chipotle copycat recipes on my site. So they must have added it at some point within the last 6 months. They also used to have red onion in their recipe but don’t anymore. I appreciate you pointing this out! I can definitely try adding it. I’m guessing it’s a really small amount since it’s the last ingredient in the list, but still. I’m curious to know how it affects the marinade. Thanks Nick! Sorry for the confusion.

  6. This chicken is OUT OF THIS WORLD AMAZING!!!!!!! I actually used chicken breasts and baked for 30 minutes at 450. Heavenly!!!! Thank you!!!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much Tashina!!!! You made my day! Glad you liked it and I hope you make it again!

  7. Cool parchment paper tip5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thanks Yolanda! It definitely helps the chicken to stay juicy!

  8. James Joseph

    Hi Meghan,

    I have been using this recipe for a while, absolutely love it. Did you change something? The site design/layout has changed, but I feel like the recipe itself changed recently as well. Did you cut the recipe in half? I swear I used an entire onion before, and a 1/4 cup of oil. Please let me know. Thanks!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi James, I am SO SORRY for your confusion. Yes to everything. Based on tons of reader feedback, I cut the recipe in half and also just recommend the ancho chile powder now instead of dealing with the dried chiles (although all the information for the dried chiles remains in the recipe). People just felt like the post was too long and overwhelming and no one knew what to do. Too many options! So technically all the options are still there, in the recipe itself, but all that extra text is not in the post anymore. And the recipe is smaller. I will add a note to the recipe about this so no one else is confused (one other person who makes the recipe regularly contacted me asking what happened, too!!! I feel so bad! And I’m also flattered!). So. That’s that! 1/4 cup of oil and a whole onion, yes. Just double everything in the recipe if you want to make it the way you made it before, enough for 10 pounds of chicken. Thank you and sorry again, and please let me know if you have any other questions!

  9. Ashwin

    Hi Meggan, where it says to use dried ancho chiles, in the first step to adding the marinade, it says to remove the stem and seeds with gloves. However, in the third step, it says to do the same thing by rinsing it out. What do I have to do?5 stars

    1. Ashwin

      Thanks!5 stars

    2. Ashwin

      Thanks! I wasn’t completely sure what to do.5 stars

    3. meggan

      Hi Ashwin, I am so sorry for the confusion. I completely reworked this recipe and obviously messed up the recipe notes as you have seen. I removed the part in Step 3 because that is leftover from the slow-soak method for ancho chiles which I’m no longer listing on the blog. So, step one is right (removing the seeds and stem while the chiles are still dry, before you power-soak them). I’m so sorry again for the confusion and I corrected it, thank you so much!

  10. Sébastien

    I love this recipe, but did you remove information on the quantity of dried chile ancho? I feel like there’s a lot less information than last time i did this recipe. Is it only 1oz since it’s only for 1 cup of marinade now?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Sébastien, I’m sorry for the confusion. I got a lot of feedback from readers that my post was too complicated and overwhelming, so yes, I moved a lot of the information to the recipe card. I also cut the recipe in half because people don’t want to make so much marinade. It’s 1 ounce of dried anchos instead of 2, yes, and it makes just 1 cup of marinade for 5 pounds of chicken. I will review this and make sure it’s clear!

  11. easyroasted, all I can say is the brick thing is not cool. And it’s not just because I’m uncoordinated… although I am. :) This was a fun series to create, and even more so to EAT! I love Chipotle, and I really love being able to eat massive quantities in one sitting5 stars

  12. Yummmm!! This looks like such a simple marinade and I love chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. I look forward to trying this!5 stars

  13. Michelle

    I was wondering if I can cook this in a pressure cooker? Sorry if this has been asked already. Sounds really good.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Michelle! I’m sure you can. I have zero experience with pressure cookers, but if you know how to cook chicken thighs in one in general, this recipe should work just fine! Thanks for the question.

  14. LN

    i don’t typically follow food blogs and just stumbled upon this recipe randomly but I have now made it more than any other recipe EVER. It is absolutely fantastic and we make it at least weekly. It’s SO flavorful and the chicken thighs are so tender. Such a perfect way to eat healthy. This is the only recipe I follow exactly AS-IS. If you want it spicier, you can add some seeds but that is the only variable I’d think of tweaking now and then. This is actually better than Chipotle and one of my most invaluable recipes. Thanks!5 stars

    1. meggan

      This is the nicest comment I have ever received! THANK YOU! You have made my day, maybe my life. I make this all the time too, and like you said, it’s one of the tastiest ways to eat healthy. Thank you so much for letting me know, and I’m glad you like it! Take care.

  15. Rebecca

    My family loves Chipotle and we thought this chicken was spot on! Thank you so much! One question: I am going to make this next weekend for 60 people and need to make a less spicy version. I used the powder version you have listed, but didn’t read the detail enough to add water to make 2 cups. So, I used the 1 cup yield for 4 lbs of chicken thighs. Not that we thought it was spicy, but I’m wondering if using that 1 cup yield without adding the water for just 4 lbs of chicken gave it a more concentrated/strong flavor? I don’t have time to test the recipe again before making it next weekend and thought you might have an opinion. If the lesser yield wasn’t more concentrated, to get a milder version, would I just use less ancho chile powder? I’m going now to look at more of your recipes! :-)5 stars

    1. Rebecca

      Meggan – I posted back in September but the event was canceled that weekend. I finally got to serve your recipes this past weekend. Everyone liked it – many compliments!! One even said they thought it was BETTER than Chipotle! :-) I passed on the name of your website so they could make it as well.5 stars

    2. meggan

      Hi Rebecca! Thank you so much for the question and I’m glad you liked the recipe. :) In my experience, the spiciness mostly comes from the adobo sauce, not the ancho chile powder. If you didn’t add the water, then the overall marinade would be more concentrated up to a point but there are a lot of variables there too. So what I would do, personally, is leave out a can of adobo sauce (use just 2 instead of 3, assuming you are tripling the recipe ) and definitely don’t add any chipotle peppers or their seeds. You can also use less chile powder just to be sure. If you have any other questions, just let me know! Thank you! :D And good luck with your amazing Chipotle feast!

  16. Mike

    Thanks so much for this recipe. Is it possible to soak the chiles for too long? I will soak them the night before but won’t be able to take them out til the next night and just want to make sure they aren’t gonna end up too “pruney”. Thanks!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Mike, I honestly cannot envision a scenario where you could soak the chiles too long. And since they are dried to begin with, they are already pruney. Plus it all just gets blasted in a food processor. You should be fine! Maybe I’ll soak some for a week and see what happens. :D

  17. Meggan – THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting this recipe!!! Honestly, this could be one of the best-tasting recipes that I’ve ever made!!! You nailed it!! Using chicken thighs was, for me, the secret ingredient, along with the marinade. I’ve been making bowls for years, but I’ve never been able to get grilled chicken breasts to taste like this! OUTSTANDING!!! I’ll be trying your other recipes – Thanks for sharing!!!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Bob, I’m so excited by your excitement! I know though, chicken thighs make everything better. And yes, the marinade is awesome, the recipe is solid, it’s one of my go-to’s. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your success. It makes my day so much better! Have a terrific weekend and take care!

  18. Val

    RICK — AUGUST 14, 2017 @ 4:55 PM REPLY
    I’ve made this several times and am certain there was red onion in the recipe (but there is no mention of it in the ingredients or directions anymore). Did I imagine this?

    MEGGAN — AUGUST 14, 2017 @ 5:04 PM
    Hi Rick! You did not imagine it. I literally removed it last week because I was looking at Chipotle’s ingredient list (to check my own recipe for accuracy) and they don’t have it listed anymore. Or maybe they never did, but that was my source in the past and it’s not there now. I do wonder if the marinade would be better off having it in. I am really sorry for the confusion and I feel bad. I should definitely add this to the recipe notes for any repeat visitors who might be wondering – where did the red onion go?! Sorry again, really. I feel bad. Thanks for the question and take care.

    I had the same question as Rick, I shared the link to the recipe with a friend this week and she was confused about how the recipe makes almost 2 cups of marinade. We finally figured out that her recipe was not the same as the one I had been using. I will continue to make the one with the red onion added, but you might want to update the instructions to change the amount that the recipe will yield, just a suggestion. I love all of the Chipotle copycat recipes, thanks for posting them!

    1. meggan

      You know what, I’m going to add the red onion back in. I tried it without, and I just really prefer it with the red onion (not to mention the yield problems). I’m SO SORRY for all the confusion. It comes down to a philosophical question – should I add the red onion because it tastes better, or should I leave it out so it is a “truer” copycat? I’m adding it back in, and I’ll add a note that Chipotle doesn’t use red onion but it tastes better with it. My best judgment says it should be there. Thank you for the comment and sorry again for taking it out for a few weeks!

  19. Adrienne Thomassson

    I cooked my meat Thursday and we have enjoyed a bowl with the fixing for three days. A great recipe helps to complete our dish.5 stars

  20. Rick

    I’ve made this several times and am certain there was red onion in the recipe (but there is no mention of it in the ingredients or directions anymore). Did I imagine this?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Rick! You did not imagine it. I literally removed it last week because I was looking at Chipotle’s ingredient list (to check my own recipe for accuracy) and they don’t have it listed anymore. Or maybe they never did, but that was my source in the past and it’s not there now. I do wonder if the marinade would be better off having it in. I am really sorry for the confusion and I feel bad. I should definitely add this to the recipe notes for any repeat visitors who might be wondering – where did the red onion go?! Sorry again, really. I feel bad. Thanks for the question and take care.

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