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 on Amazon (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. 

What is a substitute for adobo sauce?

Whisk together:

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (or 1/2 teaspoon each smoked paprika and cayenne powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Pinch EACH of oregano, garlic powder, and salt

What can I do with my leftover Chipotle peppers and/or adobo sauce?

Transfer to a bag and freeze for future use, or use in:

4.99 from 94 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
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder or 1 ounce dried ancho chiles, soaked (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or rice bran oil, plus more for the cooking surface (see notes)
  • 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.
Adobo sauce: You can get adobo sauce from cans of Chipotle peppers or you can purchase a jar of just adobo paste (La Costeña makes one). Substitute about 3 tablespoons of paste + 1 tablespoon water.
Rice Bran oil: Chipotle uses Rice Bran oil in all of their products. Olive oil is more widely available (probably already in your pantry) and works equally well, especially if it has a neutral taste.

Nutrition

Calories: 133kcal

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  1. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. Boyan Minchev

    CHIPOTLE CHICKEN RECIPE This is amzing, chipotle chicken recipe, I think I can eat this all day it looks so delicious mmmmmmm…… :) thanks for this chicken delight.5 stars

  8. Kathy

    Thanks so much for this delish recipe!! It was a hit at the grad party!  I froze a few weeks in advance.  My only advice, JUlie, is be sure to give yourself plenty of thaw time so you aren’t rushing to thaw like I was.  We kept batches warm in the oven in metal brownie / baking pans. Put some into smaller electric serving / chafing dishes on the table.  Made rice in crockpots and also served in electric chafing dishes.  So yummy and def cheaper than ordering!5 stars

  9. Julie Schnittka

    Meggan, I am so excited to try this for my daughter’s grad party. Chipotle charges $12-14 a person. Yikes! Can this chicken be made ahead of time and reheated?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Julie, yes it can! I’ve made it, frozen it, and reheated it in a crockpot. Or, you can make it the day before and reheat it however you want. Thigh meat is super juicy no matter what, so you should be set! Good luck with the grad party! :)

  10. Kathy

    One more question (and thanks for your answer to my first one!)…
    Is the 20 servings off of 5 lbs of chicken (half the marinade) or 10 lbs of chicken (all the marinade).  I assume the latter, but on the recipe at the end it lists 5 lbs.

    Making a lot so I want to be sure I have the right amount of everything.  Thanks!!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Kathy! The 20 servings is based on 5 pounds of chicken. The prevailing wisdom on this is that 1 pound of chicken will serve 4 people (4 ounces of chicken per person). So 5 pounds x 4 people = 20 servings. At parties, though, people may pig out so you may want to assume 20 servings for 10 pounds of chicken, ha ha! Thanks for asking and I’ll update the recipe to clarify this information. Take care!

  11. Kathy

    Not sure if you are still answering questions here, but, if so, I have one for you. :)
    I am going to make this for my son’s grad party and want to cook ahead. I assume that I can cook a bunch of it and freeze it ahead of time and then warm it back up in a crock pot, stove top, or oven? Any thoughts about this?

    Thank you!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Kathy! I’m always taking questions. :) I have literally done exactly what you described – made a batch ahead, froze it, and then reheated it in a crock pot. Well I assume you could heat it any way you wanted, but I tried in the crock pot and it was delicious. I did it specifically as a test for the recipe/this post and I didn’t realize I never added the information. Thanks so much for your question and please let me know if you need anything else! So excited that you are going to make the chicken for your son’s graduation. So smart! :) And congrats to him!

  12. matt

    I’m always looking for a way to make chicken taste better I made the marinade It taste great. and have the chicken sitting in it can’t wait till tonight when I cook it. But I want to know the calories in this marinade? Anybody  have a idea?5 stars

  13. Emily

    Does anybody know of a recipe for just chipotle’s steak?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Emily! Your question is reaalllllly old so I’m sorry for replying to it now, but I did post the Chipotle Steak recipe on my blog a couple of months ago. The marinade is EXACTLY the same as the chicken one. Exactly the same. Here’s the post if you want to see! Thanks.
      https://www.culinaryhill.com/chipotle-steak-recipe-copycat/

    2. meggan

      I plan to figure it out at some point soon. I do have the Barbacoa figured out, if you need it let me know (I realize it’s not the same as the steak). I haven’t posted it yet but I have it.

  14. meredith Cowan

    Hi – Can you cook this in a slow cooker?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Yes, you can. I have. You won’t get the crispy, caramelized bits that you would from a cast iron skillet or grill, but it will still be good. I will add instructions for this! 4 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW. Thanks Meredith!

  15. julie

    Hello Meggan! Thank you for your thorough explanation. Good to know that there isn’t much difference in the marinating time.  Now that I am thinking again, I think I used chicken breast the second time I made this chicken. I will be making again this dish on Saturday and this time I will use the brown meat. Thank you! 5 stars

  16. Julie

    Hello and thanks for posting this recipe. I have made it twice already! First time it turned out great and the second time it dried up. I also felt like the 2nd time maybe I have over marinated the chicken, i think i left it overnight. What is the ideal time for marinating this chicken?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Julie, marinating the chicken overnight will not dry it out. I used to actually recommend that, but then I realized that it didn’t make much difference whether you marinate it for 30 minutes or 30 hours. The marinade is obviously very flavorful but it can only impact the chicken so much. Did you change anything else in the recipe? Did you use a different type of chicken (white vs. dark meat) or cook it a different way? Was the chicken marinating in a completely sealed container (i.e., a ziplock plastic bag) or was it just in a bowl that might have been exposed to the air of the fridge? Just checking in case something clicks. :) Sorry you had difficulties. I really don’t think it was from the added marinating time (and to answer your question, I really don’t know what is “ideal” but I’ve frozen the uncooked chicken in the marinade for 2 months and then cooked in a slow cooker and it was still good…).

  17. Rachel

    I am not having luck yet finding dried ancho chiles and I got to wondering…if the recipe calls for reconstituting, would it work to just buy fresh poblanos? Or is there something about the process of reconstituting the dried chiles that makes a difference?

    1. meggan

      Hi Rachel, I think the flavor would be quite different if you used fresh poblanos. Not that you couldn’t, but I’m not sure what it would taste like. When the poblanos are dehydrated into anchos, it both changes and concentrates the flavor. They aren’t even really recognizable as poblanos to my taste. Have you been able to locate dried ancho chile powder by any chance? That might be your best bet, if you can’t find the dried chiles. Good luck and thank you for your question!

  18. Kris

    I tried this, and sadly, did not have any success. It was not at all similar to Chipotle, and I didn’t like it. I see some god reviews, so I’m wondering what I could have done wrong. Did I get bad Ancho chilies or something? After soaking them (long method), they were leathery like fruit roll-ups. Is that normal? Just wondering if anybody had similar issues and had to make adjustments.

    1. Kris

      Hi, Meggan. I’m pretty sure I added everything. I used one of those little “bullet” blender thingies. (Cheap $10 walmart thing.) The result was indeed a coarse paste, but the color was more of a sick looking orange, not the rich color like your photo. I used dark meat (white is always too dry), and I baked it. I may try a skillet next time. Grilling would be ideal, I think, but since I’ve downsized from a 4-bedroom house to an apartment, I can’t grill. Maybe I’ll try again and halve the recipe to make sure I get the right amounts. Mistakes are always a possibility. If you and others had success with this recipe, then I must be doing something wrong. It definitely had an odd taste. Maybe I should use fresh garlic instead of stale, minced.stuff in a jar. I love garlic, just seriously hate peeling it.) I felt that the marinade needed to be a lot sharper. …And of course, baking makes a mushy texture.

      Thank you so much for writing back. Take care, and have a wonderful holiday season!

    2. meggan

      Hi Kris, a “sick looking orange” color is possibly the saddest thing I’ve heard all day. I’m wondering if it was just a horrible brand of chipotles in adobo, although I didn’t think there was such a thing. Maybe try using a different brand? I would definitely try to use fresh garlic if you can manage. The stuff in a jar is heat-treated so it always has an off taste. However, I cannot imagine that would even show up much considering all the other stuff in the marinade. I completely understand about hating to peel it. I have a garlic press in my shop that works without peeling garlic (you just put the cloves with the skin on right through it, works like a charm) but I’m certainly not suggesting you buy some gadget just for this one recipe! Here is a video of Martha Stewart showing how she peels garlic by putting two bowls together and shaking it. For some reason I haven’t tried this yet, but Martha can’t be wrong! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0abnwTGeAiM Anyway, if you get a chance to try again, please keep me posted. You can also email me anytime at meggan@culinaryhill.com. Good luck Kris!!

    3. meggan

      Hi Kris! So sorry to hear that the recipe didn’t work for you. I doubt you had bad Ancho chiles. Yes, after you soak them overnight, they are leathery like fruit roll-ups. That is correct. I assume you put everything in a food processor after that, along with the leathery chiles? Did your marinade look like the photo? I don’t suppose you left out any ingredients by any chance? I am sure you didn’t, but for you to say the recipe was “not at all similar to Chipotle” makes me think something was missing. It is a labor-intensive recipe to be sure, but if you included everything and followed the method, your results would definitely be in the ballpark of Chipotle. Did you use dark meat or white meat, and which cooking method did you use? I’m so sorry for the issues you had. :-/

  19. Sweet Sandals

    I want to try this and some other Mexican recipes you offer, but the audible commercials are truly annoying, especially at 6:30 in the morning when I’m trying to not wake my husband. As a webmaster, I can tell you that anything audible that plays automatically is the number one reason people do not re-visit a website. Those who like to surf while on break at work (and those who are doing it on company time!) are not going to come back at all. Affiliate marketing for money is a great little income producer, but you’ll have a lot more visitors if you can the commercials. Just trying to be honestly helpful. Your recipes look fabulous and I would love to try many of them.

    1. meggan

      Hey there! I agree with you 100%, I click off a site IMMEDIATELY if something auto-plays. I will notify my ad company immediately because that is not supposed to happen. I’m really sorry about that. I would never visit a site again and I certainly wouldn’t be nice enough to tell them. So, thanks for that. I cannot get rid of ads on my site (they fund the operation) but they should not be playing sound automatically. Sorry again. Take care.

  20. Jason

    I’m not sure how to get a whole onion in there and only kick out 2 cups of marinade. Seems physically impossible….maybe I’m bad at picking out onions.

    1. meggan

      Hi Jason, the onions I pick are usually the size of a softball or a little larger. I trim the ends and quarter it. If you have one the size of a cantaloupe, you might have an issue. :)

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