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. Kim

    I made all of this for my bunco gathering and all the gals went crazy! They said it was BETTER than Chipolte. I went on youtube and found a recipe for their medium salsa and used Chipolte Fan’s corn recipe……….it was AWESOME all together. Thanks!5 stars

    1. Love Bunco! :) I am so glad the recipe was a success for you. I am definitely going to look up/work on the salsa recipes too because they are so.good. Thank you for leaving a comment!

  2. Sonia Khawaja

    I am guessing 1/4 C means 1/4 Cup

    1. Hi Sonia, you are correct. Going forward I will always write out “cup” instead of abbreviating. Sorry for the confusion!

  3. Lindsay

    Meggan, were you able to figure out how much dried Ancho chili powder would be needed in place of the actual chiles?5 stars

    1. Lindsay, yes! Yes I was, sorry for not replying until you reminded me. It’s 1/4 c. of ancho chile powder. Thank you for checking back and sorry for the delay. I’m going to update the recipe now as a standard way to make it going forward. Thanks again!

  4. Katie

    ALSO….those who are gluten free like me, BE CAREFUL with Adobo sauce…the ones I was looking at had the dreaded wheat in it. SO I actually just got some adobo seasoning instead.

    1. Hi Katie, I did some investigating and found a few brands of chipotle peppers in adobo without wheat. One is La Morena, the other is La Costena. Both are imported from Mexico and I found them at my local Walmart. I took pictures of the cans, so if for any reason you’d like to see them, just let me know and I can email them to you. Good luck!

  5. Katie

    I made this yesterday – SO GOOD! Thanks for the recipe! Just wondering if you put any of the marinade on the chicken afterwards and it seemed a bit…dry? that’s not the write word, but just not as seasonful as chipotle. Thanks again for the great recipe!5 stars

    1. Hi Katie, I can imagine a lot of scenarios where the chicken might be dry. It hasn’t happened to me, but here are my suggestions. First, make sure you’re using dark meat, because chicken breast will obviously be drier. Also, as you cook the chicken in batches, if your skillet or grill pan seems dry, be sure to add more oil. Also, I appreciate the tip on adobo sauce. I think since you switched to the Adobo seasoning, that probably made your chicken much drier. I wonder if more liquid should be added to the marinade if you aren’t using adobo sauce? I also want to research adobo sauce and look at brands so I can (hopefully) suggest one that doesn’t have gluten. What a bummer! Thanks for your comments, and I hope your next batch is not so dry. I do think swapping the adobo sauce for seasoning was probably the biggest factor, if you followed the rest of the recipe. Thanks for your feedback!

  6. Ann

    I’m really excited to try out this recipe. Where can I find the chipotle peppers and ancho chiles? Also, since I don’t have a grill, would baking the chicken be an option? TIA!

    1. Hi Ann, thanks for stopping by! Chipotle peppers are at most grocery stores, Walmart, and Target. They will be in the Mexican food aisle near things like green chiles and salsa. Just look for a small can, “chipotle peppers in adobo.” Ancho chiles are not as widely available, but Walmart and grocery stores do have them. They are large, dried chiles (maybe 6″ long or so) usually sold in clear plastic bags. International food markets also often carry them. McCormick also sells a bottle of Ancho Chile Pepper in their “gourmet” line of spices, so you could look for that. I will figure out how much of that spice you will need, if you go that route, and post another reply today letting you know. Just in case. Also some international food markets might sell “bulk” spices, and if so, you could find ancho chile powder there which would also work.

      Last, no problem about the grill! I usually use a cast iron pan now on my stove top. Baking the chicken would certainly work, but you would probably not got as many “caramelized” pieces as you would from a skillet. It will still be delicious and flavorful, I’m sure. If you don’t want to run your oven, you could also cook the chicken in a regular skillet (nonstick or otherwise) on your stovetop. Good luck!

    2. Ann

      Thank you so much! Everything worked out and it tasted great!

  7. James

    Hi, I would like to make this, however, does it come out very “hot/spicy”? My reason for asking is that I don’t believe the Chipotle Restaurant version is spicy at all. I mean I don’t ever remember it being spicy any time I’ve ordered it at one of their restaurants.

    1. Hi James, thank you for your question. First, I think “spiciness” is very subjective. If I eat chipotle’s chicken with sour cream and cheese or a burrito shell, it is never spicy because those offset. But if I eat it plain, sometimes it’s spicy. Having said that, I don’t think this marinade is super spicy. It has flavor, but you are using 1 cup of marinade per 5 pounds of chicken. And when you cook it, some of the marinade comes off. At worst, you may find a spicy bite here and there, but not really. My toddler (almost 2) eats it with no problem, and it’s not like we eat jalapenos for fun around here. To minimize the spiciness, be sure to get rid of all possible seeds from your adobo sauce. In the recipe I recommend straining, so you shouldn’t really have any, anyway. Have I answered your question? Or offered any help at all? I hope so. Spicy as in flavorful, yes. Spicy as it hot, no. Not really. Good luck.

  8. Laura

    This recipe is pretty awesome!!!! It’s very very close to Chipotle’s chicken. My husband has been asking forever to make it and I thought I’d never find something even close. I was wrong! I LOVE the ancho chiles and the chipotles!!!! Thank you for this awesome recipe, you now have one happy new fan :))5 stars

  9. Yead

    This is so delicious. I love this. Great idea.5 stars

    1. Thank you so much Yead, I hope you enjoy it! :)

  10. Chipotle is the only ‘fast food’ I eat, I would eat this copycat everyday :-)5 stars

    1. I think I’m on 3 weekends in a row making the Chipotle chicken… we just gobble it right up. :) Not sick of it yet! And now that I know I can freeze half the marinade, that makes it so much easier to eat this All.The.Time. :)

    2. jodean

      if you do use 10lbs if chicken would you double your spices etc? going to have a large party.

    3. The recipe for the marinade above is enough for 10 lbs. of chicken; you don’t need to double the spices. I talk about it in my post, but not everyone has time to read my babblings. You will end up with 2 cups. of marinade based on my ingredients above (2 oz. dried chiles, 1 can of chipotle peppers, etc.). That is enough for 10 lbs. of chicken. I apologize for the confusion and I’ll try to reword the recipe so it makes more sense. I normally make the whole marinade recipe, freeze half, and cook 5 lbs. of chicken right away. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

  11. What a fun theme! And I could feel the fear of the kitchen situation with the brick. Glad everyone survived ! ;) Can’t wait to see the rest of your Chipotle copycats!5 stars

    1. Yeah, 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 sitting.

  12. Love Bunco! :) I am so glad the recipe was a success for you. I am definitely going to look up/work on the salsa recipes too because they are so.good. Thank you for leaving a comment!

  13. Hi Sonia, you are correct. Going forward I will always write out “cup” instead of abbreviating. Sorry for the confusion!

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