Chicken and Other Poultry/

Grilled Roadside Chicken with Knob Onions

Pollo a las Brasas con Cebollitas
Though folks in the north and west of Mexico think the most flavorful, most succulent, most compellingly seasoned roadside chicken comes from Sinaloa (confimed by the vast number of roadside stalls in other states advertising “Sinaloa” birds), truthfully, there is really great charcoaled chicken to be tasted all through Mexico. I think of the standard Sinaloa-style marinade as similar in flavor to chorizo sausage—ground dried red chile, vinegar, a host of spices. Straightforward Mexican. So is this cooking method of slow-grilling a split bird (for reasons I can’t explain, most Mexican cooks split their chickens down the breast; the back is more manageable for me). Slow-grilling in Mexico is directly over a bed of hardwood charcoal that’s quite distant from the chicken; we achieve a similar result by heating only part of a gas grill or by banking live coals to the sides. A good number of Mexican chicken grillers are rotisserie jockeys, so if you’re an aficionado of the rotisserie attachment for your grill, you’re in good company.
Servings: 4


  • For the marinade
  • 1 1/2tablespoons ground ancho chile powder (available from national companies like McCormick, Mexican groceries and internet sites)
  • 1teaspoondried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
  • A big pinch of cloves
  • 1/4teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
  • 3tablespoons vinegar (apple cider vinegar gives a Mexican flavor)
  • 1/4cup orange juice
  • 1teaspoon salt, plus a little more for the onions
  • For finishing the dish
  • 1 large (3-pound) whole chicken (what some butchers will call a large frying chicken, others will call a small roasting chicken)
  • 2 large bunches green onions, preferably the ones with large (1-inch) white bulbs at the end (these “knob” onions are available at Mexican markets and many farmer’s markets), roots and wilted outer leaves removed
  • A little vegetable or olive oil for brushing the onions
  • 1cupRoasted Tomatillo Salsa (for serving)


In a small bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients.

Light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash (and about medium hot); bank half the coals to one side of the grill, half to the other.  Or, heat a gas grill:  You’ll need a grill with three burners, so that you can turn heat the outer two to medium and leave the center one off.

While the grill is heating, remove the giblets (if there are any) from the cavity of the chicken.  Flip the chicken onto its breast.  Using poultry shears, cut down through the backbone from tail to neck, staying as near as possible to the center of the bone (to keep the skin attached).  If you don’t have shears, lay the bird on its back, insert a long heavy knife into the body cavity and press down hard with a rocking motion to cut through the length of the backbone. Open the bird out onto your work surface, breast side up.  Make sure that the legs are turned inward.  Using your fist or a mallet, wallop the bird on the breast—hard enough to dislodge the center bones and flatten out the breast. Twist the last joint of the wings up over the breast and then down behind the “shoulders,” tucking them in firmly to keep them in place during grilling.

Smear both sides of the chicken with the marinade.  Lay in the center of the grill (it will not be over direct heat).  Cook without turning, basting from time to time with any remaining marinade, until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced deeply with a fork (an instant-read thermometer should register about 160 degrees when inserted at the thickest part of the thigh), about 45 minutes.  If you’re cooking over charcoal, you’ll want to add more charcoal to the fire every half hour or so—the internal temperature of the grill should stay at about 325 degrees.

About 10 minutes before the chicken is ready, brush or spray the green onions with oil and sprinkle with salt.  Grill directly over the fire, turning frequently, until tender and browned.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board.  It will loose less juice is you cover it loosely with foil and let it rest 5 or 10 minutes.  Cut into quarters (or smaller pieces).  Transfer a portion to each of 4 dinner plates.  Top with the grilled onions and you’re ready to serve.  Pass the salsa separately.


  1. Looking forward to trying this. Regarding the instruction to lay the chicken on the grill and cook without turning, should it be skin side up or down?

    1. Skin side up. I started with thighs towards the coal side then rotated it half way through the cooking time and brushed with the sauce. Amazing!

  2. Love all your cooking. I bought one of your recipe books and so happy you are sending me mail updating your cooking. Please continue to send it to mail.

  3. i just want to congratulate the chef mr.(bayles) for his great sense in doing what is best for persons like me that are in this bussiness in caring for the well being of this great industry & god bless everybody thanks s.s. yours Mario R.Nunez in Mexico city bye.

  4. I’m making concinta pibil in a slow cooker ! I’ve made it before and have never put the sliced onions on top we’ll see how it comes out ! I have 2 of your books and use your receipts all the time ! I just made your shrimp cocktail for my Son in laws birthday everyone loved it ! I didn’t tell them it was your recipe!

  5. Tried this last night. Added some pasilla chili powder to it as well. The cinnamon was a bit too much for my taste but man was this juicy and smells heavenly.


  6. My family loves this recipe for Roadside Chicken. And it pairs well with so many different side dishes. Rice, potatoes, pasta, or just veggies. Thank you!

    1. Standard temp is 160-165, usually when you take the chicken out at 160 it will continue to cook to 165. Thanks for keeping us safe! 🙂

  7. I’ve made this twice on a gas fired Weber. It is delicious and draws raves. Once butterflied as above, once with bone-in pieces (whole legs). On the gas grill it’s set and forget. Make the rest of your dishes while it cooks. Didn’t even need to touch it. Crackling skin and flavor that doesn’t need sauce. Will become a staple. Thanks Rick!

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