Pollo a la Brasa (Peruvian Roast Chicken)

Pollo a la Brasa Recipe
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chicken in quarters on platter with breasts sliced
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Pollo a la brasa, marinated rotisserie chicken typically cooked over wood or charcoal, is a beloved dish in Peru. The history of this dish is unclear, but some say it originated from a Swiss immigrant that opened a restaurant called La Granja Azul in the 1950s. Roger Schuler began serving rotisserie chicken prepared in a style reminiscent of the spit-roasted chicken popular in his home country. His marriage of native spices with his marinades and cooking techniques quickly gained popularity, and his restaurant became renowned for its delicious chicken. The dish has evolved overtime as many other pollerias opened, and the recipes incorporated aji amarillo, cumin, and other ingredients native to Peru. 

The chicken is seasoned with a blend of spices and kept as a priced secret by every polleria or pollo a la brasa restaurant. Each restaurant has its own secret blend, but the most common ingredients used are cumin, black pepper, and garlic. Gatekeeping a pollo a la brasa recipe is an old practice, but here we are sharing our recipe with you so you can enjoy this dish at home. Pollo a la brasa is often served with traditional Peruvian sides such as french fries, rice, and aji verde (green chili sauce).

Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Why You’ll Love It

  • The spice blend is everything. We share our top-secret blend of spices with you, which includes Chinese ground bean sauce, aji amarillo paste, garlic, oil, and fresh oregano, so you can enjoy the magic at home. 
  • The chicken gets super tender. Brining the chicken first, then marinating it overnight before roasting it in the oven delivers a crispy-skinned chicken with succulent meat. 

Key Ingredients in Pollo a la Brasa

  • Whole chicken: A variety of chicken can be used, but a young, medium-size bird, often referred as a broiler or fryer chicken, is most commonly used. These types of birds are prized for tender meat and are well-suited for the rotisserie method of pollo a la brasa. 
  • Aji amarillo paste: A paste made from aji amarillo peppers. It is used to season the chicken and is also the key ingredient in the aji polleria sauce (which gives it a bright yellow hue). 

How to Make Pollo a la Brasa

  1. Brine & marinate chicken. Brine the chicken for at least 4 hours in salted water, then marinate in a blended mixture of Chinese ground bean sauce, aji amarillo paste, garlic, oil, and fresh oregano leaves overnight. 
  2. Roast chicken in the oven. Cook the chicken until the skin is deeply browned and the internal temperature registers at least 165ºF.
  3. Make the sauces. Use your blender to whip up the aji polleria and aji verde sauces.  
  4. Cook the french fries. Peel, cut, and fry two russet potatoes.  
  5. Cook rice. Make the buttery, garlic rice on the stovetop.   
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Helpful Swaps

  • You can use fresh mint leaves in place of the frozen thawed huacatay (black mint). 
  • Feel free to use either Kewpie or your preferred regular mayonnaise in the aji polleria sauce. The MSG is entirely optional. You can opt to use it or leave it out.

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips

  • Leftover chicken will last up to 4 days in the fridge. Typically, it is shredded and stored to make a pollo a la brasa-type chicken salad and topped with the sauces on a roll or baguette. You can even heat it up in a skillet with oil and enjoy it as a hot sandwich. 
  • The chicken bones can be used to make chicken stock
  • The aji verde can be made up to 2 days ahead, and the aji polleria can be made up to 1 week ahead. Refrigerate in separate airtight containers.

What to Serve with Pollo a la Brasa

White rice, aji verde, aji polleria, a simple salad lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers with a simple lemon vinaigrette. And, of course, inca cola

Pollo a la Brasa Recipe

The spice blend is everything.

Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes

Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the chicken and marinade:

  • 8 cups

    cool water

  • 1/3 cup

    kosher salt

  • 1

    (3 to 3 1/2-pound) whole chicken

  • 1/2 cup

    Chinese ground bean sauce, such as Koon Chun

  • 3 tablespoons

    aji amarillo paste

  • 3

    large cloves garlic

  • 1 tablespoon

    canola oil

  • 3

    sprigs fresh oregano, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

For the aji polleria sauce:

  • 1/4

    packed cup fresh mint leaves, or 5 grams thawed frozen huacatay

  • 1/2 cup

    aji amarillo paste

  • 1/4 cup

    Kewpie or regular mayonnaise

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons

    distilled white vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons

    garlic powder

  • 2 teaspoons

    onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    MSG (optional)

For the aji verde sauce:

  • 1

    medium jalapeño pepper

  • 1

    small or 1/2 large poblano pepper

  • 3/4 cup

    grapeseed or canola oil, divided

  • 3 tablespoons

    distilled white vinegar

  • 1/2

    large egg yolk

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 2

    large bunches fresh cilantro

For the French fries:

  • 2

    large russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

  • 4 cups

    canola oil

  • Kosher salt

For the rice:

  • 1

    large clove garlic

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon

    grapeseed or canola oil

  • 2 cups

    long-grain white rice, preferably jasmine

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 2 1/2 cups

    water

Instructions

Brine and marinate the chicken:

  1. Place 8 cups cool water and 1/3 cup kosher salt in a large pot (at least 5 1/2 quarts) and stir until the salt is dissolved. Add 1 whole chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Meanwhile, make the marinade.

  2. Place 1/2 cup Chinese ground bean sauce, 3 tablespoons aji amarillo paste, 3 large garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon canola oil, and the leaves from 3 fresh oregano sprigs (1 tablespoon, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano) in a blender and blend until smooth (if it doesn’t blend easily, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to get the blender going). Transfer to a large bowl.

  3. Remove the chicken from the salt water and pat dry with paper towels. Place in the bowl and rub the marinade all over the inside and outside of the chicken. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, make the aji polleria and aji verde sauces.

Make the aji polleria sauce:

  1. If using frozen huacatay, squeeze the excess liquid from 5 grams and coarsely chop. If using mint, coarsely chop 1/4 packed cup fresh mint leaves. Place in a blender.

  2. Add 1/2 cup aji amarillo paste, 1/4 cup Kewpie or regular mayonnaise, 2 1/4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon MSG if using in a clean and dry blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 1 week).

Make the aji verde sauce:

  1. If you have a gas stove, char 1 medium jalapeño pepper and 1 small or 1/2 large poblano pepper one at a time by holding it with tongs over the flames until blackened all over. (Alternatively, arrange an oven rack to the top position and heat the broiler. Place the peppers on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and broil until the skins start to blacken and blister, checking every few minutes and rotating the baking sheet and flipping the peppers as needed, 5 to 8 minutes total.)

  2. Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Let sit for 10 minutes to steam. Uncover and wipe off all of the charred skin with paper towels. Trim the stems from the peppers and remove the core and seeds. Place on a plate and refrigerate until cold, at least 20 minutes.

  3. Place the jalapeños and poblanos, 1/4 cup of the grapeseed or canola oil, 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, 1/2 large egg yolk, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a clean, dry blender. Coarsely chop the leaves and tenders stems from 2 medium bunch fresh cilantro until you have 4 cups. Add to the blender and blend until smooth.

  4. With the motor on low speed, slowly pour in the remaining 1/2 cup grapeseed or canola oil and blend until smooth and thickened. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 2 days).

Roast the chicken, do the first fry for the French fries, and make the rice:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Meanwhile, peel 2 large russet potatoes and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick planks. Stack a few planks at a time and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick french fries. Place in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover. Drain. Return to the bowl and add enough cold water again to cover the fries. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Fit a wire rack onto the baking sheet. Place the chicken breast-side up on the rack and tuck the wings under the chicken. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted between the thigh and breast not touching bones registers at least 150ºF, 60 to 70 minutes. Meanwhile, do the first fry on the french fries and cook the rice.

  3. Heat 4 cups canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until 325ºF. Meanwhile, remove the french fries from the water and pat very dry with kitchen or paper towels. Line a baking sheet or large plate with paper towels.

  4. Add all the french fries to the hot oil and fry, stirring occasionally, until starting to turn golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fries to the paper towels. Reserve the oil and saucepan for the second fry.

  5. Finely chop 1 large garlic clove. Heat 3 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the garlic and cook until just starting to turn light golden brown, about 15 seconds. Add 2 cups long-grain white rice and 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and stir to coat in the oil and butter. Add 2 1/2 cups water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.

  6. Reduce the heat to medium low. Stir to make sure the rice is not stuck to the bottom. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice rest covered for 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Cover to keep warm.

Finish roasting the chicken and do the second fry for the French fries:

  1. When the chicken is ready, remove from the oven. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Increase the oven temperature to 400ºF. If the chicken skin is starting to burn (it should be deeply browned), tent the chicken loosely with aluminum foil. Return the chicken to the oven and roast until it registers at least 165ºF in the breast and thigh, 10 to 15 minutes more.

  2. Brush the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let rest while you do the second fry on the French fries, at least 15 minutes.

  3. Heat the french fry oil to 375ºF. Add half of the fries and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fries to paper towels or a wire rack and season immediately with kosher salt. Repeat frying the remaining fries.

  4. Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board. Carve the chicken and serve with the aji polleria and aji verde sauces, rice, and french fries.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The aji verde can be made up to 2 days ahead, and the aji polleria can be made up to 1 week ahead. Refrigerate in separate airtight containers.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in separate airtight containers for up to 4 days.