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Chicken Tortas

Photo: Thomas J. Story

Active time 1 hr, 45 mins
Total time 5 hrs, 45 mins

Serves 6

People flock to the Pollo Asado food truck in Santa Fe for its mesquite-grilled chicken. The secret is the citrus and achiote seasoning, which co-owner Olivia Arizmendi learned from her sister in Mexico. They tuck the meat into telera rolls and add pickled onions, hot sauce, and shredded iceberg lettuce. We couldn't resist adding mashed avocado. Alcohol paste is available at well-stocked grocery stores and Latino markets.


  • 8 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons achiote seasoning paste*
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • About 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 lbs., neck and giblets discarded
  • 1 medium red onion, halved lengthwise and cut into lengthwise slivers
  • 3 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
  • 1 large avocado, mashed
  • Hot sauce such as Tapatio
  • 6 telera rolls* or other sandwich rolls, about 2 1/2 ounces each, split
  • 3 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

Nutrition Information

  • calories 637
  • caloriesfromfat 36 %
  • protein 43 g
  • fat 26 g
  • satfat 5 g
  • carbohydrate 58 g
  • fiber 5.9 g
  • sodium 1007 mg
  • cholesterol 95 mg

How to Make It

  1. In a large, deep bowl, combine garlic, orange and lime juices, achiote, oil, 1 tsp. salt, and the oregano.

  2. With poultry shears or kitchen scissors, cut backbone and tail from chicken and discard. Set chicken with breast up on a work surface and press firmly with hands to flatten somewhat. Tuck wing tips under body. Turn chicken to coat in seasonings and chill at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

  3. Meanwhile, put onion in a heatproof bowl. Add boiling water to cover. Let stand until onion is softened, about 10 minutes. Drain, then add vinegar and 1 tsp. salt. Chill, stirring occasionally.

  4. Heat a grill (preferably mesquite charcoal briquets) to medium (350° to 450°) with an area cleared of coals (for charcoal grill) or a burner turned off (for gas) to make an indirect heat area. Grill chicken over indirect heat, covered, turning occasionally, until no longer pink in thickest part (cut to test), 45 to 50 minutes; for charcoal add 4 more briquets to each side of fire after 30 minutes. Transfer to a board and let rest about 10 minutes.

  5. Pull chicken and skin from bones with fingers and a fork. Drain onion. In a bowl, combine avocado with salt to taste; smear over bottoms of rolls. Add chicken, lettuce, and pickled onion, and serve with hot sauce on the side.

  6. Make ahead: Pickled onion, up to 3 days, chilled.

  7. *Find achiote paste and telera rolls at well-stocked grocery stores and Latino markets.

  8. Wine pairing: Citrusy Alta Colina 2014 "12 O'Clock High" Viognier (Paso Robles; $35).