Photo by Sonia Mendez Garcia

Pollo Pibil (Roast Chicken Yucatan Style)

Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Servings: 8 servings
What's not to love about this pollo pibil? A roaster chicken with the flavors of Yucatan. Ready to bring some Mexican flavors to your dinner table!

Pollo Pibil brings the flavors of Yucatan to your table. The bright red achiote combined with citrus, garlic and habanero pepper is sure to kick up your next dinner party!

The more traditional dish of cochinita (pork) pibil is also delicious, but I find that chicken is the more popular choice when cooking for a crowd. Roasting a chicken doesn't have to be an all-day affair anymore. By simply removing the backbone from the whole chicken and butterflying it, you can cut down on the roasting time. Butterflied simply means sliced open and laid flat. The chicken cooks more evenly and is easy to slice when flat. Serve with pickled onions (find the recipe here) and your favorite recipe for Mexican rice.


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  1. Blend all of the ingredients for the marinade and set aside.
  2. To soften banana leaves, place on preheated griddle or comal at medium heat. Heat for 20-25 seconds per side. You will see they will change color slightly and become shiny.
  3. Place 4 of the banana leaves in a crisscross shape on a large, heavy baking sheet. Reserve the remaining leaf for plating. Spread out the reserved sliced onion onto leaves. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Brush the underside of the chicken with the marinade and place cut-side down onto sliced onions. Pour ¾ of the marinade all over chicken, making sure you cover all of the exposed areas. Reserve the remaining marinade for basting later. Fold banana leaves over top of chicken. Cover entire baking sheet tightly with foil paper and marinate overnight.
  5. Next day, remove chicken from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  6. Carefully open one side of chicken and pour in ½ cup water. Cover and roast for 15 minutes per pound or until internal temperature of the deepest part of the breast reads 165ºF. Check temperature in the deepest part of the breast after 1 hour, 20 minutes. This roaster was 7.8 pounds and cooked in about 1 hour, 50 minutes.
  7. Uncover the chicken carefully. Cut the excess banana leaves away from top of chicken and discard. Brush the chicken with reserved marinade. Return to oven for 10 minutes. Repeat one more time, basting with extra marinade. Remove from oven. Cover tightly and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Place extra banana leaf on serving platter. Carefully transfer whole chicken onto leaf. Garnish with pickled red onions. Serve with warm tortillas, rice and habanero salsa.

Chef Notes

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