Photo by Sonia Mendez Garcia

Spicy Tamarindo and Chile Ancho Barbecue Chicken

Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 3-4 hours
Servings: 6 servings
Tangy and spicy, this barbecue chicken combines two of my favorite flavors: tamarind and chile ancho.

Two of my favorite flavors that I grew up with are tamarindo (tamarind) and chile ancho. They are the main ingredients that make up dulce de tamarindo, a very popular treat in Mexico. Tamarind is more readily available these days because of the popularity in many ethnic foods, such as Indian food. Other than fresh tamarind in the pods, I am now able to find it in a block and also in a concentrated paste. Aside from the Indian dishes I like to prepare, I add it to many of my Mexican dishes as well. It’s slightly sweet and gives your dishes hints of acidity that will make you hungry for more. Along with the dried chile ancho pods, I always keep a full jar of chile ancho powder in my spice cupboard.


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  1. Mix all of the spices for dry rub and generously season the chicken. Transfer to a plastic bag, chill in the refrigerator and let it marinate for a few hours.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the tamarind sauce. Stir well to combine; taste for salt. If it needs a little more salt, add a little more soy sauce. If it’s too salty, add a little more tamarind sauce. Cover and set aside.
  3. Remove chicken from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat grill to medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Brush the grill with oil before adding chicken. Divide the tamarind sauce in half, reserve one half for garnish.
  4. Cook the chicken for 20 to 25 minutes on indirect heat, turning once. Then move it to the direct heat, and grill it for 3 to 4 minutes per side basting it with half of the tamarind sauce every time you turn the chicken. Remove from heat and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. Internal temperature should be at least 165ºF.
  5. Serve with rice, salad or sliced thin with warm tortillas for tacos. Garnish with cilantro and pickled onions.
  6. Notes: If you wanted to cook the chicken on the stove top, just sear it in a skillet with a little olive oil, then transfer to a baking dish adding half of the tamarind sauce and finish cooking in the oven at 350ºF for 35 to 40 minutes. Cook under broiler the last 2 minutes, basting it with a little of the reserved tamarind sauce.
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