Crispy-skinned and sensationally flavored with a verdant, vibrant combination of lime, garlic, oil, and warm spices, Peruvian Chicken will be some of the tastiest chicken you’ll ever eat. It’s served with a lively, creamy green sauce, and as soon as you finish it, you’ll want to make it again.
Peruvian chicken—a dish popular throughout Peru—involves whole chicken parts that are marinated, then grilled or roasted. It’s usually served with rice or Oven Roasted Potatoes and a condiment called aji verde.
The sauce (aji verde) is creamy with an herby punch from cilantro and grassy heat from chile peppers.
Between the juicy, moist meat, crispy skin, and the spirited sauce, it’s hard to pick a favorite part!
Everything You Need to Know About Peruvian Chicken
The best way that I can describe Peruvian chicken is a spectacular yin and yang between the bracing brightness of the lime and the sultry savoriness of the garlic and cumin.
It’s special because of its unique sour and spiced taste that’s invigorating and comforting at the same time.
And that aji amarillo sauce? It’s BOSS.
Authentic Peruvian chicken is made with aji amarillo peppers, a type of chili pepper that is native to Peru. They’re medium-hot with a fruity, slightly sweet flavor.
Since aji amarillo peppers can be hard to find, good substitutes for them are jalapeo, serrano, or habanero peppers.
I prefer jalapeños, which are easy to find. They’re less spicy than aji amarillos, so you may want to add more if you prefer a kick.
How to Make Peruvian Chicken
Peruvian chicken is traditionally made with a whole chicken cut into parts, but for easy home cooking, I prefer to use bone-in chicken thighs and breasts.
The spiced garlic-lime Peruvian chicken marinade is a fresh alternative to classic Chicken Marinades. You can use it anytime you are making Baked Chicken Thighs or Baked Bone-In Chicken Breasts.
- For the best results, marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours. This will give the signature marinade time to tenderize and fully flavor the meat.
- I do not recommend marinating Peruvian chicken for more than 8 hours. The concentration of lime juice in the marinade can cause the meat to start to break down.
- Chicken. Protein-rich, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and breasts become tantalizingly flavorful and juicy after being marinated. Thanks to our high heat roasting and broiling method, the skin gets perfectly crispy!
- Lime Juice. The lime juice adds zip, acidity, and helps tenderize the chicken.
- Garlic. For delicious garlicky flavor to complement the more sweet and sour elements.
- Spices. The chicken marinade contains salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and oregano. The mixture is earthy, spicy, sweet, and savory.
- Sriracha. For a little heat.
- Vinegar. Vinegar helps break down the chicken, allowing it to easily soak up the marinade.
- Honey. Adds a touch of natural sweetness to the chicken marinade.
- Green Sauce. The delightfully zippy, herby, creamy, and sweet sauce pairs flawlessly with the chicken. The sauce is made of jalapeños, cilantro leaves, garlic, yogurt (or mayo if you need it dairy free), olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, salt, and honey.
- Blend the marinade ingredients together until smooth.
- Pat the chicken dry.
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Spread half of the marinade under the chicken skin.
- Add the chicken to the remaining marinade. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
- Make the green sauce: Blend the cilantro and jalapeño.
- Add the remaining sauce ingredients, blending until smooth. Let the chicken stand at room temperature prior to cooking.
- Bake Peruvian chicken for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F. Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F and cook for 15 minutes more.
- Broil for 1 to 2 minutes to crisp the skin. Let the chicken cool, then serve it with the green sauce. DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover chicken and sauce separately in airtight storage containers for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm chicken on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave—note that the skin will be less crispy if microwaving.
- To Freeze. Freeze chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. Prepare a fresh batch of the sauce.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, prepare the green sauce as directed. Cover and refrigerate it until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Shred leftover chicken and serve it over a bed of lettuce or cooked, cooled quinoa with the green sauce for a simple, delicious salad. Add your favorite mix-ins like cucumbers, tomatoes, or avocado.
What to Serve with Peruvian Chicken
Bring dinnertime to life with this show-stopping Peruvian chicken!
Between the juicy meat and vivacious sauce, it’s something special.
Frequently Asked Questions
The origin of Peruvian chicken is not fully known. Some sources state that it originated in the Andes Mountains, while others believe that it came from the Peruvian coast. Regardless of its specific history, it is a popular dish throughout the country.
With lean, protein-packed chicken and an array of herbs and spices, the chicken itself and the marinade are nutritious. The green sauce also contains calcium-rich Greek yogurt, antioxidant-rich olive oil, and additional herbs and spices. Chicken is less healthy when it is fried (Peruvian chicken is not).
If you’d prefer to make your chicken on the grill, you can certainly do so! Prepare the recipe as directed through step 6. Turn your grill to high heat. Just before adding the chicken pieces, reduce the grill to medium heat. Add the chicken pieces, shaking off any excess marinade. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, then flip the pieces over. Cook for an additional 10 to 13 minutes, until all the pieces are cooked through. If any of the chicken pieces reach 165 degrees F early, set them aside on a baking sheet and tent with foil. (See my Grilled Chicken Breast and Grilled Chicken Thighs for more chicken grilling tips.)
To make dairy-free Peruvian chicken, swap the Greek yogurt in the green sauce for mayo.
For the Green Sauce:
- 3 roughly chopped jalapeño peppers about 7 oz (see notes below for spice levels including varying amounts of seeds)**
- 1 cup packed cilantro 1 ounce
- 2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup whole milk plain greek yogurt use mayo to make dairy free
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice about 1 medium lime
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon honey
For the chicken marinade: In a mini food processor or high-speed blender, blend the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, honey, sriracha, and white vinegar until mostly smooth.
With paper towels, pat the chicken very dry on both sides. If using a whole chicken breast (which looks like a heart shape), see notes below to split it in half.
Sprinkle the chicken pieces all over (on the top and bottom of each piece) with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. With your fingers or a spoon, gently loosen the chicken skin from the flesh. Spread half of the marinade underneath the skin of the chicken pieces.
Place the chicken pieces and remaining marinade into a ziptop bag or large bowl and mix around to fully coat. Cover and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 8 hours (you can push the marinade to 12 hours, but at your own risk—the meat may start to break down somewhat because of the lime juice).
Make the Green Sauce: Add the jalapeño and cilantro to a blender (a regular blender or high speed will both work; you can also use a mini food processor, but the sauce will not be *as* smooth). Blend in long pulses until chopped.
Add the remaining sauce ingredients (garlic, yogurt, oil, lime juice, vinegar, salt, and honey) and blend for about 2 minutes, until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (The sauce is excellent served right away but the flavor will intensify and the sauce will thicken a bit if it sits in the fridge overnight.)
When ready to cook the chicken, place the oven racks in the upper third and center of your oven, and preheat the oven to 425°F. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for 15 minutes prior to cooking.
Using tongs, remove the chicken from the marinade (no need to wipe it off) and place it onto a rimmed baking sheet, skin side facing up. Discard any excess marinade left in the bag/bowl.
Bake the chicken on the center rack for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for an additional 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. It should register 160 to 165°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted at the thickest part (the FDA directions to cook to 165°F; I prefer to remove my chicken a few degrees early, as its temperature will rise as it rests). If any pieces finish early, remove them to a plate and tent with foil while you continue baking the rest.
Turn the oven to broil. Return any chicken you pulled off early to the pan. Transfer the pan to the upper third of the oven and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until the skin is golden and crispy. Keep a close eye on the chicken to make sure it does not burn. Don’t walk away!
Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the chicken to cool for 10 minutes. Serve with the green sauce.
- Authentic Peruvian Chicken: Use the same amounts of aji panca paste in place of the chili powder and aji amarillo paste in place of the sriracha.
- *Split Chicken Breast: If your split chicken breasts are HUGE compared to the thighs, you can cut them in half crosswise down through the bone into 2 smaller pieces so all of the chicken cooks in roughly the same amount of time. Place your knife firmly on top of the chicken and wiggle it slowly so you can break the bone and the knife doesn’t slip. (Note that a “split” chicken breast [how they are typically sold] is named that because it is half of an entire bone-in skin-on chicken breast—the whole breast looks like a large heart shape.)
- **Jalapeños and Spiciness Level: Wear gloves or wash your hands immediately after handling jalapeños, being careful not to touch your eyes too! Adjusting the sauce spice level: For max spicy, keep the seeds of 1 jalapeño; for medium spicy, keep the seeds of 1/2 jalapeño. For the least spice (but still spicy), omit the seeds entirely. Keep in mind every jalapeño’s spiciness varies. Sometimes they can be very spicy and other times barely spicy. I’d opt for less to stay on the safe side. But if you’re spicy-obsessed, add however many seeds you think you can handle.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover chicken and sauce separately in airtight storage containers for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm chicken on a baking sheet in the oven at 350°F or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. Prepare a fresh batch of the sauce.
Serving: 1 (of 6 pieces), with sauceCalories: 630kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 40gFat: 49gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gMonounsaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 155mgPotassium: 499mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 943IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 59mgIron: 3mg
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