Grilled Cilantro Chicken with Pickled Tomato and Avocado Salsa Recipe | Cook the Book


Even though there's plenty of snow on the ground where I am in Philadelphia, I couldn't let a week of West Coast-inspired recipes from The Sunset Cookbook go by without testing at least one of the countless grilling recipes featured in the book. So I put on my parka and headed out to fire up the grill and test out this recipe for Grilled Cilantro Chicken with Pickled Tomato and Avocado Salsa.

Freezing temperatures or not, this one was a winner. The bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts are marinated in a Mexican-inspired mix of chopped cilantro, lime, and cumin for about an hour. The garnish is a tomato and avocado salsa that I put together with some pretty blah January tomatoes and avocados. Luckily the salsa is spiced with a supercharged combo of spices and chiles plus brown sugar and vinegar—more than enough to turn even the blandest winter produce into something thrilling.

The first bite of charred chicken topped with the spicy, fresh salsa was kind of perfect for an evening when temperatures were steadily dropping way beyond the freezing mark. It was a welcome burst of summery flavors, and a testament to the fact that grilling doesn't have to be reserved for the warmer months.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Sunset Cookbook to give away this week.

Adapted from The Sunset Cookbook. Copyright © 2010. Published by Oxmoor House. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

Recipe Facts

Total: 90 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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  • For the salsa:
  • 1 pound medium beefsteak-type tomatoes, quartered and seeds squeezed out
  • 2 serrano chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 firm-ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • For the chicken:
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breast halves (2 1/2 pounds total)


  1. Make salsa: In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, chiles, and green onions. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring vinegar to a boil. Add brown sugar and salt and cook, stirring, until dissolved, about 1 minute.

  2. Remove from heat. Put ginger, garlic, and dry spices in a bowl. In another medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat until rippling. Add ginger mixture and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in seasoned vinegar, and pour over tomato mixture.

  3. Let salsa cool, then cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. About 1 hour before serving, stir avocados into salsa and bring to room temperature.

  4. Make chicken: In a large bowl, combine oil, lime juice, cilantro, cumin, salt, and pepper. Turn chicken in mixture to coat. Let stand at room temperature, turning occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes.

  5. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct high heat . Lift chicken from marinade (discard marinade) and grill (close lid on gas grill), turning often to prevent scorching, until no longer pink at bone (cut to test), 15 to 20 minutes.

  6. Transfer chicken to a platter and spoon salsa on top, saving half of liquid for another use (it makes an appealing salad dressing).

Special equipment