Peruvian-Style Grilled Chicken With Green Sauce Recipe

Peruvian-style grilled chicken with green sauce.

Melissa Hom

Why It Works

  • Butterflying the chicken ensures that it cooks evenly on the grill, even without a rotisserie.
  • A vinegary, spice-filled marinade evokes the best restaurant versions of the dish.
  • Using mayonnaise as a base for the spicy, tangy green sauce makes it creamy and rich. A mix of jalapeños and ají amarillo peppers bring fruity heat.

This Peruvian-style grilled chicken is a recipe I back-hacked from the awesome chicken and green sauce they serve at Pio Pio in NYC. The basics are simple: Butterflied chicken with a vinegar and spice rub gets slow-cooked on the grill, then quickly cooked directly over the coals to crisp the skin. It comes out tender and juicy, and goes perfectly with a simple spicy and creamy sauce made with jalapeños and ají amarillo peppers.

When it comes to that kind of Peruvian roast chicken, it's all about the green sauce, right? I mean, sure, the tender chicken, kissed with the smoke of a live fire and a hint of spices and garlic, is pretty damn good on its own, but it's that green sauce—spicy, tangy, and cooling—that keeps us coming back for more, right?

Luckily, the sauce is not too difficult to make: a tangy mayonnaise base, pepped up with a squeeze of lime juice and lemon, along with the heat of fresh jalapeños and a big handful of cilantro. The key is to season it pretty heavily. When made right, it will have a powerful but balanced combination of salty, acidic, spicy, and creamy elements. It's great on grilled chicken, awesome as a salad dressing, perfect for dipping fries into, a nice accompaniment to grilled corn, and excellent drizzled over grilled chicken hash the morning after.

Peruvian grilled chicken marinade in a small metal bowl on a wooden cutting board.

J. Kenji López-Alt

The best Peruvian roast chicken restaurants cook their chickens on rotisseries, slowly rotating in front of a live flame, fat rendering out from the skin and dripping around and through the meat, distributing flavor and ensuring that the chickens cook evenly. Fortunately, we already know that you don't need a rotisserie to get moist, crispy results from your home grill. All you've got to do is butterfly the bird.

Once you've perfected the basic grilled chicken recipe, the jump to a perfect Peruvian-style grilled chicken is pretty simple. The key is the right marinade. Cumin, paprika, and garlic (freshly minced, please!) are all typical ingredients, as is vinegar. I like to add plenty of salt and black pepper and a couple of tablespoons of oil to make a paste that I can rub all over the chicken.

A spatchcocked chicken held in place with a skewer and rubbed with spice mixture for Peruvian grilled chicken.

J. Kenji López-Alt

From there, I simply follow my typical grilled chicken procedure—a low, slow start on the cooler side of the grill, with the skin side up, until the skin has dried out and started rendering some of its fat, then a finish over the hot side of the grill, skin side down, to crisp and char it.

Grilled Peruvian-style chickens on a cutting board next to green sauce.

J. Kenji López-Alt

Make sure to make extra sauce, because you're gonna want it on everything.

2:16

Recipe Facts

4.5

(36)

Active: 30 mins
Total: 60 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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Ingredients

For the Sauce:

  • 3 whole jalapeño chiles, roughly chopped (see note)

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) ají amarillo pepper paste (see note)

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (1 ounce; 28g)

  • 2 medium cloves garlic

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) sour cream

  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) fresh juice from 1 lime

  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) distilled white vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Chicken:

  • 1 whole chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds (1.6 to 1.8kg)

  • 4 teaspoons (20g) kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons (30g) ground cumin

  • 2 tablespoons (30g) paprika

  • 1 teaspoon (5g) freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) white vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable or canola oil

Directions

  1. For the Sauce: Combine jalapeños, ají amarillo (if using), cilantro, garlic, mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, and vinegar in the jar of a blender. Blend on high speed, scraping down sides as necessary, until smooth. With blender running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauce will be quite loose at this point, but will thicken as it sits. Transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate until ready to use.

    Photo collage: blending ingredients for Peruvian chicken green sauce in a Vitamix blender.

    Melissa Hom

  2. For the Chicken: Pat chicken dry with paper towels and place on a large cutting board, breast side down. Using sharp kitchen shears, remove backbone by cutting along either side of it. Turn chicken over and lay out flat. Press firmly on breast to flatten chicken. For added stability, run a metal or wooden skewer horizontally through chicken, entering through one thigh, going through both breast halves, and exiting through other thigh. Tuck wing tips behind back.

    Photo collage: Cutting out backbone and crushing breastbone to butterfly a whole chicken and using skewer to support.

    Melissa Hom

  3. Combine salt, cumin, paprika, pepper, garlic, vinegar, and oil in a small bowl and massage with fingertips until homogeneous. Spread mixture evenly over all surfaces of chicken.

    Photo collage: Mixing ingredients for Peruvian chicken marinade and rubbing all over butterflied chicken before grilling.

    Melissa Hom

  4. Light 1 chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over half of coal grate. Alternatively, set half the burners of a gas grill to high heat. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate.

    Charcoal being poured into grill from a starter for Peruvian grilled chicken.

    Melissa Hom

  5. Place chicken, skin side up, on cooler side of grill, with legs facing toward hotter side. Cover grill, with vents on lid open and aligned over chicken. Open bottom vents of grill. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers 110°F (43°C). Carefully flip chicken and place, skin side down, on hotter side of grill, with breasts pointed toward cooler side. Press down firmly with a wide, stiff spatula to ensure good contact between bird and grill grates. Cover and cook until skin is crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers 145 to 150°F (63 to 66°C), about 10 minutes longer. If chicken threatens to burn before temperature is achieved, carefully slide to cooler side of grill, cover, and continue to cook until done. Do not leave the lid off for longer than it takes to check temperature, or chicken will burn.

    Photo collage: Grilling a whole Peruvian-style chicken on the grill, first on cooler side with legs facing coals; then flipped and pressed down on hotter side of grill.

    Melissa Hom

  6. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Carve and serve with sauce.

    Whole grilled Peruvian-style chicken resting on cutting board before carving.

    Melissa Hom

Special equipment

Grill, blender, instant-read thermometer, metal or wooden skewer

Notes

For a less spicy sauce, remove the ribs and seeds of the jalapeños before puréeing. Ají amarillo is a Peruvian yellow pepper paste that can be found in most Latin markets. It can be omitted.

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