Peruvian-Style Whole Grilled Chicken | The Food Lab

Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt. Video: Vicky Wasik

When it comes to Peruvian roast chicken—I'm talking the kind served at places like the Pio Pio mini chain—it's all about that 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.


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. For more on the basics of grilled chicken, check out The Food Lab: How to Grill a Whole Chicken.


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. That's a nice feeling.


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.

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