Yucatán-Style Chicken with Achiote (Pollo Pibil)

  • Serves

    serves 4-6


Marinated in a crimson achiote-and-citrus marinade and served with pickled onions, this chicken dish is eaten all over the Yucatán. It gets an additional layer of flavor from the banana leaves that line the inside of the pot, but should you opt not to use them, the result will still be delicious. This recipe first appeared in our August/September 2012 issue with Mauricio Velazquez de Leon's article Queen of the Yucatán.


  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 13 cup fresh lime juice
  • 14 cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • 4 oz. achiote paste, such as El Yucateco (available at
  • 1 (3–4-lb.) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 (28"-long) frozen, thawed banana leaves (optional)
  • Pickled red onions, for serving
  • Warm tortillas, for serving
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Warm tortillas, for serving


Step 1

Combine juices, achiote paste, and salt in a blender, and purée until smooth, at least 2 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer into a medium bowl; set sauce aside.

Step 2

Line the bottom of a 6-qt. Dutch oven with 2 crisscrossed banana leaves, if using, letting the excess hang over the side of the pot. Add chicken pieces to pot, and pour over sauce. Tear remaining banana leaf into small pieces, and scatter over top of chicken. Fold excess of banana leaves over top of chicken, and place lid on pot. Place pot over medium-high heat, and bring sauce inside to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes.

Step 3

To serve, uncover pot and peel back banana leaves. Divide chicken among serving bowls, discarding pieces of banana leaves, and serve with plenty of sauce from the pot, along with pickled onions and tortillas, if you like.

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