Peruvian roast chicken is traditionally made with whole chickens on a spit, but you can recreate the deliciousness with your oven. A simple but flavorful marinade adds an extra layer of flavor. And don't forget the sauce on the side!
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Rotisserie chicken is popular in a few cultures, and it's easy to understand why. After all, it's a slightly less guilty-feeling take out food and tastes delicious. I always remember when I lived in Spain, walking past the "pollería" was tough as the smell was amazing.
While I didn't really go to the one near me, I did visit a pretty well known one in Barcelona a few times. We'd take our roast chicken to nearby Park Guell and enjoy it, looking across the city, on Gaudi's decorative seating.
Apparently pollo a la brasa accounts for 40% of the fast food market in Peru, according to this article, so it's fair to say it's a big thing there as well. But interestingly, it's actually a relatively recent creation.
A little history of Peruvian roast chicken
Peruvian pollo a la brasa as we know it today was created by two Swiss immigrants in the 1950s in a suburb of Lima. Roger Schuler had a chicken business and decided to try to expand his business by roasting and selling them.
While initially the chickens were turned by hand over the hot coals, this was obviously very labor-intensive. He soon employed a friend, Franz Ulrich, to help develop a rotisserie machine to make the process easier. The recipe has evolved over time and is now a firmly Peruvian dish.
While recipes vary slightly, pretty much all start by marinading the chicken and include at least some soy sauce in the mixture. Some also include lime and/or beer.
The other seasonings are generally relatively simple. It can be just salt and pepper, while others have cumin, garlic, a little chili and maybe herbs. Here I have gone for a relatively simple mix that all combine to give a gentle but delicious flavor.
What cut of chicken is best?
While you could use a whole chicken, as in the classic rotisserie, here I used just thighs. I find them a little easier to handle and they are a great, juicy cut.
I suggest thighs on the bone are better for flavor, plus you get that delicious crispy skin which for me, is a key part of the dish. You can swap to boneless (or other cuts if you prefer), just remember to adjust cooking time. Boneless thighs will take around 25 minutes to cook rather than 35-40 minutes.
Oven or grill cooking
While the name is often translated as "roast chicken", "a la brasa" actually means "grilled", since it's traditionally spit-roasted over hot coals. And you can absolutely cook the chicken on a grill/barbecue if you prefer. It will add another delicious layer of flavor to it.
The cooking time will be a little less, in general, on the grill so just keep an eye on it as it cooks. You want it to be cooked through but not drying out.
What to serve with pollo a la brasa
This is typically served with sides of fries and often a simple green salad. We went for a slightly more loaded-up salad with a honey-lime dressing which pairs really well flavor-wise.
You could use the chicken for sandwiches or pair it with vegetable sides as well. The main thing you don't want to skip is the aji verde (Peruvian green sauce) on the side. It really adds a fantastic extra flavor and is so easy to make.
Pollo a la brasa, Peruvian roast chicken, uses a relatively simple marinade to add a lovely extra depth of flavor and golden color as the chicken cooks. The green sauce on the side is the perfect accompaniment for an incredibly tasty, and easy main,
Try these other tasty chicken recipes:
- Aji de gallina (Peruvian chicken stew with a chili-cheese sauce)
- Za'atar chicken
- Grilled chicken gyros with tzatziki
- Musakhan (Palestinian sumac chicken)
- Plus get more main dishes in the archives.
Peruvian roast chicken - pollo a la brasa
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon oil (can use olive oil or vegetable oil)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I typically use low sodium)
- 1 teaspoon aji amarillo chili paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste, can omit if not using low sodium soy)
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon aji panca chili paste optional
- 2 lb bone in chicken thighs (or a little more)
- Crush or grate the garlic then mix it with the other marinade ingredients (everything apart from the chicken) in a container roughly the size of the chicken or a freezer bag.
- Add the chicken to the container/bag and toss to ensure it is well coated in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate to marinade overnight.
- When ready to cook, bring the chicken out of the fridge as you preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
- Place a rack over a baking dish or baking sheet/tray (I recommend lined with foil for easier clean up) then place the chicken pieces, skin side up, on the rack.
- Roast the chicken for around 40 minutes until cooked through and the skin is crisp. Serve with aji verde (Peruvian green sauce) and eg fries and salad.
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