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The word Adobo comes from the Spanish adobar, to marinate. Our Mexican-Style Adobo and Hot and Smoky Adobo blends are inspired by this tradition, and they contain some of the basic elements of the Mexican adobo sauce used to marinate meat or chicken.
This Mexican Chicken Adobo recipe is perfect for tacos, enchiladas, atop a salad or as part of these Chicken Adobo Tostadas with Citrus-Cabbage Slaw.
Seasoning the chicken overnight or at least a few hours before cooking is a key step. I used to sometimes skip that step until I read my friend Samin Nosrat's book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. In it she elegantly teaches the difference it makes when you salt your meat ahead of time. Flavors become deeper and more delicious. Do it!
The Guajillo chiles add a fruity chile flavor without adding any heat, while the optional Pasilla de Oaxaca adds a layer of smokiness and umami. The resulting chicken has a negligible heat level. If you want something spicier, try using Hot and Smoky Adobo or spicier dried chiles, such as Chipotle or Sun-Dried New Mexican Red Chiles.
Oftentimes, a traditional chile sauce will be pushed through a sieve to remove the texture from the chiles and create a smooth, silky liquid. But sometimes, as in this recipe, I like a thicker texture and choose to skip this step. You just want to make sure your blender is strong enough to grind down any little bits of chile skin.
Apple cider vinegar makes this chicken nice and zingy. Taste when it's done and add a little more if it needs more tartness. I often top the chicken with something pickled or a citrus-based slaw to build on that flavor.
This chicken can also be made in an Instant Pot! See my notes below the recipe. This doesn't necessarily save time, but I find the chicken is a little more juicy when made in the Instant Pot. It falls apart and shreds a little easier.
Also, a note about serving sizes: Since I usually make this for tacos or tostadas, a pound of chicken serves four. If you're using the chicken for a salad or a burrito bowl, a pound might not go quite as far.
Mexican Chicken Adobo
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast2 tablespoons Mexican-Style Adobo1 teaspoon salt3 Guajillo chiles1 Pasilla de Oaxaca (or a fourth Guajillo)2 tablespoons tomato paste3 garlic cloves¼ cup apple cider vinegar1 cup chicken stock 1 tablespoon olive oil
Season the chicken on all sides with salt and Mexican-Style Adobo.
Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375.
Prepare the sauce: Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles. Cover with boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove the chiles and add to a blender or food processor. Discard the water. Add garlic cloves, vinegar, tomato paste and chicken stock to the blender and process until smooth.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken to the skillet. Brown for about 2 minutes per side to develop some caramelization. Pour the chile sauce over the chicken, making sure to nestle the chicken so it’s completely covered in sauce.
Roast, covered, in the oven for 40 minutes.
Remove the chicken carefully from the sauce and shred with two forks (or wait for it to cool and shred it with your hands).
Meanwhile, place the Dutch oven over medium-high heat on the stovetop and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced by half, about five minutes. Add the shredded chicken back into the sauce and taste. Add salt or vinegar if needed.
In the Instant Pot:
Set the Instant Pot to sauté and add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and brown as directed above. Pour the sauce over the top and seal the pot. Set to pressure cook for 20 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally. Carefully open the pot, remove chicken and shred.
Meanwhile, return the pot to sauté setting and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces by half, about five minutes.
Add the shredded chicken back into the sauce as directed above.