Costa Rican Pollo Asado

White platter with three grilled chicken breasts heaped on top.

Featuring onions, garlic, and Salsa Lizano, this Costa Rican pollo asado (grilled chicken) marinade is perfect for summer grill-outs! 

Pollo Asado Marinade Recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 3 lbs chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup Salsa Lizano
  • 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (aceite de oliva)
  • Salt
  • Sazon Completa (optional)

Instructions:

Butterfly your chicken breasts or pound them so that they are thin. Costa Rican style is generally to butterfly the breasts and then leave the center part attached. 

Slice your onion into large pieces and press your garlic cloves.

In a marinating dish sprinkle a bit of Salsa Lizano and olive oil on the bottom and place one layer of meat in the pan. Drizzle more Lizano and olive oil (or other cooking oil) on top of the meat and sprinkle in some of the garlic and onion. Shake some salt, pepper, and Sazon Completa (optional) all over the top.

Repeat this process until all of the meat is sandwiched between Lizano, oil, onion, garlic, and Sazon Completa powder. Cover the marinating dish and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours and it will be ready to grill.  

Once you are done marinating chicken, preheat your grill with the lid closed on medium-low heat until the internal temperature reaches 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Raise the grill to medium temperature, Remove the chicken from the marinade pan and place it on the grill for about 5-6 minutes. Then close the lid and leave it on for another 2-3 minutes.

Turn over and cook the chicken for another 5-6 minutes. Place all meat on a dish and cover. Let rest for 5-10 minutes- if you can manage it! 

While meat is resting, heat the tortillas on the grill and pretend you can’t smell the mouthwateringly juicy and flavorful grilled chicken that is actively calling out to you.

 

About Pollo Asado – Costa Rica

Pollo asado, or grilled chicken, is just one part of the great Costa Rican carne asada. Literally translating to “grilled meat,” the carne asada is an EVENT, and certainly not one to be missed! 

Much like an American barbeque, friends and neighbors will gather together for a grill-out with everyone bringing something along. Usually, someone gets the grill, someone brings the meat, someone has tortillas, and someone brings the homemade chimichurri. Everyone carries over a chair and sits around the grill, enjoying a drink and some conversation. 

Regardless of whether they take place in the mountains or on the beach, at noon or at night, Costa Rican carne asadas always feature three key elements: Good food, good music, and great company!

People use charcoal grills in Costa Rica, which means the grill takes a long time to heat up. I don’t know a ton about charcoal grills, but usually, someone brings an old hairdryer to the event to get the grill going. (Either that or a couple of people are on duty to fan the flames.)

You never light the grill until everyone is there- and everyone is on Tico Time, so that can take a while! Combine that with the amount of time it takes to get the grill going means everyone is super hungry by the time the first piece of meat sizzles on that grill. At that point, everyone ravenously descends on the meat with tortillas in hand. (Think: children at a birthday party storming a broken pinata.) You’ve got to get in there quick!

Oh- and another thing! Meat at a carne asada is always well done. We call it “chancleta“- like a sandal. There’s no medium-rare grilled meat happening here- it’s done or even more done. (Upside: no risk of salmonella!) Finally- a good carne asada has marinated steak, chicken, and sausage. This easy recipe is for the chicken marinade. 

Related Recipes You’ll Love:

It isn’t an official barbeque without some cocktails! Here are some drinks that go really well with the pollo asado recipe:

If you happen to have any leftover chicken, it can be turned into these other recetas de pollo (chicken recipes):

Substitutions

If you don’t have or can’t get Salsa Lizano, you can use Worcestershire Sauce. 

Variations

Some recipes call for vino blanco (white wine)- I think it sweetens the meat and I don’t really like it. Some people add soy sauce and achiote powder to their marinades, but we really don’t do that at Casa Pura Vida. 

You can use this marinade recipe for baked chicken as well. Stir together all of your ingredients in a large bowl and marinate whole chicken breasts in the resulting mixture. After they’ve marinated for two hours in the fridge, place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet (bandeja del horno) and bake for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Delish!

Serving Suggestions

You always serve carne asada with warm flour or corn tortillas, chimichurri, and beer- preferably Imperial.

If you want to make this a whole meal, I’d start with a shrimp ceviche, have some chips, salsa, and guacamole on hand, and maybe do a salad. Then pollo asado and chimichurri (a Costa Rican pico de gallo) with tortillas. Finish off with a tres leches cake or a torta chilena!

FAQ

1.) What temperature should chicken be before consuming? – Chicken is ready to go when its internal temperature registers above 165 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer.

2.) What does “pollo asado” mean? – Pollo asado is grilled chicken.

3.) Is grilled chicken good for you? – Grilled chicken is great! Chicken is lean and protein-packed, and grilling is a much healthier alternative to frying. 

Printable Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Costa Rican Grilled Chicken Recipe

Featuring onions, garlic, and Salsa Lizano, this Costa Rican pollo asado (grilled chicken) marinade is perfect for summer grill-outs! 

Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup Salsa Lizano
  • 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (aceite de oliva)
  • Salt
  • Sazon Completa (or other carne asada seasoning)

Instructions

  1. On a cutting board, slice the chicken into pieces that are about 2 inches by 3 inches. You want the pieces to fit on a tortilla when you are done.
  2. Slice your onion into large pieces and set aside.
  3. In a marinating dish, sprinkle a bit of Salsa Lizano and olive oil on the bottom and place one layer of meat in the pan. Drizzle more Lizano and olive oil (or other cooking oil) on top of the meat and sprinkle in some of the garlic and onion. Shake some salt, pepper, and Sazon Completa all over the top.
  4. Repeat this process until all of the meat is sandwiched between Lizano, oil, onion, garlic, and Sazon Completa powder. Cover marinating dish and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours and it will be ready to grill.  
  5. Preheat your grill with the lid closed until the internal temperature reaches 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the chicken from the marinade pan and place it on the grill for about 2-3 minutes. Then close the lid and leave it on for another 2-3 minutes.
  6. Turn over and cook the chicken for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Place all meat on a dish and cover. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
  8. While meat is resting, heat the tortillas on the grill.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 466Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 193mgSodium: 419mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 71g

Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

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