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The Perfect Copycat Chipotle Chicken Recipe

After reviewing dozens of copycat Chipotle Chicken recipes and comparing notes with previous Chipotle employees, I’ve created the most accurate Chipotle Chicken recipe for you to recreate at home. Many other Chipotle copycat recipes are missing key ingredients or cooking techniques. This recipe is the closest you’ll get to the real thing!

Copycat chipotle chicken recipe

Ingredients

Serves: 2 (scale up as needed)

  • 1 pound | 454g boneless/skinless chicken thighs

Adobo marinade:

  • ½ ounce | 14g dried morita chipotle chiles
  • ½ cup | 118ml boiling water
  • ½ teaspoon | 2.5ml Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base (reduced sodium)
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon | 15ml distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons | 30ml neutral oil
  • ½ teaspoon | 2.5ml ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon | 2.5ml Mexican oregano, crushed in the palm of your hand
  • ½ teaspoon | 2.5ml ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Toast the dried chipotle chiles in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant and the skin begins to bubble. Flip frequently to avoid burning. This should take about 5 minutes. Transfer chiles to a cutting board and let them cool off until you can handle them. Remove the seeds from at least one chile, or more if you prefer it less spicy. Remove any thick stems from the chiles.
  2. Meanwhile, mix boiling water and Better Than Bouillon in a heat-proof container. Set aside.
  3. Add the chiles to the bouillon stock and allow them to soften for at least 5 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Add the chiles, bouillon, and all remaining adobo ingredients to a high-powered blender or food processor and blend until very smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.
  5. Add chicken to a bowl and pour adobo over the chicken, then using gloves, mix thoroughly to combine, ensuring the chicken is completely covered in adobo. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
  6. Preheat 2 tablespoons of a high heat oil in a stainless steel, carbon steel, or cast iron pan over medium-high heat, until the oil just begins to smoke. Make sure to turn on the vent/range hood and open some windows, this will create a “pepper spray” effect. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, remove from marinade, let any excess marinade drip back into the bowl, and carefully lay flat-side down into hot oil. It is okay to crowd the pan, but you may have to work in batches depending on how much chicken you are cooking and how big your pan is. Cook over medium-high heat until the first side is well-charred (spotty black, but not fully black), about 5-10 minutes. Flip and cook the same on the other side. You want to err on the side of overcooking here.
  7. Once the chicken is fully cooked and both sides are well-charred, transfer it to a cutting board and allow to rest for just 5 minutes. Once rested, cut the chicken lengthwise into 1/2-3/4″ strips, then align strips and cut perpendicular into 1/2-3/4″ cubes. Move all cubes and any juices into a bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. This step is crucial. Before serving, mix everything up to coat the chicken in all of the juices.

Technique

Adobo

Chipotle gets their adobo marinade in a bag. It comes to the store pre-made, so nobody really knows what’s all in it, besides what’s listed on their website, which I used as a reference for this. You can find the same ingredient list on their website as well.

Copycat chipotle chicken adobo ingredients recipe

Chicken

Chipotle uses boneless/skinless chicken quarters. These are legs and thighs still attached. If you can’t find these, use boneless/skinless thighs.

Chipotle Chiles

Make sure you use the “morita” variety and not the “meco”. The morita chiles are dark purple, smaller, less smoky, and softer. The meco are light tan, larger, smokier, and more stiff. There are several good places to buy Chipotle Morita online. If you can only find meco, it will still taste great, but not the same. Leaving all of the seeds intact does make it spicier than what’s served at Chipotle, so that’s why I suggest removing the seeds from at least one chile (scale this up as well if you scale up everything else). You can adjust the spiciness as needed by removing more or fewer seeds and any large ribs.

It’s my belief that Chipotle does not use anything similar to “canned chipotles in adobo”, but instead makes their own basic adobo from dried chipotles. I’ve tried both methods, and starting with canned chipotles in adobo does taste different than actual chipotle. It’s still good, but just not the same. If that is all you can find, then you can use 2 tablespoons minced per pound of chicken, room-temp water, and skip steps 1 and 2.

Bouillon

The Better Than Bouillon is certainly not used by Chipotle, but I will explain why I included it here. For starters, I think it’s a safe assumption that if chipotle is using chicken stock in their adobo, then they have included that in their ingredient list by just including “chicken” and “water” as ingredients. Technically, the Better Than Bouillon contains other ingredients that are not listed on their website, but it’s not anything drastic. Also, I know that many of you on this sub use Better Than Bouillon anyway, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal to include it. Worst case, just omit it and use straight water, but maybe add slightly more salt if you do. I’ve never tested this without using the bouillon. If you have a basic homemade or boxed chicken stock, then by all means, use that instead.

Oil

When I say “neutral” oil, I mean something that is refined and light in color, like vegetable oil. Chipotle lists sunflower oil, but I don’t think that’s worth a special purchase. I have not tested that though.

Oregano

I think dried Mexican oregano is key here. I have tested it with standard Greek oregano, and it is very different. When I say to “crush in the palm of your hand”, that should be pretty self-explanatory. The goal is to break up the large pieces first, and the smell should immediately hit you when you do this. If it doesn’t, your oregano is old and should be replaced.

Salt

The salt amount seems quite high, and it is, but a lot of that salt will be left behind in the blender and bowl. Chipotle uses Morton kosher salt, so if you do that, you should reduce the amount by 25%, or 1.5 teaspoons or 6g per pound of chicken. You must use the exact type of salt here if you’re going to use volume measurements.

Marinating

I will often only marinate for about 2 hours, and it’s good. Chipotle marinates their meat for up to 24 hours, so this is the ideal amount of time.

Cooking

Chipotle uses a large flat-top griddle. I have a Blackstone 36″ griddle that I use outside, which is ideal, but not practical or possible for many people. I reccommend cooking this chicken over charcoal. This will alter the flavor of your chicken for the better.

Resting

After cutting the chicken into pieces, Chipotle covers the pan with plastic wrap and puts it into a warming cabinet that is set to 165F, where it will sometimes sit for hours. You do not need to go to this extreme, but wrapping the bowl with the hot chicken and letting it sit for at least 15 minutes is absolutely critical here. Not doing this will produce a completely different texture.

Tips from Former Chipotle Employees

A cheap and quick method for chipotle chicken:

Buy a can of chipotle peppers in adobo. Take out the peppers(or keep them in and chop them up if you want to go crazy with heat), then place chicken in a bag with it and marinate for a few hours. Get a surface plenty hot, spray or wipe with canola or vegetable oil, six minutes on each side, cut, and serve!

Two notes, as a former Chipotle employee (2 1/2 years):

Color after the first flip should be Dr. Pepper in depth. Charring means you’ve gone too far. Always do skin side down first, I think that’s what you meant by “flat-side down”. There shouldn’t be excess marinade to drip off but I would guess that’s probably due to the difference in consistency. Chipotle’s marinade is a thick paste, it does not drip.

From a former GM:

Don’t let the chicken sit. Chipotle does not intend for the chicken to sit in warmers unless the volume of business or other factors necessitate, that is usually employees cutting corners and cooking too much chicken to make their job easier (I don’t begrudge them, chipotle treats them like shit). It can happen sometimes, but if you go to a good Chipotle at peak hours, the chicken is going from the grill, to the cutting board, and out on the line almost immediately.

The chicken tastes way better when it’s right off the grill and most people don’t get to experience this consistently.

Copycat chipotle chicken recipe

Copycat Chipotle Chicken

Michael Kahn
This at-home Chipotle Chicken recipe is full of smokey adobo flavors and plenty of spice. Made with the advice of former Chipotle employees, this is as close to the real thing as you can get!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Marinating time 2 hrs
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
 
 

  • ½ ounce | 14g dried morita chipotle chiles
  • ½ cup | 118ml boiling water
  • ½ teaspoon | 2.5ml Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base reduced sodium
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon | 15ml distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons | 30ml neutral oil
  • ½ teaspoon | 2.5ml ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon | 2.5ml dried Mexican oregano crushed in the palm of your hand
  • ½ teaspoon | 2.5ml ground black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Toast the dried chipotle chiles in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant and skins begins to bubble, flipping frequently to avoid burning. This should take about 5 minutes. Transfer chiles to cutting board and let them cool off until you can handle them. Remove the seeds from at least one chile. More if you want it less spicy. Remove any thick stems from the chiles.
  • Meanwhile, mix boiling water and Better Than Bouillon in heat-proof container, set aside.
  • Add the all chiles to bouillon and allow to soften for at least 5 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  • Add the chiles, bouillon, and all remaining adobo ingredients to a high powered blender or food processor and blend until very smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.
  • Add chicken to a bowl and pour adobo over chicken, then using gloves, mix thoroughly to combine, ensuring chicken is completely covered in adobo. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, ideally 24 hours.
  • Preheat 2 tablespoons of a high smoke point oil in a stainless steel, carbon steel, or cast iron pan over medium high heat, until oil just begins to smoke. Make sure to turn on the vent/range hood and open some windows, this will create a “pepper spray” effect. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, remove from marinade, let any excess marinade drip back into bowl, and carefully lay flat-side down into hot oil. It is okay to crowd the pan, but you may have to work in batches depending on how much chicken you are cooking and how big your pan is. Cook over medium-high heat until the first side is well-charred (spotty black, but not fully black), 5-10 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until second side is well-charred, 5-10 minutes. You want to err on the side of overcooking here.
  • Once chicken is fully cooked and both sides are well-charred, transfer to a clean bowl and allow to rest for just 5 minutes. Once rested, move to cutting board, cut length-wise into 1/2-3/4″ strips, then align strips and cut perpendicular into 1/2-3/4″ cubes. Move all cubes and any juices back into bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. This step is crucial. Before serving, mix everything up to coat the chicken in all of the juices.
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