Smoky Mexican Pulled Chicken

Well. here it is! The only chicken recipe you will ever need for all your Mexican food needs. Delicious eaten on its own, in enchiladas or tacos, on salads, in soup… or any of your other favorite Mexican recipes. When cooked on bulk on the weekend, it makes for extremely quick and easy weeknight cooking, which is exactly what I did: I made this on Sunday, and have since made tortilla soup and plan on making burrito bowls for dinner this week!

Smoky Mexican Pulled Chicken 2

I set out to recreate Chipotle’s grilled chicken to make homemade burrito bowls (chicken, beans, salsa, guacamole, etc. all piled on top of cilantro lime brown rice) and, after doing some research on copycat recipes, found myself without a vital ingredient: chipotle peppers in adobo. I was a bit torn about what to do on Sunday afternoon when I started to make this, because Zach and I had made a commitment to have as relaxing a weekend as possible after a particularly difficult week at work. And the only place close to us that had the key ingredient was… (commence Darth Vadar music) Market Basket.

If any of you are from the Boston area, you probably know that Market Basket on a Sunday afternoon is not exactly a “relaxing” place. On any given day or time, you will find yourself unable to push a cart down the aisles and waiting at least 20 minutes in line to check out. On a Sunday afternoon, it may as well be that the Zombie apocalypse is upon us and every person residing within a 10-mile radius of Market Basket is stocking up for survival.

And so, I improvised!

Smoky Mexican Pulled Chicken 3

Canned chipotle peppers in adobo are an excellent ingredient to have in your pantry, and next time I  see them I’m definitely going to stock up (not for the Zombie apocalypse- but just because they are tasty). This time, however, to get a similarly smoky taste, I substituted with smoked paprika, and was incredibly pleased with the results.

So pleased, in fact, that I ended up nibbling on quite a bit of it as I was shredding the chicken. And so did Zach. Oops!

Smoky Mexican Pulled Chicken 4

I plan on making this very frequently from now on, and next time I make it I will probably make a double batch so I can put some in make-ahead frozen burritos. Is next week too soon to do make it again? I think not :-)

Smoky Mexican Pulled Chicken
This chicken is juicy and bursting with smoky flavor. Enjoy on its own with a side of rice and beans or use in enchiladas, burritos, salads, tacos, tortilla soup... or any other favorite mexican dish that requires chicken!
  • 1 lb chicken breasts and/or thighs
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for skillet
  • juice of one lime
  1. Cut breasts / thighs in half, so you have pieces about two-three inches wide.
  2. To make marinade, mix spices, garlic, olive oil, and lime juice in a gallon-sized ziplock bag or container.
  3. Add chicken to marinade, seal and shake bag to coat, or stir in container and cover. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or as long as overnight.
  4. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet (one or two tablespoons) on medium-high heat. Add chicken; sear on one side and do not flip until seared. Flip to other side and sear, until chicken is cooked through (approximately 3-4 minutes on each side). Since you will be shredding the chicken anyway, feel free to cut into it to check for doneness :-)
  5. Remove from heat; shred with two forks to use in your favorite mexican dish.
Calories: 1167 Fat: 58g Saturated fat: 10g Unsaturated fat: 43g Carbohydrates: 15g Sugar: 2g Sodium: 501mg Fiber: 5g Protein: 143g Cholesterol: 386mg


  1. says

    This looks so fantastic. I love mexican food (or at least what masquerades for mexican here in Australia) but it always has so much cheese that I feel like I am eating way too much fat for it to be a healthy part of my diet… So will definitely being trying this one out. It looks so easy as well

    • says

      I hear you on masquerading Mexican food… we don’t have ANY good Mexican places in Massachusetts. My husband is from Texas and has a refined palette for Mexican food, so we make all of ours at home. It really is super easy, I hope you enjoy it! Let me know how it turns out! :-)

  2. says

    Loved this recipe and included it in my Friday Foodie Faves post on my blog where I share my favorite recipe finds from around the web.

  3. josh says

    Thanks for posting. I’m definitely going to make this. I picked up the smoked paprika but did also find the chipotles in adobo sauce. Any idea how much would be right for this recipe?

    • says

      Hi, Josh! I don’t know how many peppers to use from experience, but whenever I use chipotle peppers I generally stick with about two for a whole recipe for a medium-level spice. If you want to try them, I would substitute the smoked paprika for two finely chopped chipotle peppers plus a little spoonful of the sauce. Keep in mind- this will make it both smoky AND spicy! If you don’t like things very spicy, use one pepper with more sauce and if you want to up the ante, add three. Hope this helps and hope it comes out delicious!! Let us know if it works! :-)

  4. Elizabeth C says

    This is delicious! I have made it for myself and for my parents. One time I did a substitution of lemon juice for lime juice and it also came out beautifully.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: