Grilled Ancho Chicken Tacos

27th April 2020

The grilled chicken tacos we (normally) serve at Wahaca are a huge favourite, and luckily they’re also perfect for cooking up at home, especially with BBQ season upon us.

The combination of sweet ancho chilli, subtle Mexican spicing and crispy grilled chicken is a delight.  At home you can segment a whole chicken to have bones leftover to make a stock, or you can use chicken thighs.

If you can’t get hold of whole ancho chillies, we’ve included a simpler dry rub using pimenton, a wonderful Spanish smoked paprika.


1 chicken, segmented, or 8 chicken thighs

Ancho marinade (see below)

Corn or flour tortillas (2-4 per person, depending on size)

1 bunch spring onions

A small bunch coriander

2-3 limes, cut into wedges

Guacamole or a roast salsa, or ideally both

For the marinade

2 ancho chillies

1 tbsp black peppercorns

1 small cinnamon stick

1 tbsp cumin seeds

10-12 cloves

2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

2 large tbsp soft brown sugar

2 tsp salt

1 tsp dried oregano

2 large cloves garlic, or 3-4 smaller ones, crushed

4-5 tbsp vegetable or olive oil


First, make the marinade. Open up the ancho chillies like a book and discard the stem and seeds.  Toast for 30-40 seconds a side in a hot dry frying pan until smelling fragrant, then cover with boiling water and leave to rehydrate for 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, get out all the spices.

Briefly toast the spices in the same dry frying-pan and then grind to a powder in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar.  Work the salt, oregano and garlic into the spices to create a paste.  Now drain the ancho chillies and pound them in too (in the mortar, or a small food processor).  Finally add the oil.

Rub over the chicken pieces and marinate for a few hours, or overnight.  Heat the coals in the BBQ (or heat a char-grill).  Grill the chicken pieces for 20-25 minutes, turning to grill all over.  At the same time peel away the outer leaves from the spring onions and rub in oil, salt and pepper.  Grill over the coals for 5-8 minutes until beautifully blackened.  Arrange on a plate and squeeze over the juice of half a lime.  Heat up the tortillas on the BBQ, cut the chicken into slithers and put out on a table with the lime wedges, coriander, guacamole and salsas.

Tommi’s note: Do NOT worry if you are missing a few of the spice mix, just make the quantity up with what you have – i.e. fennel and coriander seeds are delicious; allspice if you are lacking clove or cinnamon – whatever mix you use will be delicious!

Not able to get your hands on Ancho chillies? Try this simple dry rub alternative


1 tbsp ancho powder (optional)

2 tbsp hot smoked paprika

1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika

2 tsp cumin powder

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1.5 tbsp soft brown sugar

1 tsp dried oregano,

Lots of freshly ground black pepper


Mix together and set aside.  Combine with 3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil when you are ready to cook.

Written by Beth Palmer

Passionate about Pork Pibil tacos, Beth is Wahaca's Senior Brand Manager, often spotted with her dog Seb by her side.

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