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Salsa-Grilled Chicken Thighs

Salsa Grilled Chicken Thighs on a plater garnished with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.
Photograph by Shawn Michael Jones, Food Styling by Thu Buser, Prop Styling by Stephanie De Luca

These grilled chicken thighs are inspired by chilate de pollo, a Mexican stew that relies on dried chiles for subtle smoky flavor and heat. I use two kinds—earthy guajillo and fiery dried pequin—in a tomato-based salsa with a biting, lingering heat. This salsa does double duty, working as both a marinade and a glaze. There’s no need to soak the guajillos before simmering, though be sure to remove the seeds beforehand.

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What you’ll need

Recipe information

  • Total Time

    50 minutes

  • Yield

    4–6 servings


2 large plum tomatoes
1 medium onion
6 guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
15 dried pequin chiles, stems removed
6 garlic cloves, peeled
4 dried or fresh epazote leaves
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¾ tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more
2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Vegetable oil (for grilling)
Cilantro leaves with tender stems and lime wedges (for serving)


  1. Step 1

    Combine 2 large plum tomatoes, 1 medium onion, and 6 guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed, in a small saucepan; pour in just enough water to cover. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so mixture is at a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a blender. Add 15 dried pequin chiles, stems removed, 6 garlic cloves, peeled, 4 dried or fresh epazote leaves, 2 tsp. dried oregano, and 1 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¾ tsp. Morton kosher salt; cover and purée until smooth. Let salsa cool 10 minutes.

    Step 2

    Season 2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs all over with salt; place in a medium bowl. Pour half of salsa over; turn to coat. Cover and chill at least 45 minutes and up to 12 hours. Place remaining salsa in a small bowl; cover and chill until ready to use.

    Step 3

    Prepare a grill for medium-high heat; oil grate with vegetable oil. Remove chicken from salsa, letting excess drip back into bowl; transfer to a plate. Discard salsa used for marinating. Grill chicken, basting occasionally with remaining salsa and turning halfway through, until cooked through and lightly charred, 10–12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter. Brush with remaining salsa and top with cilantro leaves with tender stems. Serve with lime wedges.

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