Tangy Achiote-Rubbed Grilled Chicken Tacos

June 10, 2019 (Last Updated: February 18, 2020)
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These easy Grilled Chicken Tacos marinate in a tangy combination of orange juice, apple cider vinegar, achiote/annatto and other spices. They are truly a breeze to make! This recipe yields a super juicy and flavorful grilled chicken perfect for loading up your tacos!

overhead view of 2 grilled chicken tacos with guacamole on corn tortillas

I have a legitimate obsession with Mexican food. I really need no excuse to indulge in one of my favorite cuisines. Whether it’s Taco Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday… You get the picture. I’m always on the hunt for great taco recipes, and these grilled chicken tacos definitely fit the bill. They are easy enough to whip up on a weeknight. Marinate them overnight in this tangy achiote/annatto infused marinade laced with chile powder, Mexican oregano, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and orange juice.

Achiote-rubbed grilled chicken cut into cubes

Although the original recipe calls for skin-on chicken thighs, I lightened it up a bit with chicken tenders instead. They were still incredibly juicy and delicious! I love it when I can substitute white meat for dark meat and still yield super moist chicken. Grill and then chop the chicken into small pieces. This intensely marinated chicken is definitely the star of the dish.

side view of 2 grilled chicken tacos with guacamole on corn tortillas

We served our tacos with creamy guacamole and charred, smoky tomatillo chipotle salsa. The salsa is so good! We continued dipping our tortilla chips in the remaining salsa long after the tacos were all gone. A combination of tomatillos, tomatoes, onion and garlic are charred. They they’re blended with smoky, spicy chipotles in adobo and a generous handful of chopped cilantro. The charred, smoky flavor of this salsa goes really well with fire-kissed grilled chicken tacos.

Salsa in a glass bowl

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2 grilled chicken tacos with guacamole on corn tortillas on a white plate

How do you prefer your tacos? Do you like them with grilled chicken, slow-cooked beef, veggies, or fish? Share your favorite tacos in the comments!

Chicken tacos with salsa and guacamole

Tangy Achiote-Rubbed Grilled Chicken Tacos

These easy Grilled Chicken Tacos marinate in a tangy combination of orange juice, apple cider vinegar, achiote/annatto and other spices. They are truly a breeze to make! This recipe yields a super juicy and flavorful grilled chicken perfect for loading up your tacos!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Marinating Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 50 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 12 tacos (serves 4 to 6)
Calories 181 kcal


Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa:

  • About 6 tomatillos husked, washed, and dried
  • 1 Roma tomato 4 ounces
  • 1/4 white onion peeled but with root end intact (or use a shallot instead)
  • 3 cloves garlic unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons chipotles in adobo
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro roughly chopped

Chicken Tacos:

  • 2 pounds skin-on boneless chicken thighs or chicken tenders
  • 2 tablespoons ground annatto seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chile powder preferably arbol
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Corn tortillas warmed


For the salsa:

  • Turn on the fan over the stove. Line a large cast iron skillet or heavy griddle with aluminum foil and set over high heat.
  • Roast the tomatillos and tomatoes on all sides until well charred and soft, turning as few times as possible. Roast the onion, cut side down, until it begins to soften and has a few black spots, turning it several times. Roast the garlic, in skins, turning a few times, until black spots appear.
  • Cut the onion into several pieces. Peel the garlic. Place both in a blender along with the chipotles, roasted tomatillos and tomatoes (and any juices), and salt. Cover and let the vegetables steam for 5 minutes, to bring out the juices. Pulse to make a fairly smooth salsa with a little bit of texture. Add the cilantro and pulse a couple more times to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. Pour the salsa into a bowl and serve. Makes about 2 cups.

For the chicken tacos:

  • Put the chicken in a large, heavy duty zip top plastic bag. In a small bowl, combine the annatto seeds, allspice, turmeric, chile powder, salt, oregano, agave nectar, garlic, vinegar, and orange juice and mix well. Add the spice mixture to the chicken and seal the bag closed. Massage the contents of the bag to coat both sides of the chicken evenly with marinade. Alternatively, put the chicken in a glass or ceramic bowl, add the spice mixture, turn the chicken to coat evenly, and cover with plastic wrap. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or up to overnight, turning the chicken a few times to marinate evenly.
  • Prepare a medium fire for direct heat cooking in a grill. Bring the chicken to room temperature and remove them from the marinade.
  • Place the chicken, skin side down, on the grill rack directly over the fire and cook, turning after about 10 minutes. Cook for another 10 minutes on the other side. If the chicken is starting to burn or cook too quickly, move to a part of the grill with indirect heat and continue to cook. The chicken is done when an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165 degrees F.
  • Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and chop into small pieces, leaving the skin on. Serve the chicken with the tortillas, salsa, and toppings of your choice.

Notes & Nutrition

  • Make your own chiles de arbol chile powder: stem and seed dried chiles de arbol and grind them up in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
  • The salsa is great on its own as a dip for tortilla chips!
  • This recipe uses kosher salt (aka cooking salt, kitchen salt, coarse salt outside of the US). If you are using table salt, definitely scale down the salt as that is a saltier type of salt! The type of salt will make a big difference in how salty your food tastes, so keep that in mind.
Tacos adapted from Tacolicious; Salsa adapted from Salsas and Moles
Servings 12.0 * calories 181 * Total Fat 8 g * Saturated Fat 0 g * Monounsaturated Fat 0 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 0 mg * Sodium 702 mg * Potassium 108 mg * Total Carbohydrate 15 g * Dietary Fiber 3 g * Sugars 4 g * Protein 14 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*

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cubed chicken, and 2 grilled chicken tacos with guacamole

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Mary Kabakian
    April 7, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    5 stars
    Absolutely love these tacos!

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