Rehydrated ancho and guajillo chiles are the base for this easy, flavorful marinade. Throw the chiles, some cumin, ginger, and a little water in a blender to make a smooth paste. Toss chicken thighs or drumsticks in the marinade and refrigerate overnight, or slap them on the grill right away. Serve this Mexican-style barbecued chicken with tortillas, guacamole, and a big margarita.

Special equipment: You’ll need a pastry brush or barbecue basting brush for this recipe.

  • Yields: 4 to 6 servings
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 30 mins
  • Active: 45 mins

Ingredients (13)

For the marinade:

  • 4 dried ancho chiles (about 2 ounces), wiped clean, stemmed, and seeded
  • 4 dried guajillo chiles (about 1 ounce), wiped clean, stemmed, and seeded
  • 1/2 cup water, plus more for soaking the chiles
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped peeled ginger (from about 1 [3-inch] piece)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks, or a mixture of both
  • Vegetable oil

For serving (optional):

  • Warm corn or flour tortillas
  • Guacamole
  • Hot sauce, such as Cholula or Tapatío
  • Lime wedges


  1. Place the chiles in a large bowl, add enough water to cover them, and let soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard the soaking water. Wipe out the bowl and set it aside.
  2. Place the drained chiles in a blender. Add the measured water, ginger, measured salt, cumin, and pepper and blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down the pitcher with a rubber spatula as needed, about 1 minute. (The mixture will be thick—don’t add extra water.) Transfer 1/3 cup of the chile purée to a small bowl and set it aside.
  3. Place the chicken in the reserved large bowl, add the remaining chile purée, and, using your hands, rub it into the chicken until evenly coated. At this point you can cook the chicken right away, or cover and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.
  4. When ready to grill, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium (about 350°F to 450°F).
  5. When the grill is ready, rub the grates with a towel dipped in vegetable oil. Place the chicken on the grill skin-side down and season with salt. Cover the grill and cook until grill marks appear on the bottom of the chicken pieces, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken, season with salt, cover the grill, and cook until grill marks appear on the second side, about 5 minutes more.
  6. Flip the chicken again and, using the reserved chile purée, brush a thin coating over the chicken. Cover the grill and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and lightly brush the chicken, and then continue to flip and brush every 5 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest piece reads 160°F to 165°F and the meat near the bone is no longer pink, about 10 to 15 minutes more (about 25 to 30 minutes total cooking time). Remove the chicken to a clean serving platter and serve with tortillas, guacamole, hot sauce, and lime wedges, if desired.