El Pollo Loco Chicken (Copycat)

8 Servings
Prep Time 8 hours
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 8 hours 30 minutes

El Pollo Loco Chicken marinated in citrus and pineapple juice overnight for the PERFECT El Pollo Loco copycat recipe!

El Pollo Loco Chicken marinated in citrus and pineapple juice overnight for the PERFECT El Pollo Loco copycat recipe!El Pollo Loco Chicken is hard to describe if you’re not local to the restaurant. There is a definite citrus flavor, but there is also a definite brick chicken quality to it. I used to watch them cook the chicken on my lunch hour while waiting for my food, I’d see them put a metal press on top of it. While you don’t HAVE to do this, it is the best way to get a delicious crispy skin on the chicken.

And if you’re an old school El Pollo Loco Chicken lover like I am, pair this with El Pollo Loco BBQ Black Beans (Copycat) for the perfect meal!

The perfect El Pollo Loco Chicken copycat recipe, marinaded in citrus and spices overnight.

Looking for more copycat Mexican recipes?

Or perhaps you want more chicken copycat recipes!

Some important notes about this El Pollo Loco Chicken:

  • Yes, El Pollo Loco uses food coloring. They do it to make the chicken look better. This adds nothing to the flavor so I left it out but notated it into the recipe for you.
  • They marinade the chicken for an extended period of time. That is why there is so much flavor in the chicken without any sauce! The flavors are similar to this Slow Cooker Cuban Mojo Pork.
  • Yes, you can and should make this in the slow cooker too! I do it all the time. When done I just crisp under the broiler for a minute then shred into tacos. Tastes like chicken carnitas.
  • You can cook it through on your stovetop too if you don’t want to bake, but careful you don’t burn the skin too much. The flavor of the pressed crispy skin is vital to el pollo loco.

Tools Used in making this El Pollo Loco Chicken recipe:
Grill Pan: Love this for cooking and pressing foods, the grill marks are great without having to go outside and be in nature. 🙂
Grill Press: I use this for bacon, chicken, stuffed foods, rolled foods, etc. A great kitchen tool.
Pig Tail Flipper: I use this to flip the chicken without damaging the skin and its super easy. I use this tool EVERY time I cook something that requires flipping, it is amazing.

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El Pollo Loco Chicken (Copycat)

El Pollo Loco Chicken marinated in citrus and pineapple juice overnight for the PERFECT El Pollo Loco copycat recipe!  
Yield 8 Servings
Prep Time 8 hours
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 8 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 jalapeno seeded and minced very finely
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 8 chicken thighs bone in and skin on


  • Mix up all the ingredients except for the chicken into a large bowl.
  • Whisk well then reserve ¼ cup of the marinade in a small tupperware.
  • Add the chicken to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Marinade overnight.
  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a cast iron grill pan add the chicken skin side up.
  • Cook in the oven for 25 minutes.
  • Using potholders, add the pan to the stovetop on medium high heat.
  • Spray some foil with canola oil spray and put sprayed side down over the top of the chicken.
  • Press onto the meat with either a bacon press, a foil wrapped brick or a second heavy pan (I used my normal cast iron skillet on top of the chicken.
  • Spoon half the reserved marinade over the chicken while it cooks.
  • Cook for another 3 minutes then remove the bacon press/brick, flip chicken (add some more marinade) and cook a final three minutes before serving.


In the authentic recipe yellow food coloring is added. This adds nothing to your dish, but if you want to add it, use 6 drops.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 281kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 110mg | Sodium: 233mg | Potassium: 270mg | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 90IU | Vitamin C: 4.9mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 0.9mg
Keyword: El Pollo Loco Chiken (Copycat)
The perfect El Pollo Loco Chicken copycat recipe, marinaded in citrus and spices overnight.
El Pollo Loco Chicken marinated in citrus and pineapple juice overnight for the PERFECT El Pollo Loco copycat recipe!

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. Wow! I’m so glad I found this recipe! This is an excellent El Pollo Loco Copycat Recipe! It tastes so good – Instead of adding food coloring to get that “El Pollo Loco Orange color”, I brushed on some Catsup and Siracha Sauce near the end of baking my Chicken Wings and they tasted so good! Yummy! ?

  2. While I agree with other reviews that this doesn’t taste like El Pollo Loco, it doesn’t matter to me because the marinade is delicious! I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and marinated them overnight. Put in the air fryer at 400° for 8 mins a side, and had juicy, super flavorful chicken. We had chicken soft tacos and the whole family devoured them. This is my new go to chicken marinade.

  3. The marinade recipe is 100% incredible. Love it. Just wondering about options to the oven grilling and pan frying method as it is very messy. I followed the directions and got very good results.

    How about grilling on the barbeque?

    But my big concern is, if I grill on an outdoor grill, am I missing out on the marinade (spillage) that got added in the final two steps of the oven-to-stove-top recipe?

    My only (and there is only one) concern is for the process for oven-to-stove-cook-top which seemed a bit messy.

    1. I haven’t tested this recipe using a grill. Since “messy” is a factor, I’m wondering if you lined the grill with foil to capture the drippings would be helpful? Fold up the edges of the foil to create a “faux” grill pan? If you try the grill, let us know how it turned out!