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Sara's Chicken AKA Pollo al Horno

5/29/2013 *Sara-Marie* 10 Comments

I learned how to cook by watching my Mami. For as long as I can remember, I was always with her in the kitchen, standing on a stool or sitting on the counter, watching her every move. We would often pretend to be hosting a cooking show and would talk through the steps of the meal we were creating to our imaginary audience. We were pretty awesome, my Mami and me.

When I could finally reach the stove without the help of a stool, I was in charge of making dinner for our family about once or twice a week. The first official meal I was taught how to make was pollo al horno or simply, baked chicken. Now my mother NEVER cooked from a recipe. It was always a little bit of this and a little bit of that, a taste test here and there, and of course an extra dash of something - just in case. I did know the usual ingredients in her baked chicken, so I started experimenting with my own adaptations, until 15+ years later I've landed on my own version of pollo al horno, which is now just called "Sara's Chicken."

This is my go-to chicken recipe and I make it at least twice a week. I'm sure every Puerto Rican family has a version of this chicken as well, but it has always been a big hit with my non-Puerto Rican family and friends. I've been asked for the recipe for a very long time, but it's just always been so hard to put together. I still make this chicken without measuring and it comes out a little bit different every time. There are some nights when I'm a little off and some nights when my husband licks the plate clean. But I guarantee it's always yummy.

So today is your lucky day. The last couple of times that I've made this chicken, I've been trying to take note of how much of everything I use so that I could share at least a base recipe with all of you. I would like to disclose that this is still just a guess. I leave it up to you to tweak this recipe to fit your palate and to also use your own culinary instincts. If you think it would be delicious with a little extra of something else - be my guest. Go wherever the wind leads you!

Now, onto the recipe!

Sara's Chicken AKA Pollo al Horno

Recipe Ingredients:
  • 2-3 pounds of chicken (any cut, or even a whole chicken)
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 2 capfuls of white vinegar
  • 1 TBSP of homemade adobo (or store-bought Goya)
  • 1/2 TBSP of homemade sazon (or 1 packet of store-bought Goya)
  • 1 TSP of dried oregano
  • 1/2 TSP of ground pepper
  • 1 handful of fresh Italian parsley
  • pinch of salt (if needed after taste test, see below)
Recipe Directions:
Step 1: Preheat the oven. (*See Step 5 below for temperature and cooking times depending on cut of chicken). Combine all ingredients, minus the chicken, into a food processor and process until a smooth marinade is created.

TIME OUT: Up until I got my efficient little Ninja processor, I used the old school pilรณn (mortar and pestle). The one pictured below was handmade in Puerto Rico and was given to me by my grandmother. I still use it when I have more time on my hands and I want to feel authentic :)



Step 2: Once combined, taste the marinade before you put it on the chicken. Does it need a little extra pinch of salt? Pepper? Sazon? Parsley? Add it! Don't be afraid.

Step 3: Pour marinade over chicken. Today, I used chicken tenderloins since my goal was to use these to make quick salads and wraps throughout the week.
Step 4: Using tongs, toss until well coated. Or if you don't mind dirty hands, rub it with your bare (clean) hands. That's the way I used to do it until I got engaged and I didn't want my ring to get dirty. Mami is convinced that it tastes better when you massage the chicken with a little bit of love.

Step 5: Cover with aluminum foil and bake until done.

*Temperature and Approximate Cooking Time:
Chicken Tenderloins - 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until done
Chicken wings, drumsticks, bone in thighs - 375 degrees for 1 hour or until done
Whole chicken - 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hours -2 hours or until done
Step 6: Uncover, flip (optional), and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Since I didn't want the chicken breast tenderloins to get dry, I only cooked uncovered for 5 minutes. Typically, I let it go uncovered for 7-10 minutes so it gets a nice little crust, especially if you're cooking chicken with skin. Yum.
Step 7: ENJOY! After the chicken is nice and brown, remove from the oven, let rest for a few minutes and plate your meal!

As I mentioned earlier, this is a standard seasoning base that I use all the time, with many different types of chicken parts. Here are a few examples:
 Adding peeled, cut potatoes right at the beginning of the baking process is ALWAYS a good idea. The potatoes soak up all of the flavors of the marinade and will be amazingly delicious. I do this often.
Chicken wings are also pretty popular around here. This particular night I paired it with some roasted spaghetti squash and drizzled some of the chicken sauce from the pan over the squash. SO. GOOD.
And of course, the whole chicken. If you're making a whole chicken, I would probably double the recipe of the marinade and bake the chicken breast side down. This allows the breast to bake in the marinade and get REALLY juicy. Oh and if you didn't notice, the picture above is a raw whole chicken. It looked a little bit more appetizing after being in the oven for almost 2 hours. :)

So there you have it. Please try this recipe and leave your thoughts in the comments below. Hope you love it as much as we do!

Oh and this seasoning blend goes well with pork too!


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  1. I'm looking forward to giving this a try! I found your blog when I was looking for a substitution for Adobo and Goya Sazon. I try to avoid MSG whenever possible, but I also try to reduce the salt. I plan to try your seasoning recipes soon. I just need to find the annato...

    1. So glad you found us! Good luck with the recipes and finding the annato

  2. I made this last night and we all were amazed at how yummy it was. I used 3.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs. I mixed up the marinade, tossed it with the chicken and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to marinate. In my large roaster I diced 3 lbs russet potatoes and 2 lbs sliced carrots. Put chicken on top. I needed to bake it for closer to 1 hour 15 minutes, until veggies were soft.

    1. Awesome - so happy it turned out yummy for you guys too! I've been making this for so long that I typically don't measure anything so was hard actually coming up with a recipe for others to follow!

    2. I'm glad you were able to get it in writing so you could share. I am looking forward to making this again and again. By the way, I bought flat leaf parsley for this recipe but I was tempted to substitute some fresh spinach or cilantro (both of which I had on hand). Have you ever tried any other greens?
      I've looked in several stores for the annatto, may end up having to order it online. I used an envelope of sazon this time, but I'd much rather make my own so I can reduce the salt and skip the msg. i made your Adobo Seasoning the other day, but only added 1 tablespoon of salt. I really like it a lot! Yummy on a hard boiled egg.

    3. Cilantro would be a delicious substitute for the parsley! I'm not too sure about the spinach though. Glad you liked the adobo - I sprinkle that on everything! Hope you can find the annato soon. FYI - since I've written that post, I've learned that ground annato works better (unless you have a spice grinder for the seeds). If you're going to have to order online, you may want to consider the ground annato instead! Good luck!

  3. Just looking through your recipes to get some ideas. The chicken sounds yummy! I was wondering how you do your spaghetti squash as far as cooking it and seasoning? I've only done it once and it turned out okay, but it's always nice to have flavor variety!

    1. Hi Whitney! This chicken is a keeper for sure! For spaghetti squash, I typically will cut in half, remove seeds, coat in a bit of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then i place the halves cut side down and roast for 30-45 mins (depending on size) in a 400 degree oven. Then once it's done, I scrape out the insides and will season it some more depending on what I'm using it for. Good luck!

  4. This is simply beautiful food! Sometimes, even when the recipe in itself sounds just alright, the picture just overwhelms you completely!

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