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El Pollo Loco Chicken Recipe (Copycat)

El Pollo Loco Chicken Recipe (Copycat)

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Marinated overnight in pineapple juice and citrus, this El Pollo Loco Chicken Recipe will be enjoyed by everyone. El Pollo Loco Copycat is really easy to make and has all the classical flavors needed.

Have you experienced El Pollo Loco in your area? I believe it might be a mostly West Coast chain of Mexican fast food. I recall my mom picking it up when I was little and enjoying the juicy chicken stuffed in a tortilla. It was absolutely so simple but always so delicious. Eventually, she developed an outstanding recipe. This really is just excellent chicken.

I really enjoy simple recipes that don’t take much preparation, and this really is one of them. This El Pollo loco chicken is excellent because the marinade takes five minutes to make, and you are able to just throw the chicken in and just forget about it. 

El Pollo Loco Chicken is not easy to explain if you haven’t tried it. There is a specific citrus flavor, but there’s also an absolute chicken quality to it. I used to observe them make El Pollo Loco chicken on my break while looking forward to being done.

And what I saw is they put a steel press on top of it. You don’t need to do this, but it is the better way to acquire a delicious crispy skin on the chicken.

Does El Pollo Loco refer to the crazy chicken?

El Pollo Loco (Spanish for “The Crazy Chicken”) is the name of two independent restaurant chains that specialize in Mexican-style grilled chicken. Both were founded by Juan Francisco Ochoa. He established the first El Pollo Loco restaurant in Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico, in 1974.

 El Pollo Loco Chicken

What to serve with El Pollo Loco Chicken?

Yes, this El Pollo loco chicken is great on its own. However, the best way to serve it is to add some macaroni and cheese on the side and some warm, delicious tortillas. 

Important Notes For El Pollo Loco Chicken Recipe

  • It is true that El Pollo Loco uses coloring. Yes, El Pollo Loco uses food coloring. They get it done to help make the chicken look better. This has no effect on the flavor, so I left it out but noted it in this recipe.
  • Chicken is marinated for a long period of time. That’s why it’s so rich in flavor without adding any sauce!
  • You are able to cook it using your stovetop, too, if you do not wish to bake, but be careful that you don’t burn the chicken skin too much. The flavor of the crispy chicken skin is crucial to the El Pollo loco recipe.

el pollo loco chicken recipe (copycat)


  • 1 Tbsp of white vinegar
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp of ground pepper
  • 1/4 of jalapeno seeded, minced
  • 1 cup of pineapple juice
  • 2 Tbsp of lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp of canola oil
  • 8 chicken thighs, bone-in

How to make El Pollo Loco Chicken Recipe (Copycat)

  • Combine all the ingredients, with the exception of the chicken, using a large bowl.
  • Whisk the ingredients nicely, then save 1/4 of the cup of marinade in a small Tupperware.
  • Place the chicken into the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let marinate overnight.
  • Heat the oven to 425F.
  • Using a cast iron pan for grilling, place the chicken skin side up—Cook for about 25 minutes in the oven.
  • Turn the stovetop on medium heat and add the pan using potholders.
  • Use the canola oil spray to spray the foil, and put the sprayed side down over the top of the chicken.
  • Now press the chicken either with a foil-wrapped brick or bacon press or using another pan.
  • Pour the rest of the marinade that you’ve saved over the chicken while it cooks.
  • Cook for about 2-3 minutes and take away the bacon press, flip the chicken, pour more marinade, and cook your final 2-3 minutes before ready to serve.

El Pollo Loco Chicken Video Recipe

If you’ve liked this El Pollo Loco Chicken, you must try these popular copycat recipes below:

El Pollo Loco Avocado Salsa Copycat recipe

Popeyes chicken sandwich recipe
KFC Chicken Littles recipe (Copycat)
McDonald’s Chicken McGriddles (Copycat)
Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis and Burgerville Fried Asparagus with Garlic Aioli (Copycat)

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12 thoughts on “El Pollo Loco Chicken Recipe (Copycat)”

  • I had my first El Pollo Loco chicken in Los Angeles in my twenties. Loved it then and couldn’t find it in my part of Northern California. Finally found one but it’s over an hour from home so this recipe is just the best. Now I can have it at home. Thank you for sharing.

  • At El Pollo Loco, they flame grill (bbq) their chicken. If I was to BBQ it, would it still taste as good?

    • Hey Melissa, absolutely! I’ve tried BBQing and it turned out perfectly. The flavor is just a bit different, and some of my friends prefer to BBQ this Pollo Loco Chicken.

    • Hey Stephanie, sorry for the late reply. Yes, you sure can, however, I prefer to leave the skin on because it gives it a crunchy texture and nice flavor.

  • Love your recipe. This is our first time. Going to bake in the oven.
    Can you tell me what temperature and for how long. Also cook covered or uncovered.

    • Hey Edward, I’m glad you’ve liked it. For the baking part, set the temperature to 425F (Uncovered). However, to get the best results, you should finish it on the stovetop, for the best results.

  • I first had El Pollo in 1988. The grocery stores used to sell the seasoning in an envelope and you just add the liquid. I have used this recipe many times. I’m wondering how long I could keep it in the fridge if I make a larger batch.

    • Hello Robyn,

      Thank you for sharing your memories of El Pollo Loco chicken from 1988! It’s lovely to hear you’ve been enjoying it for a long time.

      Concerning your question about storing a largerer batch of the El Pollo Loco chicken: If you’ve already cooked the chicken, it can generally be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. If you’re referring to marinating a larger batch of chicken using this El Pollo Loco recipe, it’s best to marinate for no more than 24-48 hours for optimal taste and safety. After marinating, you can cook the chicken and then store any leftovers in the fridge.

      I hope this helps! If you have any other questions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

      Happy cooking!

      Best regards,


      Cooking Frog

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