Chicken Inasal is easy to make yet delivers tons of flavor. Marinated in vinegar, calamansi juice, lemongrass, and achiote oil, and grilled to juicy perfection, this Filipino chicken barbecue is a guaranteed crowd pleaser!
I spent the early part of this year in the Philippines, and a good number of my meals in those months was Mang Inasal pecho with unli rice. One of my aunts brought me to the restaurant to try it, and I got forever hooked to their nuot sarap inihaw na manok!
I am now back in Texas with no restaurant branch for thousands of miles to feed my inasal cravings. Sob.
If you're like me and hankering for some juicy, flavor-packed Filipino BBQ, give this recipe a try. It's super easy and more budget-friendly to make at home yet just as tasty and delicious!
Chicken Inasal is a popular grilled dish from the Western Visayas region. It derives its distinctive flavor and color from a marinade made of vinegar, calamansi, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and atsuete oil. Other versions of the recipe also include Sprite or 7-up to add flavor and act as a tenderizer.
The chicken parts are usually skewered in bamboo and then grilled over hot coals to juicy perfection while basting with the oil.
How to make chicken oil
The orange-colored oil is a major component in the flavor profile of this Visayan dish. I use chicken skin and fat, but feel free to swap with vegetable oil to cut down on the cholesterol.
- In a wide pan over medium heat, place chicken skin, bottoms, and fat. Cook, stirring as needed until they begin to crisp and render fat.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the skins from the oil.
- Add atsuete seeds, crushed garlic, and bay leaf. Cook for a few minutes until the oil is evenly colored.
- Remove from heat and steep for about one hour to draw out more flavor and color. Strain using a fine-mesh sieve and discard aromatics.
- If using atsuete powder, stir about one tablespoon until well-dispersed. Strain using a fine-mesh sieve.
- Depending on the size, cut the whole chicken in quarters (two breasts and two leg quarters).
- Use a non-reactive bowl or resealable bags to marinate the chicken.
- Marinate for at least two hours up or four hours for the best results. Do not keep the chicken in the marinade for more than 8 hours lest the acids in the vinegar and citrus juice denature the proteins and turn the meat mushy.
- For food safety, divide the atsuete oil and use half for basting and the other half for serving.
- To check for doneness, insert a thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken without touching the bone. 165 F is the safe internal temperature for both dark and white meat.
- For moist meat, let the grilled chicken rest for three to five minutes to redistribute the juices.
How to serve
- Chicken inasal is commonly served for lunch or dinner with steamed rice along with condiments such as chicken/atsuete oil and calamansi-soy sauce mixture or sinamak (spiced palm vinegar).
- Store leftovers in a container with a tight-fitting lid and keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- To reheat, wrap in an aluminum foil and bake in a 350 F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes until heated. Alternatively, arrange chicken pieces in a microwaveable plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for about 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through.
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 head garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and grated
- ½ cup palm vinegar
- ¼ cup calamansi juice
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 (about 3 to 4 pounds each) whole chicken, quartered
For the Annatto Oil
- 1 pound chicken skins, bottoms, and/or fat
- ¼ cup annatto seeds
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and pounded
- 1 bay leaf
- Peel and/or cut away the dark, fibrous parts of the lemongrass until you get to the white and light green portions. Using a knife, finely chop lemongrass.
- In a large bowl, combine vinegar, calamansi juice, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk until well-blended.
- Add chicken and cover bowl. Marinate in the refrigerator for at 2 to 4 hours.
- In a wide pan over medium heat, place chicken fat and cook, turning as needed, until crisp and renders oil. Using a slotted spoon, remove skin and bottoms.
- Lower heat and add annatto seeds, crushed garlic, and bay leaf. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, turning as needed to prevent seeds from burning.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow the oil to steep for about 1 hour or until oil is infused with deep orange color. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain oil. Discard aromatics and set aside oil.
- Lightly grease grill grates and heat over hot coals.
- Drain chicken from marinade and scrape off any stray aromatics. Arrange chicken in a single layer over hot grates with skin side up.
- Grill chicken, turning once or twice and basting regularly with the half of the chicken oil, for about 30 to 40 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of chicken registers 160 F.
- Remove from heat, cover, and allow to rest for about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve hot with the remaining chicken oil and steamed rice.