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Panamanian Chicken Achiote

May 25, 2011

Some of you may recall that last year the Lady and I honeymooned in Panama. I hear you ask many questions and here are the important answers: a) we love diving b) it was uber-nice c) yes, I ate a lot of food. Ceviche, sea food and great Caribbean style cooking were coming out of our ears! As with all these wonderful place we get to travel to, faithfully reproducing the dishes is often harder than you’d hope. So, this is really a recipe to substitute Achiote – often associated with Mexico, but the Panamaniacs have their own version. This recipe comes to you after a lot of research and testing… so may not be quite as exact as I remember, but it’s still great! And, as always, any suggestions on how to improve it further are most welcome!

Serves quite a few… I use this to marinade about 1 Kg of chicken wings or thighs or legs.


  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 3 tsp Hot Paprika
  • 3 tsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tsp ground Cumin
  • 2 tbsp Chilli Apple Jelly (or apple jelly with 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes)
  • Ron/Rum

Tomato Salsa

  • Lime juice from on lime
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 pack of cherry tomatoes
  • large handful of coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli
  • Salt and Pepper

Get Cooking

For the marinade: combine everything apart from the Rum. Mix into a relatively thick paste and cover the chicken in it. Leave in a fridge over night to marinade, or a couple of hours at room temperature if you’re in a rush.

For the salsa; chop everything up and combine. Yes, that really is it. Taste it, though! Always taste it.

Brown the chicken wings/thighs/legs on the barbecue and mix in a good glug of rum into the remaining marinade and use it to baste your chicken.

A quick note on barbecues… some people really struggle with these but this is the most important rule of thumb; if you can hold your hand over the grill for 5 seconds without screaming like a girl, you’re good to go. I always have a cooking side and a warm side – my BBQ also has a hood so it can act as an oven. However, if you are nervous about cooking chicken under the stars, then have the oven at about 160 and put them in for a good 30 minutes after browning them on the grill.

Serve with the salsa and a very cold beer.

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