Chipotle Buttermilk Grilled Chicken

I’ve been sold on marinating chicken in buttermilk for a while- for fried chicken, it makes the meat tender, and the crust, which for me is the whole point, crispy. For a long time I used smoky paprika as the spice, with garlic powder and whatever other random spices. Then I saw a jar of leftover chipotle chilies in the fridge, and wondered what would happen if I used them. Miracles, that’s what.
Well, maybe not miracles.
I had opened the can for soup or something- pulling out one of the chilies to puree with tomatoes from my garden. You don’t have to use the entire can at once- the rest can go into a jar in the fridge. Not forever, obviously, but it can be stored.

Chipotles are jalapeno peppers that have been ripened, then smoked. They can be purchased dried, in bags, or canned with adobo sauce. They are hot and smoky and rich tasting. For me, jalapenos are just heat, with no depth. Chipotles have depth. Also, the tang of the buttermilk calms down the heat- you can adjust the proportion of chilies to buttermilk until you get a level you like. That is what I’ve been doing since March.

As this recipe has evolved, I take “a few” chilies, with sauce, and mix them with “some” buttermilk and “some” salt.  It depends on how much chicken you are doing. In these pictures, it was 3 chilies, 1 cup of buttermilk and a pinch of kosher salt. This was more than enough for a whole young chicken that I cut up to grill. In these photos, I put the mixture underneath the skin, which made the skin extra crispy, and the meat very moist- even the breast meat.I have also used this with “convenience” frozen skinless chicken breasts, and it is good with that, too.


Chipotle Buttermilk Chicken

Chicken parts and pieces- I used a whole chicken that I cut up

2 or 3 chilies in adobo

1 cup buttermilk

generous pinch salt


Puree the chilies and salt, add buttermilk and blend well


I used my stick blender to puree everything.

Thanks to the Boy for taking this picture.


Pull the skin away from the meat, and pour the marinade between the skin and meat. Yes, this is gross, but it tenderized the meat and crisps up the skin. It is easiest on breasts and leg quarters. With the wings, I just tossed them in the buttermilk mixture.

Marinade for an hour or so.

Set up a gas grill or charcoal grill for indirect heat- that is, outer burners on, inner burners off, put the chicken in the center, lid down. Or, on a charcoal grill, pile your charcoal on one side, put the meat on the other side.

Place chicken skin side down and cook for around 15 minutes, then flip and cook until a thermometer reads 165.

Yummy. Smoky and crispy, and hot, without being painfully hot.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Felecia
    Jul 20, 2012 @ 22:29:42

    I love chipotle…this sounds SOOOOO yummy…I’m going to have to try it!!!


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