These grilled chicken skewers are easy to make and so flavorful! The recipe was inspired by the anticuchos de pollo at Pisco y Nazca, one of my favorite Peruvian restaurants in Miami. Skewers are popular in Latin cuisine and are usually called pinchos, but the Peruvian version is called anticuchos and is often made with beef hearts, steak or chicken. I love the steak and chicken versions ;-).
Whether you call them skewers, pinchos or anticuchos, these grilled chicken thighs on a stick are fun party food and just perfect for a summer barbecue.
The Secret is in the Sauce
What makes these grilled chicken skewers so crazy delicious? It’s the Peruvian Aji Sauce served with it. When I order these at the restaurant, I always ask for extra sauce and would order a gallon of it to go if I could. It’s crazy because it’s such a simple sauce, but so good!
Aji is the Spanish word for pepper so it’s pepper sauce. Now, I don’t have the recipe for the aji sauce, but my son and I made our own version and it’s on point. (Can I just say how much I enjoy cooking with my son?!)
Peruvian peppers are the main ingredient in this sauce, but I could not find fresh ones in Miami, so I improvised with jalapeño and Fresno peppers instead. The other ingredients include garlic, shallots, olive oil, red wine vinegar, tomatoes, and lots of finely chopped parsley. You just mix all these together and you’ve got yourself some magic!
This chunky sauce is easy to make and very versatile. It looks more like salsa or Argentine chimichurri. You can use it as a marinade, dipping sauce or table condiment. Pour it over steak, chicken, shrimp, potatoes, salad, bread… you get the picture!
Marinating the Chicken Skewers
The key to flavorful chicken skewers is to marinate the meat overnight. If you don’t have that much time, try to at least marinate for four hours. This process is easy… just pour the marinade over the chicken and refrigerate, turning at least once so all the chicken pieces have a chance to bask in the sauce.
We used half a cup of the aji sauce for 3 pounds of chicken. This recipe is best made with chicken thighs, because they have more flavor and don’t dry out like chicken breast. Chicken thighs are pretty indestructible… you’d have to try really hard to overcook them.
We used boneless, skinless chicken thighs and left them whole. When it came time to skewer the chicken, my son folded each thigh into a C and threaded the skewer through both ends. If it’s easier, you can cut the thighs into large chunks.
One last thing… if you’re using wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in water for at least a few hours before using. Otherwise, the grill will burn them.
Grilling the Chicken Skewers
Now I have a confession to make… I don’t grill. I’ve always had help in that department, and I gotta tell you my son is an excellent grill master. He’s worked in restaurants for years and is an expert at cooking proteins. So, the instructions that follow are his… set the grill to the highest heat and let it preheat for at least ten minutes, preferably twenty. Place the skewers in the center. Cook until the meat gets nice and caramelized, about five minutes. Flip and cook the other side until it’s caramelized. Total time on the grill should be about eight to ten minutes, but times will vary based on your grill. Take these numbers with a grain of salt, because everyone uses a different grill and heat source, so use the times provided as a basic guide.
What to serve with Grilled Chicken Skewers
The anticuchos at Pisco y Nazca are served on a bed of fried potato slices that soak up all the juicy goodness of the chicken. I have the perfect recipe for these – they are my favorite accompaniment to the skewers! A generous pour of the aji sauce on top adds amazing flavor and brightness to the dish as well.
I also make some grilled onions and peppers to go with this meal and OMG, it’s amazing and very healthy to boot. Add some grilled slices of crusty bread to dip in the sauce. Or better yet, pour the sauce over the bread… you’ll thank me for it 😉Print
These tasty Peruvian chicken skewers are known as anticuchos or pinchos. Served with a zesty aji sauce and fried potato slices, they are perfect for summer grilling!
Aji Sauce and Marinade
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, salted and roughly chopped
½ bushel flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, with stems removed
½ Fresno pepper, finely diced and seeded (you can use more if you like spicy)
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons crushed garlic, (that’s about one head of garlic, maybe more depending on the size)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ cup Aji Sauce and Marinade
Aji Sauce and Marinade
Roughly chop the cherry tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and drain on paper towels. While the tomatoes are draining, pull out a mixing bowl so you can throw in the ingredients as you prep them.
Wash the parsley and dry with paper towels to remove excess water. Then remove the stems and finely chop. To remove the stems, you can use an herb stem stripper or just pinch the stem as you pull with your other hand. Finely chop the parsley and add to the mixing bowl.
Cut the fresno pepper in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and finely chop one of the halves. Save the rest for later. If you like a lot of spice, then use the whole pepper. Throw the diced peppers into the mixing bowl. Make sure to wash your hands after you’ve handled the pepper and do not touch your eyes!
Next, finely dice the shallots and toss them into the bowl. Peel the garlic cloves and use a garlic press to crush the garlic. If you don’t have a garlic press, just finely chop the garlic.
Add one cup of olive oil and a quarter cup of red wine vinegar. Throw in the drained tomatoes. Add the salt and pepper and taste. Add more salt and pepper if you need to. The sauce doesn’t quite live up to my hype at this point. It really needs to sit for a few hours to really shine! You’ll use half a cup for the marinade and save the rest to serve with the grilled chicken skewers.
Trim the excess fat from the thighs and place in a shallow glass container to marinate. You can also marinate in a Ziploc bag, but that can get messy if the zip is not secure. Whatever you do, don’t use metal, as that can affect the taste of the meat.
Pour half a cup of the aji sauce and marinate 4 hours or overnight. If the chicken thighs are not fully submerged in the marinade, make sure to turn them halfway through the marinating time.
If you’re using wood skewers, soak them while the chicken is marinating. This way, they won’t burn when you’re grilling.
Once the chicken is done marinating, take each chicken thigh and fold into a “C” shape and thread through skewer. Or, if you prefer, you can cut the chicken thighs into 2-3 pieces and skewer the pieces.
Set the grill to the highest heat and let it preheat for at least ten minutes, preferably twenty. Place the skewers in the center. Cook until the meat gets nice and caramelized, about five minutes. Flip and cook the other side until it’s caramelized. This should take about eight to ten minutes, but times will vary based on your grill. My son didn’t even want to give me a timing because it really varies, so use the times provided as a guide.
Plating Deliciousness: I love to serve these skewers on a bed of potato medallions. Place 3-4 potato slices in a row and top with one skewer. Spoon the aji sauce on top and you’re good to go. I usually serve these on a cutting board or long serving platter. It’s quite impressive!
Serving Suggestions: Serve these skewers with a tossed salad or grilled veggies, with a side of the dipping sauce. I will also serve grilled bread to to dip in the aji sauce.
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