Chicken Braised with Ancho Chiles

Pollo en Ajo Comino - Ancho Chiles, Garlic, and Cumin in Bowl

“Traditional” and “simple” rarely belong in the same breath when it comes to Mexican recipes, but if you can find ancho chiles, this braised chicken recipe makes great weeknight fare without being light on flavor. It’s the antithesis to festive Mexican dishes that have several sub-recipes — you only need a few spices, pantry staples, and fresh tortillas.

When selecting ancho chiles, look for pliability and a shiny dark exterior. Holding it up against light will reveal a reddish-brown hue. Since poblano chiles are naturally mild and sweet, its dried version in ancho chiles lend a similar quality to sauces and moles.

recipe adapted from Diana Kennedy’s Essential Cuisines of Mexico

Pollo en Ajo-Comino
Chicken Braised in Ancho Chiles, Garlic, and Cumin

makes 6 to 8 servings

Pollo en Ajo Comino - Ancho Chiles, Garlic, and Cumin

4 ancho chiles, veins and seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
12 black peppercorns
1 whole clove
1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
4 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 1/2-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces


  • A molcajete and tejolote (mortar and pestle)
  • A blender
  • A heavy pot


  1. In a small skillet, cover the ancho chiles with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then soak for another 5 minutes. Drain.
  2. Using a molcajete or mortar, grind the cumin, black peppercorns, clove, salt, and garlic. Add about 1/4 cup of water to form a thin paste.
  3. Blend the soaked ancho chiles with 3/4 cup of water until smooth.
  4. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season lightly with salt.
  5. In a heavy pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Fry the chicken pieces until pale gold, about 5-6 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
  6. Immediately add the cumin and garlic mixture to the pot and cook for about 3 minutes while stirring constantly.
  7. Add the pureed ancho chiles and cook for another 3 minutes while scraping the bottom of the pot constantly.
  8. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and return the browned chicken pieces to the pot. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Braise while uncovered for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally.
  9. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Pollo en Ajo Comino - Ancho Chiles, Garlic, and Cumin in Pot

To Serve:

Serve warm with freshly made tortillas.

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31 Responses to “Chicken Braised with Ancho Chiles”

  1. Rosa says:

    What a gorgeous speciality! I really love the beautiful color of that sauce…



  2. hanne says:

    I love dishes like this, especially for the winter– they don’t take too much prep time, and they just sit there on the stove getting tastier and tastier. Plus ancho chilis have great flavour. I’ve been noticing them getting more attention lately– have you?

  3. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    What are you trying to do to me?!! That looks fabulous!
    I’ve really got to get her book. It’s been on my list forever. I’ve checked it out of the library twice.
    I love the simple part of this but this is also my favorite chili kind of flavor!

  4. kang says:

    Oh my what a great recipe :D found you via stumbledupon and am so glad! Your pictures are really awesome too made me so hungry just looking at them!

    kang @

  5. Manggy says:

    Ooh, I’ve been hearing of Kennedy’s book lately. Looks excellent. Unfortunately, it’s the main spice– ancho chilies– that are hard to find here!

  6. sweetbird says:

    Oh man that looks tasty. If only I could get my husband to eat meat off the bone…

  7. Jen (Modern Beet) says:

    this looks delicious! the color of the sauce is beautiful too. Seeing as I have all the ingredients on hand, I am definitely going to try this very soon.

  8. Cynthia says:

    Actually, I do happen to have some ancho chiles and will definitely make this this week. Thanks Jude!

  9. PaniniKathy says:

    Now that I think about it I think I do have a mortar and pestle somewhere around here – what a great way to put them to use! The chicken looks amazing!

  10. shalini says:

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  11. Adam says:

    The color on the chicken is simply amazing. It looks dark, mysterious and just has this thick rich coating on it. I’m like craving chicken now, dude. :)

  12. cheryl says:

    all ingredients are in my kitchen and ready to go. yahoo!

  13. Marvin says:

    The color on that sauce looks amazing, jude!

  14. Food Find Daily- Anco Chile Chicken says:

    [...] of this chicken stopped me dead in my tracks. It looks like the perfect Fall evening meal. Jude at Apple Pies, Patis and Pate sure seems to know his way around a heavy bottom sauce pan and some ancho chiles. The recipe only [...]

  15. maris says:

    This sounds great…I really like mexican food but I can’t stand all the heavy sauces and cheeses that usually come to mind at the thought of mexican food.

    I’m definitely bookmarking this – I’ve been wanting to give braising a try for awhile!

  16. snookydoodle says:

    interesting recipe. :)

  17. Jescel says:

    hmmnn. this looks so good… i would eat this with rice, but of course! :o )

  18. Y says:

    Wow now that’s what I call a sauce!

  19. HoneyB says:

    Sounds so easy and looks so delicious!

  20. Soma says:

    Beautiful color. I guess its becoz of the ancho & cumin. Would love to have this with with a bowl of warm fluffy rice.

  21. Nicisme says:

    Anything with Ancho chillies gets my vote, looks good indeed!

  22. Hanne – Ancho chiles are great. They’re pretty much available everywhere now.

    Tanna – Checked out twice? Usually a sign that it’s time to go to Amazon.

    Sweetbird – What the? Usually it’s the wife that doesn’t eat off the bone.

    Cynthia – Hope you like it!

    Hmm it does sound good with fluffy rice.

  23. mike says:

    Great looking dish! We do a recipe we really like which is similar – Pollo Adobado from a Rick Bayless recipe. It isn’t as saucy, though – more roast than braise. I like the idea of more sauce!

  24. Menu plan Monday with a Latin Flair! « Gluten Free Goodness says:

    [...] of course, this is a perfect opportunity to make Jude’s Braised Chicken with Ancho Chilis because I’ve been eying it for [...]

  25. tom says:

    awesome recipe, definitely going in to heavy rotation!

    made this last night for burritos…added poblano chilis as well, boiled them with the anchos, nice touch.

    -used chicken stock instead of water, cooked for 1.25 hrs, then took it off heat and let the whole thing cool down for 3 hours in the liquid… the chicken shredded itself.
    perfect on burritos with homemade salsa…

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