Slow Cooker Chicken in Annatto Sauce

Continuing with emblematic food from the Yucatan peninsula as in my previous post, achiote (annatto) is a traditional flavouring for many dishes from that region.  In addition to cochinita pibil (pork), tikinxic (fish) and pibipollo (large chicken tamale), chicken is also dressed in annatto sauce, traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and cooked slowly in an underground oven (pib), aptly called pollo pibil.   In the state of Yucatan, it is a very simple preparation of chicken thighs or legs, marinated in recado rojo (annatto sauce); in the neighbouring state of Campeche, it is not unusual to top the chicken with onions and tomatoes before cooking.  Modern versions of  this dish are prepared on the stove, or as in this case, without the banana leaves, in a slow cooker; I also added some carrots and potatoes to make it a balanced one-dish meal.  Of course, all versions include a spicy Habanero and red onion condiment.

Slow Cooker Chicken in Annatto Sauce – Pollo pibil en olla de cocción lenta

Printable recipes:

Slow Cooker Chicken in Annatto Sauce

Recado Rojo

Habanero and red onion condiment


6-8 pieces chicken; bone-in, skin-on
1 block annatto seasoning (condimento de achiote), OR 1 batch recado rojo (printable recipe above) 
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp sour orange juice, OR mix:
                          ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp white vinegar
                          ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp orange juice
                          2 tbsp lime juice
3 potatoes; washed, peeled, and cubed
1 large carrot; washed, peeled, and sliced
2 tomatoes; washed and sliced (optional)
½ white onion; peeled and sliced (optional)
½ red onion; peeled, and sliced thinly
2-3 Habanero peppers; washed
Salt, or to taste
½ cup water 

Prepare Habanero and red onion condiment:  It is better to handle peppers with gloves; slice peppers lengthwise, then remove stems and seeds (photo below, left).  Slice very thinly and place, along with the red onions, in a non-reactive bowl or bottle; add salt to taste, and a quarter of a cup of sour orange juice (or vinegar/juice mix, photo right):

Mix and allow to rest until serving time.  It may be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge for up to one week.

Use one block (3 oz. – 100g) of already-prepared annatto seasoning (achiote preparado), or make a batch with my recipe, starting with annatto powder, such as Mamasita’s™:

Place annatto seasoning in a non-reactive tray, such as glass; gradually add the rest of the sour orange juice (or vinegar/juice mix), and stir to dissolve (photo below, left).  Arrange the chicken pieces (I used breasts) in the tray, coating with sauce (photo below, right):

Allow to marinate for at least twenty minutes, and up to overnight in the fridge.  When ready to cook, arrange potatoes and carrots at the bottom of the slow cooker (photo below, left).  Arrange chicken on top (photo below, right:

Pour the marinade on top; add water to the tray to rinse any leftover marinade, and add to the slow cooker (photo below, left).  If using, for Campeche style, arrange sliced tomatoes and onions on top (photo below, right, or omit, for Yucatan style):

Cover slow cooker with lid, and set on low for 6-8 hours, or 4-5 hours on high.

The result is a juicy, saucy, and very flavourful chicken:

Serve chicken with a side of the potatoes and carrots from the bottom of the cooker, and warm corn tortillas and spicy condiment at the table:

This dish might look spicy, but on the contrary, the flavour is very mild as long as the Habanero condiment is kept on the side.  The tangy notes from the citrus juice, and the slow cooking method, combine with the annatto seasoning and juices from the tender chicken, to create a delicious and rich sauce.

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I am bringing my recipe to Full Plate Thursday #595 with Miz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.

I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #547, with Bev @ Eclectic Red BarnPam @ An Artful MomKatherine @ Katherine’s CornerAmber @ Follow the Yellow Brick HomeTheresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.

I am joining Fiesta Friday # 439  with Angie @ Fiesta Friday.

18 thoughts on “Slow Cooker Chicken in Annatto Sauce

      1. Irene, I made this but there were problems. I did buy the ingredients for a annatto sauce but also ordered the packets just to make sure I had both in case something was out of stock. I couldn’t get chicken with the skin on (it was 4th of july weekend) so used skinless breasts. I followed the directions with the condiment and that turned out really good (except had to use jalapenos instead of habaneros) and set that aside. The sauce with the packet of annatto never thickened and it never ended up looking like yours. It wasn’t very good the way it turned out and I have no clue why. Maybe next time will use more packets and less liquid and see what happens.


      2. 🤔 Sorry to hear that the sauce was bad… for this particular batch, I used the block of condiment, but I have tested the powder before … let me review the directions and see what could have gone wrong…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The only thing my store had were small packets of powder, 8 packets to a box. I only used one packet. That has to be what I did wrong.


      4. One tbsp of annatto powder is about 7 g., and my recipe for “recado rojo” calls for 4 tbsp = 28g. The Mamasita’s envelopes come in 10g, so if that’s what you have, you would need around 3. Did you follow the link to prepare the “recado rojo” seasoning? The powder is pure annatto, so you have to doctor it with the spices on that recipe.
        And also, to some extent, skinless/boneless chicken has very little collagen, so the sauce would definitely be runnier.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Ah! All good to know. I bought the seasonings but for some reason I used the same ingredients in the condiment with the packet 😦 I’ve been a little scatterbrained lately. Will try this again the right way and get back with you.


      6. I started this again yesterday and marinated chicken breasts with skin overnight. Put them in the crockpot in the morning on low and turned them all day. Finally, when the chicken had just started separating from the bone, I took them out. I just finished one of the 4 pieces, after pulling what was left of the skin off and taking the few small bones out. I ladeled the liquid over the chicken and used sourdough bread to eat it with. That bright red was gone, as were all of the spices. They seem to have been absorbed by the meat. SO TENDER AND FLAVORFUL. My new favorite way of eating chicken. Thank you for sticking with me and helping with troubleshooting.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your awesome post with us at Full Plate Thursday, 595. Hope you are having a great week and hope to see you soon!
    Miz Helen

    Liked by 1 person

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