Things are shifting at Chipotle. For years the fast-casual chain’s menu remained mostly unchanged. Sure, you’d get a new menu item occasionally, but instead of something substantial, it always seemed to be stuff like… queso. But over the past six months, Chipotle has been on a steady clip of releasing new protein options, and that’s a pretty big deal. Chipotle’s queso is awful, it can only ruin meals, but a new protein option? That’s straight-up game-changing.
September gave us a deliciously marinated sweet and tender smoked brisket, January brought us plant-based chorizo, Chipotle’s first new vegan-friendly protein option since sofritas, and now the brand is dropping a brand new chicken recipe — pollo asado.
Available for an unspecified limited time, Chipotle’s pollo asado is grilled in small batches, tumbled in earthy spices, cooked whole, and hand-chopped. The new protein was first rolled out in November of last year in Sacramento and Cincinnati and after a successful test launch, it’s now available at all Chipotle’s nationwide and through Canada.
Given that we’ve already reviewed and ranked every single Chipotle protein in existence, we had to hit the pollo asado to see how it fares and whether it deserves permanent menu status. Let’s eat!
To sample Chipotle’s pollo asado, I ate the meat in a burrito (see our recipe for the perfect Chipotle burrito) as well as took a few pieces out to taste alone.
According to Chipotle’s press release, the new pollo asado is Chipotle’s first chicken menu innovation in the company’s 29-year history. That. Is. Ridiculous. 29 years? First of all, we didn’t even know Chipotle has been a thing for 29 years, but to not change the chicken a single time in that span is crazy for a fast food brand.
By comparison, over the past 29 years McDonald’s has given is something like eight different chicken sandwiches. Probably a whole bunch of regional drops, too.
Chipotle has changed the pinto beans, they’ve changed the queso, and they added two different plant-based proteins before introducing a new chicken option? That must mean Chipotle’s OG chicken is pretty damn popular. You don’t mess with a best seller (see the longevity of GTA V and Mario Kart 8 in the video game world) which means Chipotle has to think they’ve really cooked up something good to compete.
We’re happy to say that not only is Chipotle’s Pollo Asado good, but it’s also better by a significant degree compared to the old chicken. Which we will now forever dismissively refer to as, “the old chicken.”
We’re including a press photo since the burrito doesn’t give a good idea as to what this meat actually looks like. It’s not quite as well-lit and glossy in the real world, and there are sadly no flecks of fresh cilantro thrown in, but this is a pretty good representation of how juicy it appears.
Pollo asado, in the world of Mexican cuisine (shout out to Cuba too), is simply citrus and spice-marinated grilled chicken meat, and that’s exactly what Chipotle’s version is. Chipotle hasn’t explicitly dropped the ingredients of the marinade, but we’re tasting citrus top notes, over an oregano and pepper-dominated body, with the bitter earthy bite of achiote, which is what gives this chicken its appetizing red color. Cilantro really helps to keep this meat tasting fresh, Chipotle needs to add cilantro as one of their customizable options because every one of their dishes could be elevated with cilantro (except if you’re a supertaster).
The serving of meat I had was juicy and tender, significantly less dry than Chipotle’s regular chicken option, and featured smokey and mouthwatering spicy flavors that tingled on the palate at the aftertaste.
The Bottom Line:
Chipotle fans rejoice, this is the best new menu addition in Chipotle’s 29 (!!!) year run. It is without a doubt the best meat you can get at Chipotle right now, it’s more savory than Chipotle’s barbacoa (our current favorite), focusing on zesty citrus notes and earthy pepper flavors over sweetness while being every bit as tender.
If you haven’t been to Chipotle in a minute or you have doubts that Chipotle is good in the first place, it’s worth the trip for a second evaluation. While I’ve only sampled the burrito, this protein option seems a perfect fit for tacos, bowls, and salads alike. Or better yet — a quesadilla.
Find your nearest Chipotle here.