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Charred Chile–Marinated Grilled Chicken Tacos

To help build deep layers of flavor in these tacos, Fermín Núñez begins his marinade by toasting and charring aromatics: dried chiles, cinnamon, allspice, and onions all hit the heat before soaking with juicy chicken thighs for an hour, imparting smoky flavor before they cook quickly on the grill or in the oven (see Note).



  • 6 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 5 medium-size dried guajillo chiles (about 1 1/4 ounces)
  • 3 medium-size dried chiles de árbol
  • 4 whole allspice
  • 2 small white or yellow onions (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch wedges with root ends left intact
  • 1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup water

Additional Ingredients

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 pound, 12 ounces), trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 12 (4 1/2-inch) Homemade Corn Tortillas (see Note)
  • Tomatillo Salsa Cruda (see Note)



  1. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add garlic and chiles; cook, turning occasionally, until chiles are blackened and garlic is charred in spots, 1 to 3 minutes for chiles and 5 to 7 minutes for garlic. Remove from heat. Remove and discard stems from chiles, leaving seeds in pods; place chiles in a blender. Set garlic aside. Add allspice to skillet; cook over medium-high, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add to blender; set aside.
  2. Return skillet to heat over medium-high. Working in batches if needed, arrange onion wedges, cut side down, in a single layer in skillet; cook until blackened on both sides, 15 to 20 minutes, flipping halfway through cook time. Remove from heat. Transfer onions to blender. Peel garlic; discard skins. Add garlic cloves, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper to blender.
  3. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening. Pulse chile mixture until roughly chopped, 2 to 4 pulses. Add 1/2 cup water to blender; process until smooth, about 1 minute. Uncover and let marinade cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

Grilling the Chicken

  1. Place chicken in a large bowl, and pour marinade over chicken. Using your hands, spread marinade evenly over chicken. Cover and marinate in refrigerator at least 1 hour or up to 5 hours. (For the best flavor, do not marinate chicken overnight, or the bitterness from the charred aromatics will take over.)
  2. Remove chicken from marinade; let excess drip off, leaving a thin coating on each piece, and transfer to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Discard remaining marinade in bowl. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt. Set aside at room temperature until ready to grill.
  3. Open bottom vent of a charcoal grill completely. Light charcoal chimney starter filled with briquettes. When briquettes are covered with gray ash, pour them onto bottom grate of grill, and push to one side of grill. Coat top grate with oil; place on grill. Place chicken, skin side down, on oiled grates over side with coals. Grill, uncovered, flipping chicken occasionally, until chicken is charred in spots on both sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer chicken, skin side up, to grates over side without coals; grill, covered, flipping chicken occasionally, until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of thighs registers 165°F, 18 to 24 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board; let stand until cool enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Remove and discard bones from chicken. Chop meat with skin into about 1/2-inch pieces. Top tortillas evenly with chopped chicken (about 1/4 cup each), and serve with tomatillo salsa cruda.

Cook's Note: To cook the chicken in the oven, follow recipe through step 5. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place chicken, skin side up, on an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165°F, 25 to 35 minutes. Flip thighs, and swipe through juices and marinade on pan to give top of thighs a glossy appearance. Proceed with step 7.