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Spanish Garlic Chicken (Pollo al Ajillo)

Here’s An Easy Spanish Garlic Chicken Recipe That’s Not Short on Flavor!

Spanish Garlic Chicken – known as Pollo al ajillo – is one of the quintessential flavors of Spanish cuisine.

It is one of the most popular and beloved chicken dishes in Spain because its sauce is easy to make with lots of garlic, white wine, black pepper, salt, and parsley (optional).

Pollo al ajillo is usually served with fried potatoes, but you can also serve it with rice or quinoa and a fresh salad. Don’t forget to sprinkle some parsley over the chicken for a touch of freshness and color.

silver spoon dripping sauce on cooked garlic chicken on white plates.
The delicious sauce makes Pollo al Ajillo a real winner!

You can make this recipe with any parts of the chicken you like, such as legs (which I did here), thighs, wings, or drumsticks.

It’s not common to make it with chicken breasts, but I believe it will turn out just as delicious, and thanks to the sauce, they’ll be juicy.

In general, “al ajillo” means “garlicky” and it refers to a way of cooking the protein of choice. You can also make al ajillo with shrimp (gambas al ajillo), pork (solomillo de cerdo al ajillo), or even tofu. 

Ingredients

ingredients to make spanish garlic chicken in bowls with labels on counter.
The garlic chicken ingredients that you will need.

Here are the ingredients that you will need for this traditional pollo al ajillo recipe:

  • Chicken legs – Alternatively, you can use other pieces of chicken, such as thighs, drumsticks, wings, or chicken breasts.
  • Garlic cloves – The star of the show. Use good quality fresh garlic, don’t use garlic powder!
  • Bay Leaves – Adds a subtle, aromatic flavor to the final dish, but if you don’t have any, you can skip it. 
  • Olive oil – Use good quality olive oil. Don’t use any other type of oil as it will impact the flavor of the final dish. 
  • Salt – To enhance the overall flavor; adjust to taste.
  • Black pepper – Preferably freshly cracked; adds a hint of spice. Adjust to taste.
  • White wine – For the sauce; use a white wine of your choice. I prefer slightly fruity wines that aren’t too sweet or too dry. If you can find it, try using any type of verdejo wine.
  • Water – For the sauce; you can use chicken broth for a more intense flavor, but I prefer to use water.
  • Fresh parsley – Optional garnish; adds freshness and a pop of color, but you can also skip it or use dried parsley instead.

Recipe Tips and Substitutions

  • I recommend infusing the olive oil with a smashed garlic clove with the skin on. This way you don’t have to worry about overcooking the sliced or minced garlic, which tends to burn easily. You can remove the whole garlic clove or leave it in the pan afterwards.
  • Minced garlic can burn quickly, so cook it over low heat and keep a close eye on it to prevent bitterness.
  • Browning the chicken before adding the liquid is essential. All those browned bits will add lots of flavor to the final dish, so don’t skip this step.
  • Use any white wine you prefer, but slightly fruity wines like Verdejo work well. Avoid wines that are overly sweet or dry. Wine is a key ingredient in this dish and unfortunately can’t be substituted.
  • Pour sauce over the chicken and flip the pieces occasionally to ensure even cooking and flavor absorption. Cooking over low heat with the lid on prevents the sauce from reducing too quickly.
  • Instead of chicken, you can also make this dish with pork, turkey, or vegan alternatives like tofu, tempeh, or seitan.
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How to Make Spanish Garlic Chicken – Step by Step Instructions

In this section, you can have a look at the recipe process photos and see exactly how to make this pollo al ajillo recipe.

This may be helpful if you are a visual person. Otherwise, feel free to skip to the detailed recipe card at the end of this post.

knife on wooden cutting board slicing raw garlic cloves with raw chicken on plate beside.
Slice the garlic.

Start by peeling all but one of the garlic cloves and either slice or mince them finely. I prefer slicing them. Smash the remaining garlic clove with the flat side of your knife.

wooden flipper frying garlic clove in black pan on counter top.
Cook the garlic clove with skin on.

In a large pan, add the olive oil and the smashed garlic with the skin on. Cook over low heat until the garlic is golden and aromatic, infusing the oil with its flavor.

sliced garlic frying in oil in black pan with other ingredients around.
Add the sliced garlic.

Add the sliced or minced garlic cloves to the pan and cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to get golden and fragrant.

wooden spatula moving cooking chicken legs in black frying pan with other ingredients around.
Cook the chicken until browned.

Season the chicken with salt and black pepper and add it to the pan. Fry on both sides until browned.

hand pouring white wine into black frying pan filled with garlic chicken.
Add the liquid.

Add the white wine and the water to the pan, along with the bay leaves.

silver spoon pouring thickened garlic sauce over cooking chicken in black pan.
Pour some liquid over the chicken.

Cover the pan with a lid and simmer over low heat for 35 minutes. Baste the chicken occasionally with the sauce and flip the chicken over at the 15-minute mark.

spanish garlic chicken on plate covered in parsley with potatoes beside.
Serve the chicken with potatoes or a side of choice.

Serve the garlic chicken with chopped fresh parsley for garnish as well as fried potatoes or a side dish of your choice. Enjoy!

Storage Tips

If you have leftover garlic chicken, allow it to cool a bit, then store it in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days. Store the potatoes (or side of choice) separately.

The sauce may turn a bit solid, but will return to liquid form when reheated.

FAQ

What is Spanish chicken called?

Chicken is “pollo” in Spanish. There are many Spanish dishes in which chicken is the main ingredient.  For example, garlic chicken is “Pollo al Ajillo”, onion chicken is “Pollo Encebollado”, etc.

What is pollo al ajillo made of?

Pollo al ajillo is made with fresh chicken pieces, lots of fresh garlic, olive oil, white wine and water (or chicken broth) as well as bay leaves for the sauce. The dish is seasoned with salt and pepper and can be served with fresh parsley (optional).

What to serve with Pollo al ajillo?

Pollo al ajillo is a delicious and easy dish that can be paired with various sides. One of the most common sides is fried potatoes, which are sliced or cubed and cooked in oil until crispy. Fries are also a good option. Other possible sides are rice or quinoa and a fresh salad.

Related Recipes

If you liked this recipe for garlic chicken, here are some other hearty Spanish dishes that include meat:

cooked garlic chicken on plate with golden fork beside.

Pollo al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Chicken)

Spanish Garlic Chicken – known as Pollo al Ajillo – is a classic dish that is perfect for lunch or dinner. Made with freshly cooked chicken and loads of fresh garlic, the sauce – made with white wine – is irresistible!
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 7 garlic cloves, around 1 head of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 chicken legs, 1 per person
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

  • Peel all but one of the garlic cloves and either slice or mince them finely. I prefer slicing them. Smash the remaining garlic clove with the flat side of your knife.
    7 garlic cloves
  • In a large pan, add the olive oil and the smashed garlic with the skin on. Cook over low heat until the garlic is golden and aromatic, infusing the oil with its flavor.
    2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Add the sliced or minced garlic cloves to the pan and cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they start to get golden and fragrant.
  • Season the chicken with salt and black pepper and add it to the pan. Fry on both sides until browned.
    2 chicken legs, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Add the white wine and the water to the pan, along with the bay leaves. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer on low heat for 35 minutes. Baste the chicken occasionally with the sauce and flip the chicken over at the 15-minute mark.
    1 1/2 cups white wine, 1/2 cup water, 2 bay leaves
  • Serve with chopped fresh parsley for garnish as well as fried potatoes or a side dish of your choice.
    1 bunch fresh parsley

Notes

  • Infuse the olive oil with a smashed garlic clove with the skin on. This way you don’t have to worry about overcooking the sliced or minced garlic, which tends to burn easily. You can remove the whole garlic clove or leave it in the pan afterwards.
  • Minced garlic can burn quickly, so cook it over low heat and keep a close eye on it to prevent bitterness.
  • Browning the chicken before adding the liquid is essential for flavor, so don’t skip this step.
  • Use any white wine you prefer, but slightly fruity wines like Verdejo work well. Avoid wines that are overly sweet or dry. Wine is a key ingredient in this dish and unfortunately can’t be substituted.
  • Cooking over low heat with the lid on prevents the sauce from reducing too quickly.
  • Instead of chicken, you can also make this dish with pork, turkey, or vegan alternatives like tofu, tempeh, or seitan.

Nutrition

Calories: 462kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 120mg | Sodium: 1306mg | Potassium: 546mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.3g | Vitamin A: 2532IU | Vitamin C: 42mg | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 4mg

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Spanish
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This recipe was contributed by
Alba Luna Meyer
Born and raised in the Southeast of Spain, Alba is a photographer and a foodie. Always hungry for new flavors and recipes, but with a big passion for traditional recipes that speak about roots and family. You can always find her talking about food, photographing it, or cooking! Obviously, she is team “tortilla de patatas con cebolla”.

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