Food & DrinksRecipesTraditional Food

Oven-Baked Huacatay Chicken

A bright green herb whose color reminds you of mint huacatay is one of the most important culinary herbs in Cuzco. It is a relative of marigolds, the tagetes family, and has a strong scent that grows on you. Often it is called “black mint” in English. Nevertheless, its leaves are much smaller and its flowers differen

Most gardens in Cuzco will have a huacatay plant. It grows easily and is one of the secrets of Cuzco’s mothers, housewives, and chefs to make distinctive and well flavored foods for every meal.


Potatoes and Hot Sauce (Photo: Walter Coraza Moreli)
Potatoes and Hot Sauce (Photo: Walter Coraza Moreli)

It is used as part of hot sauces, culinary sauces, stews and also plays a role as a necessary seasoning in the preparation of many dishes.

One dishes that becomes truly exquisite with the addition of this herb is a baked chicken. Not only does it have a whole chicken marinated overnight in the herb and other seasonings, it also is served with either baked or boiled potatoes.

The chicken develops a delicious juice from the huacatay that pleases most everyone. This huacatay chicken is often served in Cuzco for Sunday dinners in family.


Pollo al huacatay al horno (Oven Baked Huacatay Chicken)


potatoes to provide two or more per person,
1 whole Chicken

Chicken and Potatoes Ready to Bake (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)
Chicken and Potatoes Ready to Bake (Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)


First, clean the chicken well. Next blend the huacatay in a blender with salt, garlic, and pepper. Spread the paste over the chicken. You can also make whole to get the paste under the skin. Once the chicken is thoroughly seasoned, let it rest over night.

As lunch approaches let it cook in the oven for two hours (in Cuzco every neighborhood has an oven which people use for baking, rather than baking them at home. You can check temperatures on other baked chickens to decide how to do it in your oven and the time required. You want the chicken to come out crispy and juicy).

If you wish to serve the chicken with boiled potatoes you can prepare them while the chicken cooks, or if you prefer baked potatoes then add them to the oven as the chicken cooks.

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