Chili-Lime Grilled Whole Chicken with Creamy Charred Jalapeño Sauce (Spatchcock Chicken on the Grill!)

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There are 3 secrets to the perfect grilled whole chicken: spatchcocking it, soaking it in a delicious marinade, & gently cooking it with 2-zone grilling. This particular grilled spatchcocked chicken (butterflied chicken) is seasoned with a spicy-sweet chili-lime rub, which gets deliciously caramelly & charred on the grill. Great for summertime Sunday dinners & backyard entertaining alike. An easy, versatile, & always-satisfying grilled meal!

Grilled spatchcocked chicken with crispy, charred skin, sitting atop a parchment-lined baking sheet surrounded by lime wedges, fresh cilantro, & charred jalapeno sauce. The baking sheet sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by fresh cilantro leaves.
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Can you grill a whole chicken? Y-E-S, you can!

There’s nothing quite as iconic & timeless as chicken dinner, so today we’re giving it a grilling season twist for summer – Grilled Whole Chicken! Grilled whole chicken is one of my favorite summer workhorse meals. I love grilling one up on a Sunday afternoon for a special Sunday dinner (bonus: it doubles as meal prep, providing delicious leftovers for the week ahead!), but it’s also the kind of thing that’s perfect for easy summer entertaining (is there anything more impressive than serving up perfectly grilled whole chicken?!).

And the very best part? It’s a whole lot easier to make than you’d ever guess (pinky swear!). My method for cooking a whole chicken on the grill consists of 3 simple parts: spatchcock or butterfly the chicken, season it with a flavorful marinade, & grill with 2 heat zones. The result? A perfectly juicy & flavorful chicken, every single time.

While you can prep grilled butterflied chicken in lots of different ways (easy variations provided below!), this chili-lime version is my favorite to date. It’s made with tons of lime, staple spices, & a little honey for sweetness. The spices really come to life on the grill & the honey caramelizes, creating crispy chicken skin. You can enjoy it on its own, or turn it into an epic build-your-own-taco night with your favorite taco fixings.

As a kinda major bonus, everything you need to make a seriously amazing grilled whole chicken feast – including amazing cage-free chicken – is available at ALDI! The Never Any! Fresh Antibiotic Free Whole Chicken used in this recipe is one of my all-time favorite things to buy at ALDI. It’s amazingly high-quality (antibiotic-free, & fresh, never frozen!) & it’s also so affordable!

Grilled spatchcocked chicken with crispy, charred skin, sitting atop a parchment-lined baking sheet surrounded by lime wedges, fresh cilantro, & charred jalapeno sauce. The baking sheet sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by fresh cilantro leaves.

Grab everything you need at ALDI (or place a curbside or Instacart order) & invite some friends over. Grilled chicken night will be the highlight of the summer! ♡ Read on to learn more about this Chili-Lime Grilled Whole Chicken, or jump straight to the recipe & get grilling!

How to grill whole chicken:

Cooking a whole chicken on the grill may seem really intimidating, but it’s actually a pretty simple, hands-off process. This grilled spatchcock chicken recipe is broken down into 3 straight-forward components, resulting in a grilled whole chicken that’s totally juicy & flavorful with gloriously charred & crisp skin: spatchcocking it, slathering it in a zesty + spiced wet rub, & leveraging 2-zone grilling.

How to spatchcock a whole chicken (& why it’s PERFECT for grilling!):

The secret to an absolutely perfect grilled whole chicken? You gotta spatchcock it!

WHAT does spatchcock mean?! Spatchcock is a simple technique for butchering poultry. The backbone of a spatchcocked bird is removed so it lays completely flat during the cooking process. You may also know of spatchcocking as ‘butterflying’ (i.e. a spatchcock chicken is the same thing as a butterflied chicken). I’ve been preaching about it ever since spatchcocked turkey saved my first-ever Thanksgiving, but the same applies to chicken – especially grilled whole chicken!

Ok, so WHY spatchcock chicken? Because a flat chicken is a really, really good thing!!! Since its legs aren’t tucked under its breasts, a spatchcocked or butterflied chicken cooks very quickly & evenly. The white meat & dark meat cook at similar rate, resulting in totally juicy chicken breasts and thighs. This is especially important for grilled whole chicken, since grill temperatures are a little harsher & less consistent. No dry grilled chicken here!

Chili-Lime Grilled Whole Chicken ingredients arranged on a light blue surface: spatchcocked whole chicken atop a sheet pan, limes, lime juice, lime zest, honey, garlic, grapeseed oil & spices.

How to spatchcock a whole chicken for the grill:

Spatchcocking a chicken for the grill is really simple, you just need sharp kitchen shears & a good knife. Here’s what you’ll do!

  1. Place a whole chicken breast-side down on a large plastic cutting board. Using sharp kitchen shears, carefully snip along each side of its backbone until completely detached. Discard, or set aside for the next time you make chicken broth. 
  2. With breast side of the chicken still facing down, use your hands to gently stretch open the rib cavity of the chicken. Place the heel of your knife at the center of the wishbone. Tap the spine of the knife with a rolling pin, until the wishbone snaps and the breastplate cracks. 
  3. Flip the chicken so it lays flat, breast side facing up. Woohoo – you just spatchcocked a chicken!

Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken Marinade:

Once spatchcocked, the only other prep involved with grilled whole chicken is seasoning the bird. Feel free to keep things as simple as you’d like, using your favorite spice blends or dry rubs, or whip up a quick grilled chicken marinade.

This particular grilled spatchcocked chicken recipe calls for a flavor-forward chili-lime wet rub, made with loads of fresh lime & garlic, staple spices, & honey for subtle sweetness to offset the zesty & spicy flavor.

How to use this chili lime marinade. ⇢ Stir together fresh lime zest & juice, honey, & spices (namely chili powder, paprika, oregano, & garlic powder), drizzling in a little neutral oil to bring everything together. This marinade is a very thick paste, similar to wet rub. Slather it all over the spatchcocked chicken. Be sure to use your hands to work the marinade between the meat & skin, which helps ensure super flavorful grilled chicken.

Suggested marinating time. ⇢ Aim to marinate the chicken at least 60 minutes prior to grilling, though 12-24 hours is ideal.

How to Cook a Whole Chicken on the Grill:

The trickiest part of learning how to cook a whole chicken on the grill is striking the perfect balance of cooking it all the way through without drying it out & creating beautiful crispy chicken skin without it completely burning. It may seem like an impossible task, but it’s a lot easier than it seems.

This grilled butterflied chicken recipe leverages 2-Zone Grilling, slowly cooking the chicken with gentle, indirect heat before finishing with direct heat for a beautifully charred finish. The process is almost entirely inactive, making grilled butterflied chicken perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons or backyard entertaining!

How to grill a spatchcock chicken:

  1. Light the grill: Prepare your grill for 2-zone grilling, creating one zone of direct high heat & a second zone of indirect heat. If using a gas grill, simply light half of its burners to their highest setting. If using a charcoal grill, simply distribute all of the lit charcoal to one side of the grill. The side of the grill directly over the heat source is the direct heat zone, while the other side is the indirect heat zone. (Learn more about zone grilling!)
  2. First, grill with indirect heat: Place the spatchcocked chicken on the indirect heat side of the grill, skin side facing up. Close the lid & cook. The warm air from the direct heat side of the grill circulates throughout the grill, cooking the whole chicken very gently – much like an oven. Every 15 minutes, carefully rotate the chicken 180 degrees to promote even cooking & check the internal temperature. The chicken is ready once an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast & thigh registers 160 degrees F. For a 5-pound spatchcock chicken, this takes 45 minutes – 1 hour.
  3. Finish the chicken over direct heat: For a crispy finish, carefully move the chicken to the direct heat side of the grill, flipping it so the skin comes into contact with the grill grates. Grill for 3-5 minutes, until the grilled spatchcock chicken is as charred & crispy as you like!
Grilled spatchcocked chicken with crispy, charred skin, sitting atop a parchment-lined baking sheet surrounded by lime wedges, fresh cilantro, & charred jalapeno sauce. The baking sheet sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by fresh cilantro leaves.

Other Grilled Butterflied Chicken Tips & FAQs:

  • Useful equipment Aside from your grill, you will need sturdy grill tongs & a good grill spatula for rotating the butterflied chicken while it slowly cooks in the indirect heat zone. An instant-read thermometer is also necessary to gauge the internal temperature of the chicken, preventing overcooked & dried out grilled chicken.
  • How to cook a whole chicken on a charcoal grill vs gas grill? Because you can set up 2-zones of heat on both gas & charcoal grills, this grilled whole chicken recipe will work no matter what type of grill you use. For a gas grill, simply turn on half of the burners to create 2 zones of heat (as pictured throughout this post). For a charcoal grill, arrange the lit charcoal in half of the grill bucket. Learn more about 2-zone grilling.
  • How long does it take to grill whole chicken? Spatchcock chicken grill time varies based on the size of the chicken & the temperature of the grill. In my experience, a 5-pound spatchcocked chicken takes 45 minutes – 1 hour to cook on a gas grill. If you grill with charcoal, it may take a little longer. If you have a smaller chicken, it may go more quickly. An instant-read thermometer is your best friend here!
  • Do you flip spatchcock chicken?Totally up to you! We love charred, crispy chicken skin, so I always finish my grilled spatchcocked chicken by flipping it skin side-down in the direct heat zone.

Serving your Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken!

With your spatchcocked chicken grilled, all that’s left to do is let it rest for 10 minutes, then carve & serve.

Butchered grilled whole chicken in a tin tray, topped with lime wedges, sliced jalapeno, & cilantro leaves. The tray sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by fresh lime wedges, cilantro leaves, & a dark gray & white striped linen napkin.

Take it over the top with Creamy Charred Jalapeno Sauce!

A bright + flavorful sauce is my favorite way to dress up any grilled protein. For this chili-lime grilled whole chicken, try an irresistibly spicy & creamy jalapeño sauce! Simply place jalapeños in a food processor with lots of garlic & lime juice. Pulse to combine, then slowly stream in a neutral oil. The jalapeño emulsifies with the oil, making a dreamy, creamy sauce sans dairy.

Since you’ll already have your grill running for the grilled chicken, you can easily take this creamy sauce to the next level by charring the jalapeños directly on the grill grates for 5-10 minutes at some point while the chicken is grilling. The charred jalapeños add amazing smoky flavor that complements the chicken beautifully. So good!

Summer Sides & Serving Suggestions:

As is the case with any grilled chicken dinner, this grilled butterflied chicken is great on its own or served alongside some simple summer side dishes. Here are a few of my favorite summer sides that pair perfectly with this grilled chili-lime chicken:

My personal favorite, though? Make it a taco party! Because of the chili-lime flavors in the marinade, you can very easily turn your grilled chicken dinner into a casual summer party with friends & family! Set up a build-your-own-taco bar with tortillas, cilantro-lime rice, beans, & anything else you love. ALDI seriously has the best assortment of taco fixings – backyard taco parties have never been so easy or affordable!

2 grilled chicken tacos, topped with creamy jalapeno sauce & sliced jalapeno. The tacos sit atop a light blue surface, surrounded by cilantro leaves, Tajin-dusted lime wedges, & a gray & white striped linen napkin.

Easy Variations

The beauty of grilled chicken is its versatility. While I love the chili lime marinade used here, you can use any number of seasonings & marinades for your grilled whole chicken. A few ideas to get you started:

  • BBQ Grilled Whole Chicken – There’s nothing more iconic & classic! Use this BBQ dry rub & baste with your fave BBQ sauce. (I LOVE the Burman’s BBQ Sauces at ALDI!)
  • All-Purpose Grilled Whole Chicken – Great for meal prep! Use my All-Purpose Grilling Marinade & enjoy easy grilled chicken all week long!
  • Tuscan Grilled Whole Chicken – Lemony, garlicky, & herbaceous. Use this Tuscan marinade & serve with grilled potatoes.
  • Greek Grilled Whole Chicken – Great for summer entertaining! Use this simple Greek marinade & serve with a DIY spread of pita, Greek salad, & tzatziki.
Butchered grilled whole chicken in a tin tray, topped with lime wedges, sliced jalapeno, & cilantro leaves. The tray sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by fresh lime wedges, cilantro leaves, & a dark gray & white striped linen napkin.

I can’t wait for you to try this Chili-Lime Grilled Whole Chicken recipe this summer! It’s equally easy to prep & impressive to serve – it’ll make you feel like a grilling season super star! If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!

Love grilled chicken? You’re in the right place! Try my Best-Ever Grilled BBQ Chicken, these Perfectly Grilled Buffalo Wings, or this Simple Grilled Lemon Chicken recipe next. Happy grilling! ♡

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Grilled spatchcocked chicken with crispy, charred skin, sitting atop a parchment-lined baking sheet surrounded by lime wedges, fresh cilantro, & charred jalapeno sauce. The baking sheet sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by fresh cilantro leaves.

Chili-Lime Grilled Whole Chicken with Charred Jalapeño Sauce

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Optional Brine: 24 hours
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 90 minutes
  • Yield: serves 46 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes, Chicken Recipes
  • Method: Grilling & Smoking
  • Cuisine: American, Tex-Mex & Mexican-Inspired
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Grilled whole chicken is the perfect summertime meal – easy, versatile, & always-satisfying! There are 3 secrets to the perfect grilled whole chicken: spatchcocking it, soaking it in a delicious marinade, & slowly, gently cooking it with 2-zone grilling. 

This particular grilled spatchcocked chicken (butterflied chicken) is seasoned with a spicy-sweet chili-lime rub, which gets deliciously caramelly & crisp on the grill. See blog post, above, for serving suggestions & easy variations


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 (one) 4-5 pound Never Any! Fresh Whole Chicken, spatchcocked (see Recipe Notes)
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil of choice, such as Simply Nature Grapeseed Oil
  • 2 limes, zested & juiced
  • 2 tablespoons Simply Nature Organic Wildflower Honey
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Stonemill Chili Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Stonemill Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Stonemill Garlic Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Stonemill Dried Oregano
  • optional: up to 1 teaspoon Stonemill Crushed Red Pepper
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

optional: for the buttermilk brine:

  • 2 cups buttermilk (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise

for the creamy jalapeño sauce:

  • 23 jalapeños, deseeded as desired
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 large, juicy limes, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil of choice, such as Simply Nature Grapeseed Oil
  • 1/3 cup packed cilantro leaves & tender stemsChili-Lime Grilled Whole Chicken ingredients arranged on a light blue surface: Grapeseed oil, limes, lime juice, lime zest, honey, Never Any! Fresh Whole Chicken from ALDI, Stonemill spices from ALDI, & garlic.

Instructions

  1. Optional: Brine the chicken: Pour buttermilk & salt in a large bowl, airtight container, or resealable bag. Whisk or mix to combine. Add smashed garlic & spatchcocked chicken to buttermilk mixture, submerging the chicken as much as possible. Cover or seal, then transfer to the refrigerator to brine for up to 24 hours. How to grill whole chicken, Step 1: Spatchcocked whole chicken in buttermilk brine with whole garlic.
  2. Mix the chili-lime wet rub: Add oil, lime zest & juice, honey, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, dried oregano, & cayenne pepper (if using) to a small bowl or jar. Stir to combine & set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.How to grill whole chicken, Step 2: Chili lime wet rub mixed in a small white ceramic bowl with a measuring spoon in it. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface.
  3. Marinate the chicken: At least 60 minutes before grilling, remove chicken from the refrigerator (& the brine, if using). Use paper towel to pat chicken very dry. Place chicken breast-side up on a large plate or baking sheet. Season chicken liberally with kosher salt & ground black pepper. Massage chili lime wet rub all over chicken, using your hands to work marinade between the skin & meat. Set aside to marinate. If marinating longer than 1 hour, be sure to set in the refrigerator – you can marinate for up to 24 hours. How to grill whole chicken, Step 3: Chili-lime wet rubbed chciken in a large ceramicbaking dish, surrounded by limes. The dish sits atop a light blue surface.
  4. Preheat the grill: Prepare your grill for indirect cooking, creating a zone of direct high heat & a second zone of indirect heat. If using a gas grill, begin preheating at least 15 minutes before grilling. If using charcoal, light the charcoal at least 30 minutes prior to grilling. (To learn more about zone grilling, be sure to check out this post.) A woman's hand shown above an open Weber Genesis II, prepared for indirect heat grilling with one side of burners all the way open and the other side shut.
  5. Grill the whole chicken: Place chicken on the indirect side of the grill, breast side up, as close to the fire as possible without being over the direct heat. Close grill lid. Cook chicken, stopping to rotate it 180 degrees every 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast (without hitting the bone) registers a temperature of 160 degrees F. Depending on the size of your chicken & temperature of your grill, this could take as little as 25 minutes or up to 1 hour.How to grill whole chicken, Step 5: Spatchcocked/butterflied chicken on grill grates, grilling in an indirect heat zone of Weber Genesis II grill.
  6. Prep the creamy jalapeno sauce: At some point while the chicken grills, place jalapeños in the direct heat zone of the grill, grilling 5-10 minutes until blistery & charred. Remove from the grill. Once cool enough to handle, peel the skin off the peppers & roughly chop. Place in a food processor with garlic, lime juice & kosher salt. With the food processor running, slowly stream in the grapeseed oil, until the sauce is thickened & creamy. Add the cilantro & pulse to combine. Set aside or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.Grilled whole chicken, Step 6: Creamy charred jalapeno sauce in small white speckled ceramic dish, which sits atop a light blue surface surrounded by fresh lime wedges & cilantro leaves.
  7. Finish the chicken: Move chicken over direct heat, carefully flipping it so its skin-side is down. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the chicken skin is charred as desired. How to grill whole chicken, Step 7: Spatchcocked/butterflied chicken on grill grates, grilling in a direct heat zone of Weber Genesis II grill.
  8. Rest: Remove chicken from the grill & set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes. Carryover heat will cause the internal temperature to continue to rise as it rests. The chicken will be ready to serve once an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken (without hitting the bone) registers a temperature of 165 degrees F.Grilled spatchcocked chicken with crispy, charred skin, sitting atop a parchment-lined baking sheet surrounded by lime wedges, fresh cilantro, & charred jalapeno sauce. The baking sheet sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by fresh cilantro leaves.
  9. Serve: Carve the chicken as desired & serve immediately, with whatever you love most – grilled veggies, a simple green salad, summery pasta or potato salad, etc. Enjoy!Butchered grilled whole chicken in a tin tray, topped with lime wedges, sliced jalapeno, & cilantro leaves. The tray sits atop a light blue surface, surrounded by fresh lime wedges, cilantro leaves, & a dark gray & white striped linen napkin.

Notes

  • How to spatchcock a chicken: Spatchcocking is a poultry butchering technique in which the poultry’s spine is removed so the poultry lays completely flat during the cooking process. Spatchcocking a chicken for the grill is really simple, you just need a whole chicken & kitchen shears. Here’s what you’ll do!
    • Use paper towel to pat chicken very dry. Place breast-side down on a large plastic cutting board. 
    • Using a sharp knife or very sharp kitchen shears, carefully snip along each side of its backbone until completely detached. Discard, or set aside for the next time you make chicken broth. 
    • With breast side of the chicken still facing down, use your hands to gently stretch open the rib cavity of the chicken. Place the heel of your knife at the center of the wishbone. Tap the spine of the knife with a rolling pin, until the wishbone snaps and the breastplate cracks. 
    • Flip the chicken so it lays flat, breast side facing up – you just spatchcocked a chicken!
  • Brining alternatives:
    • Homemade buttermilk: If you do not have buttermilk on hand, you can quickly DIY it by adding 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice to 2 cups of milk.
    • Beer brine: If you don’t want to use buttermilk to brine the chicken, beer is an awesome substitute. Beer brined chicken is simply the best! Even if you don’t love the flavor of beer or you’re not typically a beer drinker, a beer brine adds rich, earthy flavor to chicken that’s pretty hard to beat. For the best flavor, use a big, hoppy beer such as an IPA.

Keywords: grilled whole chicken, spatchcocked chicken, butterflied chicken, grilled chicken, grilling recipes, barbecue, easy entertaining, weeknight dinner, backyard BBQ, summer

Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Grilled spatchcocked chicken with crispy, charred skin, sitting atop a parchment-lined baking sheet surrounded by lime wedges, fresh cilantro, & charred jalapeno sauce. The baking sheet sits atop a light blue surface.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

Ready to Hit the Grill?

If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compliation of tips & tricks for all of the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.

All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 15 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling & Smoking recipes.

& lastly! Be sure to give @playswellwithbutter a follow on Instagram – I’ll be teaching you how to grill up some goodness all summer long, & we have so much fun on Instagram!

Want more grilling tips & recipes?

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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