Air Fryer Chicken Inasal

This chicken inasal recipe takes the grill out of the equation by using the indoor-friendly air fryer.
4 servings
24 Hrs
Active Time
30 Mins

Good news for cooks who don't have a grill: You can make chicken inasal in the air fryer!

You won't get that smoky flavor from open-fire grilling. But this easy recipe more than makes up for it with sheer convenience. The chicken, marinated in a tangy mix of lemongrass, calamansi, and coconut vinegar, cooks wonderfully in the air fryer. Basting the chicken with atsuete butter produces a richly roasted skin in that trademark inasal-orange color.

What is Inasal?
Inasal means broiled or grilled in Ilonggo, same as litson in Tagalog. A large cut of meat, often chicken, is marinated in calamansi, lemongrass, and vinegar before grilling over red-hot charcoal. Annatto oil gives inasal its distinct reddish-orange color.

What Do I Need to Make Air Fryer Chicken Inasal?

Before airfrying, you first need to marinate your chicken overnight. A typical inasal marinade consists of garlic, ginger, calamansi, brown sugar—basic ingredients you might already have in your kitchen. Then there’s lemongrass (tanglad) and coconut vinegar.


What is Tanglad?
Lemongrass, known as tanglad or tangad in Filipino, is a tropical herb with no relation to lemons. However, it tastes and smells so similar to the fruit that it can be used as a substitute. With its mild lemony flavor and almost gingery quality, tanglad makes a flavorful base for soups, stews, marinades, and teas.

You only need the lemongrass stalks for the marinade. To prepare, use a sharp knife to trim the base off the stalks along with the woody tops—right around where the stalk starts to turn green. Peel away the tough outer leaves to reveal a smooth, tender stalk. Chop that up into thin rings or half circles for the marinade. Save the woody lemongrass leaves for steeping in soups, stocks, or tea.

Coconut Vinegar

Coconut vinegar comes from fermenting either coconut sap (sukang tuba) or coconut water (suka ng niyog).

Coconut vinegar doesn’t exactly taste like coconut. It has an assertive tartness with a rounded, slightly sweet flavor. So if you don’t have coconut vinegar on hand, you can substitute it with cane or white vinegar just fine.

Baste Your Inasal with Atsuete Butter for Color and Flavor

Another important inasal ingredient: Atsuete or annatto oil. It gives your inasal its trademark reddish-orange color.

To make it, you steep atsuete powder or seeds in warm fat, like plain vegetable oil or rendered chicken fat, until it takes on the atsuete's color. This recipe uses melted butter to add a touch of richness to the inasal.

You might think that using butter sounds non-traditional, even inauthentic. But you'll be surprised by how many inasal recipes insist on using margarine for basting! They claim that Star is the top secret ingredient to making the best Bacolod's inasal.

Margarine works fine in grilling; not so much in the air fryer. If it doesn't cook off properly, it can leave your inasal with a greasy mouthfeel and a cloying flavor. We found that butter works better overall, and recommend using it here.


  • 4 chicken leg quarters
  • 1 can Sprite
  • ⅓–½ cup chopped lemongrass stalks
  • ¼–⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup calamansi juice
  • ¼ cup coconut vinegar
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 ½ tbsp kosher salt

Atsuete Butter

  • ⅓ cup butter
  • 2 tsp atsuete (annatto) powder
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