This easy recipe for Cilantro Lime Chicken is full of flavor and so easy for busy weeknights. Make a simple marinade with cilantro, lime, garlic, and spices, then cook it in a skillet or on the grill. Serve with my favorite Cilantro Lime Rice, grilled veggies, or tortillas for a fast and tasty dinner.
Why do you marinate chicken?
Chicken, a very blank canvas when it comes to protein, actually tastes better and has a better texture if you marinate it before cooking. Marinating results in a more flavorful, juicier piece of meat.
How do you mix a marinade?
The best way is in a plastic freezer storage bag. Simply add all the ingredients for your marinade, the chicken, seal tightly, and squish it all together with your hands. Once you are done, all you have to do is throw the bag away, making clean up a breeze.
Can you marinate chicken too long?
Yes. If you let the chicken sit in the marinade for too long, the acid will actually start to break down the chicken and it can become mushy.
This acidic reaction is usually what makes chicken tender, but too much of a good thing can give us undesirable results. A good rule of thumb is to stick with a time frame between 30 minutes-2 hours.
How do you make a marinade?
This marinade follows the rule of 1 part oil to 2 parts acid/vinegar. To get the most flavorful marinade possible, keep an eye on the amount of oil and if using citrus juice for the acid component, as in our case today, use the zest!
Lime zest packs a ton of flavor and essential oils. Plus, it adds beautiful specks of green to your marinade.
Do you use the leaves or stems of cilantro?
You can use both: Cilantro stems pack just as much flavor as the tender leaves. It’s a little trick I learned in Mexico. Basically, they cut off the bottom of the stems (the part with no leaves) and finely chop all remaining leaves and stems together. Practically zero waste and so much more flavor!
What sides can I serve with Cilantro Lime Chicken?
To be honest, just about any vegetable or starch will work perfectly. But to keep the cilantro-lime theme going, make Cilantro Lime Rice, pico de Gallo, or guacamole. A simple weeknight dinner turned into a fiesta – enjoy!
Cilantro Lime Chicken Recipe
- 4 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons lime zest (from 2 limes)
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from the same 2 limes)
- 1/4 cup cilantro finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin ground
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 chicken thighs bone-in, skin-on (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a zipper-top plastic bag or shallow dish, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Add chicken and toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.
To make chicken in a skillet:
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Transfer chicken to a rimmed baking sheet (reserving marinade) and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
- In a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until shimmering. Add chicken to skillet, skin-side down, then add reserved marinade.
- Cook until skin is golden brown and crispy, about 6 minutes. Flip chicken and cook 2 minutes longer. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until chicken is cooked through, 12-15 minutes more. Chicken must reach 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer when inserted in the largest piece.
- Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before serving.
To make chicken on the grill:
- Preheat grill over medium-high heat. Coat grate with oil. Grill the chicken, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees on a thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove from grill and cool 5 minutes before serving.