Make this simple Mexican citrus marinade for chicken, perfect for summer grilling! Create the best grilled chicken, fajitas, or tacos with this marinade that is full of flavor from fresh lime juice, Mexican spices, cilantro, and garlic.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
If you're looking for a great Mexican chicken marinade, your search is over with this all-time favorite marinade!
This Mexican chicken marinade makes the most insanely flavorful, juicy chicken, especially on the grill. The slight char from the grill brings out big flavor!
While this recipe is perfect for the summer months, you can definitely use this simple marinade year round as well to make delicious fajitas or tacos all winter long in the oven or on the stovetop.
This is one of those perfect chicken recipes you'll keep coming back to because it is just that good with its savory blend of citrus and Mexican spices. If you love this recipe, also check out Chicken Tinga Tostadas, an easy Instant Pot or slow cooker meal.
Ways to Serve Mexican Citrus Chicken
While this Mexican chicken recipe is a delicious main dish all on its own when served with a side or two, here are some alternative ways to serve the chicken.
- Chicken fajitas: Slice bell peppers and sweet or red onions and cook alongside the chicken. Serve with warm tortillas and top fajitas with sour cream, restaurant-style salsa, and/or guacamole.
- If you're gluten-free, serve the chicken in corn tortillas or homemade cassava flour tortillas.
- Serve in gluten-free pitas or these three-ingredient gluten-free flatbreads with this secret sauce and you've got a chicken fajita pita.
- Chicken tacos, burritos, or bowls: Dice the chicken and serve with your favorite toppings such as rice, black beans, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, green onions, salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Chicken pieces: You can use any cut of chicken you prefer in this recipe, such as chicken thighs, boneless chicken breasts, or tenders. It really does not make a difference, it just depends on your preference and what you plan to do with the chicken.
- Fresh Citrus: Fresh lime juice is preferred for this recipe. It adds such a bright and tangy flavor to the chicken. You can absolutely play around with the citrus flavors by using orange juice or a combination of orange, lime, and lemon juice.
- Cilantro: Fresh cilantro adds a unique and vibrant flavor to the chicken. If you don't like cilantro, you can leave it out.
- Garlic: You can use as much or as little garlic as you like in the marinade. While fresh garlic is preferred, you can substitute with garlic powder if necessary.
- Mexican Spices: Cumin and oregano are a must in this marinade. You can also add chili powder or Trader Joe's Chile Lime seasoning to kick it up a notch!
- Oil: Some type of oil is needed for any marinade. Use any oil you prefer to cook with, such as olive or vegetable oil. Coconut oil might be delicious as well and impart another layer of flavor.
Making the Marinade
- Mince the garlic and roughly tear up the cilantro.
- Put all of the ingredients together in a bowl, plastic bag, or a large shallow glass dish.
- Place chicken in the bag or bowl, seal bag if needed, and toss it around to coat with the citrus juices and other spices.
- Allow the chicken to marinate for 1 hour or up to four hours.
- Outdoor Grill: This is my favorite option because the grill adds so much extra flavor! Cook chicken breasts over medium-high heat on a preheated grill. Cook until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F. You can cook over direct or indirect heat. Direct heat will end up providing more char while indirect heat produces more of a golden brown result. You can use any gas grill or charcoal grill but I have not tried this recipe in a pellet smoker type of grill.
- In the Oven: Outside of grilling season, you can bake the chicken in the oven.
- Cast Iron Skillet: You can also cook everything in a hot cast-iron skillet until the chicken is cooked through or finish baking in the oven once you've gotten a nice sear on the chicken.
Top Recipe Tips
- The longer you can let the chicken marinate, the better the flavor will be! But don't go much beyond 4 hours or so or the citric acid will start to break down the chicken. It's still fine to eat though if you do go a little too long.
- Never cook chicken by time, cook until it's done! Check the internal temperature in the thickest part of the chicken with a meat thermometer throughout the cooking process. Cook the chicken to 165°F and promptly remove from heat. Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing. This is the best way to ensure juicy chicken every time!
- After removing the chicken from the marinade, discard any remaining marinade. It is not safe to consume once in contact with raw chicken.
I hope you enjoy this easy recipe for my favorite cilantro lime chicken marinade! It truly makes the most perfect chicken with excellent results every time!
Mexican Citrus Marinade for Chicken
- 1.5-2 lbs boneless chicken pieces, breasts, thighs, or tenders
- ⅔ cup olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice, from 1-2 limes, or use a combination of fresh citrus juices from an orange, lime, and/or lemon
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ bunch cilantro, torn roughly (about ½ cup packed)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon chili powder or chili lime seasoning, optional
- Place all marinade ingredients into a large plastic bag, bowl, or large shallow baking dish.
- Add chicken and toss to combine.
- Place in refrigerator and marinate at least 1 hour up to 4 hours.
- Remove chicken from marinade and place on a grill preheated to 400-450°F. Turn heat down to medium. Discard remaining marinade.
- Cook the chicken, flipping once halfway through, until the internal temperature in thickest part of the chicken reaches 165°F.
To make fajitas, you will also need:
- 3 bell peppers, any color
- 2 sweet or red onions
- 1 package tortillas
For Grilled Fajitas:
Slice bell peppers and sweet onions. Toss the vegetables with a 2T olive oil. Spread evenly on a grill pan.
Place the vegetables on the grill along with the chicken. Cook as directed, tossing vegetables occasionally.
When chicken has cooked through, remove chicken and vegetables from heat. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before slicing thinly.
Serve immediately on warm tortillas.
For Sheet Pan Fajitas:
Preheat oven to 450°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper if desired.
Slice bell peppers and sweet onions. Toss the vegetables with a 2T olive oil.
Spread vegetables evenly on one sheet pan and the chicken on the other sheet pan.
Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, flipping once, or until the chicken is fully cooked.
Serve immediately with warm tortillas.