Try Chili Lime Chicken for a quick, easy, and versatile dish that will soon be a staple in your meal rotation! Featuring grilled chicken breasts and a citrus and chili marinade, this recipe is packed with vibrant and bold flavors. It’s perfect for any occasion with sides like rice, grilled vegetables, and more!
Chili lime chicken is a favorite in our household since it’s extremely simple to make yet incredibly flavorful! The marinade is made from a blend of fresh lime, cilantro, honey, chili powder, and various other spices to create a recipe that can only be described as mouthwatering.
Once seasoned and grilled, the chicken turns out tender and juicy, with a slight char on the outside that is balanced by bright, herbaceous flavors. It's perfect as a main dish, sandwich, or served in salads, wraps, and tacos.
Why You'll Love Chili Lime Chicken
- Tangy: With the addition of lime juice, the chicken turns out refreshing, citrusy, and light.
- Perfectly spicy: Chili powder balances the sweet, tangy flavors of the marinade with a mild, non-overpowering heat.
- Juicy: By using a marinade and a grill, the chicken maintains a perfectly moist and tender texture.
- Versatile: Chili lime chicken can be served on its own, with a variety of side dishes, for a special dinner, or as part of meal prep. It’s up to you!
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here is everything you need to make this delicious chicken.
- Chicken: We prefer boneless skinless chicken breast for a lean protein source that works great on the grill. Substitute it with chicken thighs for a juicier, more flavorful option. Just remember to adjust the cooking time.
- Lime: Both lime juice and zest add a tart acidity and a refreshing flavor. If you don’t have limes, the next best options are lemons or oranges with the honey omitted.
- Olive oil: Provides moisture and richness, and helps the marinade adhere to the chicken. You can use any neutral vegetable oil, like canola or avocado.
- Cilantro: Imparts refreshing, herbaceous, and slightly lemony notes. If you don’t enjoy the taste of cilantro, try replacing it with parsley or basil.
- Chili powder: Use ancho chili powder for a smoky, mildly spicy kick. Or, substitute it with regular chili powder, smoked paprika, or cayenne pepper for different heat levels.
- Cumin: Adds a warm, earthy, slightly citrusy flavor. Ground coriander will also work.
- Honey: For a touch of sweetness to balance the tang and spice. You can also use agave or regular cane sugar if you don’t have honey available.
- Salt and pepper: Enhances the flavors of the dish and adds a savory kick.
How to Make Chili Lime Chicken
This meal couldn’t be easier to make with a quick and easy marinade that works in just 30 minutes.
1. Prepare the chicken
A great marinade requires 3 components — fat, acid, and seasonings. In this case, we’re using olive oil for the fat, lime juice for the acid, and chili powder, cumin, and cilantro for the seasonings. If you switch up your marinade, just keep the ratios similar to this recipe.
Mix the marinade, then transfer the chicken breasts into the container. Let it rest for a minimum of 30 minutes, but preferably for 1-2 hours. The longer you let the chicken marinate, the more chance the ingredients have to infuse it with flavor and tenderize it.
2. Grill the chicken
Before grilling the chicken, let the excess marinade drip off to prevent a mess on your grill. Preheat your grill to 400F, which will help remove previously cooked food and prevent the chili lime chicken from sticking.
Grill it on each side for about 5 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160-165F. We recommend using a meat thermometer to check for doneness, especially if you haven’t cooked with chicken much.
3. Let the chicken rest
Once the chicken is done grilling, you’re not quite done yet! Let it rest for at least 5 minutes to allow the juices time to redistribute. If you’ve ever cut into chicken too early, you know how dry and tough it can be. Wait patiently as it rests for perfectly tender and juicy results.
What to Serve with Chili Lime Chicken
If you’re not sure what goes well with chili lime chicken, here are a few of our favorites to spark some ideas:
- Cilantro lime quinoa
- Grilled vegetable salad
- Borracho beans
- Corn on the cob
- Mango black bean salsa
- Grilled plantains
Storage and Reheating
If you end up with leftover chili lime chicken or want to meal prep it, follow these storage tips:
- Fridge: Keep extra chicken in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Just make sure it’s fully cooled first.
- Freezer: Transfer the chicken to a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze it for up to 3 months this way. Thaw it overnight in the fridge when you are ready for more chicken.
- Reheating: Reheat leftover chicken in a skillet over medium or in the oven at 350F. If it’s looking a little dry, add some oil to the pan or cover it in the oven.
Variations and Recipe Ideas
There are lots of fun ways to customize this recipe from how you serve it to how much chili powder and spice you add.
- Skewers: Cut the chicken into cubes and pierce them with skewers before grilling.
- Lettuce: For a low-carb dinner option, serve grilled chili lime chicken in lettuce wraps.
- Quesadillas: Once the chicken is grilled, shred it and use it as a quesadilla filling mixed with your favorite meltable cheese.
- Chicken pasta: Chili lime chicken makes a delicious protein source in pasta recipes.
Tips for Making Perfect Grilled Chicken
Follow these expert tips for perfectly cooked chicken every time.
- Fresh citrus: Always use fresh lime juice. Anything from a bottle doesn’t compare.
- Marinate: Let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes so it absorbs more flavor and tenderizes.
- Don't over-marinate: It may come as a surprise, but over-marinating chicken in citrus juice can actually break down the proteins too much and affect the texture negatively. We suggest marinating it for a maximum of 2 hours.
- Use a thermometer: The only way to optimally check for doneness is by using a meat thermometer and ensuring the chicken reaches 165F.
- Let it rest: Let the chicken rest for a few minutes after grilling it to keep all the juices inside where they should be.
- Clean your grates: Before adding the chicken to the grill, make sure your grates are thoroughly cleaned to prevent the chicken from sticking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most common questions about making this chili lime marinated chicken breast.
Yes, you can bake this chili lime chicken recipe at 375F for about 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through. Again, check for doneness with a meat thermometer.
Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, but ideally 2 hours for the best infusion of flavor. Try not to leave it much longer than 2 hours to prevent the proteins from breaking down too much.
Yes, you can replace chicken breasts with thighs but the cooking time will need to be adjusted. In general, chicken thighs take longer to cook, but it really depends on their thickness.
Chili Lime Chicken
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- 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
- 2 limes (juice and zest, about 1/3 cup)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp honey
- Salt and pepper
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- Nutritional Information
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
Adjust the chili powder to suit your needs. The more chili powder, the spicier and smokier it will be.
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