This grilled cilantro lime chicken recipe delivers lots of flavor thanks to a quick marinade, and with just 7 ingredients and 3 simple steps, it’s easy enough to cook any night of the week.
Easy Mexican Grilled Chicken
I probably get more requests for chicken recipes than anything else. With so many different flavors to enhance the popular white meat, and so many methods to prepare it, the mighty chicken is a dinner time staple. During the summer months, the grill is my best friend, where It’s a take It to the grates match up between the best bbq chicken or my favorite Greek marinated chicken or this Mexican cilantro lime chicken recipe. Variety is the spice of life :).
While I love making it on lazy weekend nights, this grilled cilantro lime chicken recipe is also a goodie for when I’m short on time or am meal prepping for the week. To make ahead, grill a few chicken thighs then slice and store in the fridge for a flavorful salad topper or taco stuffer. Most of the ingredients can be thrown together with stuff in your pantry, or at least in my pantry, given I always have fresh cilantro and limes in the crisper.
For an almost always juicy bird, make this grilled chicken with dark meat chicken thighs. But if white meat is your preference, it’s just as tasty made with white meat chicken breasts.
What’s in This Cilantro Lime Chicken?
To use for basting and drizzling over the grilled chicken before serving, reserve ⅓ cup or more of this marinade. Remember, to avoid cross-contamination, never re-use the marinade that has been in with the chicken.
This cilantro lime chicken marinade is the star of this recipe, but you don’t need much to achieve big flavor:
- Chicken thighs
- Fresh cilantro
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
How to Grill Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Whisk together the Mexican chicken marinade and pour ¾ of it over the chicken thighs, reserving some for serving.
- Seal the chicken in a zip-top freezer bag and set in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Prepare clean grill grates to minimize sticking and preheat the grill at 400-450°F.
- Arrange the chicken on the hot grill grates and cook for 4-6 minutes with the lid closed. If the chicken sticks to the grill grate, let it cook a minute more before trying to flip. Cook on the second side for another 4-5 minutes. Baste with some of the reserved marinade, flip, and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Repeat on the other side side. The chicken is done when the internal temp is 160°F and the juices run clear. Let the chicken rest a few minutes for the temp to raise to 165°F and the juices to settle before serving.
- Drizzle with additional reserved marinade just before serving, and garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.
Preheat the grill at 400-450°F and clean the grill grates to minimize sticking.
I cooked this cilantro lime chicken for about 15 minutes total, but your grill will cook different than mine, and the thickness of the chicken breasts will vary, so judge when it’s done by the internal temperature.
Test to see doneness when the juices run clear and internal temp is at about 160 degrees F. I always let the chicken sit for a minute or two before slicing to hold in the juices.
Can I Use Chicken Breasts?
I used skinless chicken thighs because I just love their flavor and they don’t tend to dry out as quickly as chicken breast, but by all means, use any other part (or all) of the chicken that you desire. I’ve made this with chicken thighs with the skin on, and they were good, but I ended up burning most of the skin thanks to that dang fatty layer dripping into the grill and flaring up. Plus, I prefer the char on the outside of each bite.
Tips for Making Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken
There’s not much to say about this recipe except that it’s really easy. And fast. The potency of flavors in the cilantro lime chicken marinade make for a fast marinade and can be thrown on the grill with just a 30-minute soak. Or, it can easily sit in the fridge in a gallon size freezer bag overnight.
I use my hand held blender/food processor all of the time. It’s perfect for little jobs like this Mexican chicken marinade.
Double up on the lime flavor by utilizing the lime zest. Zesting citrus always adds more flavor, often times even more than the juice.
Reserve about ⅓ cup of the marinade (didn’t add it to the chicken) to drizzle on the finished chicken. Just an extra layer of flavor, thank you very much.
Can I Freeze the Chicken in the Marinade to Cook Later?
Yes! To save time later, to make for a crowd, or take camping, freeze the uncooked chicken in the marinade in a freezer safe bag for up to 2 months. When ready to cook, thaw and discard the marinade before cooking. If cooking for a crowd, fit as many chicken thighs into the bag before freezing. Or, to serve individually, freeze each of the chicken thighs separately for quickest thawing.
How to Cook In the Oven
Marinade the chicken as directed. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray a large rimmed sheet pan with oil. Shake off the excess marinade then place the chicken on the baking sheet.
Roast on the center rack until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes, or when the juices run clear and the internal temperature is 160° F.
What to Serve with Mexican Grilled Chicken
- Mango Margarita with Chile Salt and Lime or Coconut Margarita
- Chopped Mexican Kale Salad
- Southwest Quinoa and Grilled Corn Salad
- Easy Mexican Coleslaw
- Dreamy Creamy Mango Pops
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a star rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken
- 3 pounds skinless chicken thighs
- 4 limes , zested and juiced
- 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and stems
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- extra cilantro , for garnish
- Trim any fat from the chicken thighs and place in a large freezer bag. To the bowl of a food processor, add the lime juice, lime zest, cilantro, olive oil, honey, cumin, salt and pepper and whiz to combine, about 30 seconds. Reserve ⅓ cup of the marinade and pour the rest into the bag with the chicken. Refrigerate for 30 minutes up to overnight.
- Prepare a grill on medium high at 450°F, leaving one side of the grill on low or off. Grill the chicken for 5-6 minutes per side, basting each side the last time it's turned. Once each side has seared, if the chicken pieces seem to be getting too charred, move the chicken pieces to the cooler side of the grill to cook.
- To redistribute the juices, let the chicken sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with lime wedges and additional cilantro and drizzle the rest of the reserved marinade before serving.
More Grilled Chicken Recipes You’ll Love
- The Best Grilled Chicken Breasts
- Grilled Chicken Breasts with Chive Herb Butter
- Grilled Lemon Chicken Skewers
- Mediterranean Grilled Balsamic Chicken
- The Best BBQ Chicken
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