Cilantro Lime Chicken
Cilantro lime chicken is packed with bold flavors and makes for a quick and easy weeknight dinner! Just a handful of ingredients – lime, cilantro, garlic, cumin, chili powder and honey – turn humble chicken thighs (or breasts) into an amazingly delicious and easy main course.
It’s no secret that I love the vibrant flavors of Mexican food. At least every other week, I’ll whip up a batch of my carnitas tacos or chicken fajitas for a quick and satisfying dinner, or enjoy huevos rancheros on a Sunday for brunch.
But when it comes to the best garlicky cilantro lime flavor, with a hint of sticky sweetness it’s hard to beat these chicken thighs. They’re quickly seared in a pan for that golden and perfectly crispy skin, then finished in the oven for the juiciest chicken you’ve ever tasted.
I often make a double batch of this recipe and use the leftovers in tacos, salads, or wraps. The chicken will give a bright punch of flavor to anything you add it to.
Cilantro Lime Chicken Ingredients
This cilantro lime chicken recipe uses a handful of flavor-packed ingredients and takes just minutes to prepare and finish. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Chicken: This recipe works really well with chicken thighs or breasts. Chicken thighs are much more forgiving when cooked and stay nice and juicy after browning on the stove and baking in the oven. Bone-in, skin on thighs lock in the juiciness and the crispy, flavorful skin adds tons of flavor. You can definitely use boneless skinless chicken breasts, but I find that bone-in chicken just tastes better.
- Fresh Lime. No bottled lime juice can match the bright flavor of freshly squeezed lime juice. I also use the zest in this recipe to boost the lime flavor.
- Cilantro. Freshly chopped cilantro leaves brings a fresh herbal note to the chicken and looks beautiful as a garnish on the finished dish.
- Garlic: I adore the intensity of fresh garlic in almost any chicken dish and use lots of it! You can always add fewer cloves or substitute 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder per clove if you don’t have fresh on hand.
- Cumin. The earthy taste of ground cumin gives this chicken dish a ton of authentic Mexican flavor.
- Honey. The sweetness of the honey helps to balance the sourness of the lime and sharpness of fresh garlic in the marinade. You can use a tablespoon of maple syrup instead of the honey.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below
How to Make Cilantro Lime Chicken
This recipe has two main steps – marinate the chicken and cook when you’re ready to eat. Here’s what you do:
- Make the marinade. Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a mixing bowl, or blend them in a food processor.
- Marinate the chicken. Place your chicken thighs in a glass dish or bowl. Pour the marinade over the chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate the chicken for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 425F. Remove the marinated chicken from your refrigerator and let it sit on the counter until your oven is ready.
- Brown the chicken. Heat oil in an ovenproof skillet and brown the chicken thighs skin-side down until golden.
- Bake the chicken. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake the chicken thighs for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
A Few Cooking Tips
Marinate as Long as Possible. The longer the chicken sits in the marinade, the more flavor the chicken soaks up. If you can, turn the chicken a couple of times so the marinade evenly covers the chicken while it sits in the fridge.
Use an Ovenproof Skillet. You’ll start the chicken in a hot skillet, skin-side down, to turn the chicken skin golden brown and then finish cooking it in the oven. Use a cast iron or stainless steel skillet that can take the heat of the oven. If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, you can skip the stovetop step and bake the chicken on a rack set over a sheet pan in the oven.
Don’t Overcook the Chicken Thighs. Most people overcook chicken because they remove it from the oven at 165F. But chicken continues to cook once it’s removed from the oven. So remove the chicken at 160F and after 5 minutes of resting you’ll see that the internal temperature is now 165F. Resting also allows the juices to redistribute inside the chicken.
Ways to Serve the Chicken
I love how this chicken can be enjoyed so many different ways:
- Serve a main course: Some great side dishes that pair well are my mexican rice, cilantro lime rice, roasted broccoli, or cilantro lime bacon coleslaw.
- As an add-in: Shred or chop, then add this chicken into my Southwest chicken salad, chicken and black bean wrap, or taco soup.
- Featured in a larger meal: If you’re cooking up a number of Mexican favorites, include this chicken in your lineup. Wash it down with my classic margarita or a sunny mango margarita for a delicious Mexican fiesta!
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
To store: You can store any leftover chicken in the refrigerator in a covered container for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to two months.
To reheat: Microwave the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes. If you want to crisp up the skin, run the chicken under a broiler for a couple of minutes. Just watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Cilantro Lime Chicken Recipe Video
While this recipe is easy to make, it always helps to watch a quick video. Give it a watch below!
More Easy Weeknight Chicken Dishes
Looking for more simple and flavor-packed chicken recipes? Give these a try! Oh, and don’t forget to give these chicken marinade recipes a go for the best meal prep ever.
- Honey Mustard Chicken
- Coconut Curry Chicken
- Teriyaki Chicken
- Soy Garlic Ginger Chicken Wings
- Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs
Cilantro Lime Chicken
- 6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 limes, zested and juiced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together two tablespoons of olive oil, lime juice and zest, cumin, chili powder, minced garlic, honey, salt, pepper, and chopped cilantro. You can also pulse in a food processor until it's combined.
- Combine the marinade and chicken thighs in a bowl or shallow dish. Marinate chicken for 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge.
- When the chicken is done marinating, take it out of the fridge and let it sit for 10-15 minutes at room temperature.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.
- Heat the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken for 5-6 minutes with the skin side down, until they're golden brown.
- Then flip the chicken and sear the other side for 2-3 minutes. The chicken will not be fully cooked at this point.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake the chicken thighs for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees fahrenheit.
- Remove the chicken from the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes, and garnish with extra lime slices and cilantro leaves before serving.
- I always recommend using an oven thermometer since most ovens vary as much as 50 degrees in temperature.
- Experiment with different chili powders in this recipe (and always feel free to add a little more!). Grocery stores are now carrying different varieties of chili powder like guajillo or chipotle.
- My favorite oven-safe pan is this Staub 12″ fry pan.
This recipe is gold!! I make this for my husband and myself almost weekly. It’s perfect, even when you don’t have time for the oven and make it only on the stovetop, it is perfect every time. I couple it with the cilantro lime rice and it’s a staple meal in our house! Flavorful and satisfying AND clean, as are all of Lisa’s recipes I’ve tried! Oh, and it’s amazing for meal prep, i just double the recipe, put the thighs in the marinade and separate them into 2 stasher bags, then stick one in the fridge and one in the freezer for later. Do this and you’re future self will thank your past self on busy night when you need a quick healthy dinner!
Happy to hear both you and your husband are loving this cilantro lime chicken Heather!
This recipe is so flavorful and so easy to make, you can’t mess up this recipe. This recipe is just as good without the cilantro which I forgot to get and did the recipe anyway.
Happy to hear you’re loving this cilantro lime chicken Mary!
I’ve been making this recipe on and off for two years and just love so much. My family loves it too and that’s always a plus. It’s so full of lovely flavors and goes amazing with the cilantro lime rice. If you want to really make it all about the like and cilantro, try her cabbage, bacon and lime salad. Yum yum yum! Although this is a perfect summer recipe, I often make it in the winter to deter the winter blues.
The perfect combination with the cilantro lime bacon slaw! Thanks for sharing the idea and leaving a review as well Sara :)
I have to admit I fear chicken thighs, but have had some luck with overcooking them until all of the fat melts away. Because every recipe of yours that I’ve tried has been 5 stars, I bravely attempted this one. I’m so glad I did!! It was easy, and so flavorful! I used skinless thighs (baby steps) and cooked them according to your skin-on instructions. There was very little fat left and they looked as delicious as they tasted. I served them with your Cauliflower Fried Rice recipe. Thank you, Lisa!
I’m so glad you ended up loving this cilantro lime chicken Gina!
Making this was easy! Highly recommend!
Glad you enjoyed this cilantro lime chicken!
This recipe really did pack a punch of wonderful flavor. I used leg and thigh quarters since I had then. I will use the thighs next time. We paired this with the Mexican rice ( so good) and a side salad.
Sounds like a wonderful combination of recipes. So happy you enjoyed it!
I’ve made this five or six times, now. Tonight my wife asked for “that thing with the chicken and green stuff” and I knew exactly what she meant. It’s the kind of thing that you enjoy eating on the night, but are also thinking about the leftovers all the time until lunch the next day.
Happy to hear this chicken recipe has been such a winner!
Very high praise from my two very “tell it like it is” guys. As my son was going back for seconds he said it is really good. My husband gave his Groot response, pretty good. The way he said it lets me know he really likes it as well. It all in the tone. :) I only had boneless skinless thighs and it was really good. I am definitely going to try bone-in with skin thighs next time. I’m sure that will take it to the next level.
Happy to hear this recipe pleased your son and husband Lindsey!
very good marinade for grilling too.
So good and so easy! I can never find chicken thighs with skin, so made with skinless thighs and marinated for 1-hour. I can’t wait to have the leftovers tomorrow. Definitely going into the regular rotation.
Not sure where you live, but in Southern California, Stater Bros. Grocery is known for having the best meat dept. and they always have thighs with skin.
Absolutely fabulous recipe. Great bright flavors. Thanks, Lisa!
Glad you enjoyed this cilantro lime chicken Alan!
Even my fussy boyfriend approves! Big thumbs up! & definitely use the cast iron
I made this with boneless skinless chicken breast. I made it in the skillet. OH MY GOSH hands down best chicken I’ve ever had. And I paired it with the Mexican rice and a side of frozen corn! Thank you for the delicious recipes :)
Happy to hear this turned out great with boneless skinless chicken breast!
Can you make with boneless skin off as well?
You can, however the cooking time will be much less if you’re just pan searing the chicken, which will be about 5-7 minutes on each side.
Delish! Made for first time and won’t be last. Skipped step on top stove and cooked in oven.
Good to know this all turned out perfectly just in the oven Sally!
Hi any ideas on making this recipe with fish?
You can use the same marinade, but the cooking time will be different, depending on if you’re pan searing or baking in the oven.
I would love to make this recipe but I only have boneless thighs. Is there a difference in cooking time on the stove and oven?
Yes, boneless thighs cook faster, so check them about 10 minutes sooner.
What size pan are you using? Thank you :)
I’m using my Staub 12″ frying pan! You can find it linked in the recipe notes towards the bottom of the recipe card :)