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!
- 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.