This Cilantro Lime Chicken recipe is made with the best marinade of fresh cilantro, zesty lime juice and lots of garlic. You can grill, bake or fry it, so you can enjoy lime cilantro chicken year round.
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This cilantro lime chicken recipe is tangy, full of cilantro flavor, garlicky and has a bit of a heat kick. And yet so simple to make! My friend used to make Rachael Ray’s lime cilantro chicken and that’s how I got introduced to it.
It is such an easy chicken recipe to have for a weeknight dinner or entertain with on the weekend. Add Greek yogurt guacamole and some tortilla chips, Mexican street corn salad or Instant Pot corn on the cob, margaritas and beers and you have a Mexican fiesta!
Ingredients for Cilantro Lime Chicken
Cilantro lime chicken ingredients are simple ingredients consisting of whole foods. You probably have them on hand right now.
- Chicken breasts: I use boneless skinless chicken breasts. See notes below on other chicken.
- Fresh lime juice from 3-4 limes
- Fresh cilantro leaves and stems
- Fresh garlic
- Cumin, cayenne, black pepper and salt.
How to Make Cilantro Lime Chicken
Here is a detailed overview how to make cilantro lime chicken. Full recipe card is located below.
Don’t worry, I will not ask you to marinate the chicken for a long time. You will be eating juicy and flavorful baked, grilled or pan fried lime cilantro chicken today.
Pan frying cilantro lime chicken is the method I prefer unless it’s summer. My mom always cooked chicken this way, and it’s fast and brings fond memories.
- Prepare the cilantro lime chicken marinade: In a food processor or blender, add rinsed cilantro leaves with stems and not chopped, freshly squeezed lime juice, garlic, olive oil, cumin, salt, cayenne and black pepper. Then blend until chicken marinade is combined.
- Prep the chicken: Place chicken breast in a large bowl and punch them randomly with a fork or paring knife. Small cuts allow cilantro lime marinade to penetrate chicken deeper, especially if you are marinating for a short amount of time.
- Marinate cilantro lime chicken: Pour marinade on top of chicken, toss around to coat, cover and marinate for 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
- Cook the chicken: Pan fry cilantro lime chicken breasts in preheated skillet on medium heat for 5-6 minutes while covered. Flip and cook chicken uncovered for another 5-6 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken registers 150 F.
- Let chicken rest: Cover chicken with aluminum tin foil and let it rest for 5 minutes. It helps for juices in meat to redistribute and ensures juicy chicken results.
Other Cooking Methods
Here are a few other cooking methods you can use to make this cilantro lime chicken recipe depending on your time and appliances you have.
- Grilled cilantro lime chicken: Preheat grill on medium-high heat to 450-500 degrees F and rub grill grates with oiled paper towel. Place chicken breasts on the grill, close the lid and grill for 8-10 minutes turning once. Do not overcook. Use this grilled BBQ chicken recipe as a guideline.
- Baked cilantro lime chicken: Rub the bottom of large baking dish with oil and lay marinated chicken breasts in a single layer. Bake uncovered in 450 degrees F preheated oven for 25 minutes for chicken breasts under 2 inches thick or 35 minutes for chicken breasts over 2 inches thick. My BBQ chicken breast recipe is a good guideline.
- Cilantro lime chicken in slow cooker: In a large slow cooker, add 1 cup chicken broth and chicken, trying to overlap minimally. Cover and cook chicken breasts in crockpot on Low for 3-4 hours or on High for 2 hours.
Tips for Best Results
Here are my top tips for the best cilantro lime chicken recipe in the world!
- If you don’t have a food processor: You can finely chop cilantro, grate garlic and whisk cilantro chicken marinade by hand.
- Do not marinate chicken longer than 24 hours: The marinade contains acid and after 24 hours it will start breaking down the tissues in the meat, “cooking” the chicken.
- Discard the marinade: No matter how you choose to cook chicken, discard the marinade.
- For very large and thick chicken breasts: Slice them in half lengthwise starting where “the bump” is or pound lightly to even thickness with a meat mallet or rolling pin. It reduces cooking time.
- Cook while covered: Covering chicken will allow it to get cooked through in the thickest part without burning.
- Cilantro does burn a bit: Keep in mind that pieces of cilantro will burn a bit and that’s fine.
Can I Use Chicken Thighs?
Yes. You can make cilantro lime chicken thighs. Use boneless skinless chicken thighs, they are dark meat and more fatty and juicy. But because our marinade contains acid from lime juice, lots of flavor and we use proper cooking technique, lime cilantro chicken breasts will be just as juicy.
Can I Use Bone-In Chicken?
Yes. You can use skin-on bone-in chicken breasts or chicken thighs. You will need to cook them a bit longer on the grill, in the oven or in slow cooker. Follow my baked chicken thighs recipe for instructions.
I do not recommend to pan fry bone-in cilantro lime chicken because it will burn outside before it is cooked inside.
What Goes Well with Cilantro Lime Chicken?
- Use sliced chicken to make chicken burrito bowls and chicken street tacos.
- Use in grilled chicken salad.
- Serve with brown rice, quinoa and a side of grilled vegetables.
- Simple summer salads like creamy cucumber tomato salad or mango black bean salad pair so well!
- Top with summer salsa like mango salsa or pineapple salsa.
How to Store and Freeze
Refrigerate cilantro lime chicken leftovers in airtight container for up to 5 days. To keep chicken moist, slice right before serving.
Freeze cooked chicken for up to 3 months, again in an airtight container. I love glass containers because food stored in them tastes better.
I think it is best to cut, slice or shred your chicken before freezing it. It will thaw faster and you can add it to your meal right away. Frozen and thawed chicken is great to be added to casseroles.
Marinate the chicken for as little as 30 minutes to 48 hours. The longer chicken marinates, the bigger the flavor. But honestly, both 30 minutes and 24 hours marinated cilantro lime chicken recipe had such amazing flavors.
As per USDA safety guidelines, chicken is ready when meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 F. You can do that or I like to stop cooking chicken when internal read thermometer registers 150 degrees F. Meat will reach 165 F during resting. This way you will avoid dry chicken.
Yes. Lime juice is an acid which breaks down the meat and cooks it. If you marinate cilantro lime chicken longer than 24 hours, it may come out too soft with unpleasant texture.
Fresh lime juice is the best to make cilantro lime chicken. Bottled lime juice may taste bitter.
More Chicken Recipes to Try
- Grilled chicken breast
- Chicken street tacos
- Cajun chicken recipe
- Honey garlic chicken
- Grilled lemon rosemary chicken
- Bruschetta chicken
- Yogurt marinated chicken
- Chicken zucchini recipe
- Baked chicken caprese
Enjoy this cilantro lime chicken recipe and other healthy grill recipes! And I hope you come back and let me know how you liked it in comments below. I love hearing from you!
Cilantro Lime Chicken
- In a food processor or blender, add cilantro (whole and with stems), lime juice, garlic, olive oil, cumin, salt, cayenne and black pepper. Process until marinade forms, pausing and scraping the walls.
- Add chicken in a medium bowl and poke randomly with a fork. This will allow marinade to penetrate the meat. Pour marinade on top and toss with a fork to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 mins – 48 hours. The longer you marinate, deeper the flavor, but even after 30 mins cilantro chicken tastes awesome.
- To pan fry (pictured): Preheat large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium heat and swirl a bit of avocado oil to coat. Add as many chicken breasts as fit, cover and cook for 5-6 minutes. Flip and cook for another 5-6 minutes or until the thickest part juices run clear when poked with a knife or fork. Discard marinade.
- To grill: Preheat grill on medium-high (450-500 degrees F) and rub with oiled paper towel. Place chicken on the grill, close the lid and grill for 8-10 minutes turning once. Do not overcook. Discard marinade.
- To bake: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Rub bottom of large baking dish with oil and lay chicken breasts in a single layer. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes (thinner) to 35 minutes (2″+) or until 150 degrees F internal temperature. Discard marinade.
- For all methods: Make sure you let chicken rest. Remove from heat and cover dish with tin foil, silicone lid or paper towel. Let rest for 5 minutes. This step helps juices to settle back into the meat.
- Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- Freeze: Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
- Because of the nature of marinade, if you pan fry chicken, cilantro will burn a bit on the bottom. And that’s fine. It creates a nice crust.
- If you do not have blender or food processor, you can finely chop cilantro, grate garlic and whisk marinade by hand.