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This Mexican chicken marinade will take your chicken from bland to beyond delicious in minutes! Bursting with the bright fresh flavors of cilantro and lime, it's a versatile and easy recipe for your next Mexican-inspired meal.
Grilling season is upon us! If you love the bright fresh flavors of cilantro and lime, you'll love this Mexican chicken marinade recipe. It's simple to make and results in juicy, tender chicken every time.
We love to grill the marinated chicken, but you could easily bake it, too. Once cooked, it's really versatile. Serve it with a simple Mexican-inspired vegetable side, chopped into chunks on a salad, or tucked into a sandwich or tacos.
It's the perfect marinated chicken recipe for busy weeknights, and great for cookouts, too. If you're a fan of meal prepping, portion out your chicken into freezer-proof containers, add the marinade, and freeze it until you're ready to use it.
Here's why you'll love it
We know that once you make this Mexican chicken marinade, it will become a household favorite. Here are some other reasons you'll love it:
- It's quick and easy to make
- It results in chicken that's juicy and tender
- It adds so much flavor!
- It's healthy and fresh
- You can make it ahead so it saves you time
- It makes versatile chicken that can be used in so many different ways
How to make Mexican chicken marinade
Not only does marinating chicken prevent it from drying out, but it also makes it super juicy and flavorful. This easy-to-make marinade comes together in just two easy steps:
- Start by mixing all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.
- Now marinate the chicken. Place the chicken in a shallow bowl or baking dish, and pour the marinade over top. Mix it around until it's all coated and pop it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. That's it!
To bake the chicken, place the ovenproof baking dish in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake it uncovered for the time shown in the notes on the recipe card below.
To grill the chicken, remove the chicken from the marinade and grill it over medium heat. See the notes in the recipe card below for recommended cooking times.
Mexican chicken marinade ingredients
This easy marinade only takes a few ingredients and most of them you'll have in your kitchen right now. Here's everything you'll need to make this cilantro lime chicken marinade:
- Cilantro – this fresh, citrusy tasting herb adds big flavor to this marinade.
- Avocado oil – is a neutral-tasting oil that coats the chicken and locks in moisture.
- Lime juice – for its zesty flavor, and the acidity helps to tenderize the chicken.
- Seasonings – chili powder, cumin, oregano, and sea salt add Mexican flavors.
- Garlic – for its versatile taste and a bit of kick.
- Chicken – boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts work equally well here.
Variations to try
This is a recipe for a basic Mexican chicken marinade, but you can put your own spin on it or try one of these ideas:
- If you love heat, mince up a fresh jalapeño or add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the marinade.
- Add in a squeeze of fresh orange or grapefruit juice for a more sweet citrus flavor.
- Add more herbs you have on hand like like mint, oregano, thyme, or parsley.
- Try pork chops instead of chicken (just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly).
- Make it sweet by adding a tablespoon of honey or agave syrup.
What kind of chicken should I use?
We recommend boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. You could even use chicken drumsticks or bone-in thighs, too.
Can I sub the avocado oil?
Yes, another neutral-tasting oil like extra-virgin olive oil will work well.
How long do leftovers keep?
Cooked chicken will stay fresh in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
Can I make this recipe ahead of time?
Definitely, it's a great make-ahead marinade. The marinade on its own will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days. We recommend marinating the chicken for a minimum of 30 minutes, up to 24 hours total.
Can I freeze it?
Yes, if you're meal prepping, portion out your chicken in a freezer-proof container, add the marinade, and freeze it until you're ready to use it. It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
How to serve Mexican marinated chicken
This Mexican-style cilantro lime chicken recipe is so versatile. It's great all on its own, in a taco salad, on nachos, or even sliced up in sandwiches the next day.
While you've got the grill out, try it with our chili lime grilled corn on the cob, chunky grilled guacamole, or grilled vegetable salad. This Mexican chicken marinade is great for making in a big batch for special occasions or cookouts, too.
- ½ cup cilantro (fnely minced)
- ¼ cup avocado oil
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon EACH: cumin, oregano, and sea salt
- 2 cloves garlic (finely minced)
- 2 lb chicken thighs or breast
- In a small bowl, combine the cilantro, avocado oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and garlic.½ cup cilantro, ¼ cup avocado oil, ¼ cup lime juice, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon EACH: cumin, oregano, and sea salt, 2 cloves garlic
- Place the chicken in a shallow bowl or baking dish and pour the marinade over the top. Mix the chicken around a little so that it is well-coated in the marinade. Cover the chicken, put it into your fridge, and let it marinate for 30 minutes – 24 hours.2 lb chicken thighs or breast
Cook the chicken
- Bake: Put the chicken and all of the marinade into a shallow baking dish. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, uncovered, for 15 minutes for boneless thighs, 20-25 minutes for breast, and 35-40 minutes for bone-in thighs.
- Grill: Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill over medium heat for 10 minutes for boneless thighs, 18-22 minutes for breast, and 30-35 minutes (over indirect heat) for bone-in thighs.
Optional: freeze the chicken
- Put the raw chicken into freezer bags then pour the marinade over the top. Squish the bag around a little so that the chicken is coated in the marinade then seal the bag and put it into your freezer.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.