Chicken Tacos

published Feb 19, 2024
Chicken Tacos Recipe

No other chicken tacos will come close to being as good as these.

Serves4

MakesMakes 8 tacos

Prep10 minutes

Cook20 minutes to 25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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overhead shot of two chicken tacos on a plate, with limes to the left of them.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

More often than not, chicken tacos tend to be dry, have little flavor, and are quite honestly kind of boring. I’m here to remedy that with my recipe for chicken tacos that are packed with flavor.

In this recipe, I toss chicken thighs with a blend of peppers and cinnamon (a nod to the warm spices found in beef barbacoa) and let them marinate for a short amount of time. Pairing the seasoned chicken with a quick and fresh salsa verde will make you wonder why this type of chicken taco is not more commonly served across all taquerias.

I like to serve these chicken tacos with charred radishes and a lime wedge for squeezing. Traditionally in Mexico, radishes are served raw with a splash of lime juice, but I found that giving them a quick char first mellows their intensity while keeping the crunch intact. This will surely become your go-to recipe whenever you’re in the mood for chicken tacos.

Key Ingredients in Chicken Tacos

  • Chicken thighs: These have more marbled fat compared to chicken breast, resulting in meat that is both tender and juicy.
  • Seasonings: Chile powder, cinnamon, and allspice add maximum flavor without needing to marinate the chicken for an extended period of time. The combination, which mimics the flavors of barbacoa, warms up the overall dish.
  • Aromatics and herbs: Fresh thyme and garlic elevate and add depth to the chicken.
  • Tomatillos: Make up the bulk of the fresh salsa verde, which brightens the tacos.

How to Make Chicken Tacos

  1. Marinate the chicken. Toss sliced chicken thighs with spices and oil, ensuring every piece is fully covered.
  2. Make salsa verde and char the radishes. Blend tomatillos, jalapeño, garlic, and salt until smooth. Meanwhile, roast halved radishes and chopped scallions. Add the scallions to the salsa, then separately toss the radishes with some acid. 
  3. Cook the chicken. You’ll want to crisp and char the chicken in spots.
  4. Assemble the tacos. Divide the chicken between corn or small flour tortillas, spoon the salsa verde over the top, and serve with radishes on the side.

Helpful Swaps

  • You can easily swap the chicken for slow-cooked pulled pork or even slices of firm tofu. 
  • Top with avocado wedges if you like.
  • Serve with cucumber slices in addition to or instead of the charred radishes. 

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips

The prep for chicken tacos can easily be split up so the dish comes together quicker the day of. The salsa can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to three days. You can marinate the chicken overnight in the refrigerator. And if you like, you can even cook the chicken beforehand then reheat in the microwave just before serving. 

Chicken Tacos Recipe

No other chicken tacos will come close to being as good as these.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Makes Makes 8 tacos

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 2

    cloves garlic

  • 4

    sprigs fresh thyme

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil, plus more for cooking if needed

  • 1 tablespoon

    chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1

    pinch ground allspice

For the tomatillo salsa and radishes:

  • 10 ounces

    tomatillos (6 to 8 medium)

  • 1/2

    medium jalapeño pepper

  • 1

    small garlic clove

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 4

    medium scallions

  • 10

    small radishes

  • 1 teaspoon

    olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    white wine vinegar or lime juice

  • Flaky salt

  • Maldon sea salt flakes

For serving:

  • 8

    warm corn or small flour (preferably Sonoran-style) tortillas

  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place on the rack. Heat the oven to 500ºF.

Marinate the chicken:

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Thinly slice 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs crosswise; finely chop 2 garlic cloves; pick the leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs (about 1/2 teaspoon).

  2. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1 pinch ground allspice. Toss until the chicken is evenly coated. Let sit at room temperature while you make the salsa and radishes.

Make the salsa and roast the radishes:

  1. Peel the papery skins from 10 ounces tomatillos and rinse. Halve the tomatillos. Place the tomatillos, 1/2 medium jalapeño pepper with the seeds, 1 small peeled garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a serving bowl.

  2. Chop 4 medium scallions crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup). Halve 10 small radishes, drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, and toss to coat.

  3. Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven. Place the radishes flat-side down on one side of the baking sheet. Place the scallions on the other side. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast until both are charred in spots, about 10 minutes. (This is a good time to start cooking the chicken.)

  4. Transfer the radishes to a bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar or lime juice and a large pinch of flaky salt, and toss to combine. Transfer the scallions to the salsa and stir to combine.

Make the chicken:

  1. While the radishes and scallions are roasting, cook the chicken: Heat a 12-inch frying pan or skillet, preferably cast iron, to medium-high heat. If using a stainless steel skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil; no need to add oil if using a cast iron pan. Add the chicken and arrange into an even layer. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and starting to crisp and char in spots, 10 to 15 minutes

  2. For each taco, fill a warm corn or small flour tortilla with about 1/4 cup of the chicken, then top with the tomatillo salsa. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing and the radishes on the side.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The chicken can be marinated overnight in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Storage: Leftover chicken and salsa can be refrigerated in separate airtight containers for up to 3 days. Reheat the chicken in the microwave.