Kitchn Love Letters

This 5-Ingredient Chicken Dinner Is My Favorite Way to Kick Off Summer

updated Sep 20, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Summer cooking should be simple, relying on fresh ingredients and smoke from the grill for flavor. That’s why every year I celebrate the arrival of the season (and my grill’s opening day) by making jalapeño grilled chicken. I invite my friends over for dinner and game night, and we enjoy the spicy chicken out on the patio.

This year, my patio party looks a little different — it’s just my little family of four — but I’m sticking with tradition and grilling this chicken. I wouldn’t kick off summer any other way.

Credit: Patty Catalano

Why Jalapeño Chicken Is the First Thing I Grill Every Summer

There’s nothing better than jalapeño-lime chicken to help me get reacquainted with my grill after a long winter’s nap. The recipe requires minimal prep and very little cleanup, and the punchy citrus chicken is just right for stuffing into summery tacos or arranging over a veggie-packed salad.

Pounding the chicken breast in a zip-top bag is the single most important step of the entire recipe. Most chicken breasts can be up to twice as thick on the wider end as they are on the tapered portion, and pounding it to an even thickness ensures it will cook evenly.

Once you’ve flattened the chicken, you’ll transfer it to a plate but save the bag. Add quartered limes, garlic cloves, some cumin, and a fresh jalapeño, and give them a good whack or two with the rolling pin until they burst and bruise — the juices and essential oils from the lime will mingle with the tender fruit of the jalapeño. I usually remove the membrane and seeds of the jalapeño (I love the flavor, but not the heat), but if your tastebuds can handle it, go ahead and leave them in. Return the chicken to the bag along with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

When you’re ready to eat, cook the chicken until grill marks appear and the chicken easily releases from the grates (don’t forget to clean and oil the grates before you start), then flip and cook until seared on the second side and cooked to 165°F. (I’ve also seared this chicken on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet, where it browns as nicely as it does on the grill.) Serve alongside corn and a crunchy cabbage slaw, or serve with more lime and jalapeño, which you can toss onto the grill with the chicken.

Without the graduation parties, neighborhood cookouts, or end-of-school celebrations we’re used to, it’s hard to know how to kick off summer. I hope you’ll join me by making some truly fantastic chicken.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.