Tequila-Lime Chicken

published Jun 9, 2023
Tequila-Lime Chicken Recipe

This bright and citrusy grilled tequila lime chicken will have everyone asking for the recipe.

Serves4

Prep25 minutes

Cook20 minutes to 25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Tequila lime chicken on serving platter.
Credit: Amelia Rampe

You can never have enough easy weeknight chicken dinner ideas. This tequila-lime chicken recipe relies on a marinade that comes together in minutes and utilizes mostly pantry ingredients. The result? A deeply flavorful grilled tequila-lime chicken that can be served alongside almost any meal. 

Ingredients in Tequila-Lime Chicken Marinade

  • White onion
  • Garlic
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Orange
  • Limes
  • Jalapeño pepper
  • Gold or silver tequila
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Chili powder or taco seasoning
  • Dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper

This marinade can be used with beef or pork, or, if you prefer, chicken thighs. If you are alcohol-free, feel free to omit the tequila. 

Credit: Amelia Rampe

How to Make Tequila-Lime Chicken 

  • Make the marinade. You can prepare the marinade in a bowl, baking dish, or zip-top bag. Lime and orange zests are combined with tequila and aromatics like onions, garlic, and cilantro. (Do not add the juice yet! The acid can “cook” the chicken and the end result will be overly dry chicken.)
  • Add the citrus. Right before you’re ready to cook, add freshly squeezed lime and orange juices to the marinade to infuse the chicken with delicious citrus notes.
  • Cook the chicken. You can cook the chicken in a skillet or on the grill. (Instructions for both methods are in the recipe below!)
Credit: Amelia Rampe

How to Serve Tequila-Lime Chicken 

Tequila-lime chicken can be served alongside black beans and cilantro rice. But it would also be delicious alongside potato salad or on top of a green salad. You can slice the chicken and serve it fajita-style. Hot tip: Grill the onions from the marinade!

You can also chop the chicken breasts into small pieces and serve it inside tacos or on top of refried bean tostadas, shred the chicken and stuff it into a sandwich, or use it to upgrade your regular chicken salad

Tips for Making Tequila-Lime Chicken

  • Make it spicier. A seeded jalapeño pepper adds mild heat, but feel free to keep some seeds in if you like more spice.
  • Make it ahead. You can prep the marinade and chicken the night before for next-day cooking — just add the citrus juice to the marinade right before you cook. 
  • Double the recipe. To serve a crowd, just increase the ratios as needed.

Tequila-Lime Chicken Recipe

This bright and citrusy grilled tequila lime chicken will have everyone asking for the recipe.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/2

    medium white onion

  • 6 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2

    medium bunch fresh cilantro, divided

  • 1

    medium orange, divided

  • 2

    medium limes, divided

  • 1

    medium jalapeño pepper, divided

  • 1/4 cup

    gold or silver tequila

  • 4 tablespoons

    vegetable oil, divided

  • 3 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    chili powder or taco seasoning

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 4

    skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts (about 4 pounds total)

Instructions

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same large bowl or large zip top bag as you complete it: Cut 1/2 medium white onion into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Thinly slice 6 garlic cloves. Coarsely chop the stems from 1/2 medium bunch fresh cilantro until you have 1/4 cup. Finely grate the zest from 1 medium orange until you have about 1 tablespoon. Finely grate the zest from 2 medium limes until you have about 1 tablespoon.

  2. Thinly slice the lower half of 1 medium jalapeño into thin rounds and reserve for garnish. Trim and coarsely chop the remaining half of the jalapeño (remove the seeds first for a less spicy marinade), then add to the bag.

  3. Add 1/3 cup gold or silver tequila, 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to combine.

  4. Keeping the skin on, cut 4 chicken breasts off the bones; discard the bones or save for making stock. Add the chicken to the marinade and turn to coat. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 8 hours. Refrigerate and reserve the zested orange and limes.

  5. If grilling, prepare an outdoor grill for direct, medium-high heat (about 425ºF). If using a cast-iron skillet and cooking on the stovetop, heat later.

  6. About 15 minutes before cooking, juice the zested orange until you have 1/4 cup. Juice 1 1/2 of the zested limes until you have about 1/4 cup. Add both juices to the marinade and chicken and let sit at room temperature. Cut the remaining 1/2 lime into wedges and reserve for serving. Coarsely chop fresh cilantro leaves for garnish.

  7. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Wipe off any excess marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Season the chicken with the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

  8. If using a cast-iron skillet or grill pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in the pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken skin-side down. Cook undisturbed until the skin is deep golden brown and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue to cook until the internal temperature registers at least 160ºF on an instant-read thermometer, adjusting the heat as needed to avoid burning, 10 to 15 minutes more.

  9. If grilling, scrape the grill grates clean if needed. Coat the chicken and grease the grill grates with the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Place the chicken on the grill skin-side down. Cover and cook until the skin is deep golden brown and caramelized or charred in spots, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue to cook until the internal temperature registers at least 160ºF on an instant-read thermometer, reducing the heat as needed, 10 to 20 minutes more.

  10. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with the reserved jalapeño and cilantro and serve with the lime wedges.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The chicken can be marinated up to 8 hours ahead.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.