Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade

A cilantro lime marinade for chicken is one of my favorites. It has the right balance of flavors – a bit of heat, fresh flavors and all together they pack a big punch. This recipe is so versatile. You can use it for chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks, chicken wings and chicken breast.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade (chicken thighs)

A Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade is a staple in my kitchen. Living in the sunshine state has many benefits and one of them is having beautiful grilling weather most of the year. We love our backyard grill and put it to good use. This Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade is one we use over and over again.

The marinade is really easy to make and very easy to adjust. You can make it more or less spicy, add different flavors by using different combinations of spices. I used both the lime zest and the juice to really amp up the lime flavor. The fresh cilantro adds so much freshness and the roasted poblano adds the great taste of peppers to the chicken. You can use jalapeno peppers instead of the poblano pepper if you want more heat.

You can grill the chicken right away if you want a really simple, quick dinner, or let it marinate overnight for maximum flavor. That’s why it’s perfect for meal prepping. I even freeze the chicken in the marinade when I do Freezer Meal Prepping. We use this marinade on chicken drumsticks and chicken breast too and use the meat for burritos, tacos, or alongside rice or Roasted Potatoes. It’s a perfect meal any time of the year. 

Ingredients For Cilantro Lime Marinade:

  • chicken
    • My favorite chicken to use in this recipe are bone in, skin on chicken thighs, however, you can use any chicken parts, chicken drumsticks, thighs, wings, breast, even use boneless and skinless chicken thighs or breasts.
  • poblano pepper (or jalapeno pepper)
    • Most of the time, I use poblano pepper, since it isn’t too spicy, and we most often serve this for children. If you want the marinade to be spicier, use jalapeno pepper instead.
  • olive oil (you can use most any oil for this recipe, sometimes I use avocado oil instead of olive oil)
  • cilantro
    • I use tons of cilantro for this recipe, but if you don’t like cilantro, you can use parsley instead, or even a combination of fresh herbs, such as green onions, chives, rosemary, thyme, etc.
  • limes, juice and zest (lemons can be used instead too)
  • garlic
  • salt, ground black pepper
  • herbs and spices
    • So many different combinations of herbs and spices can be used for this recipe. Here is my favorite to use: cumin, paprika, coriander, chili lime seasoning, poultry seasoning, dry Italian herbs, chili powder.
Ingredients For Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade

Cilantro Lime Chicken Recipe:

  1. Prepare the chicken.
    • Trim the chicken thighs of extra skin and fat, so they look nice and neat.
  2. Make the marinade.
    • Cut the poblano pepper in half, place it on a baking sheet and broil it on the highest heat setting of your oven until the skin gets charred about 5 minutes. It can burn really quickly, so keep an eye on it. Remove the skin.
    • Place all the marinade ingredients into a food processor or blender. (You can also chop the cilantro and poblano pepper finely and not use a food processor at all.)
    • Process all the ingredients together until smooth.
  3. Combine the chicken with the marinade in a large bowl.
    • You can grill it immediately, but if you can let it marinate for at least 30 minutes to an hour, it will taste even better. For the best results, let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Grill the chicken.
    • Preheat the grill on high heat for about 15 minutes. Clean the grill grates. Take a wad of paper towels and holding them with a pair of tongs, dip them into a small bowl of oil and brush the grill grates 3-5 times. This will help to create a barrier on the grates, making them somewhat nonstick and also clean the grates even more.
    • Place the chicken skin side down on the grill grates and lower the temperature to medium. Grill the chicken for 5-8 minutes, until the skin has some nice grill marks and is golden brown.
    • Flip the chicken over and continue grilling until the internal temperature of the chicken is 170-175 degrees Fahrenheit. The time will vary greatly, depending on your grill and the size of the chicken, anywhere from 15-25 more minutes.
How To Make Cilantro Lime Grilled Chicken
Cilantro Lime Grilled Chicken Thighs

Helpful Tips and Frequently Asked Questions

What chicken can be used for Cilantro Lime Marinade?

I use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for this recipe most of the time, but you can also use chicken drumsticks, chicken wings, chicken breast and also boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Herbs and Spices for Cilantro Lime Chicken

The combination of spices and dry herbs is completely up to you. I am giving you the spice combination that I like to use, but you can make the flavor more robust or omit any of them that you don’t like. You can also keep it very simple and just use salt, pepper, and paprika. I use this marinade all the time and I often do different combinations.

Use this marinade for many other proteins.

I like using this marinade for any poultry, but it works really well for pork chops, steaks and even fish.

How long should you marinate cilantro lime chicken?

You can grill it immediately, but if you can let it marinate for at least 30 minutes to an hour, it will taste even better. For the best results, let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Use the Cilantro Lime Chicken for many other recipes.

We love this chicken for tacos, burritos and Burrito Bowls. It’s absolutely wonderful.

Save some of the marinade to serve with the chicken.

You can set aside some of the marinade right after making it and before adding the chicken to it and then serve it with the grilled chicken. (NOT after marinating raw chicken in it, of course, just set aside a few Tablespoons right out of the food processor.) The fresh lime juice and herbs will give it a pop of extra flavor. OR simply serve with more extra lime juice and fresh cilantro.

It’s perfect for meal prep.

This is one of my favorite recipes for meal prepping because you can marinate the chicken up to a few days in advance. Just be sure to bring the refrigerated chicken to room temperature for about 30 minutes before grilling.
The marinated chicken freezer really well too!
Just combine the chicken in the marinade, place in a freezer ziplock bag or airtight storage container and freeze for up to 3 months. Then thaw and grill. Since the chicken has been in the marinade, it will be extra flavorful.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade (Chicken Breaast)

This marinade is absolutely amazing! I works really well for boneless skinless chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks and chicken breast too.

What To Serve With Cilantro Lime Chicken

  1. Long Grain White Rice
  2. Roasted Potatoes
  3. Roasted Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad
  4. Zucchini, Corn and Black Bean Rice
  5. Simple and creamy mashed potatoes OR Bacon and Chive Mashed Potatoes
Print

Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade

The cilantro lime marinade for there grilled chicken thighs is incredible! It has the right balance of flavors – a bit of heat, fresh flavors and a bit of sweetness. The grilled chicken would be perfect to serve just as it is with some rice or potatoes or in burrito bowls, tacos or on top of salad.

  • Author: Olga’s Flavor Factory
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 65 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Course

Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 bone-in (skin on chicken thighs (however, you can use any chicken parts, chicken drumsticks, thighs, wings, breast, even use boneless and skinless chicken thighs or breasts))

Marinade:

  • 1 medium poblano pepper (or jalapeno pepper)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (or avocado oil, grape seed oil, etc)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • juice of 12 limes (zest of 1 lime)
  • 35 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/21 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/21 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili lime seasoning (optional, or any other unsalted seasoning mix, such poultry seasoning, dry Italian herbs, herbes de Provence, chili powder, etc.)

Instructions

  1. Trim the chicken thighs of extra skin and fat, so they look nice and neat.
  2. Cut the poblano pepper in half, place it on a baking sheet and broil it on the highest heat setting of your oven until the skin gets charred about 5 minutes. It can burn really quickly, so keep an eye on it. Remove the skin.
  3. Place all the marinade ingredients into a food processor or blender. (You can also chop the cilantro and poblano pepper finely and not use a food processor at all.)
  4. The combination of spices and dry herbs is completely up to you. I am giving you the spice combination that I like to use, but you can make the flavor more robust or omit any of them that you don’t like. You can also keep it very simple and just use salt, pepper, and paprika. I use this marinade all the time and I often do different combinations.
  5. Process all the ingredients together until smooth.
  6. Combine the chicken with the marinade in a large bowl. You can grill it immediately, but if you can let it marinate for at least 30 minutes to an hour, it will taste even better. For the best results, let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  7. Preheat the grill on high heat for about 15 minutes. Clean the grill grates. Take a wad of paper towels and holding them with a pair of tongs, dip them into a small bowl of oil and brush the grill grates 3-5 times. This will help to create a barrier on the grates, making them somewhat nonstick and also clean the grates even more.
  8. Place the chicken skin side down on the grill grates and lower the temperature to medium. Grill the chicken for 5-8 minutes, until the skin has some nice grill marks and is golden brown.
  9. Flip the chicken over and continue grilling until the internal temperature of the chicken is 170-175 degrees Fahrenheit. The time will vary greatly, depending on your grill and the size of the chicken, anywhere from 15-25 more minutes. (If you grill chicken breast, the internal temperature needs to be 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit.)
  10. Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  11. Serve with more fresh cilantro and lime.

Notes

  1. Instead of using a poblano or jalapeno pepper, sometimes I use Hatch Valley Salsa that I buy at Trader Joe’s. It has some heat and lots of great pepper flavor. You can substitute salsa verde or some other pepper salsa. In this case, it will be even faster to make the marinade.

Keywords: cilantro lime chicken, cilantro lime chicken marinade, cilantro lime grilled chicken, cilantro lime chicken thighs, cilantro lime chicken breast

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This is an updated recipe for Cilantro Lime Chicken that was originally published on March 13, 2018. I updated the photos, clarified the instructions and added a video. The recipe is still the same.

6 Comments

  • Liliya

    This grilled chicken marinade is absolutely amazing! My chicken turned out so flavorful. Zest and juice from lime give great flavor. Coming back to this recipe again and again. Thank you Olga from sharing wonderful recipes with us 🙂

  • Karolina

    This marinade is phenomenal! Probably my favorite to date. I ended up doubling the recipe and using part of it for roasted brussel sprouts as a side dish. Everyone was raving! Thanks so much for sharing Olga, your flavors are always spot on!

    • olgak7

      Roast in the oven (I usually preheat the oven to 425 F) until the chicken reaches 160-165 degrees F for chicken breast and 170-175 degrees F for chicken thighs. (Use an instant read thermometer to check it.)
      If I use the oven to cook the chicken, I prefer to use bone in, skin on chicken, since it will be juicier and get more color than boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs. However, if you don’t mind if the chicken is pale in color, you can certainly use the boneless, skinless option too. It will still be very tasty.

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