August 25, 2021
This cilantro lime chicken marinade is easy to whip up and adds a ton of flavor to your grilled, baked, or pan-seared chicken in just 20 minutes.
Not only am I sharing one of my favorite chicken marinades, but I’m also taking you step-by-step on the best way to marinate chicken and some convenient ways to prep ahead and save yourself time in the kitchen.
The Fresh Ingredients
A good marinade will contain a form of fat, salt, acid, and seasoning. The acid can come from vinegar or citrus juice and is one of the most important components because it weakens the surface proteins in the meat, making the meat more tender and flavorful when cooked.
This cilantro lime marinade uses fresh lime juice as its acid, which gives it that south of the border flavor with cumin and cilantro. Here’s everything you need to make it:
- fresh lime juice
- olive oil
- fresh cilantro
- ground cumin
How to Make Cilantro Lime Marinade
Making Cilantro Lime Marinade is a simple process that goes like this:
- Chop the cilantro and garlic.
- Add the fresh lime juice, oil, cilantro, cumin, garlic, and salt to a large bowl and whisk.
- Add 1 lb of chicken to the marinade, cover, and refrigerate.
Alternatively, you can add everything to a large zip bag, seal, and shake to combine.
Marinating the Chicken
Once the marinade and chicken are ready, refrigerate the bag or container for 15 minutes or overnight.
If you plan to cook the chicken immediately, give the chicken enough time to soak up as much flavor as possible, which is why I recommend 15 minutes.
Can I leave marinated chicken out at room temperature?
At room temperature, raw chicken, or any meat, is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that can make you sick, so I don’t recommend leaving marinated meat out.
Cooking the Chicken
You can use this easy marinade for cooking any chicken cut like chicken breasts, thighs, drumsticks, and even wings, but below I’m sharing the three most popular ways to cook cilantro-lime marinated chicken breasts or thighs.
One quick note before we start cooking, if you want moist chicken that isn’t tough or dry, cook white meat to an internal temperature of 165F, and dark meat to 175F. It’s one of the biggest secrets to perfectly cooked chicken.
Now, that’s settled. Let’s start cooking.
How to cook chicken breasts and thighs on the stove-top
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil, add the chicken in an even layer, and cook for 6 minutes on one side before flipping and cooking for another 4 to 6 minutes.
- Check the internal temperature and remove when the chicken is cooked through. Allow 5 minutes for the chicken to rest before slicing and serving.
How to cook chicken breasts and thighs on the grill
- Preheat the grill to medium heat. Add the chicken and cook 5 to 7 minutes per side or until the internal temperature reaches 165F for white meat or 175F for dark meat.
- Remove from the grill and rest 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
How to cook chicken breasts and thighs in the oven
- Preheat the oven to 375F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the chicken breasts to the baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165F for white meat or 175F for dark meat. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing or serving.
Now that you have perfectly flavorful and juicy chicken, it’s time to whip up Avocado Salsa to go over the top. Serve it over a bed of rice or cauliflower rice, and you have a complete meal.
Other Cuts of Meat
This cilantro lime marinade is also an excellent option for different cuts of beef such as flank or skirt steak and seafood. Be careful not to marinate the meat too long, or it will do the exact opposite and make it tough and chewy.
Below is a comprehensive list of how long to marinate different proteins:
- Chicken and turkey: use any cut and marinate for 15 minutes or up to 24 hours.
- Beef: Tough cuts of beef like flank, skirt, and sirloin do great when soaked in a marinade for up to 24 hours. Otherwise, a marinade can ruin top-quality cuts such as filet or ribeye.
- Pork: up to 24 hours for tenderloin or chops.
- Seafood: fish and shellfish should marinate no longer than 30 minutes. Anything past that mark and the lime juice will begin to cook the protein making it mushy and unpleasant.
Can You Freeze Cilantro Lime Marinade?
This marinade can be frozen by itself or with your choice of protein. And when you’re ready to cook, the meat will marinate as it defrosts. If I’m using chicken, I prefer to defrost it in the fridge overnight or a water bath, which I show you how to do both methods in the video below:
More Tips for Perfectly Marinated Cilantro Lime Chicken
This cilantro lime marinade will add delicious and bold flavor to your favorite cuts of chicken, and below you’ll find additional tips to help you cook moist chicken and save time in the kitchen when you make cilantro-lime avocado chicken or any other recipe with this epic chicken marinade!
Cook by temperature
Making perfect, juicy chicken is all in cooking by temperature, not time, which is why I suggest keeping a meat thermometer on hand.
Start with a HOT Pan
In this case, we are talking about cooking the chicken on the stove-top. You want to hear a good sizzle as soon as the chicken touches the skillet’s surface; this will sear the meat and help lock in its juices.
Add this to frozen chicken
Have a frozen pound of chicken? Save yourself a step and add the marinade to the chicken. It will marinate as it defrosts.
Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 small garlic clove, grated
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½-2 lbs boneless chicken breasts
- Add chicken and marinade ingredients to a large zip bag. Let chicken marinate for 15-20 minutes.