This Mexican chicken marinade recipe makes your chicken flavorful, tender and extra juicy! It takes under ten minutes to make!
Note: There are links on this site that are "affiliate links". This means that I may receive a small commission if you subscribe or purchase something through the links provided. Please see my full disclosure policy for details.
Reasons This Is The Best Mexican Chicken Marinade
- The marinade can be made in less than 5 minutes
- The chicken retains the Mexican flavor of the marinade even after it is cooked
- The flavor is something different from your typical marinade
- This chicken can be used in many different types of dishes, such as fajitas or a salad taco salad.
- Olive Oil: I prefer olive oil because it contains healthy fats. Any type of oil can be substituted.
- Lime Juice: Freshly squeezed lime juice or bottled lime juice can be used.
- Fresh Cilantro: rinse well before using to remove excess dirt. Remove all stems and chop into small pieces.
- Chopped Garlic: an easy short cut is to purchase a container of chopped garlic in water. This lasts a long time in the refrigerator and you don’t have to worry about cutting the garlic!
- Sugar: granulated sugar helps slightly carmalize the chicken when cooked
- Spices: Cumin, Paprika, Chili Powder & Salt: these spices are what provide the flavor to the marinade
How To Marinade The Chicken
The easiest way to marinade chicken is to mix all ingredients and marinate the chicken in a large gallon size ziplock bag. Once the chicken is done marinading, you can easily throw out the bag. No dishes required!
Combine all ingredients in a large gallon ziplock bag. Seal the bag tightly and then mix the ingredients together from the outside of the bag by squeezing it around with your hands.
Add the chicken, seal the bag again, and then squeeze the outside of the bag so that the chicken is completely covered by the marinade. Store in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
How To Cook The Marinated Chicken
There are multiple ways to cook the chicken. The instructions below are for chicken breast. Cooking times may vary based on how thick the chicken is.
Stove: Add a tablespoon of canola oil to a grill pan or skillet and heat to medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken breast. Cook for 10 minutes on each side. Cooking time may vary based on the thickness of the chicken. Use a meat thermometer to check that the temperature reaches 165F.
*I recommend using a grill pan similar to this one!
Oven: Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a baking dish with pan release spray. Place chicken in the pan and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165F.
Stove/Oven Combination: this method creates a juicy chicken breast. The outside is cooked just enough to hold in all of the juices and then it is finished in the oven.
Cook chicken on a greased grill pan over medium high heat for 4 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and place in a greased baking pan. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until chicken reaches a temperature of 165F.
Grill: heat grill to 375F. Place chicken on the grill and cook for 8 minutes on each side or until chicken reaches a temperature of 165F.
Crock Pot: place the chicken in a crockpot. Add one cup of water. Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours.
What to Serve With This Dish
Since this is a Mexican flavored chicken marinade, I love to incorporate side dishes that are of similar flavor profile. Here are some of my favorite ways to serve the chicken:
- Serve with a side of Southwest Quinoa Salad
- Place on a bed of lettuce and use Fresh Salsa as your dressing
- Serve with Cowboy Caviar on the side
- Serve over rice or Spanish rice
- Create a Mexican chicken wrap. Slice the chicken into strips and serve with tortillas and cheese
Best Type Of Chicken To Use
Any type of chicken can be used. Good choices are chicken breasts, chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs. The cooking instructions listed in the recipe are for chicken breast.
To use a different cut of chicken, follow the same instructions for making the marinade. The cooking time will need to be adjusted slightly based on the thickness and type of chicken.
How Long To Marinade The Chicken
The chicken needs to marinade for at least 30 minutes. This allows it time to soak up the flavor and for the acids and salt to help tenderize the chicken. I would not recommend marinating the chicken any longer than 2 hours in the refrigerator for best texture and quality.
Components of a Good Marinade
A marinade must have several components in order for it to effectively tenderize the chicken.
Acid: the lime juice is considered the acid for this marinade. The acid is important because it helps to break down the connective tissues in the meat and tenderize it.
Oil: the oil used in this recipe is olive oil. Any type of oil (such as canola oil or vegetable oil) will work. Oil assists in retaining the moisture of the meat and it acts as a carrier of spices to enhance the flavor.
Seasonings and Spices: this has the biggest impact on the overall flavor of your marinade. The chili powder, cilantro and cumin all give this marinade a Mexican flavor.
Mexican Chicken Marinade As A Sauce
This marinade would make a great sauce for the chicken. To make this into a sauce, simply make a double batch of marinade by doubling all of the ingredients.
Prior to pouring the marinade onto the chicken, remove half of it and store it in the refrigerator for later. Make sure the marinade doesn’t touch the raw chicken or you won’t be able to use it.
Use a pastry brush to spread the extra marinade onto the chicken about five minutes before it’s done cooking. You could also serve this on the side of the chicken. Heat the marinade over the stove, add cornstarch by the teaspoon until it is thickened.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Marinade Chicken Overnight?
According to the USDA, chicken can be marinated in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. This is based on food safety purposes.
For quality and texture purposes, I would recommend only marinating the chicken for a maximum of two hours. Sometimes over marinating the chicken can cause it actually become mushy on the outside.
Can You Reuse the Mexican Chicken Marinade?
Any marinade that has touched the meat should be discarded. This is important to prevent foodboorne illness, as harmful bacteria can grow in the marinade once it’s been in contact with raw meat.
Tips and Tricks
- Always place the chicken in the refrigerator when marinating. This is important to prevent foodborne illness.
- Use a meat tenderizer utensil and pound the chicken to an even thickness. This will help it cook evenly, so that you don’t have one thin part that cooks faster than parts that may be thicker. This is also helpful for pieces of chicken are very thick and take a long time to cook.
- Always cook chicken to an end temperature of 165°F or more.
More Easy Dinner Ideas
- Grilled Chicken Kabobs
- BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Chipotle Chicken Bowl
- Mexican Meatballs
- Southwest Chicken Salad
Did you make this Mexican chicken marinade? I’d love to hear from you!! Feel free to leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram!
Mexican Chicken Marinade
- ¼ cup olive oil extra virgin
- ¼ cup lime juice (about 1.5 limes)
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 3 medium chicken breast
- In a gallon sized zip lock bag, combine the olive oil, lime juice, sugar, paprika, garlic, cumin, chili powder and salt.
- Remove the stems from the cilantro and chop into small pieces. Add to the zip-lock bag.
- Seal the bag and mix the marinade until combined.
Chicken Instructions (stovetop / oven)
- Pound the chicken breast to 1 inch thickness.
- Add the chicken to the zip lock bag with marinade and seal shut. Mix using hands until the chicken breasts are evenly coated.
- Place the chicken in the refrigerator and let the chicken marinade for 30 minutes (up to 2 hours).
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8 inch baking pan with non stick spray. Set aside.
- Heat a grill pan or griddle on the stove over medium heat. Spray with nonstick spray.
- Add chicken to pan and cook for 4 minutes on each side.
- Remove the chicken from pan and place in an 8x8 inch baking dish. Cover tightly with foil.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until chicken reaches temperature of 165 F.