Pineapple Chicken

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Delicious, marinated chicken with a simple cilantro-pineapple salsa. Pineapple Chicken is easy to make and mega flavorful!

Pair Pineapple Chicken with coconut-lime rice or cilantro-lime rice for a complete meal. You can also serve some Roasted Asparagus or Roasted Brussels Sprouts on the side if you’re feeling ambitious!

Image of the ready-to-eat Pineapple Chicken over rice, with avocado and lime on the side.

With a sweet and slightly zesty chicken marinade, smokey and succulent pineapple salsa, and a creamy avocado bringing everything together — this is one of my all-time favorite meals! It comes together nicely, is easy to make, and best of all it’s a complete party in your mouth with great flavor and good textures! 

This recipe requires relatively few ingredients, so the ingredients and the way you prepare them matter. While I highly recommend grilling this meal, a grill pan also works great. And in a pinch, I’ve included oven and skillet instructions. Enjoy!
Image of the pineapple that goes into this pineapple chicken recipe before and after it has been grilled.

How to make Pineapple Chicken 

  • Whisk together all of the pineapple chicken marinade ingredients. This marinade is the perfect complement to fresh grilled pineapple! It’s slightly sweet and zesty, thanks to the coriander, cumin, and honey. Before you add the chicken, reserve some of this marinade to brush over as it grills.
  • Prep chicken. You want to pound chicken breasts to an even thickness so they’ll cook evenly later on. This is best accomplished with a meat mallet.
  • Marinate. Place the chicken in marinade and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 6 hours. We don’t marinate longer than that, as the acidity from the lime begins to “cook” the chicken.
  • Cook. Grill, bake, or sauté the chicken until it reaches 165 degrees F. (I like to remove the guesswork by using a digital meat thermometer.)
    • Cooking times will vary depending on several factors, so I always recommend using a thermometer to test your chicken as it cooks. Aim to hit exactly 165 degrees Fahrenheit. (Undercooked = unsafe; Overcooked = dry chicken)
  • Baste. As you cook the chicken, brush it occasionally with the reserved marinade. This will amp up the flavor!
  • Make Pineapple Chicken salsa. While the chicken is cooking, it’s the perfect time to whip together the salsa. The salsa requires few ingredients but packs a huge punch of flavor! To ensure it’s as flavorful as possible, make sure you get a really good and ripe pineapple! 

Image of the marinade with chicken in it.

Time-saving tips for Pineapple Chicken

When it’s a busy night, I’m all about shortcuts in the kitchen! Here are a few for this dish:

  • Jarred garlic: yes, real garlic is better, but in a marinade, you can’t tell that much of a difference. Jarred garlic will make the marinade fast and simple.
  • Precut pineapple: If your grocery store sells pre-cored pineapple with the skin removed and you’re in a hurry — grab it! They’re rarely that much more expensive and they’re such a time saver in a pinch and the pre-cored/skinned pineapples are usually perfectly ripe. (If you’re not using a pre-cut pineapple, here’s a great guide to cutting one.)
  • Juicer: This recipe requires quite a bit of fresh lime juice (which means you know it’s going to be delicious!), so invest in a good juicer or citrus reamer. You don’t need anything special or crazy expensive; this one is pretty cheap and a great deal if you juice a lot of citrus. 

Image of all the ingredients that go into the salsa for this recipe.

More recipe tips

  • Make sure to slice the chicken breasts in half, or pound them into an even thickness before marinating. This allows the chicken to soak up more flavor from the marinade (which improves the taste), and the even thickness allows them to cook evenly.
  • If grilling, generously oil your grill grates. I do this by rolling up a few paper towels, drenching them in oil (I use canola or vegetable), and using tongs, rub the drenched paper towels along the grill grates. Doing this will contribute to a beautiful sear and ensure the chicken and pineapple don’t stick to the grates.
  • As the chicken is cooking, brush the reserved marinade on the meat. Doing this will enhance the chicken’s flavor.
  • Once it’s finished, let the cooked chicken rest, tented with foil, for 5-10 minutes before cutting in. Once it has rested, thinly slice or chop it. I prefer chopping the chicken as it mixes better with the salsa, avocado, and rice.
  • For the best flavor, grill the pineapple. While this is optional, grilling the pineapple brings out the absolute best flavor (and it doesn’t take long to do!). It makes the pineapple more juicy, flavorful, and sweet.

Image of the salsa mixed and ready to eat for this healthy Pineapple Chicken.

Recipe Notes and variations

One of the things I love about Pineapple Chicken is how easy it is to adjust it to your personal preference or desired cooking method. Below are a few ideas for making the dish healthier and how to cook it with alternate methods. 

  • Healthy Pineapple Chicken: As written, this dish is exceptionally healthy! To make it even healthier, serve it over quinoa, brown rice, or another whole grain.
  • Fresh pineapple: While you can use canned pineapple with this dish, opt if possible, for fresh; the flavor difference is amazing! Here are a few tips for finding the perfect fresh pineapple. If using canned pineapple, make sure you are selecting pineapple that isn’t canned in a sugary syrup.
  • Baked Pineapple Chicken: This recipe can be baked instead of grilled. To do so, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for approximately 18 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through. Remove from the oven, and loosely cover the sheet pan with foil.  Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes and serve pineapple salsa over the baked chicken!
  • Sautéed Pineapple Chicken: This recipe can be sautéed instead of grilled. To do so, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add chicken breast and cook for 4-6 minutes per side until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. As you sauté the chicken, brush it generously with the reserved marinade. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate, and loosely cover with foil. Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve pineapple salsa over the sautéd chicken!
  • Pineapple Chicken in the slow cooker: I wouldn’t recommend making this recipe in a slow cooker, however, you can cook chicken breasts in a slow cooker, shred the chicken, and then serve the delicious salsa right on top!

Up-close image of the ready-to-eat Pineapple Chicken.

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Pineapple Chicken

5 from 5 votes
Delicious marinated chicken with a simple cilantro-pineapple salsa. Pineapple Chicken is easy to make and mega flavorful!
Print Recipe

Pineapple Chicken

5 from 5 votes
Delicious marinated chicken with a simple cilantro-pineapple salsa. Pineapple Chicken is easy to make and mega flavorful!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword pineapple chicken
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Marinating Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 489kcal
Author Chelsea

Ingredients

Grilled Chicken

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice + 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • vegetable oil for greasing grill/grill pan

Pineapple Salsa

  • 3 cups diced pineapple (~18 ounces/most of 1 pineapple; Note 1)
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro diced (measure loosely packed and then finely dice)
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large avocado finely sliced or diced (Note 2)
  • Optional: serve over rice or quinoa (we like to make coconut or cilantro lime rice for this dish; check blogpost for recipe links)

Instructions

  • Trim the chicken breasts of fat and then slice large breasts evenly in half, widthwise. Using a meat mallet or the bottom of your fry pan, pound breasts to even thickness (you don't want the meat super-flat, just even in thickness). Place the prepared chicken in a large sealable plastic bag and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon lime zest, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, minced garlic, honey, cumin, coriander, and salt and pepper (I use about 1/2 teaspoon of each; add to your preference). Once the mixture is well combined, remove 3 tablespoons of the mixture and reserve for later.
  • Add the rest of the marinade to the bag with the chicken. Seal the bag and then knead with your hands to ensure all of the chicken is well coated. Place in the fridge and marinate for at least 30 minutes and preferably 2-3 hours. Don't marinate longer than 6 hours. (Acid from lime begins to "cook" the chicken.)
  • Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat (about 400 degrees F.). Generously oil the grill (I drench a roll-up paper towel in vegetable oil and, holding it with tongs, rub it over the grill grates. Don't skip this step.) Start by grilling the pineapple (See Note 1) so you can work on the salsa while the chicken cooks. Rub about 1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil over all sides of the pineapple. Cook for about 2-3 minutes per side or until lightly charred (or grilled to your liking). Remove to a plate to allow to slightly cool before dicing.
  • Remove chicken from marinade and discard any remaining marinade. Grill the chicken, turning halfway through grilling, about 4-6 minutes per side (until the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees F and juices run clear). Baste the chicken with the reserved marinade as you grill and after flipping. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil, so the juices can re-distribute. Slice thinly or chop into bite-sized pieces.
  • While the chicken cooks, prepare the salsa. Dice the pineapple, cilantro, jalapeno, and red onion. Toss everything together in a large bowl with the freshly squeezed lime juice, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. I add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, but add to preference. Gently toss together, taste, and then adjust seasoning if needed. Serve spooned generously over the grilled chicken.
  • We like to serve Pineapple Chicken with coconut rice or cilantro-lime rice. If you'd like those recipes, check for the links to those recipes right above this recipe card!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: You don't have to grill the pineapple, but it does add an amazing sweetness (it caramelizes as it grills) to the dish. Check pictures in the post for the size of pineapple to grill. (I cut the cored and peeled the pineapple and cut into about 9 or 10 long strips.) Once grilled, I slice each pineapple strip in 3 long strips and then dice those long strips into small pieces for the salsa. Use a sharp knife here! You will likely have more pineapple salsa than needed to top chicken, but we like a lot--or finish the rest off with chips. You can halve the pineapple salsa recipe, but I like it as written, so I don't waste the rest of the veggies.
Note 2: A good, ripe avocado adds a delicious creamy element to this dish. If you don't add avocado and want a creamy element, I'd recommend the jalapeno sauce from this recipe. (<click on "recipe")
Nutritional information does not include rice.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 489kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 109mg | Sodium: 206mg | Potassium: 1077mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 212IU | Vitamin C: 75mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg

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Recipe Rating




16 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and it was great! I did not have a grill, so I pan-fried the diced pineapple in vegetable oil and they were so good! Salsa was a perfect combination over the chicken. I probably would salt and pepper the chicken first before adding a marinade.

  2. 5 stars
    This was a big hit. I had to sub shallots for red onions because that was all I had on hand and it was still great! I had never made grilled pineapple before but will certainly be making it again. Great recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    Used canned pineapple bc it’s what i had and still… amaaaaazing! Hubby grilled the chicken after a 30 min. marinade and everything was delicious. Served with pineapple jalapeno margaritas and it was a hit. Will make again for sure!

  4. Trying this tonight. I don’t grill and the hubby isn’t home so I am doing it on the stove top. I think the stove top method repeats the chicken steps twice or maybe the word chicken is used instead of pineapple. I can’t wait to eat this!!

    1. Hey Chris, I’m not sure where you’re seeing that! Is that on this recipe? “Pineapple chicken”? Thanks!

  5. Made this vegetarian by subbing extra firm tofu for the chicken and baking after it marinated. Served over cilantro lime quinoa. It was really good!

  6. 5 stars
    Great summer meal! I made the coconut rice with it and my family loved it. Will add this as a regular on my summer meal planning!

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