Chicken Fajita Marinade

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This Chicken Fajita Marinade is unbeatable — perfect for chicken breasts or thighs AND it’s easy to make! Plus, we’re sharing how to prepare fajita toppings so you can have the best chicken fajitas right off the grill with no mess in your kitchen!

Save our Steak FajitasShrimp FajitasVegetarian Fajitas, or Quinoa Fajitas recipes to try next time.

Chicken Fajitas with toppings and rice

Chicken Fajita Marinade

This all-star Chicken Fajita Marinade is not only easy to make, but it’s also so tasty. If you love chicken fajitas you are going to go crazy for this recipe!

This marinade yields ridiculously flavorful chicken that pairs perfectly with rice, quinoa, tortillas, etc., and all your favorite fajita toppings.

Speaking of fajita toppings, there are also instructions for grilling bell peppers and onions– which we highly recommend throwing on the grill alongside the chicken. While everything is out cooking on the grill you can whip together some cilantro-lime rice and/or assemble some other sides or toppings like guac (never skip the guac!).

Process shots: Creating the Chicken Fajita Marinade

How Long Can Chicken Marinate in Citrus?

A lot of marinades will call for extended marinating periods– even overnight. But not this recipe. In fact, whenever there is citrus or an acidic component (lemons in this case), we recommend a shorter marinating time, about 2-3 hours, and no longer than 4 hours. This is because the citric acid will begin to “cook” the chicken and will result in drier chicken. (Thighs are more forgiving when marinated or cooked for longer which is why thighs are often preferred when grilling. Breasts are more prone to drying out quicker when over-cooked or over-marinated.)

QUICK TIP

On the flip side, even 20-30 minutes of marinating the chicken is effective. If opting for a quicker marinating time, cut breasts in half horizontally to create 2 thin pieces. For thighs, poke a few holes using the tines of a fork. This will help the marinade penetrate the meat in the shorter marinating time.

Process shots: knead marinade into the chicken; cover after grilling.

Chicken Fajita Marinade Tips

  • Flip marinating chicken. Throughout the marinating process, be sure to flip the bag of the marinating chicken onto the other side. We don’t want just one side of the chicken getting flavorful!
  • Generously oil your grill grates. I do this by rolling up a few paper towels, drenching them in oil (canola or vegetable), and with tongs, rubbing the drenched paper towels along the grill grates. This will contribute to a beautiful sear, and ensure the chicken doesn’t stick to the grates.
  • Use a digital meat thermometer to remove the guesswork of grilling!
    • 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 160 degrees Fahrenheit. (Under-cooked = unsafe; Over-cooked = dry chicken). Carry-over heat will take the chicken to a safe 165 degrees.
  • Baste. As you grill the chicken, brush it occasionally with the reserved marinade. This is going to amp up the flavor and make sure you get to taste all those delicious flavors.
  • Let the chicken rest. Tented with foil, let the chicken stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting in. This allows the juices to redistribute inside the chicken; this means juicier meat!

Process shots: Preparing the onions and peppers for chicken fajitas

How To Grill Veggies

While the Chicken Fajita Marinade is doing its job to get the chicken nice and flavorful, prep the veggies for the grill. The best thing about these grilled veggies is how easy and hands-off the process is!

  • Season whole peppers and thick-sliced onion rings by first brushing with olive oil (or rubbing it on) and then adding a pinch of salt and pepper. 
  • Add prepped veggies to a greased grill. That’s right — the whole peppers go on the grill! You’ll be amazed how nicely they char up and get tender.
  • While tending to the chicken, flip onion rings and rotate peppers to ensure all sides get nicely charred and cooked. This whole process takes anywhere from 8-10 minutes on the grill.

QUICK TIP

While you can cook the peppers this way in a grill pan, it will take quite a bit longer. I prefer to char the peppers on my gas stovetop. All the details and alternate methods here.

Close-up view of the grilled chicken and fajita veggies

QUICK TIP

Here’s how to make Cilantro Lime Rice/Quinoa:

  • 1 cup quinoa or rice and 2 cups chicken stock, chicken broth, or water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large lime (2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring 2 cups of stock (or salted water) to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the butter and rice (or quinoa) and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice (or quinoa) is cooked through and tender. Remove from heat and let rest (covered) for 10 minutes. Gently fluff the rice and stir in the lime juice, lime zest, cilantro, and salt + pepper to taste.

CLose-up shot of the grilled fajita dinner

Chicken Fajita Marinade: Finishing Touches

Serve Chicken In Or Alongside:

Enjoy this tasty chicken sliced right off the grill with your choice of toppings or in one of these ways below:

  • In warmed tortillas with your favorite toppings (more ideas below)
  • Served over cilantro lime rice or quinoa (or cauliflower rice for low carb)
  • With black beans as a side
  • With Elote or plain grilled corn as a side

Top Cooked Fajita Chicken With

  • Our favorite guacamole recipe straight from a Hawaiian native. Or fresh ripe avocados (diced or thinly sliced)
  • This quick food processor salsa recipe made from canned tomatoes. Or pico de gallo.
  • This practically famous cilantro lime sauce
  • Fresh lime wedges and/or fresh cilantro
  • Sour cream (fat-free, lite, or regular)

QUICK TIP

When preparing the Chicken Fajita Marinade, we love zesting the lemons with a microplane and then juicing them with this citrus juicer. These two tools make the recipe prep a breeze!

More Fajita-style Meals:

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Chicken Fajita Marinade

5 from 9 votes
This Chicken Fajita Marinade is unbeatable -- perfect for chicken breasts or thighs AND it's easy to make! Plus, we're sharing how to prepare fajita toppings so you can make have the best chicken fajitas right off the grill with no mess in your kitchen!
Print Recipe

Chicken Fajita Marinade

5 from 9 votes
This Chicken Fajita Marinade is unbeatable -- perfect for chicken breasts or thighs AND it's easy to make! Plus, we're sharing how to prepare fajita toppings so you can make have the best chicken fajitas right off the grill with no mess in your kitchen!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine grilled, Healthy, Mexican
Keyword Chicken Fajita Marinade, fajita chicken
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Marinate 3 hours
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 262kcal

Equipment

  • Grill or grill pan
  • Vegetable oil, tongs, and paper towel (for greasing grill grates)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs OR breasts (Note 1)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 1 large lemon or 2 limes (1/2 teaspoon zest, 2 tablespoons juice)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons EACH: dried oregano, seasoned salt, ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: ground chili powder, paprika, crushed red pepper
  • 2-3 large whole (not sliced) peppers (we do 1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow/orange)
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced into thick rings
  • Optional toppings:guacamole, sour cream, black beans, fresh lime, fresh cilantro/green onions
  • Serve over/with: warmed tortillas, cilantro lime rice/quinoa (recipe in note section)

Instructions

  • PREP: Use a microplane to zest lemon(s) or lime(s) to get 1/2 teaspoon zest. Use a citrus juicer to get 2 juice. If using chicken breasts instead of thighs, see Note 1 for chicken prep.
  • MARINATE: In a large resealable bag, add the prepared chicken. In a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and all the seasonings. Whisk together until smooth. Remove 2 tablespoons of this mixture and set aside in the fridge for later. Pour the remaining mixture over the chicken and knead the mixture into the chicken. Place in the fridge for 2-3 hours; even 30 minutes is effective -- see Note 2.
  • PREP VEGGIES: Rub or use a pastry brush to brush remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over all the peppers and onion rings. Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper, to taste, on veggies.
  • PREP GRILL: Preheat grill to medium-high (400-450 degrees F.) Clean and generously grease grill (I grease grill grates by holding a vegetable oil-drenched paper towel with tongs and rubbing it across grates).
  • GRILL VEGGIES: On one half of the grill add whole peppers (don't cut) and onion rings. Grill until tender and charred to your liking (about 8-10 minutes total, turning every 3-4 minutes). (As you baste/flip the chicken, flip the veggies as well.)
  • GRILL CHICKEN: Using tongs, pick up chicken from the bag, allowing excess marinade to drip off. Place chicken flat on the grill, and use a pastry brush to immediately brush on some of the reserved 2 tablespoons basting mixture. Close grill and cook for 3-5 minutes or until nicely caramelized. Use a sharp metal turner to scrape up and flip the chicken to the other side. Brush chicken generously with the rest of the reserved basting mixture. Close grill and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until chicken registers 160 degrees F. (Timing will vary based on size of chicken and actual heat of grill). Remove to a plate and cover loosely with foil to rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice. Taste and add more salt if needed. Drizzle on some lime juice for more flavor!
  • ASSEMBLY: Thinly slice the peppers and pull onion apart into individual rings. Serve chicken and veggies in tortillas or over rice/quinoa. Add your favorite toppings such as guacamole, sour cream, cilantro and/or green onions, black beans, lime juice, and/or cilantro.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Chicken: No prep for thighs, but here's how to prep chicken breasts: before marinating, slice breasts in half horizontally. Then, pound chicken breasts into evenly thick pieces (don't pound to flatten, just to ensure pieces are even thickness throughout to ensure even cooking). I really like this meat mallet, and here's a good YouTube video that illustrates the pounding process. No meat mallet? Use the base of a frying pan or even your fist to even out the chicken!
Note 2: Marinating Time: We recommend a shorter marinating time, about 2-3 hours and no longer than 4 hours. This is because the citric acid will begin to "cook" the chicken and will result in drier chicken. Even 30 minutes of marinating the chicken is effective. If planning to marinate for short time, poke a few holes using the tines of a fork into the thighs (no need to do this to breasts). This will help the marinade penetrate the meat in the shorter marinating time. (Don't pierce thighs if marinating for longer than 30 minutes).

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 262kcal

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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Recipe Rating




13 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    thank you for this wonderful marinade, I’m always looking for new flavors for making chicken more tasty, less dry and so I really appreciate this!

  2. 5 stars
    Yummy! I made your fajita recipe for our Fourth of July celebration, and they were a hit! I cooked the chicken and veggies inside since we don’t have a grill, but they still had great flavor from the marinade. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Ahh I’m soo happy you guys loved this! I hope you had a great fourth. Thanks for your comment!

  3. 5 stars
    Chelsea, thank you so much for this fajita recipe, I made it last night for dinner and it was outstanding! The flavours in the marinade are fantastic. I will be making this again soon!

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