Cilantro Lime Chicken

5 from 1 vote
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Fresh, bright Cilantro Lime Chicken is bursting with flavor. Marinate chicken thighs in a sweet-salty lime spiked sauce, then cook them up into a tender, juicy dinner that’s so easy to throw together.

A bowl of grilled cilantro lime chicken.

Easy Cilantro Lime Chicken Recipe

Easy chicken dishes are my go-to when life gets busy. They’re even better when I can do my prep in advance and then quickly cook them off on the grill. This recipe for cilantro lime chicken thighs is loaded with lime juice and sweet honey with a touch of smoky cumin and fresh garlic for spice. You can make the marinade the night before and let your chicken soak up all the flavors before tossing the thighs on the grill the next day. It’s a total time-saver that results in a big pay-off.

Plus, this recipe goes great with so many other dishes! And it’s naturally gluten-free, so you won’t have to worry about making any substitutions. I love to make cilantro lime chicken to take to potlucks and I definitely include it at BBQs all summer long. You can make cilantro lime chicken thighs your main dish, or serve an assortment of grilled meats and let your guests pick and choose. And it’s easily adaptable to different tastes, so go ahead and experiment with different spice additions or make it as spicy as you can handle.

I’ve included some serving suggestions below for this delectable chicken dish. I hope you enjoy this one – it’s easily one of my family’s favorites. And when summer’s over, cook these cilantro lime chicken thighs in the oven. You won’t want to miss out on this juicy, flavorful dish even in the middle of winter.

Why You’ll Love These Grilled Chicken Thighs

There’s a lot to love about tender, flavorful cilantro lime chicken thighs! Here are a few reasons why I make this recipe often:

  • Gluten-Free. Yes, this is another naturally gluten-free recipe to add to your dinner repertoire. Not only is this a quick recipe to put together, all the ingredients you’ll need are completely gluten-free. I love that!
  • Easily adaptable. You can play around with the ingredients in the marinade to suit your (and your family’s) taste. Don’t care for cumin? You can skip it altogether or sub in ½ teaspoon of paprika. Want more spice? Toss in ½ teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes. Or swap the honey for maple syrup and the lime for lemon juice.
  • Quick to put together. Your prep time to make the marinade totals about 10 minutes or less, and cook time is less than half an hour. This means you can have dinner together quickly with a little pre-planning. I like to make the marinade the night before I plan to cook the chicken. Then I let the chicken infuse with all those good flavors in the fridge. When it’s time to cook, dinner is ready in 30 minutes or less!
A bowl of grilled cilantro lime chicken.

What You’ll Need

Here’s an overview of everything you’ll need for this cilantro lime chicken marinade recipe. Don’t forget to scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post for the full ingredient amounts.

  • Olive Oil: I like extra virgin olive oil.
  • Limes: You’ll need both the zest of 1 lime plus freshly squeezed lime juice.
  • Honey: Local honey is best if you can get it! It adds just a touch of sweetness to the marinade.
  • Garlic: Add more fresh garlic if you wish.
  • Cumin: For a nice smokey undertone to the marinade.
  • Onion Powder: You can substitute garlic powder if needed.
  • Salt: I use fine sea salt or table salt in this recipe.
  • Black Pepper: You can use ground or freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Cilantro: If you can’t get cilantro or don’t care for it, substitute flat-leaf parsley.
  • Chicken Thighs: I like to use bone-in chicken thighs, and plan on 2 per person.
  • Extra Lime Wedges: Perfect for serving with the chicken.
Ingredients needed for cilantro lime chicken - chicken, lime, cilantro, olive oil.

What Chicken Is Best For This Dish?

You can use any cut of chicken for this recipe. We’re using thighs here because they are very juicy and tender. However, this marinade also works great on chicken breasts or legs. Note that the cooking time will be different based on the cut and thickness of the meat you choose, so you may need to adjust it accordingly.

How to Make Cilantro Lime Chicken

Follow along with my method outlined below for making cilantro lime chicken:

  • Whisk together the marinade. In a small mixing bowl, add the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, honey, garlic, cumin, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk together until well combined. Add the chopped cilantro and stir to distribute.
A lime cilantro marinade.
  • Trim the chicken, cover with the marinade, and marinate the chicken. Trim the fat from the chicken thighs. Season them generously with salt and pepper, and place them in a shallow dish, or a zip-lock bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken thighs and toss gently to coat well. Marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.
Chicken in a marinade.
  • Heat the grill and cook the chicken. Heat the grill to medium-high, about 400°F. Place the chicken thighs on the grill and cook with the lid closed for 10 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken over, close the lid and reduce the heat to medium-low, about 325°F. Cook for an additional 10-12 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F.
A piece of chicken on the grill.
  • Rest the chicken after removing it from the grill and then serve. Remove the chicken from the grill, tent it with foil, and allow it to rest before serving. This allows all the juices to redistribute back into the meat and give you the juiciest meat. Garnish with additional cilantro and lime wedges, if desired.
A fork holds a piece of grilled chicken.

Tips for Success

Here are a few tips to help you make this recipe:

  • If you’re using smaller limes, you’ll need more of them. The amount of juice you get from a lime can vary depending on the size of your limes. For example, a medium-large sized lime will usually yield 2-3 tablespoons of juice. If you have smaller limes, plan to use 2 or 3 limes to get the needed amount of juice for this recipe.
  • Marinate the chicken in the fridge. If you plan to marinate the chicken longer than 30 minutes, do so in the refrigerator so it doesn’t spoil.
  • A few tips depending on what kind of grill you have: If you’re using a grill that doesn’t have a temperature gauge, start the grill at medium-high, and lower the temperature to medium or medium-low. You want to prevent it from flaring up but still have enough heat to cook. If you’re using a charcoal grill, heat the first side over the coals, and when you turn the chicken, place it on indirect heat.
  • Use the same measuring spoon to measure the honey that you used for the oil. If you use the same measuring spoon for both the honey and oil, measure the oil first. Then the honey won’t stick and will slide right out.
  • Properly prepare the grill. Oil the grill grates before preheating the grill to prevent sticking. The secret to great grill marks and the meat not sticking is a very hot grill. So make sure you preheat it!
  • Serve the chicken with an extra lime wedge on the side. Squeezing the lime over the chicken just before serving will add an extra burst of citrusy flavor.
  • Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. Chicken is fully cooked when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°F.
  • Try some additions and variations. If you like, you can add toppings like avocado, chopped tomatoes, and sour cream to the chicken for extra flavor and texture.
A bowl of grilled cilantro lime chicken.

Common Questions

How do you know when grilled chicken thighs are done?

A meat thermometer is the best way to ensure the chicken is finished cooking. The thermometer will read 165°F when the chicken is fully cooked.

What does cilantro lime chicken taste like?

Cilantro lime chicken has a bright, fresh flavor from the cilantro and lime juice, along with a savory depth from the garlic and other seasonings. It’s tangy, zesty, and flavorful.

Cilantro lime chicken on rice on plates with a bowl of chicken.

Make It A Meal

As mentioned, cilantro lime chicken thighs are great to bring to a potluck or neighborhood BBQ to add to the meat selection (they are also just fine served at room temperature as well as straight off the grill). But if you want to make a more hearty meal, try these serving suggestions:

Close up of cilantro lime chicken.

Can Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs Be Prepared In Advance?

Yes, cilantro lime chicken can be marinated ahead of time. For best results, marinate the chicken for a couple of hours in the fridge. Try to marinate the chicken for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 8 hours. You can also cook the chicken ahead of time and reheat it when you’re ready to serve the meal.

A tray grilled chicken with lime wedges.

Proper Storage

Here’s the best way to store leftover cilantro lime chicken:

  • Fridge – Store leftover cilantro lime chicken thighs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Freezer – Place the cooked chicken in a freezer-safe bag or airtight container and place it in the fridge for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge before reheating.
  • To Reheat – Reheat chicken in an oven-safe dish in the oven on low heat until heated through. You can also reheat the chicken in the microwave. Place the chicken in a microwave-safe dish and heat in the microwave at 30-second intervals until heated through.
A tray of grilled chicken with lime.
Close up of cilantro lime chicken.
5 from 1 vote

Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken

Fresh, bright Cilantro Lime Chicken is bursting with flavor. Marinate chicken thighs in a sweet-salty lime infused sauce, then cook them up into a tender, juicy dinner that's so easy to throw together.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Marinating Time 8 hours
Total: 8 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lime zested
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice, about 2-3 limes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning the chicken
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning the chicken
  • ¾ cup fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
  • 8-12 bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed (I usually plan 2 per person)
  • Additional lime wedges for serving (optional)

Instructions

  • In a small mixing bowl, add the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, honey, garlic, cumin, onion powder, salt and pepper. Whisk together until well combined. Add the chopped cilantro and stir to distribute.
  • Trim the fat from the chicken thighs. Season them generously with salt and pepper, and place them in a shallow dish, or a zip lock bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken thighs and toss gently to coat well. Marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.
  • Heat the grill to medium-high, about 400°F. Place the chicken thighs on the grill and cook with the lid closed for 10 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken over, close the lid and reduce the heat to medium-low, about 325°F. Cook for an additional 10-12 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F.
  • Remove the chicken from the grill, tent it with foil and allow it to rest before serving. This allows all the juices to redistribute back into the meat and give you the juiciest meat. Garnish with additional cilantroand lime wedges, if desired.
Nutrition Facts
Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 304 Calories from Fat 180
% Daily Value*
Fat 20g31%
Saturated Fat 3g15%
Trans Fat 0.02g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 12g
Cholesterol 129mg43%
Sodium 511mg21%
Potassium 372mg11%
Carbohydrates 5g2%
Fiber 0.2g1%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 26g52%
Vitamin A 178IU4%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 22mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Disclaimers: Please discuss your individual dietary needs (i.e. gluten free) with a physician. Even when not specified, be sure to verify all ingredients are gluten free, if needed, by reading labels on all packaging and/or confirming with the manufacturer this varies by brand and can change at any time. Nutrition information shown is an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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