Mexican Citrus Chicken Marinade

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This Mexican citrus chicken marinade is bright and tangy, with zesty flavors and a summer vibe. Use this tasty marinade for indoor and outdoor grilling. It delivers tender grilled chicken that’s healthy, juicy and delicious.

📌 PIN MEXICAN CHICKEN MARINADE

Grilled chicken on a platter prepared with a Mexican citrus marinade.

🧑🏼‍🍳 WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE

  • Quick simple recipe. It takes less than 10 minutes to assemble this Mexican citrus chicken marinade. Marinate the chicken in the mixture for 30 minutes. Then grill chicken for 10 to 12 minutes until done.
  • Made with basic ingredients. We use simple healthy ingredients you can find at any supermarket.
  • You can make the marinade in advance. It’s so ideal for meal prepping. Just assemble the mixture and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • Easy to upscale. This recipe is perfect for marinating small or large batches of chicken. Look for the scaling function in the recipe card.
  • Captures the flavors of Mexico: This grilled chicken marinade is popular on the Pacific coast of Mexico. While each family and restaurant adds its own unique twist, this comprehensive recipe captures the spirit of the region. It’s where my husband and I live 5 months a year.
A mason jar with Mexican citrus chicken marinade.

🛒 ingredients

  • Orange Juice: Contributes acid to tenderize the chicken. It also adds a fresh, delicious citrus taste and a splash of bright orange color.
  • Pineapple Juice: A tropical flavor that adds sweetness to the mixture.
  • Lime Juice: We squeeze the juice from Mexican limes (the same as Key limes). In Mexico limes are called “lemons.” At the market look for small round limes with smooth skins. But if they’re not available, use regular limes instead. They’re oblong with rougher skins.
  • White Vinegar: Adds a tasty flavor and helps tenderize the meat. If you don’t have this on hand, use apple cider vinegar instead.
  • Olive Oil: Provides moisture and serves as a binding agent so the marinade can easily stick to the poultry. It also adds a protective layer on the chicken so as the chicken grills it can stay tender and juicy.
  • Fresh Oregano: A favorite ingredient for grilled chicken marinades in Mexico. It has a warm aromatic taste with sweet and sour notes that pairs well with poultry. If no fresh oregano, use dried instead.
  • Garlic Cloves: Add a rustic taste to the marinade. If you don’t have them on hand, use garlic powder instead.
  • Onion Powder: Pairs well with salt, black pepper and garlic. It adds a sweet and savory umami taste.
  • Ground Annotto or Ground Turmeric. Either ingredient works well. We use annotto or turmeric to deepen the yellow/orange color of the marinade which transfers onto the chicken.
  • Sea Salt: This seasoning enhances the flavors of the other ingredients while tenderizing the poultry by breaking down proteins. Feel free to adjust the amount of salt according to taste.
  • Ground Black Pepper: Adds a touch of bold rustic spice.
  • Red Pepper Flakes (optional): To provide a light kick of heat. But feel free to leave them out.
  • Chicken: For grilling we use boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are pounded thin for even cooking. But you can use thigh fillets instead.

👩🏻‍🍳 KITCHEN SMARTS: If you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, use dried herbs instead. It’s a quick way to make this grilled chicken marinade without running to the store for ingredients. Use 1/3 the amount of dried herbs for fresh herbs, or 1 teaspoon dried herbs for 1 tablespoon fresh herbs.

Ingredients for Mexican citrus chicken marinade being stirred in a jar with a spoon.

📖 MEXICAN CHICKEN MARINADE

RECIPE PREP: Butterfly or pound the chicken breasts to a thickness of 1/2 inch. [For thigh fillets – gently pound them to an even thickness.]  Pat chicken dry between paper towels. Put the pieces into a large zip-top bag.

  • STEP 1: Add all marinade ingredients to a small bowl or jar. Stir or whisk to combine.
  • STEP 2: Pour the Mexican citrus marinade over the poultry. Remove any excess air from the bag before zipping it shut. Gently massage the bag to evenly distribute the marinade.
  • STEP 3: Put the chicken in the fridge. Let it marinate for 30 minutes up to 1 hour before grilling. [Never let chicken sit in a citrus marinade longer than 1 hour or the texture will become mushy and stringy.]
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a bowl of Mexican citrus chicken marinade.

HOW TO GRILL CHICKEN BREASTS

OUTDOOR GRILLING ON THE BBQ

  • STEP 1: Preheat grill on high for 10 to 15 minutes. Scrape old remnants off the grates with a grill brush. Adjust the temperature to medium heat (425-450°F) – the ideal temperature for grilling breasts.
  • STEP 2: Transfer the chicken to the grill, placing the pieces over direct heat. Discard the citrus marinade – don’t use it for basting.
  • STEP 3: Grill the chicken for about 9 to 10 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through. We want lovely sear marks on both sides. For food safety, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. When it reaches 165°F it’s done.
  • STEP 4: Remove chicken from the grill. Transfer it to a platter and cover with foil. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting or serving.

INDOOR GRILLING ON STOVETOP

  • STEP 1: Preheat a heavy grill pan over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Lower heat to medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Tilt the pan back and forth to evenly coat the entire surface.
  • STEP 2: Arrange the pieces of chicken on the grill pan. [Discard the Mexican citrus chicken marinade. Do not use it for basting.] Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. With kitchen tongs, flip the pieces over and cook 5 to 6 minutes more. For food safety, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat. When it reaches 165°F it’s done.
  • STEP 3: Remove pan from heat. Let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting or serving so the meat will be tender and juicy.
Two grilled chicken breasts in a Le Creuset grill pan.

expert tipS for grilling chicken

  • Thickness matters for juicy, evenly-cooked grilled chicken. It’s important to pound down chicken breasts and thigh fillets until they’re the same thickness overall – about 1/2 inch. This allows the chicken to cook evenly on the grill which will result in juicier chicken. Otherwise, by the time thickest section of a piece is cooked through, the rest of the breast or thigh is over-cooked and dried out.
  • Let the chicken rest after grilling. This gives the collagen time to thicken the juices, and for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. If you cut into the chicken right away, the juices will drip out onto the plate and leave the meat dry.
Sliced grilled chicken breasts on a platter with some ingredients from the Mexican citrus chicken marinade.

👩🏻‍🍳 RECIPE FAQ

These are the most commonly-asked questions for the BEST Mexican citrus chicken marinade and the most helpful answers for recipe success.

Best way to pound out chicken breasts and thigh fillets?

Place the chicken on a cutting board. Cover it with a piece of plastic wrap. With a meat mallet, rolling pin, or a small cast-iron pan, start pounding out the chicken from the center to the edges until you reach the desired thickness. Be careful not to tear the chicken.

Can citrus chicken marinade be made in advance?

Yes, you can assemble it up to 3 days in advance. Store the marinade in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.

How long can I leave chicken in a citrus marinade?

For optimal results, marinate chicken in the fridge for 30 minutes up to 1 hour, but no longer than that. The citric acid (or citrus and vinegar) will break down the muscle fibers making the poultry tough. The texture will become mushy and stringy.

Should raw chicken be washed before cooking?

It’s not recommended. Bacteria like salmonella or campylobacter is often present on the meat. If the chicken is rinsed, it can contaminate your sink, countertops, cutting board and utensils. Here’s an informative article from the USDA: To wash or not wash.

How many servings from 2 pounds of chicken?

One pound of chicken yields 2 to 3 servings. Two pounds of chicken yields 4 to 6 servings.

What’s the ideal temperature for grilling chicken breasts?

On an outdoor grill, between 425 and 450°F. On stovetop, grill chicken breasts over medium-high heat.

Platter of grilled chicken breasts infused with Mexican flavors from a citrus marinade.

👨🏻‍🍳 More authentic Mexican recipes

If you enjoyed this Mexican citrus chicken marinade, you’ll enjoy these other recipes too. Some have been handed down through the generations. Other recipes were shared by friends here in Mexico.

RATE THIS RECIPE ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Flavor testers voted this the BEST Mexican citrus chicken marinade. They loved the authentic flavor it contributes to grilled chicken breasts and thigh fillets. They also appreciated that it’s made with simple basic ingredients.

If you agree this grilled chicken marinade captures the flavors of Mexico, give it a 5-star rating in the comments. Then be a recipe hero. Share it with friends on Facebook. 📌 Pin it to Pinterest.

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com
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Grilled chicken on a platter prepared with a Mexican citrus marinade.

Mexican Citrus Chicken Marinade


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Denay DeGuzman
  • Total Time: 50 Minutes
  • Yield: 1 2/3 cups Marinade 1x
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Description

This Mexican citrus chicken marinade is bright and flavorful. It’s made with simple ingredients. The perfect choice for grilling tantalizing, juicy chicken breasts and tender chicken thigh fillets.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Poultry

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thigh fillets

Mexican Chicken Marinade

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced or crushed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground annotto or ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

Assemble the Marinade

RECIPE PREP: Butterfly or pound the boneless, skinless chicken breasts so they’re no thicker than 1/2 inch. [For thigh fillets – gently pound them flat to an even thickness.] Pat the poultry dry between paper towels. Put the pieces into a large zip-top bag.

  1. Add all marinade ingredients to a small bowl. Stir or whisk to combine.
  2. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Remove excess air from the bag and zip it shut. Massage the bag to evenly distribute the marinade.
  3. Put the chicken in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. 

Instructions for Outdoor Grilling

  1. Preheat the grill on high for 10 to 15 minutes. Scrape old remnants off the grates with a grill brush. Adjust the temperature to medium heat (425-450°F).
  2. Transfer the chicken to the grill, placing the pieces over direct heat. Discard the marinade – don’t use it for basting. Grill chicken for about 9 to 10 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through. For food safety, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. When it reaches 165°F it’s done.
  3. Remove chicken from the grill. Transfer it to a platter and cover with foil. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting or serving.

Instructions for Stovetop Grilling

  1. Preheat a heavy grill pan over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Lower heat to medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Tilt the pan back and forth to evenly coat the entire surface.
  2. Arrange the chicken pieces on the grill pan. [Discard the marinade. Don’t use it for basting.] Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. With kitchen tongs, flip the pieces over and cook 5 to 6 minutes more. For food safety, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat. When it reaches 165°F it’s done.
  3. Remove pan from heat. Let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting or serving so the meat will be tender and juicy.

Notes

🧑🏼‍🍳  It’s important to let the chicken rest after grilling. The 5 to 10 minute rest period gives the collagen time to thicken the juices, and for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. If you cut into the chicken right away, the juices will drip out and leave the meat dry.

  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes
  • Marinade Time: 30 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 Minutes
  • Category: Marinades
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Mexican
Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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