This authentic Mexican chicken marinade is bright, tangy and flavorful. It’s easy to make with simple ingredients. For tender Mexican grilled chicken with a traditional taste, use this delicious citrus marinade at your next fiesta.
🧑🏼🍳 WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT THIS RECIPE
- QUICK EASY RECIPE: This Mexican chicken marinade comes together in less than 10 minutes. Just squeeze, zest, mince and measure. Add the ingredients to a mason jar and shake well. Pour the flavorful mixture over the poultry and marinate it in the fridge.
- BASIC INGREDIENTS: Outside of Mexico there’s no need to visit a Mexican market to pick up international ingredients. This recipe calls for basic pantry staples that are readily available at any supermarket.
- MAKE-AHEAD MARINADE: This recipe is ideal for meal prepping. Just assemble the mixture up to 3 days in advance and refrigerate.
- EASY TO UPSCALE: When making a large quantity of chicken for big fiestas, this is an easy recipe to double, triple, etc. Use the scaling function in the recipe card.
- FLAVORS OF MEXICO: This easy citrus marinade is brimming with the tasty vibrant flavors enjoyed on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It’s where my husband and I live 5 months a year and learn new recipes.
- Orange: A traditional zesty ingredient for Mexican chicken marinade. It contributes acid to tenderize the meat, a fresh citrus taste, and a splash of bright color. In Mexico we use Valencia oranges because they’re juicy, sweet and tart, and readily available. In California we use navel oranges, a common variety that’s sweet, juicy and easy to peel.
- Mexican Limes: The same as Key limes. In Mexico they’re referred to as “lemons.” At the market look for small round limes with smooth skins. But if they’re not available, use regular limes instead – they’re darker, oblong in shape with rougher skins. Note: if you live close to a Mexican mercado, Mexican limes are readily available in the produce section.
- Lemon: In some parts of Mexico yellow lemons may be hard to come by, so feel free to use Mexican “lemons” (green Key limes) instead.
- Olive Oil: Provides moisture and serves as a binding agent that adheres the marinade to the chicken pieces. It assures the Mexican grilled chicken is tender and juicy by acting as a protective layer as it cooks on the grill. If desired, you can use avocado oil instead.
- Cilantro: For most people this herb has a fresh citrus taste. But for others it tastes like soap. It has to do with genetics – olfactory receptor genes. So if you or those you’re cooking for don’t care for cilantro, use fresh Italian parsley or 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley instead.
- Garlic Cloves: These add a rustic earthy taste to the marinade.
- Honey: Adds a touch of sweetness to offset any tartness in the mixture.
- Chili Powder: Is moderately spicy and aromatic. It adds delicious flavor and color to this citrus chicken marinade. Feel free to add more if desired. It’ll give the mixture additional heat and reddish tone.
- Fresh Oregano: A favorite ingredient for Mexican chicken marinades. It has a warm aromatic taste with sweet and sour notes that pairs well with poultry. If you don’t have fresh oregano, use dried instead.
- Cumin: Its warm earthy taste adds depth of flavor.
- 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.
- Onion Powder: Pairs well with salt, black pepper and garlic. It adds a sweet and savory umami taste.
- Red Pepper Flakes: Provide a light kick of heat. For a milder marinade, feel free to leave them out.
- Ground Black Pepper: Adds a touch of bold rustic spiciness.
👩🏻🍳 KITCHEN SMARTS: If you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, don’t put on your shoes and head for the store. Feel free to use dried herbs instead.
📖 RECIPE STEPS
RECIPE PREP: For Mexican grilled chicken, butterfly or pound the boneless/skinless chicken breasts so they’re no thicker than 1/2 inch. Pat chicken dry between paper towels. Put them in a large zip-top freezer bag.
- STEP 1: Finely mince the garlic, cilantro leaves (no stems), and oregano. Juice and zest the orange, lime and lemon. Add all marinade ingredients to a small bowl. Stir or whisk to combine. If desired, use a mason jar instead. Attach the lid and shake the mixture well.
- STEP 2: Pour the marinade into the zip-top bag, directly over the chicken breasts. Gently remove any excess air from the bag and zip it shut. Gently massage the bag to distribute the marinade and to make sure the chicken is well coated on all sides. Put the chicken in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- STEP 3: Once the chicken is removed from the marinade – discard the marinade. Grill the chicken over medium heat for about 12 to 15 minutes, flipping the chicken over halfway through grilling, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 165ºF.
- STEP 4: Transfer chicken to a platter and cover with foil. Let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting or serving. During this time, collagen can thicken the juices, and then the juices can redistribute themselves throughout all parts of the meat. This results in tender juicy chicken. If desired, garnish with freshly-chopped cilantro.
🤔 RECIPE FAQ
These are the most commonly-asked questions for the BEST Mexican chicken marinade and the most helpful answers for recipe success.
As a general rule, use 1/3 the amount of dried herbs for the fresh herbs called for in the recipe.
Yes. You can prep the citrus marinade up to 3 days in advance. Store it in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid, or in an airtight container, and refrigerate until needed.
Marinate the chicken (in the fridge) for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Do not allow boneless chicken to marinate longer than 2 hours. The citric acid will break down the muscle fibers making the poultry tough. However, bone-in chicken can be marinated for up to 12 hours.
Washing raw chicken is 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
One pound of chicken yields 2 to 3 servings. Two pounds of chicken yields 4 to 6 servings. How many people an amount of chicken can feed will largely depend on the number of side dishes served with it.
👨🏻🍳 More authentic Mexican recipes
If you enjoyed this Mexican chicken marinade, then you’ll want to add these authentic Mexican recipes to your collection. Some are treasures handed down to me through the generations. Others are recipes shared by friends here in Nayarit, Mexico, and restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
📌 For safe-keeping, pin your favorites to Pinterest.
- Authentic Mexican Guacamole
- Mexican Street Corn Dip
- Pico De Gallo
- Authentic Mexican Salsa
- Mexican Pickled Onions
- Cilantro Lime Rice
- Sonoran Hot Dogs
- Steak Fajitas
- Crispy Pork Carnitas
- Pineapple Shrimp Skewers
- Flour Tortilla Recipe
- Homemade Corn Tortillas
- Mexican Churros
- Hibiscus Tea (Agua De Jamaica)
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This traditional Mexican chicken marinade is filled with bright citrus flavors and fresh ingredients. Use it for prepping authentic Mexican grilled chicken that’s festive and flavorful.
- 2 pounds boneless/skinless chicken breasts, butterflied or pounded until no thicker than 1/2 inch
Mexican Chicken Marinade
- 1 orange, zested and juiced
- 3 Mexican limes (key limes), zested and juiced
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or avocado oil)
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pinch black ground pepper
RECIPE PREP: For Mexican grilled chicken, butterfly or pound the boneless/skinless chicken breasts so they’re no thicker than 1/2 inch. Pat the chicken dry between paper towels. Put them in a large zip-top freezer bag.
- Add all marinade ingredients to a small bowl and stir or whisk to combine. Or if desired, use a mason jar instead. Attach the lid and shake the mixture well.
- Pour the marinade into the zip-top bag, directly over the chicken breasts. Gently remove any excess air from the bag and zip it shut. Gently massage the bag to distribute the marinade and to make sure the chicken is well coated on all sides. Put the chicken in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (Once chicken is removed from the marinade – discard the marinade.)
- Grill the chicken over medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes, flipping it over halfway through grilling, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reads 165ºF.
- Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover with foil. Let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting or serving. This resting time is important as it allows the juices to redistribute themselves, settling throughout all parts of the meat. This results in tender juicy chicken. If desired, garnish with freshly-chopped cilantro.
How to substitute dried herbs for fresh: As a general rule, use 1/3 the amount of dried herbs for the fresh herbs called for in the recipe.
I don’t care for cilantro, what else can I use? Fresh Italian parsley.
How long can I leave chicken in the citrus marinade? Marinate the chicken (in the fridge) for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Do not allow boneless chicken to marinate longer than 2 hours. The citric acid will break down the muscle fibers making the poultry tough. However, bone-in chicken can be marinated for up to 12 hours.
- Prep Time: 10 Minutes
- 30 Minutes:
- Cook Time: 12-15 Minutes
- Category: Marinades
- Method: Grilling
- Cuisine: Mexican
Keywords: Mexican Chicken Marinade, Marinade for Mexican Chicken, Grilled Chicken Marinade, Citrus Chicken Marinade
Mexican Chicken Marinade 👉🏻 JOIN THE CONVERSATION
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