Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken

Hello summer and cooking chicken on a grill! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle with grilling chicken breasts. The meat can very easily end up charred and dry on the outside or ends, while still raw on the inside. What we’ve done here helps result in juicy chicken breasts, with nice grill marks to boot. First we pound the boneless, skinless breasts to an even thickness, which will help the meat cook more evenly, so you don’t have the extremes of raw and dry. Then we marinate the chicken in an acidic marinade made with lime juice. It’s almost like using buttermilk, but lime flavored. The acid helps tenderize the meat for grilling. Since the chicken breasts have been formed into rather thin cutlets, we take them directly from the refrigerator to the grill. That way, they don’t overcook in the time it takes to get nice grill marks on them.

Cilantro lime chicken is a classic Southwestern favorite. Not everyone likes cilantro though, so if that’s you, change it up a bit and try adding grated fresh ginger to the marinade instead. Or maybe some minced garlic and chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken Recipe

  • Prep time: 35 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6.

The lime is the predominant flavor in this chicken recipe. We've paired it with cilantro. You could also try it with minced ginger, some garlic, or even mint.

We pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness and then chill them before grilling. Chilled, even-thickness chicken breasts will be less likely to overcook in the time it takes to get grill marks.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil for the marinade plus more for grilling
  • Grated zest from 2 limes
  • Juice from 2 limes, about 1/4 cup
  • 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Lime wedges, fresh sprigs of cilantro, and slices of avocado to serve

Method

1 Place the chicken breasts between two piece of plastic wrap or wax paper and pound to an even thickness with a meat mallet or rolling pin.

cilantro-lime-chicken-1 cilantro-lime-chicken-2

2 Mix the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, cilantro, sugar, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and massage the marinade into the chicken. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, and up to 4 hours or overnight.

cilantro-lime-chicken-3 cilantro-lime-chicken-4

3 Preheat the grill for medium high heat. Remove the chicken breasts from the refrigerator. Remove them from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towels. Coat the chicken breasts with some olive oil. Soak a paper towel in a little more oil and use tongs to wipe the grill grates. When the grill is hot, place the chicken breasts on the grill. Grill for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through.

Cilantro Lime Chicken on Simply Recipes

27 Comments

    • Buzzy Seattle

      I’ll take the lime and cilantro and a bit of garlic, ginger and ghee, mix it all up
      And call it Grilled chicken with an Asian flare. Thanks for the ideas…

  1. Caroline

    I do this same thing all the time except I add chipotle chilli pepper and serve it in a spinach salad with mango, queso fresco, and avocado. Sometimes I make a lime & cilantro vinaigrette. Delicious!!!

  2. Joyce

    Okay, I’m new to this site. I assume we can leave a review of the recipes, so that’s what I’m doing. I just made this for dinner, and it is very moist and very tasty. Not difficult or time consuming to make and it’s healthy! It doesn’t get any better than that. I tried to stick to the recipe as closely as possible. I always like to make the recipe as written first, then tweak it next time if I choose. The recipe called for 2 lb of chicken to serve 4-6. There were only 2 of us, but I used the entire 2 1/2 lb that I had on hand anyway, thinking leftovers might be good in a salad for lunch tomorrow. There are no leftovers. And we had rice and grilled vegetables, too. The man of the house really liked it. I guess 2 lb would be enough for guests if I served appetizers, salad and bread, too, but I don’t think so. Definitely not for six. I try to avoid refined sugar and salt, so I did use a little more than a 1/2 tsp of honey instead, and light salt that I probably could have skipped. I also marinated for 45 minutes, and I don’t think I’d go any longer that or there may be texture issues. This is definitely an add to the top ten list.

  3. Evan

    Made this last night, minus the sugar, plus a little fresh grated garlic. Grilled some peppers and onions along side the chicken and had some awesome fajitas. Thanks for the recipie!

  4. Dawn

    Couple things –

    1) This looks like an delicious recipe! Anything chicken, cilantro and AVOCADO ^_^ I’m in! :D

    2) Your plate is gorgeous!!! I have to ask – do you remember where you go them or what brand they are? I’d love to find a set for myself.

    On all accounts – thank you for sharing! :) ;)

    • Elise

      Thanks Dawn! It’s an antique plate from the mid 1800′s. Google “mulberry flow” and you’ll find other examples. You can find them on eBay and Etsy.

  5. Eric

    I’m always up for an easy to make marinade – quick question… My wife does not like cilantro at all and opts-out whenever possible – what could serve as a proxy in this recipe? Parsley? Basil? Thanks in advance and love the blog – have passed it along to many family and friends and have referenced it for recipe ideas more times that I can count!

  6. Dan

    I am not in the habit of flattening chicken before grilling it. I think that my kids would enjoy it. Love involving them in the process. Love the site and the recipes.

  7. PeterM

    Tried it as is … it was amazing, made it again and this time i added 2 tbsp of tequila, made it more juicy and tender, you should give it a try with the tequila.

  8. JenG

    This looks and sounds great! I’m having the BF over for dinner and am wondering what sides would be recommended? Thanks! I LOVE your site!

  9. Valerie

    I’m going to make this. I wonder how it would be wrapped in some bacon. :-) I think I’ll cook up a little bacon or pancetta and crumble it up and serve it over the top. Thanks for the recipe!

  10. Jeff

    This was absolutely wonderful Elise! I just had to post about my experience making it and take some really awful pictures! :) But I totally linked back to you because you deserve all the kudos for this one! Thanks again and keep the good stuff coming! Cheers!

  11. Wendy

    Made this last night for dinner. Only had 1 lb of chicken breasts, but kept everything else the same! It was absolutely delicious and tasted so fresh. We chopped up the chicken and served it in homemade corn tortillas topped with pico de gallo, sour cream and monterey jack! SO good!!
    This recipes going into our favorites cookbook :)

  12. Karen

    I’ve made this a couple of times. So good!
    I slice it over a mixed green salad with feta and
    Avocado and simply lime juice and olive oil and a small sprinkle of lemon pepper. YUM!
    I like Wendy’s idea for the tortilla wraps as well…I’d add a lime, cilantro and garlic aioli to punch up the lime flavour.

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