Orange Marinated Chicken

The trick to quickly prepared meals is just a little foresight and planning. In this case you marinate the chicken pieces overnight, but once you take them out of the marinade, they take less than 20 minutes to cook. My father found this recipe on a local sausage maker’s calendar, of all places. We futzed with it a bit, pounded the chicken thighs for more even cooking, used olive oil instead of vegetable spray, and served it with some of my mother’s awesome Spanish rice. Loved it.

Orange Marinated Chicken Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 6.


  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (4 pounds if buying bone-in)
  • 6 oranges, peeled and seeded, coarsely chopped (or 2-3 cups fresh squeezed orange juice)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 of a 7-ounce-can of chipotle chili peppers in adobo
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh marjoram leaves (or oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried of either)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Chopped fresh parsley and orange slices for garnish


1 In a blender or food processor, combine the chopped oranges, onion, chipotle in adobo, garlic, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and salt. Pulse a few times to make a coarse purée.

2 Put boneless chicken thighs between two sheets of wax paper and pound with a meat hammer until an even thickness of about 1/2-inch. Combine the chicken pieces and the orange marinade together either in a bowl or in a ziplock freezer bag. Refrigerate overnight.

3 Heat olive oil in a large cast iron pan on medium high heat. Remove chicken pieces from the marinade, wiping off excess (but not all) marinade. Working in batches, cook the chicken pieces for 5 minutes on each side.

Serve over rice or Spanish rice.

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Recipe adapted from one by the National Chicken Council


  1. Karen

    This sounds delicious and I have some chicken in the refrigerator, just waiting to be used. Breast, though, not thighs. I am not sure about the chipotle chili peppers, though. My family is not big on spicy peppers. Any suggestions on an alternative to the peppers? Or maybe it would be just fine without them?

    Hi Karen, this recipe is highly flavorful because it calls for chipotle and for chicken thighs. You can make it without the chipotle and with breasts instead, but the results won’t be the same. ~Elise

  2. Trish in MO

    Elise, can you freeze it in the marinade? OK stop giggling, I just don’t know about these things hehe! But wouldn’t that be handy?

    Great question. Trader Joe’s freeze’s their New Zealand lamb chops in a rosemary marinade, you just defrost and cook. So, I it might work. The only thing I can see being an issue is that orange juice is acidic, and acid can break down the meat if marinated too long. I would try it and see if it works for you. ~Elise

  3. may

    My mother had many hispanic coworkers and they taught her a very similar recipe for marinating meat for the grill (think El Pollo Loco style). It is delicious and we always have it at summer bbqs now. Their version uses Sunny D instead of fresh squeezed OJ, and you’d think that would make the chicken too sweet, but it works like a charm! You get nice, moist, lovely chicken.

  4. Linda in Washington State

    Hi Elise!

    Great Chicken recipe. About the orange juice,
    alot of favor is in the peel of an orange. Chicken with orange peel can be frozen without breaking down the chicken.

  5. jody

    If you use only one chipotle and some of the sauce it won’t be so spicey. Chipotle have more of a smokey flavor than spicey.

  6. S Roy

    P.S.:I use bone-in chicken thighs when I marinade in acidic medium (yogurt, tomatoes) and can marinade it for almost 5 days in the fridge without going bad or the meat breaking down. The thigh and leg pieces are more resilent and will not breakdown. The chicken is more flavorful and like Elise said it cooks very quickly.I use air chilled organic chicken from Whole Foods- completely frozen will not hold good for this process. The trick I belive is not to wash/rinse the chicken before marinading and marinade it in an airtight food grade plastic or glass container (should never use metals). You can also bake with this chicken and it comes out delicious with out any hassle.

  7. Kathie

    Is there ANY other pepper that can be used besides the Chipotle? I live in rural France and have not seen them here.

    Yes, try a little cayenne pepper. Not much though, maybe half a teaspoon, ground. ~Elise

  8. Whitney

    That picture is mouth-watering. You have made me a believer. I am so sure this is delish.

    Could the thighs be barbequed?

    They could easily be grilled. ~Elise

  9. Alta

    Elise, do you think this will work if I only marinate for an hour or two? I’m sure the flavor won’t be as intense…I wonder if you could make up for that somehow by maybe using a little of the marinade as a sauce or something. This is one of those times when I wish I had one of those cool vacuum seal marinater thingys!

    You could try marinating for an hour or two, then after removing the marinade, cooking it (boiling for at least 10 minutes), you might have to add some water to it, so you have a nice sauce. Make sure it simmers for at least 10 minutes though, to kill any bugs. ~Elise

  10. rick of temecula

    Excellent, excellent, excellent. So easy to do and tastes great. Thanks Elise.

  11. Anna H

    Hi Elise!

    I have been really enjoying your recipes! It’s fun to hear about your family and their part in it as well. In regards to the recipe, I cooked down a whole chicken and thighs to have the meat ready ahead. I was wondering if I could still use the recipe? Maybe marinate still and then just cook to heat up? Thanks so much for a great resource to have available. I started with the Chicken Tarragon sandwich recipe (first one I made) it’s yummy! I work at sbux and it is good!

    Hi Anna, the key to this recipe is the marinating of the chicken, so if you’ve already cooked the chicken, it won’t really work with this one. ~Elise

  12. Jilly

    I made this the other night and it is simple and wonderful!! Will be making this again. Thanks Elise for posting!

  13. Marie-Claire (uk)

    this dish was fantastic, the best thing i have eaten since being diagnosed with coeliac disease. Keep up the good work and keep the recepies coming x

  14. Jackie

    Delicious! This turned out hotter than I expected. But that was great for us! (Maybe I used more than half a can of chipotles.) You may want to add carefully and taste BEFORE you add the chicken. I purchased the Goya brand. Last time I bought these – different brand – they weren’t hot, but they were spicy.

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