Spicy Orange Marinated Chicken

DinnerGluten-FreeChicken ThighOrange

Chicken thighs, pounded thin, marinated in mixture of orange juice, onion, garlic, herbs, and chipotle, then quickly pan fried. Delicious!

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

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 adapted this recipe from one 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!

Spicy Orange Marinated Chicken Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Marinating time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 6


  • 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice from 3 to 4 large navel oranges, or 6 small oranges, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 of a 7-ounce-can of chipotle chili peppers in adobo (3 1/2 ounces total)
  • 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 or oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried of either
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (4 pounds if buying bone-in)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley and orange slices for garnish


1 Make the marinade: In a blender or food processor, combine the orange juice or chopped oranges, onion, chipotle in adobo, garlic, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and salt.

Pulse a few times to make a coarse purée. Transfer to a large bowl.

2 Trim the fat from the chicken thighs: With scissors, snip off the excess fat from the thighs.

3 Pound the chicken thighs to even thickness: Put the chicken thighs between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper and pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin until an even thickness of about 1/2-inch.

4 Marinate the chicken: Add the chicken to the bowl of marinade (or transfer both to a zipper freezer bag). Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

5 Cook the chicken: Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron pan or heavy skillet on medium high heat.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, blotting off the excess (but not all) with a paper towel.

Working in batches, cook the chicken pieces for 5 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through.

6 To serve: Sprinkle the chicken with chopped cilantro or parsley, garnish with orange wedges and serve with Spanish rice.

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Recipe adapted from one by the National Chicken Council

Spicy Chicken with Orange Marinade

Showing 4 of 14 Comments / Reviews

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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