Chicken Fajitas

VideoDinner1-PotMexican and Tex MexChickenFajitas

A flavorful marinade and a quick sear make for easy homemade chicken fajitas—onions and bell peppers help, too. This is a classic you can make yourself!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Homemade Chicken Fajitas

Yay, chicken fajitas! So easy to make, and so quick. The method involves quickly searing the meat on a griddle or grill, and then slicing and serving with quickly seared peppers and onions. And, of course, flour tortillas.

What does fajita mean?

A little bit of back story. The word “fajita” means “little belt” from “faja” for strip or belt, and the diminutive “ita.” It describes a skirt steak, and fajitas were traditionally made with grilled skirt steak, though now they can be made with chicken, shrimp, you name it.

Chicken Fajitas wrapped in tortillas

How to Prep the Meat for Fajitas

Now with a skirt steak (when making steak fajitas) it makes a lot of sense to quickly sear the meat and cut it across the grain to serve. You want the steak to be rare in the middle.

But with chicken? Not so much. Rare is not good for chicken. A way to get around this is to either cut the chicken in strips to begin with or to start with thinner pieces of chicken.

I prefer to start with a thinner piece of chicken, that way it’s less likely to dry out. If you have chicken breasts that are around a half pound each or more, you will want to slice them in half horizontally, so that the center thickness is around 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick.

Rather than thinning the meat with a meat pounder, which will not result in the right texture and consistency for fajitas, I slice the chicken breasts horizontally.

You can also use chicken thighs if you prefer. Just keep in mind they may need a couple of extra minutes to cook.

searing chicken breasts in cast iron pan for chicken fajitas

How to Marinate and Cook Chicken Fajitas

The cutlets are marinated for a minimum of 30 minutes (an hour or longer is best) in a spicy marinade with chili powder, cilantro, and jalapeño. You can marinate up to 24 hours in advance, but any longer than that and the lime juice in the marinade will start to “cook” the chicken.

To cook, you sear the cutlets on a hot cast iron pan (you could also easily use a hot grill), and after letting them rest a few minutes, slice them across the grain of the meat. Cook the peppers and onions in the same pan while the meat is resting.

MEXICAN FOOD? CINCO MAS, POR FAVOR!

How To Make Chicken Fajitas (VIDEO)

Updated September 3, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.

Chicken Fajitas Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Marinade time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Save time by marinating the chicken while you prep the onions and peppers.

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola, safflower, peanut, or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced lengthwise (root to tip) into 1/4-inch strips
  • 3 bell peppers various colors, sliced into 1/4-inch strips

For the marinade:

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

For serving: 

  • 8 to 12 flour tortillas
  • Salsa
  • Sliced avocado
  • Sour cream
  • Thinly sliced iceberg lettuce dressed lightly with salt and cider vinegar

Method

1 Cut thick chicken breasts in half horizontally: Chicken breasts come in different sizes. If you have chicken breasts that are around a half pound each or more, you will want to slice them in half horizontally, so that the center thickness is around 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick.

(We do not recommend pounding the chicken breasts, doing so will not result in the right texture/consistency for fajitas.)

2 Marinate chicken: Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a glass or plastic container. Add the chicken, mix well, cover and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or up to 8 hours in the fridge.

3 Remove the chicken from the marinade. Wipe off most of the marinade and sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt.

4 Sear chicken on high heat: Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large cast iron frying pan on high heat for a minute or so.

As soon as the oil begins to smoke, lay the chicken breast pieces in the pan. Depending on the size of the pan, and if you have had to cut the chicken breasts, you may have to work in batches.

Let the chicken cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes, until you have a good sear. Once seared well on one side, turn the pieces over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until well seared on the second side.

5 Stack seared breasts, cover with foil and let rest: Once seared on the second side, remove to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil to rest for 5 minutes.

If you want to test for doneness, cut into one piece with the tip of a sharp knife. It should be just done, if not, you can put it back in the hot pan for a minute or two.

Here's a tip: Stack the seared chicken breasts and then cover them in foil. Together they will retain heat better as you cook the peppers and onions.

6 Sauté peppers and onions: While the chicken is resting, cook the onions and peppers. Add another tablespoon of oil to the frying pan. Heat on high. As soon as the oil is hot, add the onions and peppers to the pan.

Use a metal spatula to scrape up some of the browned bits from the chicken and stir to coat the onions and peppers with the oil and brown bits. Spread the onions and peppers in an even layer in the pan.

Let them cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. You want them to sear with some blackening. Stir the vegetables and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.

7 Slice the chicken and serve: Slice the chicken across the grain into strips. Serve at once with the peppers and onions, some warm tortillas, and sides of shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole, and/or thinly sliced iceberg lettuce dressed with vinegar and salt.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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216 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Alfiano Fong

    The recipe is very easy to follow. I love this a lot, thank you!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Alfiano Fong

    Yum! I love this.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Kathy

    Love this recipe!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Victor

    Really excellent recipe. Easy, delicious. Doubled up on onions. Too many peppers. Will use two next time.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Jen L

    Love this recipe! So flavorful! We made it for the kids as well so we didn’t add jalapeños and they devoured it!

    xxxxxyyyyy

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