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.
Video! How to Make Homemade Chicken Fajitas
How to Make Chicken Fajitas
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.
The Best Chicken 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.
How to Season 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.
Like Mexican Food? Check out these:
- Skillet Shrimp Fajitas
- Beef Steak Fajitas
- Mexican Tostada
- Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas with Peppers and Onions
- Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas
Save time by marinating the chicken while you prep the onions and peppers.
- For the chicken:
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 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
- Sliced avocado
- Sour cream
- Thinly sliced iceberg lettuce dressed lightly with salt and cider vinegar
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.)
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.
Remove the chicken from the marinade:
Wipe off most of the marinade and sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt.
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.
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.
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.
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.