Spicy Orange Marinated Chicken

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

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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

  • Jilly

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

  • 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

  • rick of temecula

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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