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Finished shot of Cilantro lime chicken marinade - grilled chicken on a plate

Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade

Cilantro, lime, garlic and more marry together to create this fresh, citrusy Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade.

Yield: 5 servings 1x
Prep: 5 minutesCook: 12 minutesTotal: 17 minutes (plus marinating time)


  • 1/2 cup avocado or olive oil
  • Juice and zest of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/22 pounds chicken breasts, tenders, or thighs

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Make It Now:

  1. Mix Up Marinade: Add the oil, lime juice and zest, cilantro, garlic, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes to a gallon-sized freezer bag, seal, and shake. Add chicken* to the bag, seal, and squish around to make sure the chicken is covered in marinade. 
  2. Marinate Chicken: Place the bag in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. (Tip: Set the bag in a container to prevent any leaks.)
  3. Cook Chicken: Cook the chicken using one of these methods. The chicken is done when it reaches 165°F internally and/or is no longer pink inside.
      • Bake in Oven: Preheat oven to 400°F. Place chicken in a casserole dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. (Tip: Spray the dish/sheet pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking.) Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes, until done. May take longer depending on the thickness of the chicken.
      • Slow Cooker: Place chicken and marinade in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Really! That’s all it takes to get it done, otherwise, you’ll overcook and dry it out.
      • Instant Pot: Place chicken, marinade, and 1/3 cup chicken broth in a 6-quart Instant Pot. (Note: If using an 8 quart, add an additional 1/2 cup of broth.) Lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes and use a quick release of the pressure when the cook time is up. (Note: It will take 10-15 minutes to come to pressure before the cook time starts.)
      • Grill: *Before marinating, pound out the chicken to about 3/4 inch thick (or cut it in half lengthwise) to help with fast and even cooking. To do this, place one breast at a time inside a freezer bag and pound with the flat side of a meat mallet. Preheat grill to medium-high heat (400-450°F) and clean the grates well. Grill for about 4-6 minutes per side, closing the lid in between flipping, until done. The cook time may be longer depending on the thickness.
  4.  Make Extra Sauce (optional): Instead of discarding the leftover marinade, place it in a small pot and bring it to a rolling boil on the stovetop for at least 1 minute. Watch closely so it doesn’t overflow. Strain it, if desired, and use as extra sauce over the cooked chicken.*

Freeze For Later: Follow step 1. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw, using one of these safe thawing methods, and follow Step 3. No additional marinating time needed once it is thawed!


How to Know If Chicken Is Done: Chicken is done when it reaches 165°F internal temperature. A digital meat thermometer is a must to help cook chicken perfectly! Another way to tell is if it has no more pink inside when you slice into the middle.

How to Safely Turn the Marinade Into Sauce: To kill all the raw chicken germs, be sure to bring the marinade to a rolling boil in a pot on the stove for at least 1 minute, according to the CDC. The World Health Organization (WHO) Trusted Source notes that bacteria are rapidly killed at temperatures above 149°F (65°C), which is below that of boiling water or even a simmer. So rest assured you’ll be safe if you boil it well for 1 minute. We’d suggest straining it after boiling to remove any chicken pieces. 

Ideas for Serving Cilantro Lime Chicken: Make Chicken Burrito Bowls, serve on our Mexican Chopped Salad, make Shredded Chicken Nachos (or tacos), or serve it over our Instant Pot Cilantro Lime Rice.

Where We Get Our Chicken: We get our meat from ButcherBox. The chicken is organic and curated from small, trusted farms. We highly recommend this service to source healthy meat–like uncured bacon, wild salmon, and grass-fed beef–and have used it for years ourselves. 

More Chicken Marinades to Try: Try some of our other favorite healthy chicken marinades to mix things up:

© Author: Rachel Tiemeyer
Cuisine: American Method: Any cooking method