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Of all the marinades in the world, THIS Southwest Chicken Marinade is the one I make the most. Hands down. My kids love it. All adults love it. And it can be served any way you dream up–a la carte, in tacos or quesadillas, on top of a burrito bowl or salad.
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Ingredients in Southwest Chicken Marinade
Marinating chicken is THE key to infusing flavor into typically lean, bland poultry cuts. This complex marinade requires mostly pantry staples to turn that lackluster cut into something that makes your tastebuds sing.
Let’s meet the key ingredients…
- Avocado or olive oil – Use a fairly neutral oil keeps things moist without an overpowering flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar – Cider vinegar adds a delicious twist on the acid component but white vinegar will work.
- Fresh chopped cilantro (or parsley) – Adds a pop of green and fresh flavor. Leave out if you don’t have it on hand, though.
- Chili powder – Smoky, subtle heat from ground chilis. Flavor can vary between brands.
- Garlic powder – This pantry staple adds big (and convenient) garlic flavor that rounds out the whole marinade.
- Ground cumin – Love this smoky yet not spicy addition.
- Dried oregano – Crush in your hand before adding to release the oils in this dried herb.
- Salt – A must in any chicken marinade.
- Ground black pepper – Gives a little bite. Add more if you’d like.
How to Make and Store the Marinade
You can mix up this marinade and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in a jar to use when ready. Or, you can freeze it in a mason jar, too, but allow at least 1 inch of headspace at the top for expansion.
When ready to use the marinade, pour it over chicken in a zip-top bag or container with a lid. Let it marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours to infuse flavor. If you plan to freeze the chicken in the marinade, do not let it marinate first.
Then, grill, slow cook, pressure cook, or bake your marinated Southwest Chicken. You choose your method! We’ve included instructions for how to cook boneless chicken breasts any of these ways in the recipe below.
Ideas for Serving Southwest Chicken
Idea #1: Southwest Grilled Chicken Kabobs
Kids love this fun way of eating chicken! You can also thread your favorite veggies, like onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini, on separate skewers and grill at the same time. I keep the chicken on separate skewers from the veggies because they usually cook at different rates.
Idea #2: Southwest Chicken Burrito Bowls
I love this make-ahead meal option. Cook your chicken ahead of time. Then provide cooked rice or quinoa, chicken, black beans, and all your favorite Mexican toppings so everyone can personalize their bowls.
Idea #3: Southwest Chicken and Bacon Wraps
Inspired by one of my favorite restaurants in town, I created this build-your-own wrap recipe using marinated chicken and a super simple sauce. Plus…BACON! You’ll love it!
- Top a salad and use our Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing
- Make Grilled Southwest Chicken Tenders and eat a la carte!
More Chicken Marinades You Must Try
Try some of our other favorite healthy chicken marinades to mix things up:
- Lemon Garlic Chicken Marinade
- Cilantro Lime Chicken Marinade
- Balsamic Herb Chicken Marinade
- Asian Sesame Chicken Marinade
- Honey Dijon Chicken Marinade
- The BEST Savory Chicken Marinade
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- 1/3 cup oil (recommend: avocado or olive oil)
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
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Make It Now:
- Add the oil, vinegar, cilantro/parsley, chili powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, ground cumin, salt and pepper to a gallon-sized freezer bag, seal, and shake. Either seal and refrigerate until ready to use, OR add 1.5-2 pounds chicken to the bag, seal, and squish around to make sure the chicken is covered in marinade. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
- Place the bag in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Cook the chicken however you’d like (grill, slow cook, pressure cook, or bake). See tips below in the Notes.
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.)
- How to Cook Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts:
- Bake in Oven: Preheat oven to 400°F. Place chicken in a casserole dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes, until done.
- Slow Cooker: Place chicken and marinade in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 3 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: Pound out the chicken to about 3/4 inch thick (or cut it in half lengthwise) to help with fast and even cooking. Preheat grill to medium-high heat and clean the grates well. Grill for about 4-5 minutes per side, maybe longer depending on the thickness, until done.
- Storage Tip: A great way to store this freezer meal or leftovers is in our favorite reusable freezer bags.
- Where We Get Our Chicken and Bacon: 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.