Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken

tequila lime chicken

Tequila Lime Chicken, a.k.a. Margarita Chicken, is one of those dishes that just screams fun. The marinade — a combination of tequila, lime, garlic and spices — is loaded with bright Southwestern flavor. And contrary to what you might think, it’s family friendly: the tequila is mild and it’s not too spicy. I like to serve it with a corn and tomato salad, as shown above, or this Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers and Avocado. If you want to make a party out of it, whip up some Roasted Garlic Guacamole and Margaritas.

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Begin by pounding the chicken breasts with a meat mallet to an even 1/2-inch thickness. You can do this in a zip-lock bag or between two sheets of parchment paper as shown above. This both tenderizes the meat and ensures it cooks evenly.

Tequilla lime chicken 1

Next, make the marinade. Combine the olive oil, tequila, lime zest, garlic and spices in a large freezer bag. If you’re wondering why I’d bother zesting the lime as opposed to just juicing it, I find that citrus juice (and vinegar too) makes boneless skinless chicken breasts somewhat leathery when cooked. Lime zest gives the chicken the essence of lime without sacrificing texture. You’ll see, these are tender and succulent every time.

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Add the chicken breasts to the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for at least six hours or overnight.

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When you’re ready to eat, preheat your grill to high. Be sure the grill is very hot and resist the urge to flip the chicken breasts more than once; you want nice grill marks and char in the short amount of time it takes to cook them.

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Serve with lime wedges. Enjoy and have a great holiday weekend, everyone!

Tequilla lime chicken a

Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken

Print Recipe
Servings: 4


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tequila
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest, from about 2 limes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or about 2 pounds), pounded to an even 1/2-inch thickness
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges, for serving (optional)


  1. Combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken breasts in a 1-gallon freezer bag. Close the bag and squish the marinade around to mix. Add the chicken breasts and massage the marinade into the meat until evenly coated. Seal the bag and place it in a bowl in the refrigerator (the bowl protects against leakage); marinate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Clean the grill and preheat to high. Lightly dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and, using tongs, carefully rub over the grates several times until glossy and coated. (Alternatively, you can spray the grates with a non-flammable cooking spray.) Place the chicken breasts on the grill and spoon any remaining marinade from the bag over top. Grill, covered, for 2-3 minutes per side (turning only once). Serve immediately with lime wedges.
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  • This looks amazing, love all of the flavors! What a great summer meal, will definitely try this one! Thanks, Chris

  • Susan Orton

    That looks beautiful… and perfect for an Arizona HOT 4th of July.. supposed to be 114 that day!

  • This look so yummy! Love all those flavors. And that corn salad looks so good too. Perfect summer meal :)

  • Yummm… I think this is definitely something my picky boyfriend would eat. (The tequila probably doesn’t hurt!)

  • Charlene

    I just made the Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken for dinner. It is wonderful! I’ve made another recipe for it before and was not impressed but since I love your Perfectly Grilled Chicken Breasts with Lemon, Garlic and Herb Marinade I thought maybe this would be equally as good. It is! I will be making this again and again. Thank you!

  • You had me at grilled! and tequila! I am trying this very soon. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Aimee

    I just found your blog via pinterest. So far I haven’t come across a recipe that doesn’t look amazing!!! I can’t wait to try some of them.

  • Linda

    We made this over 4th of July weekend with the bean salad and both were fabulous. Thanks for all the great recipes!

  • I really love south western flavors. Lovely photos, and this would be a great dish any time of the year.

  • Jennifer

    I made this last weekend, along with a simple salad of grilled corn, red onion, tomato and avocado salad (just tossed w/ a little olive oil, lime zest and juice, cilantro, salt and pepper). The meal was amazing. My husband said it was the best chicken I ever made for him… never mind that it was substantially easier than some of the chicken recipes I have slaved over in the past! I will be adding this to my regular recipe stack. Thanks!

  • bethy

    I don’t know how you do it, this is unbelievably scrumptious. You always have such full-flavored recipes, and this one hits it out of the park. Even in a NYC apartment, with an IKEA grill pan on the stove, this was probably the best chicken I’ve ever made. I can’t wait to make it again, it was a HUGE hit! Thank you!

  • Abby

    This is a beautiful picture! I’m making this this weekend and would love some insight into the recipe for the tomato corn salad. Thank you, in advance.

  • Shoot, so that’s that one supspoes.

  • Jennifer Smith

    Came to your site through Pinterest and can’t want to try some recipes.

    Could I bake this chicken so that I don’t have to wait to make it until summer?


    • Jenn

      Hi Jennifer, You won’t get the same nice char by baking these, but a grill pan would work great if you have one. Hope that helps!

  • Jennifer Smith

    I enjoyed this recipe last night. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    I noticed on your photos that you often use the more expensive brand(s) of spices. Do you think it’s better to buy these than the large, bargain-bin types of spices? Also, do you ever use the jarred, minced garlic in your recipes, or do you think it’s better to always use fresh? I’ve been lazy and have used the jarred, thinking it may not matter.

    Thanks, Jennifer!

    • Jenn

      Hi Jennifer, On the spices, I don’t think it matters. I’m usually just too lazy to drive to Costco, plus I don’t have a lot of storage space for spices in my kitchen. For the garlic, I definitely prefer fresh to jarred. If you have a garlic press, it makes it a whole lot easier to mince. But that’s in a perfect world…better to use the jarred than none at all :)

  • Charmie

    Yum! Definitely making this!

  • Sarah

    Made this a few times it is great!

  • Meredith

    this is awesome! love the citrus and fresh taste.

  • I love grilled lime chicken and am curious as to how it will taste with Tequila.

  • Hadley

    This was delicious! A great recipe… .

  • Angie

    This is one of the best chicken recipes I’ve ever made. I used the George Foreman and it was juicy, flavorful and delicious! Can’t wait to try it again on my new grill pan!

  • Tricia K

    This was delicious!

  • Tricia O

    My family loved this. We made it this past weekend and they are already asking for it again!

  • Julie

    Is there a substitute you could use for the ancho chili powder?? As I dont have it easily assessible here in Australia. Thanks

    • Jenn

      Hi Julie, If you can’t find it just use regular chili powder…it’s not the same, but definitely next best thing :)

  • Paige

    Yum-o!!! One of our favories in our meal rotation. Especially in the summer! Love it with the black bean and corn salad. A Must try!!!

  • Susan

    Spicy but delicious!

  • Jennifer

    I tried this receipe last night. SO good. It was such an easy marinade and so much more flavor than store bought.

  • LindaK

    Wonderful flavors and so easy for a hot summer evening! Love it!

  • Sherri

    I love this chicken it is really refreshing with the black bean corn salad.

  • Adrian

    This made a light, elegant meal on a hot, late May evening when we were ready for a grilled meal but not ready to drag out the grill. The chicken cooked up on my indoor grill pan in no time and was moist and delicious. Will definitely make it again.

  • Laura

    This was fantastic! We marinated it for about thirty hours as we had a change in plans and it was still great! With the two tsp. of honey, I wasn’t expecting much of a sweetness to it but there was. Can’t wait to make it again! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  • Laura

    Hello, the first time I made this I had to use regular chili powder. They other day i was able to pick up some ancho chile pepper. Is that same as Ancho Chile powder? Thanks

    • Jenn

      Hi Laura, Yes, it’s the same.

  • Chris

    Can’t wait to give this a try- great for a summer barbecue!

  • Katzzz

    Hi jenn, I made this chicken and it was delicious. I was just wondering what salad is beside the tequila chicken? It looks yummy!

    • Jenn

      Hi Katrina, That’s not a recipe I have on the site, but the chicken would go great with my black bean, corn and red pepper salad.

  • Tina W

    This chicken dish is the perfect companion to the Black Bean Salad . Since you already have all the ingredients at hand, why not go ahead and prepare this too. Add a little corn pudding and you have the perfect Southwestern meal.

  • [...] using Ancho Chili Powder and Chipotle Chili Powder, yum! Last but not least, the classic - Tequila Lime Chicken.  Jennifer over at Once Upon A Chef marinates her chicken in tequila, lime juice, and a bunch of [...]

  • Elizabeth

    Decided to make this for a Cinco de Mayo dinner for myself and husband. It was so tender and juicy; great blend of spices and flavors. Thanks for sharing the recipe and tips to make all of us “professionals”!

  • Amy

    On our way to the grocery store, I decided we were going to make tequila lime chicken. I’ve never made it before and began my web search. I found your site and loved your version. I added cilantro to the marinade and made corn, with green chilies and red pepper. We just fired up the grill and I can’t wait!! A beautiful low calorie dinner….and we get to grill. :D

  • Melissa Tanner

    Yummy, Can’t wait to try All The Great Recipes !!!

  • Mickie Philip

    I made this chicken this evening & I will definitely be making it again….. Delicious with the Thai Crunch Salad! Thank you, Jennifer!

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