Chicken Fajitas

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These smoky chicken fajitas will rival those from your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant.

When I think of chicken fajitas, what comes to mind is that sizzling, smoking-hot cast iron skillet filled with tender, juicy chicken strips and sautéed peppers and onions from my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants. It’s hard (and, honestly, a little dangerous) to replicate that experience at home, but it’s possible to make fajitas that are just as good, if not better. I marinate the chicken in a Southwestern spice and lime-infused marinade and then grill it for a smoky, charred flavor. Meanwhile, I sauté the onions and peppers on the stovetop until they caramelize and sweeten.

The recipe is easy to make, and you can do all of the prep ahead of time, so all that’s left to do at dinnertime is grill the chicken. Chicken fajitas are perfect for getting the whole family sharing everything at the dinner table. Bonus: leftovers are delicious in salads, tacos, burritos and more.

What you’ll need to make chicken fajitas

chicken fajitas ingredients

Chicken: You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenderloins for this recipe. The breasts need to be pounded to an even thickness before marinating, so tenderloins are a great time-saver.

Spices: I use chili powder, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, and lime zest to flavor my chicken. Don’t be tempted to buy a fajita seasoning packet from the supermarket; they contain additives and aren’t nearly as tasty as what you can pull together quickly at home. If you’d like to add a little heat to your spice mixture, include a generous pinch of cayenne pepper.

Peppers: Bell peppers are standard, but if you’re a spicy food lover, try substituting some of the bell peppers for poblano or even jalapeño peppers.

Step-by-Step Instructions

To begin, pound the chicken breasts to an even 1/2-inch thickness. This both tenderizes the chicken and ensures that it cooks evenly. (Note: If using chicken tenderloins, you can skip this step.)

pounding the chicken breasts

Next, make the marinade by combining the oil, garlic, lime zest, ancho chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, and salt right in a Ziplock bag (no dirty bowls!). Note that I don’t use lime juice in the marinade. I find that acidic ingredients alter the texture of boneless skinless chicken breasts, making them tough and leathery. The zest of the lime imparts lime flavor without changing the texture of the meat.

chicken fajitas marinade ingredients in bowl

Mash all of the ingredients together.

chicken fajitas marinade

Then add the chicken and marinate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

chicken marinading in bowl

When you’re ready to grill, heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and onions.

peppers and onions in the skilletCook over medium-high heat until they start to brown.

browning peppers and onions

Deglaze the pan with a little water, scraping up the brown bits, and continue cooking until the vegetables are caramelized and tender.

cooked peppers and onions for chicken fajitas

When you’re ready to eat, preheat the grill to high. Grill the chicken, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

grilled chicken

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and slice into strips. Arrange the chicken and peppers on a platter and set out with all the fixins, like guacamole, salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream and cilantro. Be sure to warm your tortillas before serving; warming helps to make the tortillas softer and more pliable, and it also enhances their flavor.

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Chicken Fajitas

These smoky chicken fajitas will rival those from your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant.

Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 35 Minutes, plus 8-24 hours to marinade

Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • 1½ to 1¾ pounds chicken tenderloins or boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest, from 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8-12 small soft flour tortillas

For the Peppers

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced ¼" thick
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced ¼" thick
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar

Optional Accompaniments For Serving

  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole, store bought or homemade
  • Salsa, store bought or homemade
  • Shredded cheese
  • Chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. (Skip this step if using chicken tenderloins.) One at a time, place the chicken breasts in a sealable plastic bag and, using a meat mallet, pound to an even ½-inch thickness.
  2. Open a 1 gallon zip-lock bag and place in a medium bowl. Add the oil, garlic, lime zest, cumin, oregano, ancho chili powder, smoked paprika and salt into the bag. Mash the outside of the bag with your hands to blend the marinade together. Add the tenderloins or pounded chicken breasts and seal shut, releasing any air in the bag. Using your hands, massage the marinade into meat until evenly coated. Place the bag back in the bowl and place in the refrigerator (the bowl protects against leakage); let the chicken marinate at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
  3. Clean the grill and preheat to high.
  4. While the grill heats, cook the peppers. Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably not non-stick) over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions, peppers, salt, and sugar; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to brown and a brown film forms around edges of the bottom of the pan, 8 to 10 minutes. Add ¼ cup of water to the pan; scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any browned bits. Continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes, until the water is evaporated and the pan starts to brown again; add ¼ cup more water and cook a few minutes more, until the vegetables are tender-crisp. Season to taste with more salt and sugar if necessary. Set aside.
  5. Oil the grates on the grill. Grill the chicken, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcook. Let the chicken cool slightly, then transfer to a cutting board and cut into ½-inch strips.
  6. Arrange the chicken and peppers on a serving platter. To warm the tortillas: stack 4-6 tortillas on a plate and cover them with a damp paper towel, then microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Serve with the chicken, peppers and optional accompaniments.
  7. Note: The onion and pepper mixture can be made ahead of time and reheated in the microwave.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 fajita (not including optional accompaniments)
  • Calories: 243
  • Fat: 11g
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 20g
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 15g
  • Sodium: 567mg
  • Cholesterol: 36mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • I’ve been hungry for fajitas so I decided to look for a recipe. Found this one and LOVED it. Super simple. I used regular chili powder and regular paprika because that’s all I had on hand. I roasted the onions and peppers in the oven. I used chicken tenders which were super easy to cook on the grill. I’m using the leftovers to make a fajita salad. Will definitely make again. Thanks!

    • — Megan on August 10, 2020
    • Reply
  • This was awesome. Even for a person like me who is heavy with spices. The wife and family loved the meal. It will be a staple in our household.

    • — Victor Vance on August 7, 2020
    • Reply
  • Awesome. My family devoured the fajitas! The flavour of the chicken was better than most restaurants. I definitely will be ,asking these again. Thanks so much for sharing this fantastic recipe.

    • — Nanners on July 26, 2020
    • Reply
  • Excellent chicken! I made it with thighs on the grill and grilled the peppers and onions as well. I made some fresh salsa and the husband made some rice and beans. We will be making that chicken over and over again. It’s that good.

    • — Catherine on July 18, 2020
    • Reply
  • This is honestly one of the best meals I’ve ever cooked. It’s in my weekly summer meal rotation forever now.

    • — Kendra on July 13, 2020
    • Reply
  • This was my first time at making chicken fajitas and we thought they were pretty good. I think for us they were missing a bit more zing to the flavor. Next time I will adjust a bit.

    • — Tish on June 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • The flavor was fantastic….delicious. Will definitely be a go to. The only thing I changed up was added some Cayenne and a touch of Cumin to peppers/onions. Thank you Jenn!

  • Absolutely delicious recipe! I just made these for the second time as part of a fajita bar for Father’s Day. I also made your carne asada, pesto shrimp, and black bean corn salad to have a little of everything. Everything was devoured and I received multiple praises about these being the best fajitas my guests have ever had in their life. Definitely a recipe I will be making again!

  • Love this recipe (and all of your recipes)! Quick question – would it be ok to freeze the chicken (uncooked) in the marinade (so that I can bring it on a vacation and minimize prep time)?

    • Sure, Laurie, that should work (and so glad you like the recipes)! 🙂

  • This marinade was so delicious! I just sauteed the peppers and onions but this will be my new fajita marinade! Thank you; I love your recipes!

  • Wow! This will make it into our rotation along with the other grilled chicken recipes on this site. Great flavor–very similar to our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, which doesn’t have a location in this part of the country. I would make even more in the future (although this is a generous amount). This chicken would be great as a leftover on a Southwestern salad, burrito bowl, or quesadillas with the leftover peppers. I try to stay true to the recipes, but I did roast/blacken the peppers and onions on a foil-lined sheet pan in the oven/broiler with olive oil, cumin, chili powder, s&p, and smoked paprika. I was broiling the ingredients for the OUAC salsa (also 5*) and thought this would save on clean up. Thanks for another great recipe.

  • Absolutely delicious! I will make this over and over again. I didn’t change a thing.

    • — Eunice Gillan-Short
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I love this recipe! Much better than those “sheet pan” fajita recipes.
    Is there any way for me to save this digital version? I am beginning to scan all my recipes becuase I am running out of room for all of them in my printed binders.
    thanks,
    Leslie

    • So glad you liked these! Thanks for your note. As of now, I don’t have the functionality on the blog to save favorite recipes. Several readers have mentioned that they like this app for organizing and saving recipes. Also, while not as “high tech,” If you’d like to create a folder on your computer to save them, that also works. You can do it by following these steps:
      -Click on the orange Jump to Recipe button immediately under the name of the recipe at the top of the page.
      -Look in the upper righthand corner of the recipe box – you’ll see an icon there that looks like a printer. Select that
      -Depending on the browser you’re using, you’ll then see a dialogue box with the various print options or another Print button to click.
      -Once the print box opens with printing options, click on the drop-down and select “Save as PDF”
      -Save it on your computer. (You can create a folder specifically for Once Upon a Chef recipes)
      Hope that helps!

  • Seriously the best fajitas I’ve ever had!! I wouldn’t change one thing on this recipe.

  • So delicious! I made on the stove in cast iron instead of the grill. The smoked paprika is what really makes them smell and taste like what you get in a restaurant. Pairs perfectly with chips and your Restaurant Salsa recipe!

  • I made the Chicken Fajitas last night for dinner and they were a great success. This recipe will will be on rotation for a while. Loved them!

    • — Blanche Budzienny
    • Reply
  • Just made this tonight. Outstanding! I scaled it down for two and cooked it all in an iron frying pan – first the chicken, then the peppers and onions. A few minutes before the vegetables were done I added in the sliced chicken. Just before serving (in warmed tortillas) I poured in the juice of the lime.

    The marinade is really delicious. Would it be good with beef or would you suggest some different ingredients?

    • Glad you liked it! Yes, this would nicely with beef. 🙂

      • What cut of beef would be the best to use?

        • — Northern Cook on July 17, 2020
        • Reply
        • I’d use a flat iron. You could use this recipe. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

          • — Jenn on July 17, 2020
          • Reply
  • My favorite chicken I’ve ever eaten much less made! Perfection! Thank you

  • Best chicken marinade, ever! Our first outdoor grilling of the season. Prepped the peppers & onions the evening before to make dinner quickly. Served with elote corn, guacamole, and salsa. Will make again – and again, and again!

  • Wow – the marinade on the chicken is delicious and really comes through after cooking. We grilled the chicken breasts and were happy with the results. Sliced thin, the chicken was so tender. Since it made so much chicken we have leftovers to use in taco salad – will be making this again during the hot days of summer in CA!

  • Amazing! Perfection! Delicious!

  • To die for.
    Even without a BBQ (I used a cast iron pan).
    Even with thigh meat.
    The onion-pepper accompaniment is brilliant!
    Served with avocado, cilantro, lime juice and tortillas.
    Heaven.
    Thank you, Jenn!

  • Made this for Cinco de Mayo and it was fantastic. I used my favorite Bell and Evans chicken which never disappoints. I followed the recipe and wouldn’t change a thing. It was very easy. Thank You @onceuponachef ☺️

  • This was an AMAZING recipe. Simple & Delicious. Everyone enjoyed it. A keeper for sure!

  • Jen,
    I have thanked you for many recipes but this might just be one of the best! I have tried chicken fajitas countless times of over the years but the marinade never tasted as good as the restaurants, until now. Such a simple marinade but a great combination. Will definitely make these a regular on the dinner menu and will try with steak and shrimp too. Happy Cinco de Mayo : )
    Megan M.

  • Hi. I only have lime juice. I can put the chicken in marinade without the lime juice. How long do u suggest b4 I plan to cook the chicken that I add the lime juice to the marinating chicken so it will add the needed flavor.

    • Hi Annmarie, I wouldn’t add it to the marinade at all. You can just squeeze some lime juice over the chicken before serving – it will still be delicious!

      • Any chance you could give instructions for chicken if grill not available? Poor planning on my part. Chicken is defrosted and it is snowing here in the DMV 😂

        • — Mf on January 31, 2021
        • Reply
        • Hi Mf, You can use the oven or the stove to cook them inside. If you use the oven, I’d place them on a broiling pan and broil 4 to 6 inches from the heat for 5 minutes per side, or until chicken is done. If you use the stove (you’ll need to turn the oven on too), sear the chicken in an oven-proof sauté pan over high heat (for a min or two per side until browned) then finish it in a 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Hope you enjoy! Stay warm! 🙂

          • — Jenn on February 1, 2021
          • Reply
  • I’m planning on making these tomorrow with chicken. Curious if shrimp or steak would work as well?

  • AhhhMazing!

    • — Andrea Murdock
    • Reply
  • Perfect seasoning on the chicken made this a huge hit at dinner last night. I used chicken tenderloins which made this easy.
    Thank you again Jen for another great recipe!

    • — Naz Sichemerman
    • Reply
  • Wow! I’ve tried numerous chicken fajita recipes. After making this one, I’ve thrown away all the others. This is the BEST recipe EVER. This will be the only one I’ll make again. It is simply perfection. The seasoning on the chicken is perfect. And the preparation of the onions and peppers makes them simply outstanding. WOW OH WOW!

    PS: This is a great recipe for dinner guests. You can make the onions and peppers ahead of time and then all you have to do is grill the chicken. I served it with Trader Joe’s flexible corn/wheat tortillas. Wonderful.

  • Hi Jen,

    I don’t have an outdoor grill. Any suggestions for grilling the chicken indoors? And for how long they should be cooked on each side?

    Thank you

    • Hi Janelle, You can use the oven or the stove to cook them inside. If you use the oven, I’d place them on a broiling pan and broil 4 to 6 inches from the heat for 5 minutes per side, or until chicken is done. If you use the stove (you’ll need to turn the oven on too), sear the chicken in an oven-proof sauté pan over high heat (for a min or two per side until browned) then finish it in a 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

      • I’m making for my mom on mother’s day tomorrow. She’s not big on spicy food. It’s not too spicy is it?

        • No, they’re not spicy at all. Hope your mom enjoys!

  • I would be most grateful if you could explain the differences between fajitas, burritos, tacos, enchiladas and any other wrap type Mexican food. It sometimes seems as if some are used inter-changeably.

    Many thanks

    • Good question Gordon – it can be a little dizzying distinguishing between all of them! This is how I see them:

      -Burritos are large tortillas typically filled (unless they’re breakfast burritos like in this recipe) with things like meat, rice, beans, cheese, sour cream and/or guacamole. They are generally rolled with the ends folded in to enclose all the ingredients.
      -Fajitas are made with strips of sauteed or grilled chicken or beef (often with onions and bell peppers). They’re usually served with flour tortillas on the side and other condiments like guacamole, salsa, sour cream and/or cheese that can be rolled into the tortillas with the meat.
      -Enchiladas are usually corn tortillas that are filled with shredded meat and/or cheese, then covered in enchilada sauce and cheese, and baked.
      -Tacos can be served in a hard or soft shell and contain ground beef, chicken, or turkey and condiments like salsa, shredded lettuce and/or cheese.
      Hope that helps!

      • Most helpful Jenn, thanks and stay safe.

  • The Chicken Fajitas was a huge success! My boys and I were looking for ‘fun’ ways to eat chicken breast. We came across your website. The recipe was very easy to follow, the flavors were very good. Everyone in my family loved it! For dessert we made the French Apple Cake. It was the best ending for a perfect meal. Thanks Mrs. Segal!

  • Amazing explanation! Will make soon! Thank you!

  • I just made this tonight. Delicious.
    Just like the rest of the recipes I have made. Thank you.

  • These were a huge hit! My family loved them and ate every bite! I made them in my cast iron skillet bc I was in a hurry. Came together quickly and all my teenagers couldn’t stop talking about how good they were. Thanks for a recipe I will make often.

  • YASSS!!! hunny, lol. Hands down one of the best recipes I’ve had from Jen. 5 stars all the way. I did not use a grill however I did use a grill pan instead of an outside grill, I let the chicken marinate overnight and it was a hit. I did not make the veggies but I just made soft tacos with the traditional taco toppings. It was great. My husband commented on how juicy the breast was. I was going to make spaghetti tomorrow but I have another breast that I think I will have again for lunch lol. I followed the seasonings to a T and it was perfect. Thank you Jen for your recipes and the book.

  • Absolutely delicious. This is the only fajita recipe I use. I make exactly as shown too! I once served it at a friendly get-together and everyone loved it.

  • Hello, I just have a question about this recipe and the enchiladas. Are these recipes you can freeze? If yes, at what point can you freeze them? Thank you.

    • Hi Melanie, you could make the marinade for the chicken, put the chicken in, and freeze it in the marinade or fully cook and freeze the chicken. For the enchiladas, once they’re cooked, they can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, defrost them in the refrigerator for 24 hours and then reheat, covered in foil, in a 325°F oven until hot. Hope that helps!

  • As always, Jenn’s recipes are a home run! Made this for my family when I was pressed for time tonight and had about 40 minutes to get dinner on the table. Didn’t have time to marinate for more than 10 minutes and it still turned out great. Too cold to grill so baked on convection at 405 til chicken was done and veggies were browned (chicken took about 8 minutes, veggies took about 14). Served with pico, sliced avo, shredded cheese and sour cream. DELCIOUS!

  • 5 stars.

    I typically don’t have good luck with chicken breasts/white meat coming out juicy or flavorful BUT I think this marinade was on point. I purchased tenders for my fajitas – strictly to avoid the pounding out of the breasts.

    I marinated them for about 4 hours total. I used my cast iron skillet to first make the peppers/onions then cooked the chicken in 3 batches. Wow! What flavorful chicken….I will be using this again in the future!

  • This were SO delicious! Flavors are spot on and followed recipe exactly. Even my 11-year-old who doesn’t like chicken liked this. And we can’t wait to make this again.

    • — Lisa Rosenberg
    • Reply
  • I have been looking for years for a great fajita recipe. I found it with this one!! It was simple and very tasty. I followed your recipe exactly, even though I thought the peppers may get soggy with the addition of water. They were PERFECT!!! No leftovers at all. You have a new follower. I will be trying many more of your recipes. Thank you!

  • This is fantastic recipe. I’ve been trying different marinades for fajitas over the years, trying to find ‘the one’ and this is it! Thanks Jenn!

  • Can this marinate work the same for beef fajitas?

    • Definitely! Hope you enjoy. 🙂

  • I made a big batch of this last night. It was delish. we planned on using it throughout the week for salads and sandwiches and quick dinners but we ate all of it tonight. Next week I will make more. the only thing I did differently was use regular chili powder since I don’t know what ancho chili powder is. Can you explain the difference?

    • So glad you enjoyed these (but sorry to hear you don’t have any leftovers ;). Here’s a piece that explains nicely the difference between traditional chili powder and ancho chili powder. Hope it’s helpful!

  • I make this recipe almost weekly. It’s so delicious and definitely restaurant quality. I use chicken tenders to make my life easier so I don’t have to pound the chicken breasts. Definitely a keeper!

  • These were just okay the first couple of times I made them. Kind of dry and hard to flip on the grill, and I oiled the grates as directed. As it turns out, it was my fault.

    The secret is to not over pound the chicken. A 1/2-inch is thicker than you think. I corrected this mistake on my 3rd try and all I have to say is that these fajitas were simply the best I’ve ever had.

  • I have been asked to make chicken and shrimp fajitas for a dinner for 15 people. Could I use this same marinade for shrimp? If so, do I marinate less time? I would separate the chicken from shrimp while marinating, of course.

    • Sure, Nancy – the shrimp would only need 30 minutes or so in the marinade. I’d love to know how it turns out. 🙂

      • Thanks Jenn for always responding to our questions. It is so appreciated!! I did a test run today marinating chicken last night and shrimp 30 minutes before cooking. Just added a splash of lime to both, just before serving, and everything was absolutely delicious. I did not change a thing!!! Thank you for sharing your fantastic recipes! I’m in charge of breakfast and dinner on one of the days of a birthday weekend and I’m using your recipes for both meals.

        • My pleasure, Nancy! So glad everything turned out well. 🙂

          • Made it a couple of times this past summer. My hubby has asked me why it hasn’t shown up as part of our meal rotation recently. LOL. In short, he loved it! I made two minor changes: I used both the lime juice and the zest in the marinade. And I didn’t pound the chicken breast. I’m too lazy. Hahaha. Instead, I butterfly cut the breasts but making sure the pieces are still connected. So they become big Chicken steaks and they would cook more evenly.

            • — Jackie
  • So delicious! Great depth of flavor. This recipe is a keeper!

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