Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Also known as “margarita chicken,” this tequila lime chicken is loaded with bright Southwestern flavor.


Tequila Lime Chicken, a.k.a. Margarita Chicken, is one of those dishes that just screams fun. The marinade is a combination of tequila, lime, garlic and spices — and it’s loaded with bright Southwestern flavor.

Contrary to what you might think, this recipe is family friendly. The tequila is mild and the chicken isn’t too spicy. Pair it with my black bean salad with corn, avocado and lime vinaigrette, restaurant-style salsa, cornbread muffins, and margaritas.

What You’ll Need To Make Tequila Lime Chicken

ingredients for tequila lime chicken

How To Make Tequila Lime Chicken

Step 1: Pound the Chicken

pounding the chicken breasts

Place the chicken breasts in a 1-gallon freezer bag and pound to an even ½-inch thickness. This both tenderizes the meat and ensures even cooking. Left in their natural shape, the thin side of the fillet dries out while the thicker side finishes cooking.

Step 2: Make the Marinade

zesting limes for tequila lime chicken

Begin by zesting the limes with a fine or Microplane grater. Simply rub the lime in one direction against the blades, turning the fruit as you go. Be sure to remove only the green part; the white pith underneath is bitter.

I don’t use the juice of the limes in the marinade because, contrary to popular belief, acidic ingredients (such as vinegar or lemon juice) do not tenderize lean boneless chicken breasts. Just the opposite: they “cook” the exterior of the meat and give it a leathery texture. The zest is enough to give the chicken the essence of lime, while still maintaining its succulent texture.

marinade ingredients in freezer bag

Mix all of the ingredients except for the chicken together in a 1-gallon zip-lock bag (go ahead and use the same one you used for pounding if it is still in good shape). Add the chicken breasts to the bag and massage the marinade into the meat until evenly coated.

chicken in bag with marinade

Step 3: Marinate

chicken marinating in bowl

Seal the bag and place in a bowl in the refrigerator (the bowl protects against leakage); let the chicken marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Step 4: Grill

chicken on the grillPreheat the grill to high heat and cook, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook; when pounded thin, chicken breasts cook very quickly.

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Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken

Also known as “margarita chicken,” this tequila lime chicken is loaded with bright Southwestern flavor.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 4 Minutes
Total Time: 20 Minutes, plus at least 6 hours to marinate

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tequila
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest, from about 2 limes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground ancho chili pepper
  • 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)

Instructions

  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 to 3 minutes per side (turning only once). Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 chicken breast
  • Calories: 399
  • Fat: 16g
  • Saturated fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 5g
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 51g
  • Sodium: 1015mg
  • Cholesterol: 151mg

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.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Absolutely the best marinade ! The chicken was so juicy and flavorful. I marinated for about 5 hours. I patted them dry and sprinkled with them with grape seed oil before grilling.

    • — Fran T on August 31, 2021
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  • Impeccable. Love this recipe. My family’s favorite.

    • — Harriette on August 18, 2021
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  • I cannot find Ancho Chile powder. Any suggested substitute? Thank you.

    • — Sheryl on July 29, 2021
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    • Hi Sheryl, You can use regular chile powder here instead. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 29, 2021
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      • Could you use this marinade on salmon? Or would it cook the salmon too much?

        • — Lili on August 13, 2021
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        • You could, but I’d limit the marinating time to a few hours. Please LMK how it turns out with salmon!

          • — Jenn on August 13, 2021
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    • Mariano’s sell it or look in the Mexican food aisle & grind whole dried peppers using coffee grinder.

      • — Harriette on August 18, 2021
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  • Can I bake this dish? Also can I use bone in thighs?

    Thanks!
    Edythe

    • — Edythe on July 22, 2021
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    • Hi Edythe, Yes, I think you could use bone in thighs here but I’d add the juice of one lime to the marinade. If you want to bake them, I’d bake them I’d put them in a 400-degree oven for 55 minutes give or take. Please LMK how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on July 22, 2021
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  • Hi Jenn,
    This recipe sounds delicious. Could I use chicken tenderloins and if so, what adjustments would I need to make. Thank you.

    • — Ruth on July 13, 2021
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    • Sure, but you won’t need to pound them out. Other than that, no modifications needed. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 13, 2021
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  • Made this for a get together with friends, last night, after not seeing each other since March 2020. What a hit! The chicken turned out moist and tasty. Served with the black bean and corn salad, and a spinach salad. And margarita’s, of course.
    Recipe goes on the keeper list – like almost everything on your blog, Jen!

    • — DONNA on July 11, 2021
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  • I want to really try this recipe but I need to be on a sodium restricted diet. This recipe has a lot of sodium. Would it be just as good without all the added salt?

    • — Deb on June 24, 2021
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    • Hi Deb, The salt definitely adds flavor. You could try cutting the salt in half if that works for you and then add more to taste when serving if you feel like it’s necessary. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on June 24, 2021
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  • Delicious and juicy chicken. I marinated the chicken breasts overnight so this made for a really easy dinner. Would recommend! I paired with the corn, black bean, and avocado salad recipe that Jenn has and some cheese quesadillas- such a yummy dinner! Thanks for another awesome recipe.

    • — Helena on June 8, 2021
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  • So flavorful and moist! Served the chicken with your delicious chipotle-honey black bean and corn salad and your yummy corn muffins … a great meal enjoyed by all!

    • — Danni on June 1, 2021
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  • I never leave comments. I found this recipe 8years ago and I make it all the time. I also make the salad side dish you recommend. Both are excellent. I have made this chicken for tacos before as well. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe.😍

    • — Tina Allen on May 28, 2021
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  • We do have alcohol but I don’t have any tequila, no vodka either. Mostly I just keep liquor that I’ll use cooking and don’t want to add to it. Could I use brandy? Rum? Vermouth ? Sherry? Whiskey? That’s all I have.

    • — Maxine on May 27, 2021
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    • Hi Maxine, I think whiskey will work. 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 27, 2021
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  • Simple and delicious, will definitely make again

    • — Doug on May 17, 2021
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  • Perfection – easy, delicious, moist, and taste very fresh. Will be making this chicken over and over again. You have to try it!

    • — Patti on May 4, 2021
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    • We are a nonalcoholic household, I know alcohol burns off when cooking, but I just don’t use it. Any suggestions for a substitute for the tequila?

      • — Suzanne on May 20, 2021
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      • Hi Suzanne, I’d replace the tequila with more olive oil — will still be delicious. Enjoy!

        • — Jenn on May 20, 2021
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  • Made this tonight for the first time. I marinaded the chicken for about 8 hours in the fridge and then grilled on my gas Weber. DELICIOUS!!! Had a great kick to it (I as a little heavy-handed with the chili powder!). Served with Zatarian’s cilantro lime rice and a side salad with baby leaf lettuce. Perfection and super easy.

    • — Lori on May 3, 2021
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  • I made this chicken recipe with the black bean and corn salad for the side dish. The chicken was tender and had a great flavor. I also made the margaritas for the whole tequila night dinner.

    • — Angie on April 30, 2021
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  • Outstanding! Followed directions exactly and marinated 4 chicken breasts for 7 hours. Took a bit longer on grill, about 5-6 minutes to cook through per side. Results were amazing! So juicy and flavorful! Even my mom who always says she hates chicken served herself seconds and took home the leftovers! Jenn you are a ROCKSTAR!

    • — Tara on April 25, 2021
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    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on April 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • I recently made the grilled tequila chicken and thought it was very tasty. I wanted to clarify what type salt you specify in your recipes? Thank you!

    • — Karen Parker on April 20, 2021
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    • Hi Karen, I use fine sea salt or table salt (they are interchangeable), unless otherwise specified. Glad you enjoyed!

      • — Jenn on April 20, 2021
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  • This chicken is delicious and bursting with classic southwest flavors! The first night I made it for my fiance and I and served with Jenn’s black bean and corn salad with chipotle and honey vinaigrette. We took the leftovers of both the chicken and bean/corn salad the following night and made an epic quesadilla out of it with some added pepper jack cheese and fresh avocado and sour cream to top. Now that spring is here, a fresh margarita to go alongside isn’t a bad idea either 🙂

    • — Candice on April 14, 2021
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  • I’d like to use this marinade for baking/roasting bone-in chicken pieces. Any reason why not?

    • — Candy on April 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • That should be fine – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 7, 2021
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  • Perfection. I have made this recipes numerous times over past year. The chicken comes out moist and perfectly seasoned. My family loves it.

    • — Harriette on February 18, 2021
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  • Made this last night. Grilled in a snowstorm. Worth it! One thing I learned, and it kind of pains me, but pounding the chicken in a ziplock bag (I usually just pound away or maybe use some waxed paper) made for some really lovely, uniform breasts w/o a lot of collateral damage. I hate using single-use bags, but I made myself feel better by reusing it to marinate the chicken. Anyway. Rock star chicken, super delish, and really good looking, too, thanks to the plastic bag treatment. Needed a new sensation and got it with this recipe. Thanks!

    • — Julie Coburn on February 2, 2021
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  • This is absolutely delicious! It is incredibly moist and bursting with lively flavors! I always make extra so we have leftovers!

    • — Sharon Lawson on January 29, 2021
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  • This is one of my family’s favorite chicken recipes. Boneless skinless chicken breasts can at times be very boring, but this recipe is so flavorful that the chicken is almost completely transformed. Sometimes to change things up, I slice the chicken up afterwards and make it into fantastic fajitas. I have even found that the marinade works great with other proteins, like shrimp! We did this last night with shrimp and the kids gobbled it right up.

    • — Connie on January 28, 2021
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  • This is my husband’s favorite chicken marinade. Perfect for our SoCal weather and in our regular grilling rotation.

    • — Brandy on January 28, 2021
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  • This is a great way for BBQ. I use my Big Green Egg on direct cook @ 350 for about 20′. Very nice blending of flavors with the BBQ chicken.

    • — Richard Holzshu on January 28, 2021
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  • Good morning,
    Love all your recipes!
    Can I substitute boneless skinless chicken thighs?

    Thank you.

    • — Stuart and Lynda Kelly on January 19, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! Sure, thighs will work here. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 19, 2021
      • Reply
  • Great recipe! I have been marinating chicken in this and using it for fajitas. I made the recipe twice in the last 3 days! It has been raining the last few days so I have been cooking the chicken breasts in a cast iron pan on the stove. Also I used some lime oil as a sub for the lime zest. You can buy the lime oil from King Arthur flour online.

    • — Sonia Woldow on November 13, 2020
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  • It is always a hit with family & friends, keep getting request to make it quite often.
    Thanks for the easy to follow recipe

    • — Anna L. on November 1, 2020
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  • Great recipe. This was my first time grilling or making BBQ sauce. I will definitely make this again. It was a hit with my family and friends.

    • — Melita on October 31, 2020
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  • This has become one of our dinner staples. Love this recipe and super simple to make. Always comes out super moist and very flavorful. Love it with the black bean, corn and avocado salad as well as the margaritas!

    • — Judy on September 27, 2020
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  • This is fantastic. Going to make for family Labor Day get together.

    • — K Cohea on September 2, 2020
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  • I’m a novice cook. One thing the pandemic has done is to give me the opportunity to lessen the load on my wife and begin to learn to cook. ( Prior to this it was just grilling. ) My son and I teamed up to make this recipe. I’m a lime lover – who doesn’t love a good margarita ?! ) This recipe is simple ( It HAS TO BE simple if I can handle it ! ) and delicious ! My wife’s first words after her first bite were “ Oh my goodness, this is delicious, “ said with mild surprise knowing my cooking prowess. Actually, she swears by your (/Jenn Segal’s ) recipes. The chicken was moist and super- flavorful. Thank you, thank you, thank you ! Masterful recipe if you’re able to make ME into a cook.

    • — Bruce ( and Gabe, my son, he deserves credit too ! ) Miller on July 30, 2020
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  • Fourth time making this chicken! Everyone loves it. I followed directions exactly. In heavy rotation at my house 😋

    • — Sugaree on July 29, 2020
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  • I’ve always had good experience here so I’m not sure what went wrong. I followed the recipe and grilled the chicken as directed. Unfortunately, it was just really bland, which is surprising! Not sure what went wrong.

    • — Robbin Jeffries on July 23, 2020
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  • Will it be less tender if I use the thin breasts and thus don’t pound them? Thanks.

    • — Barbara on July 5, 2020
    • Reply
    • Thin breasts will work, but the pounding definitely helps to tenderize the meat. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 5, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. I make a lot of your recipes and you make me look good to my family so thanks for that!

    Sorry if this is a stupid question but I s there a trick to pounding chicken without fraying the edges? I hate to waste chicken and it looks ugly, too.

    Thanks!!
    Robin

    • — Robin Fakler on July 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Robin, Do you put it in a zip-lock bag? Are the breasts really thick? If the breasts are larger than 8 oz each, sometimes it helps to slice them in half horizontally into thinner fillets, and then pound them.

      • — Jenn on July 2, 2020
      • Reply
  • Excellent and easy.

    • — Meredith on June 25, 2020
    • Reply
  • We love this chicken! My question is, can this chicken be frozen in the marinade for thawing and BBQ’g in the summer? Thanks in advance for answering. 😊

    • — Corinne on June 17, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Corrine, that should work. 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 19, 2020
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      • This grilled chicken is just as wonderful as everyone says…moist, flavorful, delicious! I haven’t been able to find the ancho chili pepper yet, so have subbed chili powder. I’ll keep looking. I grill just as recipe states, except on a grill pan on my stove, with a pan lid over the chicken. I usually prefer some kind of sauce or dip with chicken breast, but not with this recipe. Perfect as is. Thanks!

        • — Judy on July 1, 2020
        • Reply
  • So this totally ruined my BBQ party. We’d spent hours smoking ribs, basted them and threw them on with the chicken. The whole grill went up in flames 🙁
    Did I miss a step?

    • — Danielle on June 9, 2020
    • Reply
    • Oh no, that’s terrible! Aside from adding ribs to the grill along with the chicken, did you make any adjustments to the recipe? There are a number of different reasons for flare-ups on grills. This article outlines them nicely. Do any of them shed a light on what may have happened?

      • — Jenn on June 9, 2020
      • Reply
  • Yum, seriously. We had this for dinner last night, I didn’t change anything in the recipe and it was truly the best grilled chicken we’ve had. I’d share a photo of it but we ate it all…;-)

    • — Jean on June 5, 2020
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  • Hi Jenn, we are not big drinkers so I don’t have tequilla on hand and don’t want to buy a bottle for one recipe. Ok to leave out? If so, anything else I should add in it’s place? Thanks!

    • — Elizabeth on May 27, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth, You can just replace the tequila with more olive oil — it will still be delicious. enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 27, 2020
      • Reply
  • This was, hands down, the best technique for grilling chicken. How did I live my whole life without figuring out that pounding chicken to the same thickness makes all the difference? The grilling time and method was spot on. I followed this recipe exactly and the results were amazing and taste was beautiful. Thank you, Jenn, for yet another perfect recipe!

    • — Carolyn on May 23, 2020
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  • When your recipes call for oregano, as in the Tequila Lime Chicken, do you prefer Mexican or Turkish oregano? I’m lucky enough to live near a Penzey’s store, so I have a little of everything. Thanks.

    • — Kay on May 21, 2020
    • Reply
    • Honestly, I don’t know! I just buy McCormick’s brand, so not sure which it is. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on May 21, 2020
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  • Hi Jenn
    We were making this recipe today for Mothers Day and all i have is chili powder, will that work instead of ancho chili pepper? Thanks so much and Happy Mothers Day!

    • — Melissa on May 10, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Melissa – regular chili powder will work. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 10, 2020
      • Reply
  • Since where I live I do not have access to ancho chili pepper I had to use chilli flakes.

    The recipe still turned out amazing. I will definitely make it again!

    • — Nika on May 10, 2020
    • Reply
  • Delicious! Managed to marinate for 4 hours +/- and grilled for dinner with some black beans and a southwestern salad on the side. We all thoroughly enjoyed this chicken recipe, including my 9 year old daughter. It is on the list of favorite dinners to make! Thank you so much!

    • — Patricia on May 5, 2020
    • Reply

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