Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken

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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


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tequila
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest, from about 2 limes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1¼ teaspoons ground ancho chili pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or about 2 pounds), pounded to an even ½-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 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, 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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  • This was delicious and easy just as is. Took a little longer than 2-3 minutes per side for me. Might not have had the grill hot enough or chicken pounded thin enough. Also great with black bean avocado corn salad, which again was perfect as is, though I did half the recipe. I have never had a recipe fail from your website. Thank you as always.

    • — Karen Riccio on June 9, 2022
    • Reply
    • Please add 5 star rating to my comment

      • — Karen Riccio on June 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • Please be so kind to advise temp and time, etc to cook in oven. Thank you very much.

    • — Mira Batchelor on June 3, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Mira, for indoor cooking, I use both the stove and the oven. On the stove, I’d sear the chicken over high heat (for a min or two per side until browned) then finish it in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 3, 2022
      • Reply
  • The Chicken breasts and chicken thighs were moist and tasty, so good in fact, that my grandchildren asked for seconds and reached for thirds. I baked it in the oven because the grill was out of commission…all still delicious. Thank you.
    I served this with Mexican rice and the Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad- simply by far my son’s favorite. It rates up there for me, too. Cooked broccoli for the young ones. Great presentation.
    Thank you for the tasty suggestions and full meal plans. These recipes are keepers.

    • — Helen M. Wierenga on June 1, 2022
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  • My niece prepared this recipe for a Memorial Day BBQ. It was delicious, digestible, balanced, not too spicy….just right. I asked her for the recipe and she was kind enough to send the link to your website. I can’t wait to make this myself.

    • — Nonna on May 31, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Can I use chicken drumsticks here?Would I need to change anything? I’m thinking of doing about 8-10 drumsticks. Thanks!

    • — Turtle on May 31, 2022
    • Reply
    • Yes, chicken drumsticks would be fine here. I’d make 1.5 times the marinade to make sure you have enough and use the cooking guidance from this recipe. I’d love to hear how this turns out with drumsticks!

      • — Jenn on June 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • Jenn!!!!! I can’t even tell you how delicious this chicken was. I made it with tenderloins because I’m not so great with cutting chicken 🤢. This was amazing. I served it with your Mexican rice, corn/bean salad and a Romain salad with the copy cat chipotle dressing. A huge hit and will be serving it all to family next weekend. I can’t thank you enough for your amazing recipes!!!! 😊

    • — Lori on May 22, 2022
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  • Can I make the marinade a day before, and put it in a mason jar, in the fridge? The next day I will add it to the chicken and marinate overnight.

    • — Mardi on April 10, 2022
    • Reply
    • Definitely!

      • — Jenn on April 11, 2022
      • Reply
  • We made this with chicken tenderloins and it was absolutely delicious! Would it work with shrimp?
    Thank you, Jenn, for all that you do!

    • — Oleda on March 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • Glad you liked it! Yes, I think it would work with shrimp. Let me know how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on March 21, 2022
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn,

        Following up – we made it with jumbo prawns (exactly the same recipe but just reduced the marinading time to ~30 min) and we liked it more if that’s even possible! Served with your avocado summer salad and Mexican rice which I thought the flavors would compete but they blended beautifully! Absolutely one of our favorites now. Kids devoured them – can’t thank you enough!

        • — Oleda on March 23, 2022
        • Reply
        • So glad it worked well with the shrimp — thanks for taking the time to follow-up!

          • — Jenn on March 24, 2022
          • Reply

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