Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken

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

Grilled tequila lime chicken on a plate with salad.

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, restaurant-style salsa, cornbread muffins, and margaritas for a Southwestern-themed cookout.

“Made this for friends last weekend along with your black bean salad with corn, avocado & lime vinaigrette and cornbread muffins. The whole meal was a huge hit! Thank you!”

Cathi

What You’ll Need To Make Tequila Lime Chicken

ingredients for tequila lime chicken
  • Olive oil: Serves as the base for the marinade, helping to blend the flavors and ensure the chicken stays moist and tender during cooking.
  • Tequila: Gives the chicken a hint of boozy agave flavor that’s unmistakably tequila. It’s what makes this dish a little special and a lot delicious.
  • Lime zest: Provides a bright, citrusy note that complements the tequila. Contrary to popular belief, acidic ingredients like lime juice don’t tenderize lean boneless chicken breasts but can actually “cook” the exterior, leading to a leathery texture. Using just the zest ensures the chicken remains succulent, capturing the lime’s flavor while maintaining its tenderness.
  • Garlic: Lends robust flavor to the marinade.
  • Ancho chile pepper, coriander, oregano: This spice blend contributes warmth, earthiness, and a hint of herbal brightness, giving the chicken a Southwestern flavor profile.
  • Honey: Balances the acidity, salt, and heat with its natural sweetness.
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts: Pounded to an even thickness, these cuts absorb the flavors well and cook up beautifully tender and juicy.
  • Jump to the printable recipe for precise measurements

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.

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 grill

Preheat 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.

Grilled tequila lime chicken on a plate with salad.

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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
  • 1¼ teaspoons ground ancho chile 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)

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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Comments

  • This is absolutely delicious. My husband asks for this which, after 48 years of marriage, is amazing. I also liked that it is easy to prepare.

    • — Cathy Boettger on December 14, 2023
    • Reply
  • Can the chicken and marinade be cooked in a sous vide?

    • — Shirley on September 11, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Shirley, I don’t recommend it for this recipe. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on September 12, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I don’t own a grill 🙁
    Do you think I can bake this chicken breast in the oven? if so may I ask what’s the best temperature and how long?
    I made one pan garlic shrimp last week and it was delicious.
    Thank You so much for easy/simple and delicious recipes! I love your cookbooks!
    Celine

    • — Celine on September 3, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Celine, for indoor cooking, I’d use a grill pan instead of the oven. Heat the pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the marinated chicken breasts and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on the first side, without touching, until the chicken develops nice grill marks. Using tongs, flip the chicken over and cook 2 to 3 minutes more, or until cooked through. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 4, 2023
      • Reply
  • Absolutely fantastic. I loved how easy it was with marinating in advance. We served it with the Copycat Chipotle Honey Dressing and it was phenomenal. Everyone raved about it!

    • — Annie on August 31, 2023
    • Reply
  • This was the best chicken recipe I’ve ever tried. So moist and flavorful! Will be making again and again. Thank you!

    • — Denise on August 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made this tonight, excellent! I’m giving it 5 stars. I paired it with the cilantro lime rice, also excellent. I served it bowl style with sliced avocado and chopped fresh beefsteak tomatoes, locally grown and in season now, a dollop of sour cream and lime wedges. Yum! You’re my go-to gal, your recipes never disappoint!

    • — Patrice on August 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • This was SO good! Made it as a big salad with black beans, roasted corn, grilled bell peppers, avo, tomatoes, tortilla strips and avo lime dressing. For the kids I made chicken quesadillas and they loved it. Will definitely be making this again and again! Thank you for sharing another amazing recipe.

    • — Rachel Porch on July 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • My family loved this! We made it “Virgin” Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken style.

    • — Debbie on July 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Chef Jenn,
    This turned out very rubbery in texture…the first time I made this , the tequila taste was overpowering so switched to your specific tequila ‘1800’ but the flavor is lacking and the texture was not good.
    Won’t be making this again.

    • — JooJoo on June 30, 2023
    • Reply
    • If it was rubbery, then you likely overcooked the chicken. Pounded chicken cooks very fast.

      • — Michael Farley on October 5, 2023
      • Reply
  • I began making this for a Sunday but company canceled. I finished the marinade, added the chicken, and stuck it in the freezer until the following weekend. It came out great. So it can be prepped early, freeze, defrost, and let it marinate for another hour.

    • — Janice Belcuore on June 26, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made this on Father’s Day and it was such a huge hit! Before putting it in the marinade I cubed the chicken breasts. Then we grilled the chicken on skewers. It was delicious! Everyone asked for the recipe! Thank you for another winner!

    • — Chrissy Ranu on June 25, 2023
    • Reply
  • Could you use chicken thighs instead of the breast meat?

    • — Dorothea on June 25, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure — just keep in mind that the cook time will be a bit longer. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 26, 2023
      • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious and very easy to make. Whole family raved about it. Will go into the regular rotation

    • — Michelle on June 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • Excellent recipe!

    • — Tina Conroy on June 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • I haven’t reviewed in awhile but I have continued cooking the recipes on your website and cookbook and this Margarita Grilled Chicken was delicious! Super quick and easy weeknight meal. I paired it with the Black Bean and Corn Salad with the Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette…perfection! We are still snacking on the Black Bean Salad with chips and it is still delightful. I also just made Jen’s Cherry Ricotta cake from her cookbook and holy cow…so delicious! Hubby declared it his favorite cake of all time. Thank you for sharing all of your recipes!

    • — Lilee on April 8, 2023
    • Reply
    • Where is the recipe for the cherry ricotta cake that the above commenter mentioned in her review? Sounds delicious!

      • — Carol on June 18, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi Carol, If you have my second cookbook, that’s on page 180. If you don’t have the book and would like the recipe, email me — I’d be happy to send it to you. 🙂

        • — Jenn on June 19, 2023
        • Reply
  • I’ve had this recipe and the black bean salad recipe in my binder for a few months and finally decided to make them last night, so glad that I did! We all loved it, the flavors were full and exciting without being too much, it was a well balanced profile of complimentary flavors and textures. I’ll be making this on a regular basis, thank you for such a great recipe!
    noteworthy – Next time I’ll make 6 chicken breasts as the black bean salad is enough to serve six. If you are making it for a smaller group, divide the salad and only add the avocado to what you’ll be using immediately. Refrigerate the remainder and add avocado as you use it, keeps the avocado nice and fresh!

    • — B Ripkey on April 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • Great recipe! So flavorful! Once again, a terrific recipe, thank you Jenn! I paired it with your black bean/corn/avocado/lime salad. PERFECT. Your recipes are the BEST. This week I’m trying the Tandoori Chicken. Love all the spices in these recipes. I will pair it with your suggested Basmati Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit and Almonds as a side.

    • — Laurie on September 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • After a family gathering serving the grilled chicken with your recipe, I had to try this one next! Followed the recipe verbatim. OMG, phenomenal! Tequila (Patron). Chicken. Who knew?!! Thank you Jenn! Chef’s kiss!

    • — Diane H on September 11, 2022
    • Reply
  • The flavours were fantastic

    • — Ruby on September 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • We just finished dinner … this was delicious! I prepared the marinade pretty much per recipe except I only zested one large lime. I prepared the chicken itself a little different. The chicken breasts at local grocers or gourmet markets are huge, so I fully butterfly them. I did pound only slightly to even out the thickness. I marinated about 2 hours due to timing of discovering recipe and timing for dinner. The chicken was juicy, moist, and incredibly flavorful. Next time I will add the zest of the 2nd lime and marinate longer (plan ahead). I also think this marinade would be amazing with grilled thick-cut pork chops or pork tenderloin. Thank you for a delicious recipe.

    • — A@4U on September 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • Sounds delish and will be making this and your black bean salad for a family dinner after an afternoon at the lake. Do you think I could marinate some firm tofu chunks in this marinade and grill them on skewers for for a vegetarian option? Thanks for your help and your always stellar recipes Jen.

    • — Kim from Calgary on September 1, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Kim, I don’t have any experience with tofu, but I know that it soaks up marinades nicely. If you know that you’ll get results with grilling tofu, I’d go for it!

      • — Jenn on September 2, 2022
      • Reply
  • I used chicken thighs from Costco and they were juicy, tender, and delicious! The last time I made this, I used breasts, but I prefer thighs.

    • — Paul K on September 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made this for friends last weekend along with your Black Bean Salad with Corn, Avocado & Lime Vinaigrette and cornbread muffins. The whole meal was a huge hit! I love your recipes and I love your pairing suggestions for making a complete meal. Thank you!

    • — Cathi Doherty on July 24, 2022
    • Reply
  • I purchased a large amount of chicken breasts, can I freeze this recipe (raw chicken) in the marinade, thaw 24 hours before putting on the grill?

    • — Felice on July 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on July 23, 2022
      • Reply
  • Love your recipes!
    Question: I’d like to make this tonight but don’t have any tequila at home. Can I substitute something for it, or just eliminate it? Thanks!

    • — Kelly on July 10, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Kelly, I’d replace the tequila with more olive oil — it will still be great. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on July 11, 2022
      • Reply
  • Amazingly good!!! I didn’t have a grill so I cooked it in my cast iron skillet on a high heat setting, put the chicken in the smoking hot skillet, covered it and flipped it after 2 – 3 minutes. The color was as delightful as the flavor. My husband loved it so much. I have more in marinade right now that I’ll serve to family tomorrow. Wonderful recipe!!! Thanks again and again and again, Jenn!!!

    • — Sonja McMullen on July 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • Please add 5 star rating to my comment

    • Can you use boneless chicken thighs instead of breasts?

      • — Karen on September 1, 2022
      • Reply
      • Sure, they’ll just take a bit longer to cook. Hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on September 1, 2022
        • Reply
  • Please be so kind to advise temp and time, etc to cook in oven. Thank you very much.

    • — Mira Batchelor
    • 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: When searing the chicken on the stove, do I put a little oil in the skillet … or is the chicken oiled enough from the marinade? Thank you.

        • — Francis on December 6, 2022
        • Reply
        • Hi Francis, there should be enough oil coating the chicken from the marinade that you shouldn’t need anymore oil, but there’s not problem if you want to use just a bit. Hope you enjoy!

          • — Jenn on December 6, 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
    • Reply
  • 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.

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

    • 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!!!!! 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!!!! 😊

  • 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.

    • Definitely!

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

    • Glad you liked it! Yes, I think it would work with shrimp. Let me know how it turns out if you try it!

      • 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!

        • So glad it worked well with the shrimp — thanks for taking the time to follow-up!

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