once upon a chef

Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken

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 taste is mild and the chicken isn’t too spicy.


– 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)


Pound the Chicken. 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.


Make the marinade: 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.


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.


 Marinate 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.


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.