Prepped in just 5 minutes, this simple taco marinade for chicken is made with oil, lime juice, garlic, and a just a handful of taco-inspired taco seasoning. The magic of this healthy taco chicken marinade is that it produces the juiciest and most flavorful chicken that’s perfect for street tacos, bowls, or burritos. Use it with chicken breasts or chicken thighs for grilling, baking, or air frying.

Close-up overhead shot of a large white bowl with diced grilled chicken topped with cilantro sprigs. Bowl is surrounded by sliced limes, a jar of red sauce, and corn tortillas.

5 star review

“Sooooo good! My family loved this marinade recipe. So simply and easy and had all the ingredients on hand. We pounded out the chicken breasts and grilled them. So tender and so yummy. My new go to chicken taco marinade.”

– Kelly

Visual Guide: How to Make Taco Chicken Marinade

Jump to Recipe Instructions

Notes from Robyn

This may be surprising, but easy homemade marinades are my secret to saving time in the kitchen when you still want a delicious meal.

For minimal effort, minimal prep time, and minimal ingredients, marinades deliver maximum flavor and so many different ways to spice up chicken or any protein you like.

This Mexican-inspired or Southwest-inspired marinade is one you will want to add to your marinade arsenal, featuring zesty lime juice, fresh garlic, and a homemade spice blend with just a few ingredients that add loads of flavor to chicken.

Plus, just like my steak fajita marinade and chicken fajita marinade it’s so easy to prepare with no chopping and super easy cleanup (especially if you grill), and the chicken only needs to marinade for 30 minutes.

Trust me when I say that waiting those 30 minutes for the chicken to marinade is absolutely worth it because the marinade takes tacos (or any other way you may eat it) to the next level with juicy and oh-so flavorful chicken!

Simply mix up the marinade, toss in the chicken (breasts or thighs work), and let it soak up all the flavors, and either grill or bake, and voila! You’ll have the most flavorful protein on hand for all your favorite tacos, bowls, and more.

Overhead shot of a white plate with grilled chicken breasts covered in red sauce and fresh cilantro. Plate is surrounded by bowls of sour cream, lime wedges, and red sauce, lime half, cilantro sprigs, and corn tortillas.

So Many Serving Ideas

It’s a breeze to throw together meals when you already have flavorful chicken made ahead of time!

Of course, this perfectly grilled taco chicken is the best filling for tacos, but there are so many other ways I love to use it.

Stuff into burritos, add on top of taco bowls or taco salads, or make a chicken and cheese quesadilla all served with the best fresh tomato salsa and easy guacamole.

You could also keep things light by serving the chicken alongside this fresh and crunchy Mexican slaw.

Marinating & Make Ahead Tips

Marinated and grilled (or baked) chicken is one of my favorite proteins to meal prep because it’s so versatile and of course delicious.

Once cooked, the taco chicken keeps well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days, in a sealed container.

As far as how long you can marinate the chicken, I recommend marinating at least 30 minutes and no longer than 4 hours as the acid can alter the texture of the meat.

However, if you need to make it further ahead of time, you can freeze the chicken and marinade in a 1-gallon zip-top freezer bag and stash it away in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

When you’re ready to use, let it defrost in the fridge and use right away.

Side angle shot of a white plate with lime wedges and tacos filled with diced chicken, avocado, sour cream, and cilantro.

This Recipe Is…

Overhead shot of a large white bowl with diced grilled chicken topped with cilantro sprigs. Bowl is surrounded by sliced limes, a jar of red sauce, and corn tortillas.
5 stars (2 ratings)

5-Minute Taco Marinade for Chicken

Prepped in just 5 minutes, this simple taco marinade for chicken is made with oil, lime juice, garlic, and a just a handful of taco-inspired taco seasoning. The magic of this healthy taco chicken marinade is that it produces the juiciest and most flavorful chicken that’s perfect for street tacos, bowls, or burritos. Use it with chicken breasts or chicken thighs for grilling, baking, or air frying.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)

Instructions 

  • Add the oil, lime juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, chili powder, sugar, and salt to a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth.
  • Set aside 2 tablespoons of the marinade.
  • Pour the remaining of the marinade along with 2 tablespoons of water into a 1-gallon zip-top bag or baking dish.
  • Add the chicken and toss to coat, then press as much air out of the bag (if using) as possible, or cover with plastic wrap (if using a baking dish). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours minutes, flipping occasionally.

Grilling Instructions

  • Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high. Allow to preheat for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shake off any excess, and discard any remaining marinade from the bag or dish.
  • Grill, with the cover down, until chicken thighs register 170F or chicken breasts register 165F, about 4-5 minutes per side.
  • Remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice against the grain into ½ inch slices, or dice into pieces (if using for taco), serve, drizzled with remaining marinade, and serve.

Baking Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the marinade, then add the chicken and the remaining marinade into a small baking dish. If you have a large baking dish or rimmed sheet pan, omit the marinade as it will spread and possibly burn.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until or until chicken thighs register 170F or chicken breasts register 165F.
  • Remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice against the grain into ½ inch slices, or dice into pieces (if using for taco), serve, drizzled with remaining marinade, and serve.

Air Fry Instructions

  • Preheat your air fryer to 400°F. If using chicken breasts, slice in half the long way. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the marinade.
  • Shake off any excess marinade, then add the chicken to the tray. Air fry for 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.
  • Remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice against the grain into ½ inch slices, or dice into pieces (if using for taco), serve, drizzled with remaining marinade, and serve.

Notes

See blog post, above, for serving suggestions, storage, and more. For street tacos, serve with tortillas and your favorite toppings.

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 1 (of 8), Calories: 197kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 73mg, Sodium: 573mg, Potassium: 449mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 299IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 13mg, Iron: 1mg
Nutrition disclaimer
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