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Chicken Cilantro Lime Tacos

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Easy-to-make chicken cilantro lime tacos, a lighter and incredibly delicious twist on traditional tacos, this recipe is full of bright flavors and perfect for a Taco Tuesday.

close up chicken tacos with cilantro and lime in a baking dish.

Chicken thighs in a spicy lime marinade, your favorite toppings, and two choices of amazing taco sauce. Why go out for dinner when you can make these easy chicken cilantro lime tacos yourself? The meat is tender, the marinade has a ton of flavor, and the taco toppings can be changed according to your liking.

And if you like Mexican food, check out the Easy Halloumi Fajitas or the Easy Chicken Fajita Tacos.

Recipe ingredients

ingredients ready for filling a taco on a wooden board.

Shells:

  • Crunchy taco shells or small soft tortillas are both great for this cilantro lime chicken taco recipe.
  • I used the crunchy shells this time.

Chicken:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs; they stay moist and juicy, and we love them.
  • However, you can use chicken thighs that still have the bone in. Marinate the thighs as instructed and roast until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165°F/ 75°C. The cooking time will be longer; make sure to check.
  • You can also check by making a small cut in the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone, the juices should run clear, and the meat should be white; no pink allowed.

Limes:

  • Two small limes for the lime chicken marinade.
  • It’s preferable to use organic, unwaxed limes (or lemons) because you will need some of the lime zest. Either way, make sure you wash the limes very well before zesting them.

Spices:

  • I used an array of spices for the chicken cilantro lime tacos. And it is really worth it!
  • You will need cumin, coriander, sweet paprika powder, oregano, cayenne pepper, or red chili flakes (to taste), a touch of cinnamon, and nutmeg, fine sea salt, or Kosher salt.
  • Alternatively, use bought or homemade taco seasoning.

Other ingredients: olive oil, garlic, clear honey.

boy's hand holding a chicken crunchy shell taco showing the filling.

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What to put in tacos?

  • grated cheese (Gouda, Cheddar, cotija cheese, Monterey Jack, Mexican cheese, etc.)
  • canned corn
  • julienned carrots
  • shredded lettuce
  • fresh cilantro
  • green onions
  • fresh or pickled jalapenos

What else to add to lime chicken tacos?

  • avocado, guacamole, or avocado crema
  • raw or pickled red onion (leave out the green onions in this case)
  • red bell pepper slices
  • tomato slices
  • red or green salsa
  • pico de gallo

Two sauces for cilantro chicken tacos

  • Sour cream sauce
  • Greek yogurt and tahini sauce: Although less Mexican due to tahini, this sauce is sooooo good, and it goes great with the cilantro lime tacos.

Step-by-step instructions

  • Marinate thighs:
    • Mix the ingredients for the cilantro lime marinade in a small bowl. Place meat pieces in a large bowl or freezer bag. Add marinade and coat the meat with it. Refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to allow the marinated chicken to come to room temperature.
  • Cook chicken:
    • Preheat the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a roasting tin.
    • Place the contents of the bowl on the baking tray and roast for 25 – 30 minutes or until cooked through (check the internal temperature).
    • Let the chicken rest shortly, then cut it into slices.
  • Make sauces:
    • Sour cream sauce: Mix sour cream, honey, cayenne, grated garlic cloves, lime juice, and salt.
    • Yogurt-tahini sauce: Mix Greek yogurt, well-stirred tahini, grated garlic clove, and salt.
  • Prepare vegetables:
    • Shred the carrot.
    • Shred the lettuce.
    • Drain the corn.
    • Finely slice the green onions.
    • Finely chop the jalapenos.
    • Finely chop the cilantro.
    • Keep them separated in small serving bowls.
  • Grate cheese
  • Heat tortillas or taco shells:
    • Heat the hard taco shells in the oven or the tortillas in a pan (according to the package directions).
    • The hard taco shells usually need about 5 minutes at 350°F/ 180°C.
    • Tortillas need about 30 seconds on each side in a pan on medium heat without oil.
  • Serve: Assemble the tacos, add a squeeze of fresh lime, and serve immediately.
bowl with chopped vegetables and a small bowl of sauce, taco shells and chicken beside it.

Expert tips

You can prepare the cilantro lime chicken tacos recipe in advance and keep it refrigerated until ready to serve. Reheat the thighs in the oven before making the tacos.

Only fill the taco shells before serving, or they will get soft.

If you choose tortillas, you can wrap everything in advance and take on a picnic, work, or school; this is a great recipe for making ahead.

Recipe FAQ

Can I replace crunchy taco shells with tortillas?

Use soft flour or corn tortillas instead, if you like.

Can I use chicken breast instead of chicken thighs?

Of course, the breast is fine as well. The chicken breast will need a shorter time to cook, so don’t overdo it, or the meat will be dry.

How to store?

Refrigerate the filling ingredients in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Already filled taco shells don’t keep well; the shells will get soggy. It is preferable to fill just as many shells as you can eat so you don’t have any leftover tacos that are already filled.

What to do with the leftovers?

Salad: Mix all the leftovers (except taco shells/tortillas) in a bowl, add some chopped onions and tomatoes, any leftover sauce, and combine.
You could also add some cooked black beans, chickpeas, fresh avocado, cheese, red pepper, etc.
If you are out of chicken, replace it with canned, drained tuna, hard-boiled eggs, or ham.
Crumble any leftover crunchy taco shells over the salad.

four tacos in crunchy shell in a serving dish with limes and sauce beside it.

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four tacos in crunchy shell in a serving dish with limes and sauce beside it.

Chicken Cilantro Lime Tacos

Easy-to-make chicken cilantro lime tacos, a lighter and incredibly delicious twist on traditional tacos, this recipe is full of bright flavors and perfect for a Taco Tuesday.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Share Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Marinating time: 6 hours
Servings: 4
Calories: 894kcal
Author: Adina

Ingredients  

Marinade:

  • 6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (1.7 lb/ 750 g) Note 1
  • 2 limes Note 2
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon clear honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili flakes, to taste
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • a few gratings of nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Sour cream sauce:

  • 1 cup sour cream 250 g
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¼ cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • juice of ½ lime
  • fine sea salt

Yogurt tahini sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt 250 g
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • fine sea salt

Taco toppings:

  • 12 taco shells, crunchy or small tortillas, more if needed, Note 3
  • 1 cup grated cheese 125 g Note 4
  • 1 large carrot
  • ½ – ¼ lettuce depending on size
  • 1 cup canned corn
  • 4 green onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno to taste
  • fresh cilantro leaves

More toppings:

  • tomatoes red bell peppers, avocado, salsa, beans, guacamole, raw or pickled onions

Instructions

Marinate chicken:

  • Wash and dry the limes. Zest 1 lime and juice both limes. Grate the garlic. Place in a bowl.
  • Add olive oil, honey, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano, and salt. Stir well.
  • Marinate meat: Place chicken parts in a large bowl or freezer bag, pour the marinade on top, and turn to coat all over. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or seal the freezer bag. Refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking so that the chicken can reach room temperature.

Cook chicken:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F/ 200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a roasting tin.
  • Roast chicken: Place chicken on the baking sheet or into the roasting tin and roast for 25 – 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Either check the internal temperature, which should be 165°F/ 75°C, or make a cut into the thickest part of a chicken thigh, near the bone; the juices should run clear.
  • Slice the meat.

Make the sauce:

  • In the meantime, make one of the sauces and prepare the vegetables.
  • Sour cream sauce: Mix sour cream, honey, cayenne, grated garlic cloves, lime juice, and salt.
  • Yogurt-tahini sauce: Mix Greek yogurt, well-stirred tahini, grated garlic clove, and salt.

Prepare vegetables:

  • Shred the carrot.
    Shred the lettuce.
    Drain the corn.
    Finely slice the green onions.
    Finely chop the jalapenos.
    Finely chop the cilantro.
    Keep them separated in small serving bowls.
  • Grate cheese.

Heat taco shells:

  • Heat the hard taco shells in the oven or the tortillas in a pan (according to the packet's instructions).
  • The hard taco shells usually need about 5 minutes at 350°F/ 180°C.
  • Tortillas need about 30 seconds on each side in a pan without oil.

Assemble the tacos:

  • Let the diners assemble their tacos. Add a little bit of each of the ingredients and drizzle with sauce.

Notes

  1. You can use chicken thighs that still have the bone in. Marinate the chicken as instructed and roast until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F/ 75°C. The cooking time will be longer; make sure to check.
    Chicken breast is fine as well. The chicken breast will need a shorter time to cook, so don’t overdo it, or the meat will be dry.
  2. It’s preferable to use organic, unwaxed limes (or lemons) because you will need the citrus peel. Either way, make sure you wash the limes very well before zesting them.
  3. Soft corn or flour tortillas can be used instead.
  4. Gouda, Cheddar, cotija cheese, Monterey Jack, etc

Nutrition

Serving: 4tacos | Calories: 894kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 57g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 244mg | Sodium: 892mg | Potassium: 1112mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 4165IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 459mg | Iron: 5mg
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