Cilantro Citrus Chicken

(This is a repost from my archives with updated with new pictures, commentary, new additions to the recipe.  Hooray!  It’s perfect for Cinco de Mayo.)

I was going through old issues of Cooking Light magazine and found a recipe for Cilantro Citrus Chicken that I had marked as something I wanted to make.

We really loved this recipe. My kids even gobbled it up–and if that’s not a testimonial, I don’t know what is.

You can find the original recipe here. I halved the recipe and originally used boneless skinless chicken breasts along with a few minor changes.  Lately I’ve started making this with chicken pieces and it’s even more delicious.  Also, we didn’t have a grill when I first tried this recipe, so I used my cast-iron skillet.  The chicken tasted great that way.  I’ve done this on a grill, which is the best way.  And roasted in my oven.  All three ways are great.

The chicken is so tender and flavorful from marinating in the citrus juices and herbs.  Every single time I make this for dinner guests, they immediately ask for the recipe.  It’s one of those simple recipes that tastes like you spent more time in the kitchen than you did.

My family likes to eat this with rice and beans.  We use the leftover chicken in tacos and salads.

Cilantro Citrus Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light, September 2006

1/2 cup chopped onion
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves (or fresh oregano)
1 bunch fresh parsley leaves
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or a cut-up chicken)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

To serve: fresh lime wedges

Combine first 8 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.  Remove about 1/4 cup of the mixture, if desired, to serve with the cooked chicken.  Place the chicken and the remaining herb mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator, turning bag occasionally.  Or place chicken in a glass baking dish with marinade and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.  (The longer, the better.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. or prepare grill, if using.

Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Let chicken stand 15 minutes. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt, cumin, and pepper. Place chicken, breast side down, on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 12 minutes on each side or until a thermometer registers 165°, turning once.

If roasting in the oven, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and transfer chicken to baking sheet leaving enough space between the pieces.  Roast for about 45 minutes, or until chicken comes up to 165 degrees F.  Transfer to a serving dish and cover with foil.  Allow to rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

If using a cast-iron skillet, add about 1 Tbsp. of canola oil and heat the oil until it just starts to smoke. Cook each side of the chicken for 4-6 minutes (boneless, skinless breast pieces), or about 10 minutes if using chicken pieces.

To serve, squeeze fresh lime juice over the top.  Or serve with the reserved marinade.  (Not the one you marinated the chicken in.)

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  1. I think you just helped me decide what to make for dinner tonight! haha. It looks yum. I can’t wait to try it! :)

  2. Made this last night and it was a bit hit. Ended up marinating it for much longer – 24hrs – and was worried this might overpower the chicken. But it was excellent. Definitely something for our regular repertoire! Thx

  3. Hi Rona!

    As I remember when we’ve grilled it (we don’t have one right now), I would start it out high and then move it to lower heat to finish cooking. Kind of like a sear to keep the juices in. It doesn’t need to cook for too long. If you use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, then it’s really quick. For bone-in, I’m thinking it was more like 20 minutes? Be sure to use an instant read thermometer to check the temp.

  4. so what do you do with the garlic? Or do you put the first 8 ingredients in the food processor?

  5. Dumb question, but by “roast in the oven” is that just bake or does that mean something else? Sorry for being a novice! Just don’t want to screw it up!

  6. Lauren–

    Not a dumb question at all! :)

    Roasting is the same as baking except that it is done at a higher temperature. So, yes, just bake.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.


  7. I have read some articles whereby it says that using lime juice as a marinade for too long makes the chicken mushy? Are you familiar with this. I see you say it can be done overnight. I am a little confused as to what to do.

  8. Tammy, I haven’t heard that before. I suppose it could be true. I know that lime juice “cooks” fish because of the acidity. I’ve honestly never had a problem marinating it overnight and the chicken being mushy. There are so many other ingredients in the marinade that that could be why. It ends up being more of a brine, which does change the texture and look of the uncooked chicken a bit, but makes it really juicy and tender. If you’re concerned, just marinate for less time and it will be fine. Thanks for the question. I’ll look into it! :)

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