If I had my way, I would eat almost every meal wearing my sweatpants, sitting on my couch, while watching Grey’s Anatomy.
Don’t worry, my sloth-like tendencies are balanced out by a passion for physical activity. Sure, one of those hobbies may be cracking open a cold beer on the beach. But I also love a good sunset run, and a kickboxing class that kicks my butt.
What I’m saying is: when it’s time to wind down and curl up with a cozy meal, I adore doing that from the comfort of my living room.
Unless that meal is a big platter of fajitas, that is.
How do I love fajitas? Let me count the ways…
One, I’m a sucker for the power of customization.
At a culinary-centric restaurant where a skilled chef has created a thoughtful menu, I gladly put myself in his or her hands. But at an eatery where the focus isn’t exactly on the food, I prefer to go the “build-your-own” route, and combine flavors in a way that I know will please my palate.
What dish is more quintessentially build-your-own than fajitas?
Two, I live for that moment at a Mexican restaurant when the server glides confidently through the dining room, an aromatic trail of steam blazing behind him as he moves, and bestows upon me a sizzling skillet of meat, peppers, and onions.
As the exuberant medley crackles, puffs, and sputters, the surrounding diners look over their shoulders and share the same thought:
What obnoxious person ordered that?
I then raise my hand, signifying an unapologetic, “Mine!” and take ownership of the heaping platter and the practically neverending accompaniments that soon follow.
A foil-wrapped stack of toasty tortillas. A tangy mountain of sour cream. Rice. Beans. Pico de gallo.
I’m not drooling. You’re drooling.
While I could blissfully cuddle into my collie puppy and lose myself in an endless stream of queso and chips, when it comes to fajitas, I prefer to kick back at a well-appointed table and take in every moment.
And when I am trying to cut back on expensive takeout and restaurant meals, fajitas make for one of the most fun spreads to prepare at home.
With tacos, I let my imagination run wild towards pickled toppings, glorious guacamole, and aioli drizzles. For fajitas, I like to keep things simple, because that’s how they live on in the Mexican food memories of my childhood.
I remember devouring countless orders of the blazing dish at local chains. Those fajitas weren’t meant to have frills. They were a humble, delicious experience.
That’s how I want those nostalgic flashbacks to remain, and that’s exactly what these easy weeknight chicken fajitas represent.
I give them a bold boost by bathing the chicken in a citrusy marinade loaded with warm, savory spices – though the lightly charred, delicately caramelized onions and peppers tend to steal the show.
A refreshing swipe of sour cream later, with a sizzling melody dissipating in the background, I’m flying high on fajitas.
Come fly with me.Print
Nothing wakes up the taste buds like a sizzling skillet. These chicken fajitas are customizable, colorful, and exploding with flavor.
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Juice of 2 limes, plus more limes for serving
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
- 2 medium bell peppers (any color), cut into strips
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into strips
- 8 6-inch flour tortillas, warmed
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup salsa
- In a large bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of 2 limes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, and paprika.
- Add the chicken to a large resealable bag and carefully pour the marinade over the top. Seal the bag, and make sure the marinade is evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 20 minutes before you’re ready to cook.
- In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Remove the chicken strips from the marinade, shaking gently to remove excess liquid, and cook until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside. Wipe out the pan to remove any leftover marinade.
- Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the peppers and onions and saute, tossing frequently, until the veggies begin to char, about 3-5 minutes. Season the veggies with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, turn the heat down to low, and add the chicken back to the pan. Cook, tossing frequently, for an additional minute, until all of the flavors have thoroughly combined.
- Serve the chicken and veggies directly out of the pan while it’s still sizzling, with the warmed tortillas, lime wedges, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa on the side.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Fajitas
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mexican
Keywords: chicken, fajita, pepper
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Cut the Chicken, Peppers, and Onions into Strips and Prepare the Marinade
Set the peppers and onions aside, and place the chicken into a large resealable bag.
Juice the limes for the marinade, and cut the rest into wedges for garnish.
In a large bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, the juice of 2 limes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, the oregano, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, and paprika.
Step 2 – Pour the Marinade over the Chicken and Refrigerate
Add the chicken to a large resealable bag and carefully pour the marinade over the top. Seal the bag, then shake, massage, and turn it upside down to ensure that the marinade is evenly distributed over the chicken.
Refrigerate for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Take the chicken out of the fridge to sit on the counter about 20 minutes before you’re ready to use it.
Step 3 – Saute the Chicken
In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.
Remove the chicken strips from the marinade, and shake them one at a time to remove as much excess liquid as you can. The drier the chicken is, the better it will brown.
Saute the strips, in batches so you don’t crowd the pan, until they are golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side.
Remove the cooked chicken, set it aside on a plate, and wipe out the pan with paper towels to get rid of any leftover marinade. Be careful, because it’s hot!
Step 4 – Saute and Season the Veggies
Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Return the pan to medium-high heat.
Add the peppers and onions and saute, tossing occasionally, until they begin to char, about 3-5 minutes. Season the veggies with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and turn the heat down to low.
Step 5 – Combine Ingredients and Prepare the Garnishes
Add the chicken back to the pan. Cook, tossing frequently, for an additional minute, until all of the flavors have thoroughly combined.
Warm the tortillas in the oven or in a dry pan over low heat, and place the garnishes into ramekins or bowls.
Serve the chicken and veggies directly out of the pan, while they’re still sizzling, with all of the garnishes alongside warmed tortillas.
Fire up that Fajita Soundtrack
Whether your pleasure is tender chicken, juicy steak, savory seafood, or simply a combination of fresh veggies, these fajitas will rock your socks off.
If you do swap in a little fresh catch, don’t forget that seafood shouldn’t sit in a citrusy marinade for too long, as the acid will break it down faster than it will other proteins.
I keep my garnish game simple with the three S’s: salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese. For a more versatile spread, sliced avocados, chopped cilantro, refried beans, and some sliced jalapenos will do the trick.
For more satisfying recipes that sizzle, these additional fajita options from Foodal will fire you up:
For a zesty Mexican-inspired marinade, what do you reach for in your spice cabinet? Tomatoey hot sauce? Smoky chipotle powder? Share your best blends in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on June 5, 2016. Last updated October 18, 2020.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”