If you have the gut-wrenching feeling that boneless skinless chicken breasts will always be bland, just wait until you introduce them to my mouthwatering marinade.
You can employ all kinds of aromatics to create bold flavors in a poultry marinade, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Chicken breasts are like a blank canvas, ready to flavor with your choice of seasonings.
This mighty marinade is chock-full of jalapenos, and I like to think of these little chilies as spicy superheroes in capes.
When stripped of their seeds and ribs, jalapenos are floral, grassy, and vegetal. A slight tingle of heat still lingers, but it’s nothing compared to the fiery sting they can unleash when their inner membranes are left intact and undisturbed.
Without the cloak – or seeds and ribs, in this case – the jalapeno has a mild-mannered personality. But leave it fully suited up, and its bite will light up your mouth.
In addition to the chopped fresh jalapenos for heat, I use sharp green onions and pungent garlic to bring some savory notes.
Acidic ingredients also serve as a useful tool to liven up chicken, and help to tenderize the meat when used in a marinade – and jalapenos and lime go together like Lucy and Ricky.
The lime’s tart juice delivers a sour punch, and its zest is super fragrant. A combination of these mixed with fruity olive oil, garlic, onions, and the crisp kick of jalapeno pepper creates a simple and delicious marinade.
The other secret that makes this simple chicken dish shine is the cooking process. Charbroiled grill marks are magnificent, but I would choose seared meat finished in the oven over any other technique.
Not only will searing create a beautiful golden-brown crust, the even heat of the oven results in tender, moist, expertly cooked chicken.
Don’t forget that five-minute rest period before you slice into the meat, unless you want to share all of those glorious juices with your cutting board.
When it’s finally time to get to slicing, you want to make sure you’re working with the right kind of knife so you don’t butcher – no pun intended – your hard-earned chicken dinner.
This carving knife guide will help you choose the best option.
If you would rather use boneless skinless thighs in this recipe instead of breasts, don’t forget that dark meat takes a little longer to reach peak tenderness. The food-safe temperature for both white and dark meat when cooking poultry is at least 165°F, but letting dark meat cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 175°F will give it a more pleasing texture.
This may take an additional 5 to 8 minutes of baking time, depending on the thickness of the meat.
Whether Jalapeno Man is the main character of the next Marvel movie or not, this zippy, chili-marinated chicken will prove to you that the sassy little pepper has a lot to say.Print
For an entree with some real pizzazz, try our spicy marinated chicken flavored with a zesty trio of fresh jalapenos, garlic, and lime.
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Zest of 3 limes (2 teaspoons)
- Juice of 3 limes (6 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large jalapenos, diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and light green parts
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 pounds)
- Chopped green onion tops, for garnish
- Lime wedges, for garnish
- In a bowl, whisk together 1 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons lime zest and 6 tablespoons lime juice, salt, black pepper, jalapenos, garlic, and the white and light green parts of the sliced green onion.
- Add the chicken to a large resealable bag and pour the jalapeno-lime marinade over the top. Seal and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or for up to 12 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with foil.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and discard the marinade. Sear until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook for 2 more minutes, or until golden brown on the other side.
- Transfer the chicken to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board or serving platter and set aside to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with lime wedges and green onion tops.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Chicken
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Poultry
Keywords: chicken, jalapeno, lime, marinated
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Gather, Measure, and Prep
Zest and juice the limes. If you don’t have a citrus squeezer, you can insert a fork in the flesh of the lime and squeeze while you twist to help extract the juice.
You should have about 2 teaspoons of lime zest and 6 tablespoons of juice, but this amount can vary depending on the size and juice content of the limes. Consider purchasing a couple additional limes as backups if you need more juice, and to cut into wedges for serving.
Mince the garlic and separate the green tops from the light green and white parts of the scallions. Thinly slice the white and light green parts and set them aside for the marinade. Slice the green tops of the scallions, and place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. These will be used as a final garnish before serving.
Remove the stems and dice the jalapenos. To reduce the heat, remove the seeds and ribs before dicing. If the chicken is still a little too spicy for your liking, read our guide full of tips to help you tone it down.
Measure the oil and salt. Grind the black pepper and measure what you need.
Step 2 – Marinate
Add 1 cup of olive oil, the lime zest and juice, salt, pepper, jalapenos, garlic, and white and light green parts of the scallions in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until fully combined.
I prefer to marinate chicken in a large resealable bag – a gallon-size zip-top bag works best for this quantity.
If using a bag, place the chicken inside and pour the jalapeno-lime marinade over the top. Make sure you remove all of the air from the bag before sealing, then massage the chicken in the marinade to coat thoroughly. I place the bag in a bowl or casserole dish as well, to catch any leaks.
You could also marinate the chicken directly in the bowl that you used to make the marinade. Be sure to choose one that’s large enough to fit all of the chicken and made of a material that will not react with the acid, such as glass, ceramic, or plastic. Place the chicken in the bowl and toss in the marinade with tongs until completely coated, then cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid.
Place the chicken in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 12 hours max.
Step 3 – Sear
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with foil – the foil will prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan, and will save you some dishwashing time! Parchment paper or a silicone pan liner could also be used for easy cleanup.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat and allow it to heat up until it’s shimmering and just starting to smoke. You can test to see if the oil is hot enough by adding a drop of water to the pan. If it sizzles away immediately, it has reached the right temperature for searing.
Using clean tongs, remove the chicken breasts from the marinade, shake gently to remove any excess liquid, and then transfer them to the pan. Discard the marinade.
Work in batches or use two pans if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan, which will cause the temperature of the oil to decrease. The reduced temperature will prevent an even sear from forming on the exterior of the breasts.
Sear the chicken until golden brown on the first side, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for 2 more minutes, or until golden brown.
Step 4 – Bake, Rest, and Serve
Transfer the chicken to the prepared baking sheet to finish cooking in the oven. Bake until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers an internal temperature of 165°F, about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the breasts.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board if you plan to slice it before serving.
Let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing and/or serving. The resting period will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, so they don’t run out when you cut into it. This extra step will keep the chicken juicy and moist!
Garnish with chopped scallion tops and serve with lime wedges.
How to Chow Down on this Chicken
Insert into mouth. Make “yummy!” noises. Repeat.
Okay, those steps were a little obvious!
If you’re wondering how else to make use of this citrusy chicken packed with a peppery flair, here are some fun ideas..
The ingredients in our cilantro lime rice are a perfect match for the flavors featured in this entree. Serve with a side of black beans and elote antojitos for the Mexican-inspired meal of your dreams.
If you like the direction we’re heading in but handhelds are more your style, fajitas are a tasty option. With just a few additional steps, you can easily prepare and cook the veggies along with the chicken in this recipe.
Toss 1 sliced medium yellow onion and 2 sliced bell peppers with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl and season with a big pinch each of salt and pepper. Arrange them in an even layer underneath and around the seared chicken on the baking sheet before placing it in the oven to finish the cooking process.
Serve with warm tortillas, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, salsa, and sour cream.
How will you serve this chicken so it shows off its best side? Share your suggestions in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Jalapenos are a foolproof solution for sneaking in some heat where you least expect it. Try these recipes next that all take advantage of the pepper’s pleasing kick:
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 3, 2014. Last updated on October 22, 2022.
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.”