Learn how to make the Best Mexican Chicken Marinade to add sweet, savory, zesty flavor to your favorite protein and help it turn out tender and juicy every time you cook! 

For more ways to add flavor to your meals, check out our Zesty Italian Dressing Recipe, Cilantro Vinaigrette, and Mango Dressing

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Mexican Chicken Marinade

Say goodbye to bland, boring chicken! This Mexican marinade ensures every bite is bursting with savory, tangy flavor. 

My go-to when I need a delicious meal that’s not complicated to make, this recipe comes together in minutes. Plus, it uses simple ingredients you likely already have on hand. Just combine, whisk, and your marinade is ready to go! 

It’s perfect for everything from weeknight dinners to weekend cookouts and meal prep. We love using this chicken marinade for chicken tacos, chicken bowls, or zucchini enchiladas.

Why You’ll Love This Mexican Marinade

  • Simple ingredients: This marinade comes together with just a handful of everyday ingredients for a delicious recipe that’s free from refined sugars or additives you find in store-bought options. 
  • Quick to make: Just combine the ingredients in a bowl, and use the marinade right away! There’s no simmering, blending, or heating required. 
  • Versatile: You can easily mix and match the ingredients to suit your flavor preferences. Then, experiment with using this marinade for Mexican chicken with other protein sources like fish or shrimp, too. 

Best Mexican Chicken Marinade Ingredients

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

ingredients for chicken marinade.
  • Oil: I recommend using olive oil to form the base of the dressing and combine the ingredients. I’ve tried using extra virgin olive oil and find that the flavor turns out a bit too heavy. 
  • Spices: Chili powder, ground cumin, salt, and black pepper create a savory flavor with a touch of heat. 
  • Garlic: Use fresh garlic cloves for the best taste. 
  • Lime juice: Adds citrusy flavor that lightens the marinade and helps tenderize the chicken. Freshly squeezed is best! 
  • Honey: For a touch of sweetness. Feel free to use maple syrup if preferred. 
  • Fresh cilantro: Adds a bright, herbaceous taste. 
  • Chicken: We pair this marinade with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but any cut of chicken you like best will work. 

How to Make Marinade for Mexican Chicken

Check out the recipe card below for detailed instructions.

chicken marinade ingredients in a glass bowl.

Step 1: In a glass bowl, whisk the marinade ingredients.

chicken covered in marinade inside a ziploc bag.

Step 2: Place the chicken inside a large ziploc bag and pour the marinade over the chicken, ensuring all pieces are well coated.

closed ziploc bag with raw chicken.

Step 3: Squeeze out excess air and seal the bag.

chicken inside ziploc bag laying on a baking sheet.

Step 4: Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours up to overnight.

Grilling Tips for Marinated Chicken

  • Dry it out: Pat the chicken dry with clean paper towels before marinating. This helps the marinade stick better and creates an irresistible crispy skin once grilled. 
  • Allow plenty of time to soak: For the best results, we recommend letting your chicken marinate for 24 hours. This allows the ingredients to really sink into the meat, creating maximum flavor! 
  • Check the internal temperature: Use a good meat thermometer to ensure the chicken cooks perfectly, reaching an internal temperature of 165F (74C). This prevents it from being undercooked or overcooked and too dry. 
  • Rest: Once the chicken is done grilling, tent it with foil, and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to settle, resulting in more tender, flavorful chicken. 

How to Serve Mexican Chicken

Clearly given the name, this Mexican chicken marinade is intended to be used for chicken, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it with other proteins! Try it out with white fish or shrimp, too. 

However, once cooked, the chicken pairs well with a variety of side dishes to form a complete meal. Some of our favorite options include: 

grilled chicken thighs on a platter garnished with cilantro.

FAQs for this Mexican Chicken Marinade Recipe

What is the secret to a good marinade?

The best marinades contain an acid, a fat, and flavoring components like herbs and spices. The acid helps tenderize the meat, the fat keeps it moist, and the flavoring makes it taste great!

Which should be avoided when marinating?

Avoid using too little marinade. Your meat should be completely coated. Also, avoid using too much salt or marinating the meat for too long. Salt can draw out moisture, causing the chicken to become tough, and marinating too long will break down too many fibers and cause the protein to become mushy. 

How long should chicken sit in marinade?

For the best results, marinate your chicken for 24 hours. However, if you’re in a pinch for time 2 hours is enough time to tenderize and flavor the protein. 

Should marinade be rinsed off?

There’s no need to rinse off the marinade but you’ll want to remove the chicken with a pair of tongs from the liquid marinade, letting the excess drip back into the bag or bowl.  

If you try our Mexican chicken marinade, please leave a star rating and a comment letting us know how you liked the recipe.

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grilled chicken thighs on a platter garnished with cilantro.

Mexican Marinade for Chicken

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  • Author: Katya
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 15 min
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4-5 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Grilled
  • Cuisine: Mexican


Learn how to make the best Mexican chicken marinade with simple ingredients to create a juicy chicken with a warm, zesty flavor with ease!


Units Scale
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless, chicken thighs


  1. Whisk olive oil, chili powder, cumin, garlic, lime juice, honey, salt, pepper, and cilantro together in a bowl.
  2. Place the chicken into a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the chicken, ensuring all pieces are well coated. Squeeze out excess air and seal the bag.
  3. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours but ideally for 24 hours.
  4. When ready to grill, preheat the grill to medium high heat. Grill chicken thighs for about 6-7 minutes per side or until internal temperature registers 165F. Tent the cooked chicken with aluminum foil for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve garnished with cilantro leaves.


  • Chicken: This marinade also works great on chicken breast and chicken tenders. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.


  • Serving Size: 4-6 oz.
  • Calories: 336
  • Sugar: 3.6 g
  • Sodium: 623.5 mg
  • Fat: 18.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 5.2 g
  • Protein: 36 g
  • Cholesterol: 170.5 mg