Main dish

The Best Tequila Lime Chicken Marinade

The best tequila lime chicken marinade! This grilled chicken is loaded with flavor and makes the best chicken tacos or healthy salads!

To recipe
grilled tequila lime chicken on a plate
Recipe insights & TIPS

This should be your go-to marinade for all things chicken! The flavor is fantastic and works for any grilled chicken recipe!

grilled tequila lime chicken on a plate

A good marinade recipe is always a handy thing to have in your back pocket. You can use it for all sorts of meals like tacos, enchiladas, salads or even pasta. I created this tequila lime chicken marinade on a whim and just by staring at the choice of spices in my kitchen and rolling with whatever sounded good. Luckily the whole marinade came together perfectly and with a little help of some tequila and lime juice just to get the spices in every part of the chicken.

I used my grilled tequila lime chicken for homemade enchiladas and they were so good! The recipe has a lot of spices but isn't spicy hot, just packed with flavor and the tequila and lime juice with maple give it a nice tangy and slightly sweet flavor. Don't worry about the alcohol in the tequila either because it'll cook itself off on the grill leaving behind a sweet smoky taste. This is definitely a marinade for summer grilling!

How to make tequila lime chicken marinade

  1. Make the spice mix Combine all of the spices in a small bowl
  2. Prep the chicken I recommend using chicken thighs which won't dry ups s much as breasts and they really do have more flavor. I like to trim any large pieces of skin that might still be attached and check for any bone. Lay the thighs on a cutting board and sprinkle the spice rub all over the chicken on both sides making sure to cover every part.  
  3. Marinating the chicken Transfer the seasoned chicken thighs to a 1 gallon zip lock bag. Add the tequila, lime and maple mixture, close the bag and massage the chicken to get it evenly covered in marinade. As with any marinade, the length of time you let it rest, the more flavor the meat will have. That's why I highly recommend doing this the day or night before you plan to cook it.
sliced tequila lime chicken thighs on a plate

Ingredients needed

  • Chicken- Thighs are netter and will deliver more flavor than plain chicken breast. They also cook quicker.
  • Mexican Oregano- Regular oregano will work but the Mexican variety is stronger with a grassy and lemon smell to it. Marjoram will also work.
  • Cumin- Ground cumin is a pantry staple.
  • Ancho Chile Powder- Ancho Chile is a dark colored chili powder with a smokey taste and mild heat. It's used a lot in authentic Mexican cooking and good to have on hand.
  • Paprika- Another smokey flavored spice although you can find a sweet version and hot version depending on what you are cooking. I always use smoked paprika.
  • Garlic Powder- Pantry staple
  • All Spice- Ground is what you need and definitely a spice to elevate any dish it's used in. It reminds me of Christmas but goes well with most meats.
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Lime Juice- Always fresh and never from a bottle, you'll taste the difference.
  • Tequila- Any Tequila will work
  • Maple Syrup- Just to add a hint of sweetness and caramelization to the chicken as it grills.
close up shot of grilled tequila lime chicken on a plate

Tips to make the best tequila lime marinade

  • Always use chicken thighs, They remain more moist than chicken breasts and have more flavor especially when grilled.
  • Marinade your chicken for at least 12 hours to maximize the flavor.
  • Add the chicken thighs directly to your grill's hotspot smooth side down and then when it's time to flip them over, move them to a more indirect heat source.
  • The chicken will be done whenever the internal temperature of the thickest part reaches 165 degrees. The grill should be at 400-450 degrees.
  • Once the chicken is done, transfer to a large plate, cover lightly with foil and let rest for 5 minutes to retain the juices.

FAQ's about marinating chicken

How long can I leave my marinade in the fridge? Chicken can soak in the marinade for up to two days. The longer the better in most cases.

Do I have to rinse the marinade from the chicken? No, grab the chicken from the bag and transfer directly onto your hot grill. You can give the chicken a slight shake to prevent any drips but you want to keep that delicious flavor.

What if my chicken thighs are large on one side and thin on the other? To counteract the different ready times of each end, you can cut a slash through the thick side. This will help it cook quicker and at the same time as the thin side.

Is a marinade just for flavor? Not necessarily. The marinade can help seal moisture in to prevent drying, helps tenderize the chicken and acts like a preservative.

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An amazing marinade to elevate your plain chicken recipes. This will work for tacos, enchiladas, or grilled chicken salads.

Main dish
10 minutes
Total TIME:
730 minutes
720 minutes


  • 4 large boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 2lbs
  • 1 tbsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground all spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 whole limes, squeezed for the juice
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • fresh cilantro and more limes for garnishing

Ingredient Swaps


  1. Lay the chicken thighs out on a cutting board and trim any large pieces of skin or fat from them.
  2. In a small bowl combine all of the spices and mix well together.
  3. Sprinkle the spice rub generously over both sides of each chicken thigh.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a 1 gallon zip lock bag.
  5. In the same bowl as the spice mix, whisk together the lime juice, tequila and syrup.
  6. Pour the liquid into the bag, squeeze to get all of the air from the bag and seal.
  7. Massage the bag to make sure the chicken is completely covered in the marinade and liquid.
  8. Let rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
  9. Preheat your grill to high.
  10. Using tongs, carefully place each thigh onto the grill and cook for about 5 minutes.
  11. Turn the chicken over and repeat until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  12. Place the chicken on a plate, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
  13. Slice or chop into pieces and eat as is or use in another dish.
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