The easiest cilantro lime chicken recipe! Tender, juicy chicken thighs with crispy skin cooked in an air fryer or oven. These pair perfectly with any salad, steamed vegetables, and a warm cup of rice.
Why you’ll love this recipe
Here’s why you will love this cilantro lime chicken:
- Crispy charred skin and tender juicy chicken thighs. It almost tasted like it was grilled over charcoal.
- Flavorful and most delicious cilantro-lime marinade–not too sour with a nice depth of flavor.
- Convenient, and mess-free cooking. Air frying is one of my favorite ways to cook chicken. It’s less messy and needs less tending. The best part? No oil splatters to clean up after.
Cilantro Lime Marinade
This marinade has all the 3 key components–acid, fat, and seasoning. Here’s what you need:
- Fresh cilantro – also known as coriander leaves or Chinese parsley.
- Olive Oil – keeps the chicken moist and prevents it from burning in high heat.
- Lime Juice – from 2 medium size lime. Don’t use bottled lime juice. Fresh lime juice is best.
- Cumin – adds another layer of flavor to the dish. It just goes so well with the rest of the ingredients.
- Fresh Garlic – or garlic powder if you’re not in the mood to chop.
- Salt and Black Pepper
- Sugar – caramelizes the chicken and mellows the sourness of the lime.
- Red Pepper Flakes – you can also use freshly chopped red chilies. Totally optional of course.
- Soy Sauce – the secret ingredient to making the best cilantro lime chicken. The depth of flavor it gives to the dish is just amazing!
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are ideal for air-frying. It’s naturally juicy and becomes succulently tender after cooking. You can also use chicken breast and chicken wings if preferred.
How long to marinate chicken
Chicken is best marinated for 12 to 24 hours but no more than 48 hours. The longer it’s marinated, the more it becomes tender and flavorful. But if I’m in a hurry, I sometimes just go for 1 to 2 hours. It still comes out delicious!
Tip: Marinade the chicken in a resealable bag so you can quickly turn it a couple of times. This will make sure the marinade evenly coats all parts of the chicken while it’s in the refrigerator/fridge.
Tips for a JUICY Air Fryer Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Line the air fryer basket with foil to catch the drippings. The chicken stays moist and absorbs the flavor of the drippings and juices as it cooks. You will love this, I promise!
- Place the chicken thighs in the air fryer basket in a single layer, skin side up. Do not overlap. Cook in batches if necessary.
- Brush the skin with oil to prevent chicken skin from burning.
- Do not overcook the chicken thighs in the air-fryer. It can become dry and leathery.
And oh, all these tips apply to oven cooking too!
Air-fryer: air-fry at 200C/400F for 12 minutes skin-side down first. Turn to the other side after 8 minutes and continue cooking until the skin is crisp and brown.
Oven: Pre-heat oven to 220c/425F. Bake for 15 minutes, then switch to broil/grill mode on high and grill for 3 minutes to caramelize the skin. If baking with the fan on (convection oven) bake at 200C/400F.
Serve with the Drippings (my favorite part!)
Remove chicken from the air fryer/ oven and let it set for 5 minutes before serving. Pour drippings into a heat-proof bowl. Skim off excess oil on top then serve alongside the chicken.
Here are a few suggestions on how to serve this cilantro lime chicken:
- Served as a protein topping for vegetable salad and potato salad.
- Use it as a filling for “wrap sandwiches”. Add sliced cucumbers, tomato, or lettuce.
- Serve with coconut rice or plain white and or brown rice. Don’t forget to drizzle the drippings on top.
- For a low-carb meal, serve with steamed vegetables broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or sauteed mushrooms.
How to Freeze
Place the chicken and marinade in a resealable bag. Freeze straight away, then defrost in the fridge overnight, during which time the chicken will marinate.
Try these next
- Chicken and Potato Curry with Coconut Milk
- Pineapple Chicken Fried Rice Thai-Style
- Chicken Alfredo Pasta with Cream Cheese
- Easy Black Pepper Chicken
- Chicken with Mushroom Soup Gravy
- Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs
- Instant Pot Chicken Adobo
Cilantro Lime Chicken (Air fryer or Oven)
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs note 1
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/3 cup lime juice (around 2 limes)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 5 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Combine all the marinade ingredients in a pouring cup or measuring cup. Whisk until well combined.
- Place chicken thighs in a resealable/ziplock bag. Pour marinade, and massage to evenly distribute marinade. Seal tightly removing air as much as you can. Place in a large bowl and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, best overnight.
- Bring chicken to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking.
- Preheat the air-fryer for 3 minutes.
- Prepare foil and cut it large enough to fit the air fryer basket. Grease with oil.
- Line the air fryer basket with foil. Place the chicken on top of the foil SKIN SIDE UP without overlapping. You may need to work in batches if needed. Do not overcrowd.
- Air-fry at 200C/400F for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 220c/425F.
- Place chicken thighs in a greased baking dish, skin side up. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes until crispy and golden or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 74C/165F.
- Remove chicken from the air fryer/ oven and let it set for 5 minutes before serving.
- Pour drippings into a heat-proof bowl. Skim off excess oil on top. Serve alongside chicken.
- Chicken – bone in, skin on chicken thighs are ideal for this recipe which creates a nice and juicy texture.
- Air-fryer – you can also use any ovenproof dish made of glass or metal instead of foil.