Chicken Tacos

September 22, 2020

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Easy Chicken Tacos! Made with tender and juicy pan seared chicken thighs that have been generously seasoned with Mexican spices, and finished with bright lime and cilantro. It’s a recipe you can have ready in 30 minutes!

Overhead image of row of six chicken tacos on a white oval serving platter.

Quick and Easy Chicken Tacos

These will quickly become a favorite weeknight dinner recipe! And they make great leftovers too, that is of course if there happens to be a single bite size piece left.

You’ll love these tacos because not only are they super fast and incredibly flavorful, but no grill is required and they are brimming with delicious, fresh Mexican flavor!

And the way the chicken perfectly browns up (even blackens a little) and get’s nice crispy edges in a hot skillet is completely satisfying.

Then for serving, you’ve got options. You can serve with just the staples – onion, cilantro and lime. Like a street taco.

Or you can go all out and pile them up with lettuce, queso fresco (or other Mexican cheese), pico de gallo, guacamole or avocado, grilled corn, pickled onions or jalapeños, or loads of Mexican hot sauce.

I usually like to add the works when I’ve got time. But really this chicken is so good you could eat it all on it’s own with a side of Mexican rice and you’d still have an amazing dinner!

Close up image of chicken tacos in corn tortillas with various toppings such as onions, cilantro and tomatoes.

Chicken Taco Recipe Ingredients and Substitutes

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs: Chicken breasts will work but they won’t be quite as good as the thighs.
  • Olive oil: Vegetable oil may be used instead.
  • Lime juice: Lemon works just as well.
  • Chili powder: You can also try using a blend of a few like chili powders such as Ancho, New Mexican, Pasilla etc.
  • Cumin: Coriander would work too. Different flavor but similar earthiness.
  • Garlic powder: I like to use dry garlic powder so fresh doesn’t burn up in a skillet. A few teaspoons fresh minced could be substituted but wait until the last 30 seconds to add it to the skillet.
  • Paprika: If you don’t have smoked, standard sweet paprika will work.
  • Cayenne pepper: Red pepper flakes will work too. Add these spicy ingredients to taste.
  • Salt and pepper: Table salt, kosher salt or sea salt can be used.
  • Tortillas: This comes down to personal preference, I use corn tortillas but flour tortillas will work great too.
  • Cilantro: I like to add plenty of this at the end. You can either toss in right with the chopped chicken or over each taco.
  • Red onion: Or yellow/white onion. Also add other desired toppings.

Image of ingredients used to make chicken tacos. Includes chicken thighs, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, smokes paprika, corn tortillas, cilantro, red onion, lime and olive oil.

How to Make Chicken Tacos

  1. Toss chicken with oil and lime: Place chicken in a medium mixing bowl. Pour over 1 Tbsp olive oil and lime juice.
  2. Toss with spices: Sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper (I use about 1 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp pepper). Toss mixture well until evenly coated.
  3. Preheat a skillet, add oil: Heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle in remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil.
  4. Brown chicken on first side: Place chicken in skillet spacing evenly apart. Let cook until browned on bottom, about 6 minutes.
  5. Turn and cook through: Turn chicken pieces, reduce heat to medium if needed. Continue to cook until chicken has cooked through (165 degrees in thickest portion), about 6 minutes longer.
  6. Rest off heat then chop: Transfer to a cutting board and let rest a few minutes. Cut into pieces.
  7. Assemble chicken tacos: Layer chopped chicken over tortillas, sprinkle with desired toppings and onions and cilantro. Serve warm with lime wedges.

Collage of four images showing steps to preparing and cooking chicken for tacos. Shows tossing chicken with spices in a bowl and searing in a large non-stick skillet.

How to Grill or Bake

  • Grill: Grill on gas grill over medium-high heat until chicken registers 165 degrees in center (turn once halfway), about 10 – 12 minutes.
  • Oven: Bake on a baking sheet coated with olive oil at 425 degrees until cooked through (165 in center), about 30 – 35 minutes.

How to Reheat Leftovers:

Stovetop: I like to reheat the chopped chicken pieces on the stovetop in a skillet with a little bit of oil over medium-low heat until heated through.

Microwave: Heat in microwave on 50% power in about 30 – 45 seconds increments until heated through, toss between intervals.

Close up overhead image of chopped, seared chicken pieces on a cutting board.

Tips for the Best Chicken Tacos

  • This recipe is best with chicken thighs. They are fattier and brown better, and they don’t dry as easy.
  • Use plenty of seasonings and be fair with the salt.
  • Go for a non-stick skillet for less sticking. And preferably use a heavy skillet for more even heat distribution.
  • If you find chicken is browning too quickly before it’s cooking through then reduce burner temp. As always.
  • Use fresh lime for best flavor. Add extra upon serving.

What to Serve with Them

Chicken tacos on a platter shown from a side angle.

More Delicious Ways to Make Chicken Tacos

Chicken tacos on a platter shown from a side angle.
5 from 2 votes

Chicken Tacos (Stovetop)

The easiest tacos! Made with tender and juicy pan seared chicken thighs, plenty of Mexican spices and bright lime and cilantro. It's a recipe you can have ready in 30 minutes!
Servings: 5
Prep18 minutes
Cook12 minutes
Ready in: 30 minutes

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs (6 medium), trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
  • 2 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, for heat)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Serving

  • 10 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed*
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onions or yellow onions
  • Other desired toppings (see notes)

Instructions

  • Place chicken in a medium mixing bowl. Pour over 1 Tbsp olive oil and lime juice.
  • Sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper (I use about 1 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp pepper).
  • Toss mixture well until evenly coated. At this point you can use right away or marinate in the fridge for up to 8 hours.
  • Heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle in remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil.
  • Place chicken in skillet spacing evenly apart. Let cook until browned on bottom, about 6 minutes.
  • Turn chicken pieces, reduce heat to medium if needed. Continue to cook until chicken has cooked through (165 degrees in thickest portion), about 6 minutes longer.
  • Transfer to a cutting board and let rest a few minutes. Cut into pieces.
  • Layer chopped chicken over tortillas, sprinkle with desired toppings and onions and cilantro. Serve warm with lime wedges for spritzing over.

Notes

  • *To warm tortillas I like to heat in a little olive oil in a skillet, until just light golden brown spots appear on each side. Drain on paper towels. This is optional, they can also be heated without oil.
  • Serving is 2 tacos per person. Additional toppings and salt added not included in nutrition estimate as these will vary.

Additional Topping Ideas

  • Pico de gallo or salsa
  • Sliced or diced avocado or guacamole
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced radishes
  • Minced jalapeños
  • Grilled corn
  • Shredded lettuce or cabbage
  • Cheese (Mexican blend, queso fresco, Monterey jack etc.)
  • Mexican hot sauce
Nutrition Facts
Chicken Tacos (Stovetop)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 374 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Cholesterol 129mg43%
Sodium 175mg8%
Potassium 568mg16%
Carbohydrates 27g9%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 30g60%
Vitamin A 1466IU29%
Vitamin C 5mg6%
Calcium 76mg8%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.