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Cilantro Lime Pan Fried Chicken Thighs

This simple pan fried chicken thighs recipe marinates boneless skinless chicken thighs in a blend of jalapeño and lime juice, cilantro, and sliced garlic to create unbelievably tender, flavorful chicken.

And to make things even better, you cook the marinade right in the same pan and fry rice in it at the end. I can almost guarantee this will be a new favorite!

A simple recipe for super tender, flavorful pan fried chicken thighs and rice in a jalapeño lime juice, cilantro, and garlic reduction. Recipe includes modifications for lower calorie, lower carb diets. This is a must try!

How to Make the Jalapeño Cilantro Lime Marinade

These pan fried chicken thighs are seriously flavor bombs, and that’s due to the marinade. It’s a simple blend of ingredients:

  • pickled jalapeño juice
  • lime juice
  • cilantro
  • garlic
  • black pepper (you can add other spices like crushed chipotle for more heat)
  • olive oil

Marinating the chicken thighs a day in advance will produce the most flavorful end product. But if you’re in a hurry, even 30-60 minutes will do wonders. If you go the speedy route, you might want to throw everything in a food processor to break down the cilantro and garlic and unlock those flavors faster.

If you wanted a marinade-free recipe, check out my buffalo chicken thighs recipe. You could pan fry them the same way as these cilantro lime chicken thighs!

If you wanted to skip the oil to reduce the fat content, that should be fine. My Cuban style baked pork tenderloin uses a similar marinade without oil. I wouldn’t, however, skip the oil in the skillet during cooking.

Speaking of cooking.

How to Cook Chicken Thighs in a Skillet

Like I mentioned in my chicken fajita pasta recipe, starting with dry chicken is one of the keys to getting a crispy exterior on chicken. So after marinating the chicken thighs, the recipe calls for letting them rest on a paper towel for a few minutes before cooking.

This also gives the chicken thighs a mini tempering window (going from chilled to room temp) which helps with even cooking. 

Once you have your chicken thighs out of the marinade, you’ll need to heat a skillet with a tiny bit of oil. Cast iron or stainless steel is ideal, but nonstick will do the trick, too.

Pan fry the chicken thighs for 4-6 minutes (DON’T TOUCH THEM) until they develop a golden brown crust.

Then it’s time to flip the chicken thighs and add the remaining marinade to the skillet.

Using the Leftover Marinade

Food safety note: Be sure and fully cook leftover marinades. For these pan fried chicken thighs, you’ll be reducing the cilantro lime marinade all the way to a sauce and then frying the rice in it, ensuring any bacteria from the chicken is long gone. If you’re concerned about food safety, still, make a fresh batch of the marinade to reduce.

An important note for this step is to avoid pouring the marinade directly on top of the chicken. Doing so could negate your efforts to get the extra crispy exterior! Instead, slowly pour it into the gaps between the chicken thighs.

Reducing the leftover marinade shouldn’t take more than a few minutes unless you’re using a small skillet with less surface area, so overcooking the chicken shouldn’t be a huge risk.

If you have a food thermometer handy you can check the temperature as you go and transfer the pan fried chicken to a plate once the chicken reaches an internal temp of 165F.

You can find the instant read food thermometer and skillet I use, along with my other recommended kitchen gadgets, on my Amazon list.

Super Easy Fried Rice

The recipe calls for Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice (the microwavable pouches) for convenience. Any cooked rice will work fine. And you could certainly use something like cauliflower rice (or a mixture of the two to bulk the recipe up) to keep the carbs under control.

Rice that’s been cooked and chilled before frying creates the best fried rice. The recipe calls for cooking the rice before pan frying the chicken thighs, but you could cook it in advance and refrigerate.

Aside from rice selection, the actual process is simple. Add the rice to the reduced sauce, stir, and similar to the chicken, leave it alone for a few minutes. Then stir well, scrape up any crispy bits, and serve!

Follow up food safety note: Don’t get too overzealous and add the rice to the sauce before it’s fully reduced or cooked enough.

pan fried cilantro lime chicken thighs and rice on plate

Final Pan Fried Chicken Thighs Recipe Notes

I thought I’d mention you can cook the chicken without the leftover (or new) marinade altogether. If you go that route, flip the chicken and simply cook for a few minutes longer until juices run clear and it reaches an internal temp of 165F.

If you’ve ever tried my pan fried chicken tenderloins, you could use a similar method of covering near the end of cooking and removing from the heat to finish cooking. This does a great job at sealing in all the juices for ultra tender chicken. You can also find some more marinade ideas from that recipe!

And if you like a little crunch like me, be sure to check out my buttermilk pan fried chicken breast and crispy chicken sandwiches with chicken thighs.

And I think that’s all ya need to know. If you have a question I missed, drop a comment below or join my Facebook group with 10,000 other healthy home cooks that can help you out.

cilantro lime pan fried chicken thighs and rice in cast iron skillet

Cilantro Lime Pan Fried Chicken Thighs and Rice

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Boneless skinless chicken thighs and rice pan fried with a jalapeño lime juice, cilantro, and garlic reduction.


Jalapeño Marinade

  • 1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1/2 C (120g) Pickled Jalapeño Juice
  • 1/4 C (60g) Lime Juice, about 2 small limes
  • 1 Tbsp (16g) Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp (10g) Chopped Cilantro
  • 3 cloves (10g) Garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

For Frying

  • 1/2 Tbsp (8g) Olive Oil
  • 8 oz packet Uncle Ben's Jasmine Ready Rice , or 2 cups of any cooked rice


For the Marinade

  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a resealable container before placing the chicken thighs in and covering. Refrigerate overnight, if possible.

For the Pan Fried Chicken Thighs and Rice

  1. Microwave or cook the rice. Set aside.
  2. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and place on a paper towel to dry the surface before frying. Reserve the remaining marinade (or make fresh batch).
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the 1/2 tablespoon of oil.
  4. Place the chicken thighs dry-side down in the skillet. Cook for 4-6 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown before flipping. Slowly pour the remaining marinade in the gaps around the chicken, being careful to not pour over the top of the chicken.
  5. Continue cooking to reduce the marinade to a thick sauce, 4-5 minutes tops, before transferring the chicken to a plate once it reaches an internal temp of 165F.**
  6. Add the cooked rice to the skillet and pan fry for another 4-6 minutes, stirring to incorporate any crispy bits from the skillet into the rice.
  7. Plate the rice with the pan fried chicken thighs, top with fresh cilantro, and enjoy!


**Do not under cook the remaining marinade. It should reach 165F as well to kill any remaining bacteria from the chicken. If you're concerned with food safety, you could always make a fresh batch of the marinade to reduce or skip this step and cook the chicken 3-5 minutes after flipping to finish cooking without the marinade.

  • Each serving (1/4th the entire recipe with rice) has 7 Smart Points. 
  • Nutrition facts for the chicken on its own (no rice): 735 calories, 88g of protein, 9g of carbs, 38g of fat, and 15 Smart Points. 
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 280Total Fat: 11gCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 25g

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More Healthy Chicken Recipes You Might Like


Monday 29th of November 2021

This recipe is easy, delicious and SO flavorful! An easy favorite in my house.


Saturday 27th of November 2021

Love this recipe. I typically make this with chicken breast instead of thighs and then serve on crispy corn tortillas with an avocado spread.🤤🤤🤤


Friday 20th of August 2021

Delicious! I made this recipe exactly as it calls on the recipe and it was not spicy at all. The chicken was very moist and had amazing flavor. Will definitely make this again.

Rose Traini

Thursday 19th of August 2021

I thought I wouldn’t love a Mason recipe more than the air fryer pizza. Then I made this one. IT IS SO AMAZING! I almost didn’t make it because I wasn’t sure about the jalapeño juice. (I just bought a small can of pickled jalapeños and it had enough juice in it for the recipe). The jalapeño juice doesn’t make the recipe spice. The chicken is moist and the rice is amazing!! And it’s a simple recipe. You won’t regret making it!


Saturday 17th of April 2021

Everyone in my family, including my pickiest eater, will eat this. I reduce the jalapeno juice a little bit because my boys are not good with spice, but the flavors meld beautifully. I am so sad for folks that have the cilantro gene because this is a masterpiece!

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