Cilantro Lime Pan Fried Chicken Thighs

Cilantro Lime Pan Fried Chicken Thighs

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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. 

And 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

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.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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!

Notes

**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: 280 Total Fat: 11g Carbohydrates: 22g Protein: 25g

More Healthy Chicken Recipes You Might Like

This recipe makes some of the juiciest, flavorful chicken you'll come across. And for pan fried chicken, it's surprisingly healthy!



23 thoughts on “Cilantro Lime Pan Fried Chicken Thighs”

  • 5 stars
    I just made this recipe and my husband and I loved it!! I wasn’t sure about the jalopeno juice because I don’t like jalopenos or spicy food, but I decided to just follow the recipe and see what happens. I was shocked at how good it was, will definitely make again!

    • 5 stars
      This was SO good!! Even my 9 and 12 year olds loved it and they are hard to please. Don’t be afraid of the jalapeño juice! I think I used about half as much cilantro because the kids aren’t huge fans of it. 12/10 recommend this recipe.

  • 5 stars
    This recipe was sooo good!

    We did 1/4 to 1/2 the amount of jalapeño juice to make it family friendly (and because I am a wuss with spicy food). We also left out the rice and served it on the side. My kids are obsessed with rice and soy sauce – so they had their food separate, while my husband and I mixed it all together.

    Definitely recommend this!

  • 5 stars
    This recipe was sooo good!

    We did 1/4 to 1/2 the amount of jalapeño juice to make it family friendly (and because I am a wuss with spicy food). We also left out the rice and served it on the side. My kids are obsessed with rice and soy sauce – so they had their food separate, while my husband and I mixed it all together.

    Definitely recommend this! Try it!

  • 5 stars
    This recipe is bursting with flavors! I couldn’t find pickled jalapeno juice so I used the juice from a jar of peppercinis. I also used cauliflower rice. Will definitely be a recipe I use again and again.

  • 5 stars
    The amount of flavor in this chicken recipe is unbelievable! I added a little extra cilantro, just because I absolutely love the flavoring it gives to my food. The jalapeno juice was a new ingredient for me, but one I will be using more often. Gives just enough flavor, but not too much heat. The rice is my absolute favorite rice recipe, I’m sure it will be making appearances in other dishes I serve.

  • 5 stars
    Favorite hearty recipe! I added extra cup of rice to the recipe because rice! And two cups of rice is not enough for four servings (or I may just eat too much )

  • 5 stars
    PLUS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 more stars. I thought hard about which recipe of masons is my MOST favorite and feel this is my fav! It was the first time we bought chicken thighs and was life changing. I didn’t realize how sick I was of dry chicken breasts. Sure, they’re not as macro friendly but I would rather sacrifice something else in my day than not use chicken thighs.

    (One night we did use chicken breasts bc we ran out of thighs and it honestly wasn’t the same. The recipe was still delicious, but the meat was dryer than my SILs personality).

    We make this chicken at least once a week. You cannot get sick of it!
    We usually keep our rice and chicken separate though and just make plain basamati rice and add some of the cilantro, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp lime juice to our rice. I have to watch my macros better and have less self control when it’s all one happy dish.

  • 5 stars
    I’ve made this at least 5 times and it’s been a home run every time. The last time I made it I actually chopped up some jalapeño to give it a kick and used thin sliced chicken breasts instead of thighs. I marinated for a half day to make sure they’d be juicy and they were. So easy to prep and so easy to make, it’s in my regular dinner rotation!

  • So good and full of flavor! When it comes to marinating any type of meat, I’m terrible. I never remember until it’s time to cook. I was glad to see 30-60 minutes would do. I prep with my sister each week, so we made the marinade and let that sit, while we prepped a few of other Mason’s recipes! 🙂

    I was also a little nervous prepping this ahead of time because I wasn’t sure how well it’d reheat. We ended up doubling the rice portion for our significant others, but didn’t double anything else. The rice still had amazing flavor.

    I ended up reheating mine in the air fryer for a few minutes to keep it nice and crispy. It reheated well, wasn’t dry, and still had great flavor! Added some broccoli for a side and had a great meal that left us full! Will definitely be making this again!

  • 5 stars
    Such a wonderful and flavorful recipe!! I think I used too small of a cast iron skillet because I couldn’t get the chicken and the rice to fit into one pan… lol so make sure you use the biggest cast iron you got!! Other than that it was soooo yummy, even better as leftovers reheated up! Used a mix of jasmine rice and cauli rice and it was bomb

  • 5 stars
    I made this for a dinner date and he was very impressed! The dish is so full of flavor! I wasn’t sure what pickled jalapeño juice so I ended up buying a jar of pickled jalapeños and draining the juice from them. I marinated the dish overnight which made the chicken super juicy. I mixed a bag of cauliflower rice with Uncle Bens wild rice in a bag, the combo worked perfectly! Can’t wait to make this again…I think this would be great for a meal prep recipe!

    Do you think chicken breasts would work instead of thighs?

  • This might be my favorite Mason recipes, no recency bias. But I believe marinating the chicken for 2+ hours is key for the chicken to really get its flavor. Also, the fat juices from the thighs definitely gives the rice more flavor, so I would highly suggest thighs over breasts every time for this recipe.

  • 5 stars
    Uh bomb. Chicken thighs are obviously far superior to every other kind of chicken (except maybe rotisserie…) and this makes them even more delightful. I used the juice from the spicy/sweet jalapeños from Trader Joe’s and I can’t get enough.

  • 5 stars
    Soooo good. The rice definitely is better if it’s cooked ahead and chilled. If I plan to make this I cook the rice when I put the chicken in the marinade so it has time to chill. Requires some planning ahead, but the end result is delicious.

  • 5 stars
    We actually made this recipe with chicken breast instead of thighs and it came out perfect! (probably cooked the chicken a little less than what the recipe calls for because of this). We also mixed in some cauliflower rice to the rice to add some more volume & veggies. I was nervous about the pickled jalapeno juice, but used the recommended amount which gave it a great kick without being to spicy for me..

  • 5 stars
    This might be my favorite Mason recipes, no recency bias. But I believe marinating the chicken for 2+ hours is key for the chicken to really get its flavor. Also, the fat juices from the thighs definitely gives the rice more flavor, so I would highly suggest thighs over breasts every time for this recipe.

  • 5 stars
    These! So amazingly good. We could eat these every week- and like all the other recipes, they are easy to make. I did struggle to find the pickled jalapeño juice but after a few stores was able to find it. Definitely worth tracking it down!

  • 5 stars
    This is my favourite Mason recipe. I’ve made it with both thighs and breast tenderloins and both are equally yummy. I have also made it with cauliflower rice as well as rice (sometimes mixing the two) to lower the carbs, and it was delicious. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • 5 stars
    This is my favourite Mason recipe. I’ve made it with both thighs and breast tenderloins and both are equally yummy. I have also made it with cauliflower rice as well as rice (sometimes mixing the two) to lower the carbs, and it was delicious

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