Chicken with Lime, Garlic and Cilantro

Chicken with lime, garlic and (optionally) cilantro is one of our favorite — and easiest — dishes. The acid in the citrus balances out the chicken and creates a tart sauce right in the pan. 

Chicken with Lime, Garlic and Cilantro

In the 1970s, the Upper West Side of Manhattan where I grew up was a true melting pot of cultures. I went to a bilingual grade school where classes were taught in both English and Spanish, and staying for dinner at a friend’s house often meant getting to have Arroz Con Gandules (Puerto Rican Rice with Pigeon Peas) or Mofongo (mashed green plantains with chicharrones).

My absolute favorite dish back then was Pernil (Roasted Pork Shoulder), which is flavored with lots of citrus, cumin and cilantro. Just thinking about it is making me hungry, but until I find the time to make a whole pork shoulder, I thought I’d take some of those great flavors and turn it into a much more weekday-friendly chicken dinner.

Chicken with Lime, Garlic and Cilantro
Garlic, cilantro, lime and cumin make the sauce bright and tangy.

Chicken with Lime, Garlic and Cilantro

Cilantro: Love it? Hate it?

So let’s talk about cilantro, shall we? (Or coriander, depending on where you’re from). Has ever there been a herb so divisive (since the one that accompanied Kiki)? Some people (like me, and thankfully, Matt) love it. And others … not so much. In fact, some people (including my father) HATE IT WITH THE POWER OF A THOUSAND SUNS. A THOUSAND SUNS.

It turns out that there might be an actual genetic reason why that is. Not to get all sciencey on you or anything but there’s a cluster of olfactory-receptor genes — part of the genome which influences sense of smell, and in that cluster is a gene called OR6A2. Variations of that gene can make some people sensitive to the aldehyde chemicals that contribute to cilantro’s flavor.

Short version: basically there’s a thingie in your nose that makes cilantro taste either delicious and fresh, or like hell in the form of a putrid bar of soap.

If you happen to be in the latter category (you probably aren’t looking at this recipe) you can substitute basil. The flavor will obviously be quite different but it would still be tasty.

Nerd Tips

  • Julia Child was wrong, don’t wash your chicken! Just use a clean cutting board, dry it well on paper towels, and cook it to the proper temperature (165º F / 74º C).
  • Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you plan to cook it. It will cook more evenly (this is true for any meat).
  • A cast iron pan is perfect for this recipe because it browns beautifully and goes in the oven. Just make sure it’s well seasoned.
  • Chicken cooked on the bone has more flavor than boneless (and the crispy skin is delicious) but you could substitute skinless, boneless breasts or thighs. If using breasts, be careful not to overcook them or they’ll be dry.
  • For a gluten free version, just leave out the flour. The sauce won’t be quite as thick but the flavor will be identical.
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Chicken with Lime, Garlic and Cilantro

Chicken with lime, garlic and (optionally) cilantro is one of our favorite — and easiest — dishes. The acid in the citrus balances out the chicken and creates a tart sauce right in the pan. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6
Calories: 428kcal
Author: Emily Clifton - Nerds with Knives

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs chicken thighs bone in, skin on (about 6 thighs)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves roughly chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour 20g
  • 1 cup dry white wine 250ml
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey 30g
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice from about 1 1/2 limes
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest finely grated (from 1 1/2 limes)
  • 2 cups chicken broth 475 ml
  • 4 scallions sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 4-5 tablespoons cilantro stems removed, chopped; more for garnish (about 1 large bunch)
  • 1 lime sliced, for garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 375º F / 190º C
  • Pat the chicken thighs dry, and season each thigh on both sides with cumin, salt and pepper.
  • Pre-heat a heavy-bottomed skillet or dutch oven on medium-high for a minute or so and then add the oil. Add the thighs, skin-side down and cook until deeply browned (5-7 minutes). Don’t crowd the pan, work in batches if necessary. Turn and brown other side (3-5 minutes). Remove thighs to a plate and set them aside,
  • Lower the heat and if there’s a lot of oil, remove most of it, leaving about a tablespoon and a half. Add flour, garlic and sliced white scallion bottoms. Stir well to coat the flour in oil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the wine and let it simmer for 3 minutes while scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the broth, honey, lime juice, lime zest and half the cilantro and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken, skin-side up and place it, uncovered, into the oven. Cook for 35-40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (165º F / 74º C on an instant read thermometer). Garnish with sliced limes, the remaining cilantro and green scallion tops.
  • Serve with rice, potatoes or lots of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 428kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 148mg | Sodium: 991mg | Potassium: 484mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 243IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @NerdsWithKnives or tag #nerdswithknives!

78 thoughts on “Chicken with Lime, Garlic and Cilantro”

  1. I think your blog looks fantastic. Thank you for sharing your recipe on Reddit. Have you been doing this for long? What keeps you motivated to keep up your blog when there are so many food blogs out there?

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! We’ve been doing it for a couple of years. A bit more seriously for about a year now. I just really enjoy it. I love cooking and love photography so the combination is a pleasure. People have been responding well which is incredibly gratifying but I’d probably do it anyway 🙂

      Reply
  2. For a long time, I wasn’t a fan of cilantro. I would avoid eating it when possible. After I have been eating many hispanic food (my husband is latino), I start to like cilantro. This dish sounds incredible. Love all the flavors. Going to try this soon!

    Reply
          • Hi i am planning to make this on sun night for my partner so hoping it turns out like your picture! 🙂 just another couple of questions.. is the amount of honey in recipe enough compared with the quantity of lime juice? Im just wondering if the lime would overpower and therefore not be sweet enough.. also im going to be using skin-on chicken breasts, so when we put the chicken back into pan after making the sauce (before it goes in the oven) should i baste the chicken with the honey lime mix or just leave it as is?

            Thanks so much 🙂

  3. Hi Emily,

    I stumbled upon your recipe by happenstance and even though I’m a complete novice (I can make pancakes!) I was too tempted not to give it a try as my first proper go at cooking. In this respect the recipe is marvelous. The only extra piece of equipment I needed to get for my extremely sparse kitchen was a grater for the lime zest. I have a large, deep frying pan that worked well in place of the skillet and I just had to make sure it would fit completely in the oven in spit of the handle.

    Being a noob and doing this on my own, the prep time was closer to 45 minutes. I had no idea fresh garlic peeled like an onion and had to take more layers off the small pieces I’d already chopped. Then I discovered I’d bought ground coriander instead of cumin and went back out to get that essential ingredient. I ended up spicing the chicken with both and I think in future I may add a little bit of curry powder to give some kick.

    For the wine in the sauce I followed the advice of the internet and found an acidic sauvignon blanc. I’m no wine connoisseur and I think the one I chose was inappropriately too sour, but I made up for this by reducing the sauce for a bit and adding more honey. Thankfully the additional cooking time in the oven also helped get rid of the sharpness of the taste, and the wonderful earthy flavours of the corriander leaves and spices came through.

    Your recommended cooking time and temperate was absolutely perfect, the chicken came out crispy on top and succulent to the bone. The smell of the lime in the sauce was heavenly.

    I didn’t make anything to go with it, wanting instead to focus on getting just this recipe correct. In future I think I might like to do rice or koos koos with chopped peanuts to give a bit of extra crunch and to compliment the lime flavour. I’d then finish with a starch like roast butternut or pumpkin for a bit of extra sweetness and colour.

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, it was very fun to make and I’m sure I’ll be using it as a specialty for many years to come!

    Reply
    • Hi Gary,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I’m so glad the recipe was a success for you. Cooking takes a bit of practice (like anything, I guess) so it gets easier and faster the more you do it! I love the idea about the coriander. Thats one of my favorite spices too.

      I think you have really fantastic cooking instincts and I hope you continue to experiment and enjoy it in the years to come!

      Reply
  4. I found this on Reddit too. I made this tonight and it was the best chicken I’ve ever made. I don’t have an oven-safe skillet, so I had to transfer everything to a glass baking dish for the oven portion and that worked out just fine. I also had to replace the white wine (I’m about to move and didn’t want to buy a bottle of cooking wine). I used 1/4 white wine vinegar and 3/4 cup chicken broth – that also worked out really well.

    Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

    Reply
  5. Awesome recipe, one little nitpick though. Definitely do not cook your chicken to 165, that is unnecessarily high and will cause it to be drier than necessary.

    http://www.seriouseats.com/images/20100413-Sous-vide-chicken-chart.jpg

    As you can see, 165 is the temp it needs to be to sterilize instantly, as though you were to raise it to that temp for a single second and then drop it. Really you should cook it to about 145-150. That big a temp difference will drastically increase the moistness of the chicken compared to 165 and if you look at the chart your chicken only has to be at 150 for about 5 minutes and 145 for 12ish. If you take it out at 150 the carry over will definitely keep it above 145 for long enough to sterilize (plus the time to go from 145 to 150 while cooking is a couple minutes too).

    So remember folks. Don’t just blindly trust things you see on the internet (including this comment), do your research on safe meat temps and have moister equally safe meat.

    Reply
  6. The instructions say “Lower the heat and if there’s a lot of oil, remove most of it, leaving about a tablespoon and a half.” However, the recipe only called for one tablespoon of oil.. All of my oil was gone at this step, should I have added more?

    Reply
    • Since the recipe calls for skin-on chicken, once browned it can sometimes give off a lot of oil. Not always though so you didn’t do anything wrong, your pieces were just leaner. I just wanted to make sure that if the pieces DID release a lot, it would be removed or the sauce would be greasy.

      Reply
  7. Just tried this for the first time and it was so delicious and easy to make. My parents were super impressed, I’ll definitely be making it again soon. Thanks so much!!!!

    Reply
    • I’ve never had a problem but I do keep my cast iron very well seasoned (and re-season them after cooking anything acidic). I wouldn’t and that he’s sauces sit in the pan for ages, like if I make them hours ahead, but for the time it takes to cook, it’s fine.

      Reply
  8. This looks really good! And I’m glad I found a recipe that included everything I already had at hand (other than scallions and fresh cilantro). I chopped up my cilantro (with stems and all) a few days ago and froze it. Would I be able to use the frozen cilantro instead of fresh cilantro? And also, have you tried using just a regular onion instead of scallions? I’m sure it looks way better with scallions though. Just wondering if I need to make a trip down to the store for these ingredients!

    Reply
  9. Just tried this tonight, it was fantastic and everybody loved it. It was so easy and cheap to make too! Thank you so much, this will definitely become a regular in our house 😀

    Reply
  10. So I really want to make this tonight – and i happen to have too many potatoes at home. Any recommendations on a specific potato dish/recipe that would go well with this?

    Reply
  11. Yes, very delicious though time consuming on the first go cause of all the elements to prep. I would also increase the cumin and salt at the start.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  12. This instantly became one of our favourite recipes. It took a lot of restraint to keep leftovers for lunch at work the next day. We’re making this for the second time but with chicken drumsticks since that’s what we have on hand, no need for the store because of the simple ingredients!

    Reply
  13. Found this on Reddit, too! First – it’s a BEAUTIFUL dish. A feast for the eyes. My mother was wow’d when we invited her over for dinner. I cooked the chicken a little too long (I wasn’t satisfied with the browning phase and my tardiness there led to the oven phase being overestimated), but everyone loved the thighs and I really look forward to doing this again – correctly – another time.

    Reply
  14. I made this recipe tonight and it was so delish! I used 6 skin-on thighs, and when I was done my pan looked almost exactly like your picture; I had it with brown rice and could have easily eaten more than half the pan, but am saving the rest for tomorrow. I suspect soaking in the juice in the fridge overnight will make it even better the second time!

    Reply
  15. I have made this about times now, and its a relatively easy and lovely dish. I watch the amount of lime and taste as I go. I may try it with pasta next – any special recommendations for that?

    Reply
  16. Hello Emily, I love your recipes soo much, especially this one. The flavour is delicious! My family is so happy, everytime if I tell them I would cook chicken with lime and cilantro. Because I live in germany, I translated this recipe to german, so my mother understood it too (she is 73 and dont speak english).
    I would like to ask, if its ok for you if I publish the translated version on a german cooking App called “chefkoch”, with a link to this web page and all credits belong to you? Would be great to bring this delicious recipe german users too…

    Reply
  17. This has become one of my favorite recipes! Thank you so much!
    The only tweak I have is to brine the chicken chops first. They end up much juicier 😀

    Reply
  18. This dish was simply amazing! I made it twice and the second time, it turned out even more amazing! The only tweaks I made was: added shallots and a little more lime juice! Thank you so so much for this recipe!

    Also, love that your ingredients list follows the order of the instructions. It makes the cooking process so much more easy!

    Reply
  19. Wow! This dish is AMAZING. Probably the best dish I’ve ever made. The flavors work perfectly together. It will definitely be a staple recipe in my household. FYI – I used chicken tenderloins instead of thighs.

    Reply
  20. Thank you for the amazing recipe.Infact this is so simple that even I could get it right.But the only problem I had was with the sauce which was not thick and more in quantity than I expected (from the pics).So if I get to know where I went wrong that would be a great help.But apart from that It was a tasty dish.

    Reply
  21. i couldn’t find organic bone in skin on chicken thighs (we only eat organic) and so i had to get skinless/boneless thighs. how should o adjust cooking time?

    Reply
  22. OMG!!!!!! These were delicious! I used boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of bone in skin on and adjusted the baking time to about 10 minutes. I accompanied them with roasted green beans. The dish was awesome!

    Reply
  23. This turned out great tasting with chicken breasts! I found I had a lot of extra sauce/liquid, but next time I’ll use more chicken. Great taste combos. My whole family loved it. Thank you!

    Reply
  24. Made it for the first time tonight. The family LOVED it!! I am actually saving the leftover sauce to cook with pasta.
    Thanks!!

    Reply
  25. This is staple in our house! I wouldn’t consider it a quick weeknight dinner but great for a lazy Sunday. I like to prep everything first as it moves quickly once you start. It’s really good! defiantly try it!

    Reply
  26. 5 stars
    I first read about this recipe on Reddit almost 5 years ago. I LOVE IT. I still make it on a regular basis. Thank you so much for sharing. My only issue was that I had to reduce the amount of liquid since I use an 8″ pan. If you are reading this review as someone about to make this for the first time DON”T do what I did and let the liquid completely cover the chicken. I just leave out some of the broth and I’m very happy with the results.

    Reply

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