Chicken fajitas top our list of back-pocket recipes. They’re quick and easy and made with ingredients we almost always have on hand. They’re also super flexible: if we’re missing a pepper, we can swap in a zucchini or some corn. Our kids love them. In fact, everybody does — they have that kind of deeply satisfying and comforting Tex-Mex vibe we all crave at times.
The secret to this recipe is a marinade made with cumin, adobo sauce, garlic, and loads of lime. The chicken spends a half an hour in it — or a whole night, if you’re planning ahead — before it goes on the grill. The yellow onions and bell peppers get a similar treatment: they’re charred in a hot skillet with slivers of jalapeño, cumin, and garlic, and then drizzled with the spicy, bright marinade to finish. Charring makes the veggies so soft and sweet. They’re the perfect companion for the crispy chicken and its smoky chipotle chile and lime notes.
The best and easiest way to eat chicken fajitas is to wrap them in a warm corn tortilla with salsa fresca and crumbles of salty queso fresco. That said, if there are leftovers, we’ll sometimes toss them on a rice bowl with black beans, guacamole, and cheese. They’re also terrific chopped up in a salad — think romaine, queso fresco, and a creamy chipotle dressing. Chips crumbled over top? Of course!
Our tip: You’ll open a whole can of chipotle peppers to make this recipe. If you don’t have an immediate use for the leftovers, you can tuck them in the freezer until you do.
Ingredients for the Chicken Fajita:
2 tsp lime zest (1 lime)
¼ cup lime juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tsp ground cumin, divided
2 Tbsp adobo sauce (from canned chipotles in adobo)
1 chipotle chile in adobo, seeded and minced (optional)
¼ cup, plus 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 large cloves garlic, minced, divided
1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
Black pepper, to taste
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced ¼-inch thick
2 bell peppers (any mix of red, orange, or yellow), seeded and sliced ¼-inch thick
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced ¼-inch thick
1 jalapeño, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped, divided
8 corn tortillas
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
Salsa fresca and queso fresco, for serving
How to Make Chicken Fajitas:
To make the marinade: In a small bowl, combine the lime zest and juice, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon of the ground cumin, adobo sauce, minced chipotle chile, ¼ cup of the olive oil, and half of the garlic. Mix well. In a small bowl, reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade for later use.
In a large bowl, season the chicken with salt and pepper, and then pour the marinade over it, coating the chicken well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the chicken for 30 minutes (or up to 12 hours). Flip the chicken from time to time to redistribute the marinade.
Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high.
Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and place them on the grill rack until lightly charred and almost cooked through, about 20 minutes. Flip the breasts over and cook the second sides until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 160º to 165º, about 10 more minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cover with foil. Let the chicken sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then slice it into ½- to ¾-inch thick strips, cutting across the grain.
Meanwhile, heat a large, cast-iron skillet on the grill and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring, until they soften and begin to color, 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in the bell peppers and jalapeños and cook, stirring, until the peppers begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.
Move the skillet to indirect heat, add the remaining garlic and cumin, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until the peppers are nicely charred, softened, and beginning to caramelize, 5 to 8 minutes.
Pour in the reserved 2 tablespoons of marinade and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it. Add half of the cilantro, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the salt if necessary. Remove the skillet from the heat but keep it warm.
Wrap the corn tortillas in foil and warm them in a low-heat oven.
Serve the chicken and veggies buffet style — from the cutting board and skillet — with the warm tortillas, remaining cilantro, salsa fresca, and crumbled queso fresco.
Recipe adapted from: New York Times Cooking