Arbol chili powder and lime juice add zing to chicken tacos. This fruity pico de gallo makes a bright, citrusy accompaniment. Ready in 30 minutes!
This recipe was first published on July 17, 2018 and last updated October 31, 2022.
This chicken taco recipe hits the spot when you are in the mood for something fresh and healthy, not to mention quick and easy to throw together. The chicken taco meat gets a kick from homemade taco seasoning made with spicy arbol chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin.
And what about that gorgeous pico de gallo? It is absolutely the perfect accompaniment for these spicy tacos. The best part is you can use whatever type of firm, ripe, fruit is in season. I’ve made it with peaches and mangos but nectarines, plums, cherries, even persimmons would be good. The salsa adds a counterbalance of sweetness that makes these tacos complete. This is the weeknight dinner you’ve been searching for.
WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE CHILI LIME CHICKEN TACOS
Because they’re GOOD that’s why. And also because they make taco night infinitely better.
The chicken in these tacos is coated in lime juice and a spice mix that you can pretty much put on anything and it works. Stick this taco seasoning recipe in a corner of your brain for when you grill fish, roast potatoes, make those American-style ground beef tacos we all love.
It is 5 simple ingredients but together they make just about anything taste significantly better. If you can’t find ground arbol chili powder, or it’s just too spicy for you, you can substitute any chili powder you’d like.
Ingredients To Make These Chicken Tacos
- Ground cumin
- Smoked paprika
- Black pepper
- Kosher salt
- Arbol chili powder or cayenne pepper
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts
- Vegetable oil or olive oil
- Corn tortillas or flour tortillas
- Ripe, firm fruit like peaches, mangoes, nectarines, or plums
- Serrano chile
- Fresh cilantro
How To Make It (Step-by-Step Instructions)
Make pico de gallo. Chop fruit, serrano chile, cilantro, and scallions into very small dice. Add everything to a bowl. Season with salt and squeeze a half of a lime over the top. Stir to combine. Taste and add more salt or lime juice if needed. Set aside.
Make taco seasoning. Combine the cumin, paprika, pepper, salt, and chili powder in a small bowl.
Season chicken. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, removing any extra fat or gristle. Place chicken in a large bowl, squeeze lime juice over it. Add spice mixture and toss to coat chicken.
Cook chicken. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil. Once oil is shimmering add the chicken and all the lime juice and spread chicken into an even layer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and created a glistening sauce and the chicken is tender, about 10-12 minutes.
Serve. Warm the tortillas then spoon chicken into the tortillas and serve with the pico de gallo. Store any leftovers in and airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
What To Serve With Them
Chicken Taco FAQ’s
Can I grill the chicken instead?
I like to chop up the boneless, skinless chicken thighs and brown them in a frying pan but they are also good grilled. If you’d like to grill them instead, marinate the thighs whole, grill them, then transfer the chicken to a cutting board and chop into small pieces before serving. Or shred chicken with two forks to make shredded chicken tacos.
Do I really need to make the pico de gallo?
Short answer, yes! The sweet, juiciness of the salsa is the perfect counterpoint to tart lime juice, and kicky spice of the tacos. Add a sprinkle of salt and basically all flavor notes are accounted for. The pico de gallo is great on its own but together with the chicken is just dreamy. I’ve also added the pico de gallo straight to the pan and let it cook with the chicken but I liked it better fresh on top as a chicken taco topping instead.
Can I make it in the Instant Pot?
Sure! To cook the chicken in the instant pot, combine the chopped chicken, lime juice, and spices in the instant pot. Seal and cook on high pressure for 8 minutes. Allow for natural pressure release for 5-10 minutes at least. Then serve with pico de gallo!
Favorite Taco Toppings
- Sour cream
- Minced white or red onions
- Diced ripe tomatoes
- Sliced avocado
- Shredded lettuce
Other Ways To Use This Zesty, Spicy Chicken
Of course this tender chicken makes unbelievable tacos but it is perfect for adding a phenomenal boost of tasty protein to other things too.
The chicken and pico de gallo also make an excellent topping for nachos. Add the pico after it comes out of the oven.
Swap the seasoned ground turkey with the chili-lime chicken in our healthy taco salad recipe.
More Taco Recipes You’ll Love
- Grilled Fish Tacos with Sweet Corn Salsa (another place to use the homemade taco seasoning)
- Skillet Charred Shrimp Taco Recipe (these are next-level good)
- Summer Squash Vegetarian Tacos (plant-based perfection)
- Tacos Al Pastor (why are these so delicious?!)
- Slow Cooker Beef Tacos (hearty and satisfying)
- Short Rib Tacos (also easily made in the slow cooker)
- Ground Pork Tacos (with poblano peppers and walnut sauce)
It’s About To Be Taco Tuesday
No matter what day of the week it is! I know you will love these tangy chicken tacos as much as we do. Give it a try and let me know when you do by snapping a pic and tagging me on Instagram @holajalapeno and #holajalapeno so I can see or leave me a comment below (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating) ! Also, sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!
For the Tacos:
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground arbol chili powder
- 2 limes
- 1 1/2-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cubed
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 12-14 warm corn tortillas
For the Fruity Pico de Gallo:
For the Tacos:
- Combine taco seasoning by mixing the cumin, smoked paprika, pepper, salt, and chili powder in a small bowl.
- In a large bowl, squeeze limes over chicken and then add spices and toss to thoroughly coat.
- Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once shimmering add chicken and all the lime juice and cook until the liquid has evaporated into a glistening sauce that coats the chicken, about 10-12 minutes.
For the Pico de Gallo:
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Season with salt and taste. Add more lime juice or salt to taste.
- Fill warm tortillas with chicken and top with pico. Enjoy!
To Grill the Chicken, leave the thighs whole, do not cut them. Marinate them in the lime juice and spices and grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Let rest 5-10 minutes, then cut into bite-sized pieces and serve.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 513Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 202mgSodium: 200mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 3gSugar: 17gProtein: 67g
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