Easy chicken tacos served with pineapple salsa will make any day feel like a fiesta! The healthy lean white meat is marinated in savory spices and herbs for maximum flavor.
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When it’s time for taco night, make this amazing chicken taco recipe! A quick and flavorful marinade infuses tons of flavor and juiciness into the meat. All you need are some dried seasonings from your spice cabinet, a few limes, and olive oil. That’s it! A quick 20-minute soak makes a huge taste impact and can even be made a day ahead.
It only takes 10 minutes to cook the chicken into juicy pieces. Chop it up and load the meat into your favorite tortillas. But there’s more! Every good taco requires a refreshing topping to spice things up. These tacos are topped with my sweet pineapple salsa and will surely be a hit with family and friends.
- Chicken: Use lean chicken breast to make the tacos. They cook quickly, and the neutral flavor is perfect to pair with a marinade. Boneless skinless chicken thighs can also be used if you prefer dark meat.
- Marinade: A combination of limes, honey, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, oregano, cayenne, and olive oil.
- Pineapple Salsa: A refreshing and fruity pineapple salsa makes for a colorful and tasty topping for tacos.
- Tortillas: Use flour tortillas or corn tortillas, about 6 inches in size.
Flatten the chicken
To make cooking the chicken quick and easy, cut each breast into two cutlets. Working one piece at a time, flatten them in between two pieces of plastic wrap or in a large resealable bag.
Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound them into even 1/2-inch thick pieces. This step ensures that the meat cooks evenly so that it stays juicy and tender.
Marinate the chicken
All you need is a 20-minute dip in a citrusy marinade to make the flavors of the chicken pop! A marinade can be a mixture of ingredients such as water, fat, acid, salt, sweetener, spices, and herbs. I like to use a combination of olive oil, lime juice and zest, honey or sugar, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, onion and garlic powder, pepper, oregano, and cayenne for a hint of spiciness.
Pour the marinade into the large resealable plastic bag with the flattened chicken. Coat the chicken evenly with the marinade. Press out as much air as possible and seal. You can marinate the chicken for up to 24 hours, which is perfect for meal prep!
Make the pineapple salsa
While the chicken marinates, it’s the ideal time to prepare the pineapple salsa. It’s a simple combination of diced pineapple, tomato, red onion, jalapeño, lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
You can even make it a day in advance. Pineapple is great when it’s at its peak season during the summer. However, pico de Gallo is a great substitution to enjoy anytime.
Cook the chicken
Cook on the stovetop or grill the chicken for a smokier flavor. I often cook indoors so that I can make the chicken tacos year-round or use a grill pan. Cook the chicken in hot olive oil over medium heat. Once the surface is golden brown, about 5 minutes, give it a flip and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook the chicken until it reaches 165°F (75ºC), about 3 to 5 minutes.
Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute in the meat. Now you can slice or chop the meat into smaller pieces for the tacos. Cut across the grain to ensure each bite is super tender instead of stringy and chewy.
Build the taco
To make the tortillas more pliable and flavorful, warm them in a pan over medium heat. This takes about 15 seconds per side. Evenly divided the chicken, adding them to the warm wraps. Scoop on the pineapple salsa and any other toppings.
There are endless ways to switch up the chicken recipe for your next taco night! Give these different seasonings, sauces, and toppings a try.
- If you are short on time, sprinkle on homemade taco seasoning to add instant flavor to the poultry.
- Add vegetables like tangy pickled red onions, shredded red cabbage, or iceberg lettuce.
- Top with guacamole, mango salsa, sour cream, cotija cheese, or lime wedges.
- Make slow cooker chicken tacos instead of stovetop for delicious shredded pieces.
- Homemade corn tortillas or flour tortillas
- Mexican rice
- Refried beans
- Chips and homemade salsa
- Margarita or horchata
More taco recipes
Frequently asked questions
Lean white meat chicken breast cooks quickly and easily absorbs flavors from a marinade. Be careful not to overcook the meat to prevent dried pieces. Chicken thighs are dark meat with more fat and connective tissue. It will have a stronger taste and benefits for slightly longer cooking times, and it doesn’t dry out as easily.
Marinating the chicken in salt, acid, spices, and herbs changes the protein structure, making it retain more moisture and flavor. If you have at least 20 minutes, this is a great way to enhance the taste. Alternatively, use a taco season mix instead to flavor the surface and cook right away. Cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt, and pepper are common seasonings to use.
The raw chicken can be marinated for up to 24 hours before cooking. The cooked chicken can be stored for up to 5 days and reheated before serving. If making homemade salsa, use it within one day for the freshest taste.
What are the benefits of marinating chicken?
Marinating chicken can help infuse flavor and increase juiciness. The water-soluble compounds like salt, water, garlic, and onion flavors enter the meat, while insoluble compounds like spices, oil, and herbs stay on the surface. The oil helps to dissolve the seasoning and allows it to stick to the surface when cooking. The acid from the lime juice weakens the muscle tissue on the surface to help tenderize. However, if left too long, the meat can become mushy, so keep to the recommended time.
Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
- 2 tablespoons lime juice, plus zest of 1 lime
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ¾ teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper powder, optional
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 8 tortillas, flour or corn, 6-inch
- 1 cup diced pineapple, ¼" dice
- 1 cup diced tomato, ¼" dice
- ¼ cup diced red onion, ¼" dice
- 1 teaspoon minced jalapeño
- 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus zest of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- Flatten the Chicken – Cut each piece horizontally lengthwise to make two thinner cutlets, four total. Place one of the pieces between two plastic sheets or a large plastic bag and flatten them with a meat tenderizer to an even ½-inch thickness. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Transfer the chicken to a large resealable plastic bag.
- Make the Marinade – In a small bowl, whisk together the lime zest, lime juice, honey, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, oregano, cayenne (if using), and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
- Marinate the Chicken – Pour the marinade into the large resealable plastic bag with the chicken. Coat evenly with the marinade. Press out as much air as possible and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for 20 to 60 minutes or up to 24 hours.
- Make the Pineapple Salsa – In a medium bowl, combine the pineapple, tomato, red onion, jalapeño, lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Cook the Chicken – Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once it begins to shimmer, add the chicken. Cook until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Flip, then lower the heat to medium-low. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (75ºC) on a meat thermometer, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Rest and Cut – Rest the chicken on a cutting board for 5 to 10 minutes. Dice into about ½-inch pieces. Alternatively, slice against the grain or shred.
- Warm the Tortillas – Heat a pan over medium heat. Toast the tortillas on each side until warm and lightly browned, about 10 to 15 seconds per side.
- To Serve – Fill tortillas with chicken, salsa, and any additional toppings. Serve with lime wedges if desired.
- Grilling the Chicken: Grill over medium heat, cooking for 5 to 6 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165°F (75ºC).
- Toppings: Sour cream, cilantro, cotija cheese, avocado, guacamole, or lime wedges.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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