Like many recipes done on the grill, these chicken fajitas are simple, inexpensive, and remarkably good.
The Secret to Great Grilled Chicken Fajitas is This Simple Marinade
This is a step you don’t want to skip if you want these to turn out amazing. I think I got the idea of an orange juice marinade from a Bobby Flay cookbook years ago. Since then I’ve stripped out a lot of the ingredients and found four that I think are magic: OJ, jalapenos, onion, and salt.
You could add other things to the marinade, such as garlic, lime juice, cilantro, oil, etc. But what I’ve found is that the OJ give this all the acid and sweetness it needs. The jalapenos add the herbaceous notes without overwhelming the chicken with heat. The onion gives some snap. The salt, of course, allows the other ingredients to permeate the meat.
I seriously dislike cleaning full-size blenders and food processors. So, in order to minimize cleanup, I take these items and blend them in a non-reactive mixing bowl (glass, stainless, or non-reactive plastic) using an immersion blender and then add the chicken. This creates a light green pulpy and frankly magical mixture that I use for both chicken and beef fajitas. Marinate these in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight gets the best results).
Thighs Are My Friend in Grilled Chicken Fajitas
Chicken thighs are the juiciest, tastiest, and among the least expensive of the chicken parts. However, you could use chicken breast for this dish, too. I find that the taste of the thighs combined with their cooked texture makes them ideal. The turn out tender and juicy and slice easily.
This Veggie Hack Will Save You Time in Prep
Traditionally you could buy several red, yellow, and orange “bell” peppers and then half them, cut out the pith and seeds, then grill the halves and slice lengthwise after cooking. I find all this a bit fiddly and found that if I buy a bag of the sweet mini peppers I can simply cut their tops off, which gets rid of the pith and the seeds quickly. They’re still large enough to not fall through the grill grates and they often are not as expensive as their other, larger cousins.
If you want to grill a few jalapenos, then cut off the tops, half lengthwise and remove the pith and seeds with the tip of your knife.You can Once you’ve prepped the peppers you can simply use half a peeled onion and you’re ready to go grilling!
Grilling Your Grilled Fajitas
I like to heat up the grill about 10 minutes on high or medium high to burn off any residual stuff left on the grates. Then I clean the grates with a grill brush.
Before I add the chicken, I turn down the burners to medium then spray olive oil on the grates. Spray the oil from about 6-10 inches away and don’t hold your hand directly over the grates – you may get some flames, but they’ll die down quickly.
I use tongs and grab a chicken thigh directly out of the marinade, shake off the excess and place it on the oiled grates. You’ll see some marinade in some of the crevices of chicken meat, which is a good thing. Once I get all the chicken on the grill, I set a timer for 4 minutes then add the veggies to any remaining space.
Once my first 4-minute timer goes off, I flip all the chicken and set another 4-minute timer and then flip the veggies. After this 4 minutes is up I flip the all the chicken again, then remove the veggies to a clean platter. By this time the veggies should be hot and have some good grill marks but should not be totally mushy.
During the third 4-minute timer also play attention to the chicken. It’s usually during this time that any fat that has not been trimmed from the pieces starts to ignite and create flare-ups. If you see a flare, use the tongs to carefully move the chicken piece that’s causing the issue to a different part of the grill. You can also turn the grill down a bit.
‘ve found that most of the thighs are done after 12 minutes on the grill ( 4 mins + 4 mins + 4mins). However, if you want to be extra certain, turn the larger pieces one more time for 2-3 minutes just to be certain. Or, if you’re really concerned, probe the meat with a meat thermometer and check that it’s 165 degrees.
You could certainly cook the chicken thighs in a pan on the stove or in the oven, but I get the best results on the grill. If you do decide to use a pan, dry off the chicken first with paper towels so they don’t simply boil in their own juices.
Create Your Grilled Fajita Spread
Once the cooking is done, let the chicken rest a few minutes and slice all your veggies in 1/2-inch slices and return to the platter. I like to use red and yellow sweet peppers because your guests can easily tell the difference between them and the green grilled jalapenos, which I keep separate on the platter.
After you slice the veggies, do the same for the chicken. Be sure to taste it while you do this so you make sure to get your fair share of these morsels of deliciousness.
Finally, I like to put out flour tortillas, lime wedges, sour cream, sliced avocado, salsa, hot sauces, and cheese. You also could add a bowl of chopped lettuce for people who who would rather make a fajita salad.
Trust me when I say these are something most people love to eat and they will be amazed at the taste of the chicken! Good luck!
Grilled Chicken Fajitas
- Large glass bowl for Marinating Chicken
- Gas or Charcoal Grill
- Blender, Food Processor or Immersion Blender
- Tongs for grill
- Large platters for serving
Marinade for the Chicken
- 4 cups Orange Juice
- 3 Jalapenos, cut into ½ inch chunks
- ½ Onion - remove skin and ½ inch dice Yellow, white, sweet, whatever your preference.
- 3 tbsp Salt
For the Grill
- 12-15 Small Red, Yellow, Orange Peppers Cut off top ¼ inch, including stem - you should get rid of most of the seeds this way, too.
- 4 lbs Chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, fat trimmed off, marinated for at least 4 hours Leaving on too much fat will cause flare-ups in grill
- ½ Onion, skin removed
- 3 Large jalapenos, tops removed, cut into ½ inch strips lengthwise If you like some extra spice (I do!)
- 2 tbsp olive oil (I use an olive oil spray) To oil the grill grates
Toppings and Extras to Your Taste
- Flour tortillas
- Lettuce Sometimes I skip the tortillas and make a fajita salad!
- Sour Cream
- Hot sauce The hotter the better!
- Shredded cheese
Prepare Marinade and Marinate the Chicken Thighs
- Add orange juice, jalapeno chunks, onion chunks, and salt into blender, food processor, or large mixing bowl.
- Blend mixture or use immersion blender and blend until big chunks are gone and you have a lot of pulp in the orange juice.
- Add chicken to large glass or stainless steel mixing bowl and pour marinade over chicken then stir so marinade is distributed throughout.
- Cover and put bowl in refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours or overnight if possible.
- Heat grill to medium high
- Cut tops off of small peppers about ¼ inch from the top. This will leave the peppers whole without tops but remove most of the seeds. Doing this keeps the peppers from falling into the grill.
- Remove skin from onion but leave the half intact.
- Cut off tops from jalapenos and then cut them in half. Using tip of knife, carefully cut out pith and seeds.
- Put all the veggies on a platter to make it easier to take to the grill.
Grill the Chicken Fajitas
- Once grill has heated for about 5-10 minutes, clean the grates and turn the heat down to half or raise the grate on a charcoal grill and push some of the coals to one side so you can control the cooking a little easier.
- Remove marinating chicken from refrigerator and take over to the grill
- Oil the grill gates by spraying with olive oil or by soaking a paper towel in the oil and running it on the grates with tongs.
- Immediately remove chicken thighs from marinade, shake off excess marinade and add to the grill grate.
- Add all the veggies to the remaining grill grate space (you may need to reduce the heat a little).
- Cook chicken about 12 minutes or until done (internal temp should be 165°), turning every 4 minutes. Watch for flare-ups and fires and move chicken out of any fires. The sugar from the marinade can blacken quickly.
- Cook veggies about 8 minutes, turning once. Skin should have grill marks but should not be completely black. I like my veggies to have a little "tooth" to them and not be too floppy.
- Once done, remove all grilled items and return to clean platters.
- While chicken is resting slice veggies lengthwise into ½ inch strips
- Serve with your favorite tortillas and toppings, including sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado slices, salsa, etc.
- I like to set this up like a buffet so people can just grab what they want and make these to their taste.
- Slice the chicken thighs into ½ inch stips (this is the perfect time to sample some of this delicious chicken!)