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Grilled chili lime chicken thighs shown on a white speckled plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken is garnished with fresh cilantro leaves, sliced jalapeño, & ground black pepper.

5-Minute Zesty Chili Lime Marinade

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  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: ¾ cup 1x
  • Category: Sauces & Condiments
  • Method: No-Cook, Grilling & Smoking
  • Cuisine: Mexican & Tex-Mex
  • Diet: Vegan


This Chili Lime Marinade adds bright, zesty, & spiced flavor to everything it touches! Made with just 8 pantry ingredients in 5 minutes or less. Simply mix it up and marinate your favorite proteins, veggies or fruits –  from epic steak fajitas to grilled chicken, pork, seafood, and more.

A go-to Mexican-inspired marinade you’ll come back to time & time again!


  • 2 pounds meat or veggies of choice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)
  • 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Mix the chili lime marinade: Add the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, agave, ancho chile powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano, kosher salt and ground black pepper to a medium bowl or jar. Whisk or shake to combine. Set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.Chili Lime marinade shown in a small ball jar, sitting atop a light blue surface with lime wedges, lime zest, & ground black pepper on the surface in the foreground & in the background.
  2. Marinate: Pour the chili lime marinade over your meat or veggies of choice. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.Chicken thighs in a large glass mixing bowl, marinating in Chili Lime marinade. The bowl sits atop a light blue surface.
  3. Grill as desired. Enjoy!

Grilled chili lime chicken thighs shown on a white speckled plate atop a light blue surface. The chicken is garnished with fresh cilantro leaves, sliced jalapeño, & ground black pepper.


  • Suggested marinade time: After testing this chili lime marinade with a variety of different marinade times, we found a 6-hour marinade period to be ideal. The flavor of the marinade really sinks into the meat without affecting its texture. Because of the amount of lime juice used in this marinade, I do not recommend marinating longer than 8 hours.
  • Jess’ Notes and Tips:
    • Ancho chiles are dried poblano peppers with nice mild-medium heat and great flavor. Ancho chili/chile powder is just that – a powder of finely ground ancho chile peppers. I love Simply Organic Ancho Chili Powder, which is certified organic and has wonderful flavor – I keep it stocked in my spice rack at all times, as it’s great for adding extra flavor and mild heat to Mexican-inspired dishes. If you do not have ancho chile powder on hand, you can substitute with “chili powder” for this particular recipe. Standard “chili powder” here in the U.S. is most often a blend of ground chiles and spices like oregano, cumin, and garlic – so it’s not a perfect substitute for pure chile powders all the time, but all of these flavors work well in this chicken fajitas recipe.
    • 10-Minute Meal Prep: If you’d like to marinate something later in the week, I suggest making the marinade in advance, whenever you’re meal prepping for the week. Store it in a jar or an airtight container for up to 5 days – the flavors meld together even more as the marinade sits. At least 6 hours before you’re ready to hit the grill, simply pour the marinade over whatever meat or veggies you’re using it on – easy peasy!