Grilled Chicken Tacos
Grilled Chicken Tacos are one of my family’s very favorite meals! These are super simple to make and the end result is always sure to impress! In this recipe, warm tortillas are filled with Mexican spiced chicken, corn cabbage slaw, a creamy taco sauce, avocado slices and a squeeze of fresh lime. It’s a crowd-pleasing dinner that’s quick, easy, and packed with flavor!
Summer isn’t complete without a night of grilled chicken tacos! The great thing about this recipe, though, is that it can be made year round. I’ve included instructions for grilling, baking or cooking the chicken on the stovetop.
Use the method of cooking that works best for you. Or try all three and pick your favorite (my personal favorite is grilled).
Yum! We loved these! It really was the perfect summer meal!— Tammy
Tacos are always a hit, whether it’s steak tacos, flavorful turkey tacos, or these easy, yet totally satisfying easy chicken tacos. They are seriously so good! I’ve been using this recipe for years and it’s just a foolproof, all around delicious dish.
These are made with seasoned chicken breast (or you could use chicken thighs) grilled to perfection, then layered with a corn cabbage slaw, a drizzle of creamy taco sauce, and topped with avocado slices and a squeeze of lime. Major taco perfection!
Ingredients and substitutions
This grilled chicken taco recipe and the marinade for the chicken require simple ingredients. Many of them are spices and other kitchen staples that you may already have on hand. Here’s everything you need:
- Chicken. We typically use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. However, chicken thighs work great too! Boneless skinless chicken thighs char the best and tend to stay more tender and juicy.
- Olive oil. Avocado oil or vegetable oil will work too.
- Limes. If you are in a pinch, lemons may be substituted.
- Salt. For the marinade, I use 1/2 teaspoon. You can always add more (to taste) to the finished product.
- Paprika. We love the rich, smoky flavor of smoked paprika, but standard paprika is fine too.
- Ground cumin. Ground cumin is a classic Mexican spice and there really is no substitute!
- Garlic. We typically keep things simple and use garlic powder, but fresh garlic has great flavor. You can substitute the garlic powder with 3 cloves (peeled & smashed) fresh garlic.
- Chili lime seasoning or chili powder. We love the chili lime seasoning from Trader Joe’s and use it often. I’ve even seen other grocers carrying similar spices, but if chili powder is what you have on hand, it will work just fine.
- For the slaw. Gotta have a fresh, crunchy topping! The homemade slaw is a tasty mix of Greek yogurt or mayo, lime juice, honey, fresh cilantro, cabbage (red or green), corn and jalapeño.
- For the sauce. This savory, creamy sauce is made with sour cream or Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, lime juice and spices.
We are obsessed with the slaw and sauce in this recipe and I definitely recommend you take the extra time to whip them both up! It’s the same slaw and sauce recipe from my delicious fish tacos. Other topping ideas include:
- Diced tomatoes
- Salsa, hot sauce or pico de gallo
- Shredded lettuce or cabbage
- Mexican cheese such as queso fresco, cotija or Monterey jack cheese
- Mexican crema or sour cream
- Grilled corn
- Sliced jalapeño
- Sautéed bell peppers and onions
How to make this recipe
- Marinate the chicken. Start this recipe by combining chicken with olive oil, lime juice, and all of the seasonings in a large zip-top baggie to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Make the slaw. While the chicken is marinating, mix together the slaw. In a large bowl, stir together mayo, lime juice, cilantro, and honey. Add in cabbage, corn, and jalapeño. Toss to coat. Season with a dash of salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Make the creamy sauce. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream (or Greek yogurt), mayonnaise, lime, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. This is also a good time to prep any other toppings you might be using.
For cooking the chicken there are four different methods you can choose from. My favorite way to cook the chicken for tacos is grilling. It’s quick and I like the way the outside gets slightly charred and super flavorful. All of these cooking methods work really well though!
- Broiler: Set oven to high broil. Position chicken on baking pan sprayed with cooking spray. Broil it for about 5-6 minutes on the first side and then remove from the oven and flip. Broil another 5 minutes. If your pieces are thicker, they will take a little longer. Thickest part of the chicken should register 165ºF when cooked completely.
- Bake: Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place chicken in baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through and no longer pink in the center. See this post for my favorite baked chicken method.
- Pan: Heat a bit of oil in a large non-stick skillet or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add chicken in a flat layer without overcrowding. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes without moving it around. Flip and continue to cook for about 7 more minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165ºF.
- Grill: Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Grill the chicken for about 5-6 minutes before turning and cooking on the other side for another 5-6 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the thickest center registers 165ºF.
Transfer chicken to a plate, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. This allows the chicken time to become super juicy. If you cut the chicken immediately after being cooked, all of the juices will run out.
To serve, dice into cubes, slice into strips or shred chicken. Add it over warm tortillas and top with slaw, avocado slices (or guacamole) and any other favorite taco toppings. Squeeze lime juice on top and drizzle on the sauce. Serve with chips, salsa, and margaritas and you’re good to go!
- Marinating time. The chicken is best when it has time to marinate for 1 hour or longer, but if you’re short on time, marinate chicken for at least 15 minutes. You can keep your chicken in the marinade for up to 24 hours.
- Cooking time. Keep in mind that with all of the cooking methods, mentioned, cooking time will always depend on the thickness of the chicken and may vary slightly. According to the USDA, chicken should be cooked just to 165 degrees in the center. We recommend purchasing a meat thermometer, so you can be sure any meat you’re cooking is safe to eat.
- Time saver. For quicker prep time, buy pre-shedded cabbage. You can also use 1 tablespoon store-bought or homemade taco seasoning instead of the individual spices.
- Storing leftovers. Store any leftovers (slaw, sauce, chicken) in separate airtight containers. The cooked chicken will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freezing. You can freeze the chicken for later use. Either freeze the raw chicken in a bag of marinade, then thaw and cook, or freeze the cooked chicken in an airtight bag for up to 3 months.
Frequently asked questions
According to Healthline, chicken tacos can be very healthy, but it all depends on the ingredients. Chicken is high in protein and lower in fat than red meat. To keep these low in calories, just don’t go crazy with the toppings. For this recipe, 2 tacos topped with slaw and sauce is under 500 calories and has over 40 grams of protein and only 14 grams of carbs. See nutrition in the recipe card for more information.
This recipe makes 8 tacos and enough to feed about 4 people. However, take into account that some people eat more and some eat less. It also depends on how many appetizers and sides you will be serving with the main dish.
- Tortillas. Use your favorite type of wrap or tortilla. Flour, corn or wheat tortillas all make great choices. We even love to use hard taco shells sometimes. Use gluten-free tortillas, as needed.
- Cheese. Because this recipe includes the slaw and sauce, we don’t typically add cheese. If you want to add cheese, though, go for it! A Mexican cheese blend or cotija cheese would be tasty options.
- Spicy. If you prefer your tacos with a kick, add some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne red pepper to the marinade.
- Toppings. Feel free to leave off the slaw and sauce and use this chicken to make more of a traditional taco with any favorite toppings.
- Slow cooker. Looking to cook your chicken in a crock pot, see this crockpot salsa chicken recipe.
- Other options. Change up the serving style and use the ingredients to make nachos or taco salads.
I know you’re going to LOVE these tacos because they’re SO delicious! The perfectly seasoned grilled chicken pairs wonderfully with the cool cabbage and creamy sauce. This meal makes the perfect weeknight dinner when you don’t have much time to cook. The chicken cooks up super quick and the sauce and slaw can easily be made ahead of time.
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves these tacos as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.
Grilled Chicken Tacos
For the chicken and marinade:
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chili lime seasoning or chili powder
For the slaw:
- 1/4 cup mayo or Greek yogurt
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 cups shredded purple cabbage or a combination of green and purple
- 1 cup canned or frozen corn, if canned, drained and if frozen, thawed
- 1 jalapeño, minced
For the sauce:
- 1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons mayo
- Juice from 1/2 lime
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional for extra spice
- salt, as needed to taste
- corn tortillas, flour tortillas, diced or sliced avocado or guacamole, fresh cilantro, lime wedges
- If your chicken breast is thick, I recommend cutting in half, horizontally. Do not pound it thin, as it will not have the right consistency for tacos. Combine chicken with olive oil, lime juice, salt, paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, chili lime seasoning in a large zip-top baggie to marinate for at least an hour.
- Meanwhile, mix up the slaw and sauce. To make the slaw: In a large bowl, stir together mayo, lime juice, cilantro, and honey. Add in cabbage, corn, and jalapeño. Toss to coat. Season with a dash of salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Make the sauce: Combine all taco sauce ingredients in a small bowl, stir well, and set aside.
- To cook the chicken: Preheat a grill over medium-high heat (it should come to 425 – 450 degrees). Remove chicken from marinade and grill until chicken has cooked through, turning once halfway through grilling, about 5 – 6 minutes per side (thickest center should register 165ºF and they should have grill marks).
- Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and let rest 5 minutes.
- Dice grilled chicken into cubes or slice into strips. Add chicken over warm tortillas and top with slaw, sauce and any other favorite taco toppings and a squeeze of fresh lime juice over the top.