This marinated chicken is so easy and flavorful, it’s the perfect chicken for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more! This recipe can be prepared in bulk and frozen for super easy meals that don’t sacrifice flavor. I like to make this recipe using boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but you could substitute breasts if desired. I’m usually one to choose chicken breasts over thighs, but for this kind of taco filling, I love the juiciness and meatier texture of the thighs.
My recommendation for cooking this chicken is to use a grill or smoker, but it can also be cooked low and slow in the oven, which achieves a similar texture to smoked chicken, but without the added smoky flavor.
If you want to meal-prep this chicken for the freezer, you have two options. Either freezing the raw chicken in the marinade and cooking it after, or cooking the chicken and freezing cooked meat that’s ready to use. Cooking the meat just before eating it will be a little higher quality, but the convenience of the pre-cooked meat makes throwing together a meal a snap. Both options are a great way to save time in the kitchen! Note, this is the same marinade as my Tri-Tip Street Tacos, so it’s easy to prep both at once!
My recipe for Cheesy Chicken Street Tacos using this chicken is now live, check it out!
Key Tips – Marinated Chicken for Tacos & More
Prepare in bulk and freeze for later!
- My favorite way to prepare this meal is prepping the meat in bulk in my smoker! Cooking low and slow in the smoker results in super tender and juicy meat. A similar result can be achieved by cooking low and slow in the oven, just without the added smoky flavor. Grilling is another great option for these thighs!
- The meat can also be frozen raw in the marinade, then cooked after defrosting. I recommend placing the chicken in the freezer just after it’s packaged in the marinade. To prepare from frozen, just thaw the package and store in the refrigerator at least 6 hours before cooking, to give the meat time to marinate.
- To reheat precooked chicken, defrost it then warm it in a pan over medium heat, mixing occasionally, until warmed through. Add a splash of water or oil if the chicken seems too dry as it’s reheating.
Use in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more!
- This is great chicken to use in many classic Mexican dishes. My favorite way to use it is in cheesy chicken street tacos, which I’ll be posting a full recipe for soon!
- Some other ideas for using this chicken are burritos, quesadillas, flautas, crunch wraps, tostadas, and loaded nachos.
Save the marinade and brush on more as the chicken cooks.
- To get the most flavor out of the marinade, save what’s left over in the container and brush it onto the chicken as it cooks! Just make sure you don’t do this right at the end, so the marinade has enough time to reach a food-safe temperature before you remove it from heat.
- Do NOT toss the chicken in excess marinade after cooking, unless you set the marinade aside before it came into contact with raw chicken.
Freeze after vacuum sealing for best results.
- A vacuum sealer is definitely a bit of an investment, but if you plan on frequently meal prepping meats in the freezer, it’s a tool you will quickly fall in love with. Vacuum sealing keeps the meat super fresh in the freezer and prevents freezer burn completely.
- I recommend this vacuum sealer, which is one of the cheaper options among the name brands. I also love these vacuum bags!
Dietary Restrictions – Marinated Chicken for Tacos & More
This dish is naturally Dairy-Free.
This dish is naturally Gluten-Free.
A Note On Serving Sizes
Serving sizes are a very personal thing, making it very difficult for me to select a serving size that suits everyone. One pound of raw boneless, skinless chicken thigh results in about 12 oz of cooked meat. I’ve listed one serving as 3 oz of cooked chicken, but many people may prefer to have more than one serving per meal.
Marinated Chicken for Tacos & More
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or sub chicken breasts
- Combine all ingredients of the marinade and mix. Trim excess fat from the chicken thighs and place in a zip bag or airtight container with the marinade. Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours before cooking, I typically marinate mine overnight.
To smoke or bake:
- Preheat a smoker or oven to 250 °F. If using an oven, place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil (if available, if not just a rimmed baking sheet will do). If using a smoker, place directly on the grill grates. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, and the internal temp reaches 165 °F, about 1 to 2 hours. If desired, brush on excess marinade mixture partway through. [If substituting chicken breasts, cook times may be longer]
- Preheat your grill to ~350 °F. Grill, flipping once, until the chicken is cooked through and the internal temp reaches 165 °F, about 10-15 minutes. If desired, brush on excess marinade after flipping. [If substituting chicken breasts, cook times may be longer]
- Let the chicken rest for a few minutes, then slice it into small pieces. Use in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or as desired. See my recipe for Cheesy Chicken Street Tacos for one idea on how to use this chicken!
To prepare in bulk for freezer:
- To freeze before cooking: Place the chicken and the marinade mixture in a zip bag or vacuum bag and seal with as little air as possible. Place in the freezer before allowing any time to marinate.
- To freeze after cooking: Let the chicken cool completely after slicing into small pieces. Place in a zip bag or vacuum bag and seal with as little air as possible, then put in the freezer.
To prepare from frozen – uncooked:
- Defrost the chicken at least 6 hours before you plan to cook it, giving it time to marinate. I suggest moving from the freezer to fridge the night before you plan to cook it. Follow the rest of the instructions as written.
To prepare from frozen – precooked:
- Defrost the cooked chicken, then warm in a pan over medium heat, mixing occasionally, until warmed through. Add a splash of water or oil if the chicken seems too dry as it's reheating.
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