20-Minute Baked Cilantro Lime Chicken Breasts – Super juicy, EASY, tender chicken that’s ready in 20 minutes and made on ONE sheet pan! Bursting with robust Mexican-inspired lime cilantro flavors that will make this an automatic family FAVORITE!
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Baked Lime and Cilantro Chicken Recipe
I have many recipes for lime cilantro chicken, including this Grilled Lime Cilantro Chicken. I was running short on time when I made this and didn’t have time to marinate chicken to grill it so decided to make this baked version of lime cilantro chicken.
It’s a spinoff of my recent Perfect 20-Minute Baked Chicken Breasts recipe, which you all went crazy for, so I decided to take that idea and run with it and created this Mexican-inspired flavor profile.
The lime cilantro flavor really shines through along with plenty of chile powder and cumin for extra depth of flavor.
The chicken is tender, juicy, moist, easy, ready in a half hour from start to finish, and best of all, made on one sheet pan. Cleanup is as easy as tossing away a sheet of foil.
What’s in Cilantro Lime Chicken Breasts?
For the baked chicken and homemade spice rub, you only need a few common ingredients:
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Olive oil
- Brown sugar
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne pepper, optional but recommended
- Lime juice
- Fresh cilantro
How to Make Baked Cilantro Lime Chicken Breasts
Simply add the chicken breasts to a baking sheet and pound them to a uniform thickness.
The reason for pounding is that chicken breasts are thicker in the middle and thinner on the edges and if you don’t pound them, the edges will become dry and can burn before the center is cooked through. Additionally, the pounding helps to tenderize the protein.
Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, seasonly generously with salt and pepper, and then add a dry rub to both sides.
After baking the chicken, squeeze plenty of fresh lime juice over it and garnish with cilantro, the more the merrier for me.
I strongly recommend you let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes. It seals in the juices. Nothing worse that slicing into a nicely cooked steak and watching the juice run everywhere and the same principle carries over here.
Cover it with a sheet of foil if you want to keep it warmer.
How to Pound Chicken to an Even Thinness
My go-to is an empty wine or champagne bottle from the night before. No shame in admitting that. You’re not pounding the living daylights out of it, so don’t worry about breaking the bottle. Plus, the bottle then goes straight in the recycling so it’s one less thing I need to bother washing. Easy and least possible amount of dishes is my mentality.
However, if you’re concerned about using a glass bottle, a rolling pin, a meat tenderizing tool, or a heavy skillet will all suffice.
You don’t need to pound it overly thin, just make sure it’s of uniform thickness.
Tips for Making Baked Lime and Cilantro Chicken
This cilantro lime chicken recipe makes 3 pounds of chicken. Yes, that’s quite a bit but it’s great to keep this leftover chicken in your fridge to throw over salads in the upcoming days.
It freezes great too, but if you don’t need that much, you can halve the recipe.
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20-Minute Baked Lime Cilantro Chicken Breasts
- 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, 4 extra-large breasts or 6 average
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 to 2 teaspoons paprika or smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional and to taste
- freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro finely minced, for garnishing; or to taste
- Preheat oven to 425F (use convection if you have it) and line a baking sheet with foil (optional but highly recommended, see Notes below)) for easier cleanup.
- Place the chicken on the baking sheet, and pound to an even thickness. I use an empty wine bottle, but a meat pounder or tenderizing tool, a rolling pin, or a heavy frying pan all work. The chicken doesn't need to be pounded 'thin', but it needs to be of pounded to a uniform thickness so it all cooks through at the same time.
- Evenly drizzle the chicken with olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper; set aside.
- To a small bowl, add the remaining ingredients (except the lime juice and cilantro), stir to combine, and evenly spoon the dry rub over the chicken on both sides. I add a bit more to the side that's facing up than the side that's on the bottom in contact with the baking sheet.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (165F) and done.
- Evenly drizzle the chicken with fresh lime juice and evenly garnish with fresh cilantro. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing into it (cover with foil if desired to keep it warmer). Resting the chicken really helps lock in the juices and moisture so don't skip this step.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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Originally posted July 6, 2020 and reposted April 19, 2024 with updated text.