Cilantro Lime Marinade

5 Stars (1 Reviews) 2 Comments

This fresh cilantro lime marinade uses only 5 ingredients, is super easy to make, and infuses any meat with a zesty southwest flavor in only 30 minutes.

Marinades are perfect for turning plain cuts of meat into tender and flavor-packed stars of any meal. But unfortunately, many store-bought marinades contain lots of sugar and unnecessary ingredients. Some of my go-to marinades include BBQ sauce and my Fajita marinade, which are perfect to transform any protein into a fast, flavorful meal. 

A pile of grilled chicken thighs on a platter with limes and cilantro all over.

Cilantro and lime are the perfect pair to marinate your favorite meats, like chicken breast or chicken thighs, for Southwest-inspired dishes like tacos, rice, salads, and more. You’ll love how easy this marinade is to put together and how quickly it infuses your chicken, steak, pork, or seafood with fresh and zesty flavor.

How to make cilantro lime marinade

  1. Whisk together all ingredients – avocado oil, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, salt, smoked paprika and black pepper.
  2. Add the marinade to 2 pounds of chicken thighs, shrimp, steak or pork. Marinade for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

A bowl of thicken thighs marinating in a mixture of garlic, cilantro and other ingredients.

Every good marinade needs these

For the best homemade chicken marinade you will notice most marinades have a few key ingredients. You only need three simple components for a good marinade – acid, oil, and flavor.


I like using avocado oil in marinades for its light flavor, high smoking point for high-heat cooking, and heart-healthy fats. You can substitute avocado oil with light olive oil, canola, or peanut oil.


Lime is the acid element of this marinade. The acid helps to break down and loosen the protein bonds in meat, tenderizing whatever you’re marinating. You can also use lemon juice for the marinade, although the flavor will differ.


  • Cilantro – If you’re one of those people who think cilantro tastes like soap, it’s not likely you’re even reading this recipe. For most of us, cilantro has a fresh citrusy flavor that’s a perfect pair for lime juice in this marinade recipe.
  • Garlic – Use fresh garlic if possible. You can also substitute minced jarred garlic or even garlic powder in a pinch. Use ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder for every fresh garlic clove when substituting.
  • Smoked Paprika – this adds a light smoky taste to the recipe, enough to be interesting without overpowering. Regular paprika can be used if preferred.

Cilantro Lime Marinade Recipe Video

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Cilantro Lime Marinade Ingredients

  • ¼ cup avocado oil
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Cilantro Lime Marinade Directions

  • Cilantro Lime Marinade
  • Top image is of raw chicken marinating in a bowl. Bottom image is of a stack of grilled chicken thighs with limes scattered around.

    Best proteins for marinading


    Marinate skinless, boneless chicken breasts, chicken thighs, or even chicken tenders. These can all be grilled, air-fried, sautéed, or baked in the oven. Grilled chicken is preferred with this chicken marinade.


    Marinate flank skirt, top round, sirloin, or bottom round. Steak can be grilled, pan-fried, cooked sous vide, or even cooked in the air fryer!


    Pork butt and shoulder should be marinated longer, as the marinade will help to tenderize the meat the longer it sits (but no more than two days). More tender cuts of pork, like loin, ribs, or belly, can be marinated for less time. Grill, pan-fry, bake, or air-fry your marinated pork.


    Shrimp takes on the flavor of this marinade quickly and can be cooked on a sheet pan, pan-fried, or air-fried.

    Looking into a bowl filled with raw chicken soaking in a marinade with flakes of cilantro around.

    Marinating times for proteins


    Optimal marinating time for cilantro lime chicken is 30 to 120 minutes, but you can marinate the chicken for up to two days. While the longer chicken marinates, more flavor will be infused into the meat, marinating it longer than two days can cause the fibers to break down and the meat to become mushy.


    Optimal marinating time is 30 to 120 minutes or as long as two days. The meat will become mushy if you leave the steak in marinade for longer than two days.


    Optimal marinating time is 30 to 60 minutes. Marinating shrimp for longer than one hour in citrus juice can cause the shrimp to become rubbery, then mushy.


    Optimal marinating time is 30 to 120 minutes, but pork can be marinated for up to two days, but longer than this, and the acids will break down the fibers, making the pork mushy.

    Ways to use cilantro lime marinade

    While this cilantro lime marinade is perfect for grilled chicken, pork, steak, and shrimp, you can also use it for:

    Storage information & meal prep instructions

    Store in refrigerator

    You can make this marinade 1-3 days ahead of time, just store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

    Meal prep freezer meals

    Marinating chicken, steak, or pork in this marinade and stashing away in the freezer for another day is a great way to make meal prep easy on busy nights. Add the marinade and protein to a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

    Before cooking, remove the marinated meat from the freezer and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

    Cilantro Lime Marinade: FAQS

    What kind of oil works best for marinades?

    Any oil that can be used over high-heat works well for marinades. Avocado, canola, and light olive oil have light flavors that won’t overpower your cilantro lime chicken marinade.

    What does lime juice do to chicken?

    Lime and lemon juice in a chicken marinade help break down tough fibers in chicken, making the meat more tender.

    Do you marinade at room temperature or in the refrigerator?

    Marinate meat in the refrigerator to avoid bacteria growth on the food, which can happen when it’s left out at room temperature.

    Nutritional information & Macros

    Nutrition Information

    Cilantro Lime Marinade

    Servings: 6

    Amount Per Serving
    Calories 85
    Fat 9.4g
    Protein 0.1g
    Total Carbs 0.6g
    Net Carbs 0.4g

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    1. Love the chicken teriyaki dish. You have some wonderful recipes and we’re subscribed to your channel on YouTube have a wonderful day

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