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Ancho Chili and Citrus Grilled Chicken

A Flavorful and Healthy Summer Meal


Summer is the perfect season to fire up the grill and enjoy fresh, flavorful meals with friends and family. One recipe that encapsulates the essence of summer is Ancho Chili and Citrus Grilled Chicken. This dish combines the vibrant flavors of lime, orange, onion, garlic, and ancho chili powder, creating a marinade that transforms simple chicken into a culinary delight. Not only is this recipe bursting with flavor, but it’s also gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo, and Whole30 compliant, making it an ideal choice for a wide range of dietary preferences.

Who Is This Recipe For?


This recipe is perfect for anyone looking to enjoy a healthy, flavorful meal that’s easy to prepare and cook. Whether you’re following a specific diet like Paleo or Whole30, or you simply enjoy fresh and zesty flavors, this grilled chicken dish is a great addition to your summer menu. It’s also a fantastic option for hosting backyard barbecues, offering a delicious and nutritious alternative to the usual grilled fare.


Why This Recipe is Great


Ancho Chili and Citrus Grilled Chicken stands out for its simplicity and versatility. The marinade, made from readily available ingredients, infuses the chicken with a perfect balance of heat and citrus tang. This recipe requires minimal prep time, and the marinating process allows you to prepare ahead of time, making it convenient for busy schedules. Additionally, grilling the chicken adds a smoky char that enhances the overall flavor, making it a crowd-pleaser at any gathering.




  • 2 Limes, zested and juiced
  • 2 Oranges, zested and juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Small Onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Ancho Chili Powder
  • ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 (3-4 lb.) Whole Chicken, cut up into 8-10 pieces
  • Fresh Cilantro & Slices of Lime, for garnish


Kitchen Equipment Needed


  • Large zip-top bag
  • Bowl (to prevent leaks)
  • Outdoor grill
  • Meat thermometer
  • Tongs
  • Cutting board and knife
  • Citrus zester
  • Juicer




  1. Prepare the Marinade: Combine the lime zest, lime juice, orange zest, orange juice, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, chili powder, and black pepper in a large zip-top bag.
  2. Marinate the Chicken: Add the chicken pieces to the bag, seal it, and move the bag around to coat the chicken in the marinade. Place the bag in a bowl (just in case of leaks!) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.
  3. Preheat the Grill: Preheat an outdoor grill to about 400ºF.
  4. Grill the Chicken: Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat it dry. Grill the chicken pieces for about 10 minutes per side, keeping the heat roughly at 350ºF, or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165ºF.
  5. Serve: Let the chicken rest a few minutes before serving. Squeeze with fresh lime juice and top with cilantro leaves.



Recipe time includes marinating.


Tips and Shortcuts


  • Quick Marinating: If you’re short on time, you can marinate the chicken for just 30 minutes at room temperature, but for best results, marinate for at least 3 hours.
  • Prepping Ahead: You can prepare the marinade and marinate the chicken a day in advance, allowing you to simply grill the chicken when ready to eat.
  • Chicken Thighs: While a whole chicken is recommended, you can use chicken thighs or breasts for a quicker option. Adjust the grilling time accordingly.


Recipe Swaps and Variations


  • Spice Level: If you prefer a spicier kick, add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the marinade.
  • Citrus Alternatives: Swap out the lime and orange for lemon and grapefruit for a different citrus twist.
  • Herbs: Add fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary to the marinade for an extra layer of flavor.


Storing Leftovers


Store any leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat on the grill or in the oven to maintain the grilled texture and flavor. Leftovers can also be shredded and used in salads, tacos, or wraps for a quick and easy meal.


Food and Drink Pairings


This Ancho Chili and Citrus Grilled Chicken pairs beautifully with a variety of sides and beverages:


  • Sides: Serve with a fresh green salad, grilled vegetables, or a quinoa salad to keep the meal light and healthy.
  • Drinks: Pair with a crisp white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or a refreshing iced tea. For a non-alcoholic option, a sparkling water with a splash of lime juice complements the citrus notes of the chicken.




Can I use boneless chicken for this recipe?

Yes, boneless chicken breasts or thighs can be used. Adjust the grilling time as boneless cuts tend to cook faster.


How long can I marinate the chicken?

You can marinate the chicken for as little as 3 hours or up to 24 hours. The longer the marinating time, the more intense the flavor will be.


Can I bake the chicken instead of grilling?

Yes, you can bake the chicken in a preheated oven at 400ºF for about 25-30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF.


Is this recipe freezer-friendly?

While fresh marinated chicken is ideal, you can freeze the marinated chicken in the zip-top bag for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before grilling.


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