chicken fajitas

I guess they don’t call it “manning” the grill for nothing. Why is it that so many men who have no interest in cooking inside are willing to stand outside and grill? I really thought I’d be the one doing the grilling around here, just like I do the ovening and the stoving, but so far, it’s all Dave. I kind of feel like I should get some practice cooking over fire too, but I can never resist the opportunity to clean up the kitchen or work on the sides or, let’s be honest, mix up my favorite cocktail, while Dave takes care of the cooking.

But while he does enjoy the actual grilling, he really isn’t into the reading the recipe part of the procedure. That means there are constant calls asking me what the next step is. Is there any funny business with the coals? How long does everything cook? What should be on the hotter and on the cooler sides of the grill? And on and on.

And since this is a Cooks Illustrated recipe, there are a fair amount of details to straighten out. But with only 15 minutes of marinating and 10 minutes of grilling, this really is an easy recipe. And what’s so great about it, besides the obvious – charred flavor on everything from the chicken to the vegetables to the tortillas, is the hit of marinade everything gets after it’s cooked. You marinate the meat beforehand, like you’d expect, and then when it comes off the grill, you dump some more flavor on it, as well as on the vegetables. It makes the whole thing taste fresh and citrusy.

One of the things that makes Dave and I such a great team is that we tend to love the same recipes, like this one. Plus, while he mans the grill, I can rush in to wash his tongs for him, bring a clean plate, or, maybe, if the sides are done and the kitchen is reasonably clean and my cocktail is mixed up, stand over the fire and admire the sunset with my husband. Grilling has more advantages than just great food.

One year ago: Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Two years ago: Cinnamon Rolls

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Chicken Fajitas (from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 4 to 6

CI’s note: The chicken and vegetables in these fajitas are only mildly spicy. For more heat, include the jalapeno seeds and ribs when mincing. When you head outside to grill, bring along a clean kitchen towel or a large piece of foil in which to wrap the tortillas and keep them warm as they come off the grill. Although the chicken and vegetables have enough flavor to stand on their own, accompaniments (guacamole, salsa, sour cream, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, and lime wedges) can be offered at the table.

My note: I think the oil can be significantly reduced, especially in the part of the marinade used to flavor the vegetables and chicken after they’re cooked.

⅓ cup juice from 2 to 3 limes
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoons brown sugar
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1½ tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
table salt and ground black pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds), trimmed of fat, tenderloins removed, pounded to ½-inch thickness
1 large red onion (about 14 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick rounds (do not separate rings)
1 large red bell pepper (about 10 ounces), quartered, stemmed, and seeded
1 large green bell pepper (about 10 ounces), quartered, stemmed, and seeded
8-12 (6-inch) flour tortillas

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, 4 tablespoons oil, garlic, Worcestershire, brown sugar, jalapeno, cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper. Reserve ¼ cup marinade in a small bowl; set aside. Add another teaspoon salt to the remaining marinade. Place the chicken in the marinade; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes. Brush both sides of the onion rounds and the peppers with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, using a large chimney starter, ignite 6 quarts of charcoal briquettes and burn until the coals are fully ignited, about 20 minutes. Empty the coals into the grill, spreading them in a single layer; place an additional 20 unlit coals over the lit coals on one side of grill to create a two-level fire. Position the grill grate over the coals and heat the grate for 5 minutes; scrape clean with a grill brush. (For a gas grill, light all burners and turn to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot, about 15 minutes; scrape the grill grate clean with a grill brush. Leave one burner on high heat while turning the remaining burner(s) down to medium.)

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it smooth side down on the hotter side of the grill; discard the remaining marinade. Place the onion rounds and peppers (skin side down) on the cooler side of the grill. Cook the chicken until it’s well browned, 4 to 5 minutes; using tongs, flip the chicken and continue grilling until it’s no longer pink when cut into with a paring knife or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers about 160 degrees, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Meanwhile, cook the peppers until spottily charred and crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice as needed; cook the onions until tender and charred on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes, turning every 3 to 4 minutes. When the chicken and vegetables are done, transfer them to a large plate; tent with foil to keep warm.

4. Working in 2 or 3 batches, place the tortillas in a single layer on the cooler side of the now-empty grill and cook until warm and lightly browned, about 20 seconds per side (do not grill too long or the tortillas will become brittle). As the tortillas are done, wrap them in a kitchen towel or a large sheet of foil.

5. Separate the onions into rings and place them in a medium bowl; slice the bell peppers lengthwise into ¼-inch strips and place them in the bowl with the onions. Add 2 tablespoons reserved unused marinade to the vegetables and toss well to combine. Slice the chicken into ¼-inch strips and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons reserved marinade in another bowl; arrange the chicken and vegetables on a large platter and serve with the warmed tortillas.


  1. I love fajitas!! Your look absolutely amazing!

  2. A friend and I made tempeh fajitas last week that were amazing, but we didn’t have a grill. I bet my husband could be convinced to cook outdoors.

    You seem to have missed listing the avocado which makes all things so much more delicious.

  3. … or I could read your note saying guacamole and fixings can be offered at the table. Excuse me while I finish my cup of coffee.

  4. I looooove chicken fajitas but somehow I’ve never tried a more authentic version. I always make these sort of half-assed fajitas. I think I need to try these so I can have the real thing. YUM!

  5. You have me laughing at all the questions he asks – mine is the same way, turns out a grill master is nothing without his mistriss!

  6. Laura says:

    I just found your blog and it’s awesome – definitely giving me great ideas for what to make for dinner 🙂 Is there a way I can subscribe by e-mail? I couldn’t find anything, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. Thanks!

  7. bridget says:

    Laura – I don’t think there is right now, but I’m working on setting that up. Hopefully by the end of the week, I’ll have it figured out.

  8. Well, ah, I don’t have anyone to admire the sunset with, but I’d still enjoy fajitas without a doubt 🙂 I think it’s the blazing fire and dangerous heat that skewers men into using the grill. But come on, it’s still a skill to know how to correctly use it, haha 🙂

  9. Put the lime in the coconut.. how do you juice your limes? RR squeezes hers by hand but recommends that you palm them so the seeds don’t get in the juice but this weirds me out because all I can think of is the juice running down your hand (+skin cells) and into the recipe- is that weird? haha

  10. bridget says:

    Katherine – I used to use a simple wooden citrus reamer and a tiny strainer (that I think was originally meant for looseleaf tea). It was okay, but not great. Now I use a citrus squeezer, and I like it so much more. It’s much faster, cleaner, and more effective.

  11. Grilling rocks for SO many reasons! We’ve already started but it’s still a little chilly some nights so it’s not a regular thing yet. My husband mans the grill too, even though he doesn’t do much cooking inside. I love fajitas so much and can’t believe I’ve never made them. These look awesome!

  12. That’s how the fiance and I will be – he *loves* grilling. I’ll just wash up for him, get him ingredients or tools, and have a drink while enjoying the sunset 🙂

  13. This recipe showed up in my reader the same day I came home from the grocery with everything I needed for these (and no real direction on what I wanted to make.) We had them last night and they were sooo good. I think could drink the marinade with a straw, it was that delicious.

  14. Grunt, grunt, scratch, grunt, snort, grunt (Dave will understand).

  15. I think I might make these this weekend.