Fajitas have become synonymous with local chain restaurants. But you can easily make great chicken fajitas at home with a cast iron pan and few simple supermarket ingredients. Your ‘fajita bar’ will feed a family of four or become the centerpiece for your next Friday night dinner party with friends.
Mentioning chicken fajitas to any American suburbanite of a certain age (or even younger) conjures up images of a sizzling cast iron pan filled with grilled chicken and a mess of peppers and onions. Those same people also think of the DIY accompaniments that have made eating fajitas an event that can only be experienced at middle-end chain restaurants. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
You can do the fajita thing at home with the right pan, a good knife and a little patience. If you have a cast iron pan, the dish is almost foolproof. Flavors of deeply caramelized onions and peppers meld with charred chicken to create something tasty and homey. Add condiments like guacamole, salsa, sour cream, jalapeños and any fajita meal becomes a fajita party.
Making chicken fajitas at home is a customizable experience using ingredients that are available at most American supermarkets. That being said, you could substitute the cheddar with Mexican cheeses like queso oaxaca or cotija but cheddar works great in this American dish. You could also use a spiced cheese like pepper jack if that’s how you roll.
These are the ingredients that we use to make great chicken fajitas at home:
Chicken breast, bell peppers, onion, chili powder, cayenne powder and lime are the starring players in this fajitas recipe. They provide great color and flavor.
Chicken breasts work great in fajitas. If you cook them correctly, you can create a great presentation in the finished skillet. However, don’t feel locked in – you can use dark meat instead.
Red and Green Bell Peppers
Using both red and green bell peppers gives the fajitas their eye-popping color. It also provides a pleasing blend of sweet and savory flavors.
You can use any onion you choose in this recipe whether its red, yellow or white. If you have a flavor preference or a color preference, that’s the onion you should use.
Chili Powder is the primary flavor driver in this recipe. We use the spice in the chicken marinade and also to season the fajita mixture while it grills in the pan.
Cayenne Chili Powder
Cayenne Chili powder brings the heat. You can use more or less depending on your piquancy tolerance and preference.
Lime juice adds a special acidity and zip to both the marinade and to the finished fajitas. As is the case in so many recipes, the key is to use fresh lime juice.
Adding condiments is the fun part of this recipe. Our condiments of choice include guacamole, pico de gallo (i.e. fresh tomato salsa), red radish, cheddar cheese, cilantro, sour cream (or better yet Mexican crema), fresh jalapeño and squirts of lime.
We like to arrange all of the condiments in a self-service bar so that each person can create his or her own personal fajita masterpiece. Of course, you can be creative and add different condiments to your bar. Refried beans are a great addition, especially when you’re serving a hungry crowd.
We have easy recipes for guacamole and pico de gallo on the website – both are ideal for chicken fajitas. We also recommend making Mexican crema by ramping up the sour cream with a little lime juice and salt and seasoning to taste.
You can choose to serve your tortillas either warm or at room temperature. We recommend warming them. If you’re wondering if this step is worth the extra effort, the answer is yes.
Simply warm the tortillas by holding them with a tongs and placing them directly over a gas flame for just a few seconds until they’re soft with little brown blotches. Once heated, place the tortillas under a towel to keep them warm but don’t wait long before serving.
How To Make Chicken Fajitas
The fajita skillet is beautiful to look at and there’s really nothing better than serving a dish that’s hot and sizzling. However, there are a few steps to follow before you get there starting with marinating the chicken.
Marinating the Chicken
Begin the marinade by mixing the lime, chili powders, salt and water. Pour the mixture along with the breasts into a zip top bag. Close the bag tightly and gently shake until the marinade totally covers the chicken. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour.
Once the chicken is marinated, heat vegetable oil in the pan over medium high heat. Throw in the peppers and onions. Season them with the two chili powders and salt. Cook until the vegetable mix just starts to brown.
Add the chicken breasts and press on them with tongs or a spatula to flatten the breasts a bit (which will allow them to cook more evenly). Cook the chicken for about five minutes on each side until the internal temperature of the breasts reaches about 150°f/66°c.
Let the cooked chicken breasts rest, covered loosely under foil, for 5 minutes. Slice them into 1/2″ slices. By this point, the peppers and onions will be nicely charred.
Return the sliced chicken breasts to the skillet. Serve sizzling with flour tortillas and condiments.
Enjoy your chicken fajita party!
Frequently Asked Questions
Fajita loosely translates to ‘strip.’ Over the years, the fajitas dish has evolved into a party on a plate where eaters fill and dress flour or corn tortillas with an essential protein like chicken, vegetables like bell peppers and a variety of toppings.
Legend has it that fajitas were first eaten by ranch hands in the early part of the 20th century. The dish grew in popularity, first in Texas and then in chain restaurants, during the later part of that century.
The basic ingredients for making chicken fajitas at home are chicken, onions and bell peppers. You can add many accoutrements including pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, fresh jalapeňos and cilantro when serving the dish.
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Chicken Fajitas Recipe
- 2 chicken breasts (boneless and skinless)
- 2 red bell peppers (cut into 1/2" strips)
- 2 green bell peppers (cut into 1/2"strips)
- 1 onion (sliced thin)
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne chili powder (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 oz lime juice (freshly squeezed from about 1/2 a lime)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 flour tortillas (warm plus extras)
- ½ cup guacamole
- ½ cup fresh tomato salsa (pico de gallo)
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 4 red radishes (sliced thin)
- ½ cup cheddar cheese (grated)
- 1 cup cilantro (whole)
- 1/2 cup jalepeño pepper (sliced)
- 3 limes (cut in wedges)
Marinating the Chicken
- Mix the chili powder, cayenne powder, lime juice and salt in a small bowl. Pour in a zip top bag large enough to fit the two chicken breasts
- Place the raw chicken breasts into the bag, close it and rub the bag to throroughly incorporate the marinade with the chicken. Place the marinated chicken in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Cooking the Fajitas
- Place a skillet (preferable cast iron) on the stove over medium high heat until hot, about 3 minutes.
- Add the oil to the skillet. When the oil is loose and shimmering, add the bell peppers and onions, chili powder, cayenne powder and salt. Cook until the peppers and onions are just brown on the edges, about 5 minutes.
- Move the onions and peppers to the outside of the skillet to make room for the chicken. Remove the chicken from the the zip top bag and gently place the breasts flat in the center of the skillet. Cook the chicken breasts using tongs or a spatula to flatten them while cooking
- Cook the chicken breasts for about 5 minutes each side until the centers reach 150°f/66°c. Once cooked, remove the chicken breasts to a warm plate and cover loosely with foil. Let them rest about 5 minutes. Keep the peppers and onions in the skillet and turn the heat on medium low.
- After the chicken has rested, slice the chicken breasts into 1/2" slices. Arrange the sliced chicken in a beautiful fan pattern on top of the peppers and onions. Turn up the heat. Once the skillet has started to get a good audible sizzle, remove it from the stove and place it on a heat-safe trivet
- Serve the fajitas with flour tortillas, guacamole, salsa, cheese, fresh jalapeños, sour cream, radishes, cilantro and lime wedges. You can and should warm the tortillas right before serving the dish.
About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.
Original Publication Date: December 24, 2023