Spicy Chicken Fajitas Recipe

Fajitas are a funny kind of dish. Originally, the term referred to a specific cut of beef, rather than to any method of preparation. But, over time, the term came to be applied to just about any type of meat or vegetable that was sliced into strips, seasoned, and rolled up in a tortilla.

Well, traditional they may not be, but chicken fajitas are featured on many Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurant menus, and they're also simple enough for even a beginner cook. As recipe developer Jaime Shelbert describes this dish, it's "packed with flavor and comes together quickly for an easy weeknight dinner." If you're put off by the fact that these fajitas are billed as spicy, there's no need for concern. Even if you make them as-is, Shelbert says "There is just enough heat to classify this as spicy," and in fact, she says she'd characterize them as just "moderately spicy." If you want a milder fajita, just reduce the amount of jalapeños used, or omit them altogether. If, on the other hand, you prefer a more incendiary version, add an extra jalapeño, or perhaps some chili powder flakes or hot sauce.

Gather the ingredients for spicy chicken fajitas

For this dish, you'll need olive oil — Shelbert uses extra virgin, but for cooking purposes, pure or light will also work. You'll also need chicken, of course. Breasts are typical, but thighs are ok (and cheaper!), too. For vegetables you'll be using an onion and some bell peppers. For seasoning you'll need lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, cumin, and the aforementioned jalapeños.

A note on a few of the spices: Shelbert uses smoked paprika, but you can use sweet paprika if that's what you've got in the spice cabinet. She also uses ancho chile powder, but she says the stuff's "only slightly spicier than regular chili powder," so allows that you can "feel free to substitute regular chili powder in this recipe."

Marinate the chicken

Find a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken, but don't put the chicken in it just yet. Instead, mix 2 tablespoons of the oil with the lime juice, garlic, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, oregano, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon water. Whisk the marinade ingredients together, then remove 2 tablespoons and put them in a small cup off to the side.

Now, add the chicken to the marinade, stirring so the strips are all coated. Cover the bowl and stick it in the fridge for at least half an hour, but overnight is fine. As Shelbert says of the marinating chicken, "The longer it sits, the more developed the flavor."

Sauté the chicken, then the veggies

Heat 1 ½ teaspoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add the chicken and cook the strips for 6-8 minutes, until they are no longer pink inside. Once they are cooked through, remove them from the pan. Pour the remaining oil in the pan, then add the peppers, onion, and jalapeño along with the marinade you set aside earlier. Cook the vegetables for about 8 minutes, at which point they should be tender but still somewhat crisp.

Everything comes together at the end

Once the vegetables are cooked, return the chicken to the pan and cook for another minute or so until it's all hot. That's it, your fajita meat is done! As for how to serve it, fajitas are frequently accompanied by tortillas, with Shelbert noting that "flour tortillas will hold up best." If you prefer, though, you can serve them over rice, noodles, or even on a bed of lettuce for a low-carb option.

For toppings, Shelbert suggests cilantro, red pepper flakes, avocados or guacamole, sour cream, or shredded cheese, but you do your fajitas your way.

Spicy Chicken Fajitas Recipe
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You don't have to wait to satisfy your fajita craving at a restaurant! Make this easy recipe for spicy chicken fajitas today.
Prep Time
Cook Time
chicken and vegetables on tortillas
Total time: 35 minutes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 ½ pounds chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 2 medium bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, sliced into thin strips
Optional Ingredients
  • tortillas
  • red pepper flakes
  • chopped cilantro
  • salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole — other popular fajita toppings
  1. Mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, garlic, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, oregano, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon water in a medium bowl, whisking to combine. Remove 2 tablespoons of the marinade and set it aside.
  2. Add the chicken strips to the bowl of marinade and stir to combine.
  3. Cover the chicken and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
  4. Heat 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  5. Add the chicken to the oil and cook for 6-8 minutes until cooked through, then move to a plate.
  6. Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet along with the peppers, onion, jalapeño, and reserved marinade.
  7. Cook the vegetables for about 8 minutes until they are tender but still slightly crisp.
  8. Return the chicken to the skillet and heat through.
  9. Serve with tortillas, if desired, along with your preferred toppings.
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