Even though this recipe is labeled as being Chicken Fajitas, the real star here is the chicken marinade. It (obviously) works great for fajitas, but this chicken is so flavorful and delicious, it could be used in a dozen different ways – sliced and thrown on top of a salad, in a chicken sandwich, or on its own, accompanied by your favorite vegetable.
This marinade sort of evolved over time. It started out several years ago when I was instructing my husband on what to put into a chicken marinade over the phone – he wasn’t working that day, and I had forgotten to marinate our chicken for dinner, so I was supervising the making of the marinade remotely. I got home that night, and took the marinated chicken out of the fridge to cook it… and couldn’t help but notice that the marinade looked AWFULLY dark. Turns out, when I said “red wine vinegar”, he just heard “vinegar”, and grabbed the balsamic instead. It ended up being a rather happy mistake, as the balsamic vinegar added a little edge of sweetness that was completely delicious. Over time, I’ve continued to tweak the marinade here and there, and it turns out delicious every time!
For the marinade:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 T soy sauce
1 T honey
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch of salt
For the fajitas:
one batch of marinade
about 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast*
8 flour tortillas
1 large onion, sliced into thin half moons
1 large bell pepper, sliced thin
toppings of your choice (we usually use shredded monterey jack cheese, avocado, chopped tomatoes, and greek yogurt or sour cream)
*if the chicken breasts you are using are gigantic, I would suggest butterflying them first. They will absorb the flavors of the marinade better if they are thinner, and they will also take less time to cook; the balsamic vinegar and honey in the marinade tend to burn if they are cooked too high for too long, so a thinner piece of meat allows you to cut down on the cooking time.
1.) The night before you plan to make the fajitas, you’ll want to get the chicken marinating. Throw all the marinade ingredients into a large ziploc bag, seal it, and use your hands to smush everything around and get it all combined. Put your chicken into the bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and reseal the bag. Place it in a bowl, in the refrigerator, and let the chicken marinate overnight.
2.) When you are ready to make your fajitas, remove the chicken from the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to cook it, so it has some time to warm up a bit.
3.) Heat two large skillets over medium heat, and add about 1 T of olive oil to each pan. Place the chicken in one pan, and the onion and bell pepper into the other. (If you don’t want to dirty two pans, you can cook the chicken first, then wipe out the pan and cook the vegetables while the chicken rests.) Toss the onion and pepper every couple minutes, allowing them to soften and brown nicely around the edges. Leave the chicken alone for at least 5 minutes before attempting to flip it; if it starts to tear when you try to flip it, leave it alone for another couple minutes, and try again. It will release from the pan when it’s ready!
4.) Remove the vegetables from the pan once they’re soft and caramelized. Cook the chicken for about 12-15 minutes total, until it’s cooked through. Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing it thinly.
5.) Load up your (warmed) tortillas with chicken, vegetables, and the toppings of your choice. Enjoy!
Of course, you can use whatever toppings you love on your fajitas. Sometimes we use cheddar cheese, sometimes we use monterey jack… sometimes we use pre-made salsa in place of the chopped tomatoes, and sometimes I’ve thought far enough ahead to make up some pice de gallo (not often). Occasionally I’ll actually make guacamole to top our fajitas, and other times I’ll just mash up some avocado with salt. The sky is the limit!
This marinade is also delicious for flank steak or a pork tenderloin. It’s a good one to have in your arsenal!
Thank goodness the weekend has arrived,