Skillet Chicken Fajitas

When dining out I’ve always avoided Chicken Fajitas because they can be too plain, so I’ve tended towards the fuller-flavored beef or pork tacos. However, this recipe surprised me by spicing up the chicken; by soaking the raw chicken in a marinade for an hour. Also, this recipe abandons the usual lackluster bell peppers in favor of oven-charred poblanos; much more flavorful. The heavy cream in the Rajas con Crema adds richness to this otherwise lean dish. These are far and away the best Fajitas I’ve ever eaten. My eldest son (the picky eater) only ate the chicken without the rajas con crema. 4-stars.

A fully assembled taco


  1. When cooking on the stove-top, the recipe cooks for just 4 minutes, then relies on the extremely low 200-degree oven to bring the chicken up to the desired 160-degrees. After 20 minutes in the oven, I realized that 200-degrees is too cool to effectively bring the chicken up to temperature. I finally gave up and finished it on the stove-top.
  2. Because I cooked the chicken for a second time in the skillet, there were no remaining pan juices for Step 12.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $13.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  High.
Start time 4:30 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 garlic cloves
1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Rajas con Crema:
1 pound poblano chiles (3 to 5)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Serving and Garnishes:
10 flour tortillas (6-inch)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
Lime wedges
crumbled queso fresco or feta

  1. Trim away any excess fat from the chicken breasts and pound them until they are 1/2″ thick.
  2. In a medium bowl, add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, lime juice, pressed garlic, paprika, sugar, salt, cumin, pepper, and cayenne together. Whisk to combine, add the chicken to the bowl and toss to evenly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to marinade at room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, set an oven rack as close as possible to the broiler element. Slice poblanos chiles in half, remove the stem and seeds, and arrange with the skin-side up onto a baking sheet lined with foil. Some of the chiles  may need to be flattened so that they are the same distance from the broiler.
  4. Broil for 7 to 10 minutes until the skin becomes charred, rotating and adjusting the tray so that they char evenly.
  5. Empty the chiles into a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow them to steam for 10 minutes. Rearrange the oven racks so that there is one in the middle and lower positions and set oven to 200-degrees.
  6. Peel away most of the skin from the chiles, and slice into 1/4″ wide strips. Remove onions ends, slice in half, then slice onion from pole-to-pole into 1/4″ wide strips.
  7. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to a 12″ non-stick skillet. Preheat over a high burner until the oil just begins to smoke. Add onions and cook for 4 minutes until they become charred. Cook the pressed garlic, thyme and dried oregano for just 15 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup of cream and reduce for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes until the onions are lightly coated with cream. Add sliced chile, lime juice, salt and pepper to the skillet, mix until evenly coated with cream.
  8. Empty the veggies into the same bowl you used to steam the chiles. Cover with aluminum foil and set on middle rack in the oven.
  9. Use paper towels to wipe out the skillet. Remove the chicken from the bowl and use more paper towels to wipe of some excess, but not all of the marinade
  10. Set skillet over high burner and preheat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until it begins to smoke. Cook chicken for 4 minutes without moving; until the bottom becomes charred. Flip chicken, cook for 2 minutes until the chicken registers 150-degrees. Bake for about 10 minutes until chicken internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 degrees
  11. Put cooked chicken on cutting board, tent loosely and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Don’t wash the skillet.
  12. Cut chicken cross-wise into 1/4″-wide slices. Put the chicken back into the skillet and coat slices with the juices remaining in the pan.
  13. When serving, put a few chicken slices in a warm flour tortilla. Put some vegetable mixture, cilantro ontop. Squeeze a lime wedge.

12 Responses to Skillet Chicken Fajitas

  1. Maureen, Milwaukee says:

    Been following your recipe trials with interest. You often seem to have to adjust these tested recipes. The 200 degree oven, for instance – think it was a typo? Wonder what the test kitchen would have to say!

    • Hi…I’m sure it worked for them perfectly, but I probably have a lower-power stove-top. So my chicken was undoubtedly at a lower temperature going into the oven, and just never got warmer.

      To avoid the confusion I added in my step 10 to cook on the stove-top to 150-degrees. They definitely should have put it there to begin with, because everybody’s stove is different.

  2. Andee says:

    I cooked these last night and had the same problem with the chicken not getting cooked in the 200 degree oven. Part of the problem is that I forgot to pound the chicken and also forgot to put it on the lowest rack in the oven. I appreciate your tip of leaving the chicken on the stove top to 150 degrees. Thanks!

  3. felicia says:

    The episode that featured this recipe on Tv said chicken MUST be at least 165 degrees to be considered COOKED. They suggested bringing the temperature of salted water and chicken up to 170 degrees in a pot, and then letting the chicken sit immersed in the water with the lid on for 15-18 mins. Then the chicken was cooled in the refrigerator for 30 mins. before slicing.

  4. Marils says:

    I have made this chicken twice, using the original recipe, and I found that the residual heat from the heavy pan that I used cooked the chicken to the proper temperature. When I flipped the chicken and put it in the oven, you could still hear it sizzling. If you don’t have a high quality pan, I think a cast iron skillet would work just fine.

  5. kaledcsa says:

    I made these also and its the best way to make chicken, even if you don’t make them into fajitas…I upped the oven temp to 250 and worked out great that way. Thanks

  6. GR says:

    It’s such a shame because I love this recipe, but nobody else I make it for likes the rajas con crema. The final recipe has a very rich taste. Not for everyone, and I can only eat a little bit before I start feeling like a greaseball.

    The chicken is also very easy to dry out, even with the marinade. I wonder about the low and slow method for cooking boneless white meat. As I type this, I’m trying something a little different. I dumped the entire marinade, chicken and all, into the skillet and am baking the whole thing until it comes to temp.

    • GR says:

      Not that this matters to anyone else at this point, but I reworked the recipe a little yesterday and wanted to report back for completion.

      The first big change I made was to make this one-pot, one-bowl. I added the marinade to the chicken in the fridge, then baked the poblanos in an oven safe skillet. Then I transferred the poblanos to a bowl for steaming and skinning. I added onions and more oil to the pot and cooked until tender, then I added crema, lime juice, spices, and cilantro. I cut up the peppers and put them back in at the end and transferred the entire thing back into the same bowl. Then I dumped the chicken into the pot, baked for about 20 minutes, and added the chicken to the final bowl. The entire thing took me about 45 minutes, not including clean up time. Since I was only cleaning up two dishes and a cutting board, though, it wasn’t bad. (I was using frozen cubed chicken, so I added marinade to the frozen chicken and let it defrost like that.)

      Baking the chicken doesn’t give it any charring, but it does pick up a lot of brown color from the caramelized onions, crema, and peppers. The chicken also came out far more moist and less dry. I also skipped the step of pounding out the chicken breasts and opted to slice into 3″ strips before baking. I baked at 350, checking 15 minutes in.

      Just my $0.02. Like I said, I like this recipe, but it could be more convenient, especially since I basically only make it for myself. This way I can make fajitas by putting stuffing into a tortilla, wrapping, and toasting.

      • stephanie says:

        i know this entry and even the comment are quite old, but i came across this post looking for this recipe (it was recommended to me by a friend but i don’t feel like paying for a CI subscription).

        ANYWAY, heh, in terms of cleanup, when i make fajitas i do it all in one pan, and then i only have a cutting board to wash in addition. (plus the plates we eat off of, but in terms of prep/cooking.)

        i marinate my chicken in a ziploc bag. when i char poblanos, i do it directly on the flame of my gas stove and then i put them in another ziploc bag and seal it, leave it for awhile and then you can scrape the skins.

        i do all my chopping so that the chicken is last, so i can use one cutting board and not have to wash it in between ingredients. instead of pounding chicken, i simply slice it in half (easiest if it’s still a tiny bit frozen, also called “butterflying” i believe). at this point i do wash the cutting board so i can use it to hold the cooked chicken while it rests. i cook the chicken (3 minutes per side in a very hot pan), and while it rests (stack the breasts and tent with foil to keep warm/juicy) cook the veg in the same pan, slice the chicken on the cutting board.

        so now you can have, one pan, one board, one knife 🙂

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