For over a year now I’ve been working on the perfect cilantro marinade for grilled chicken. It needed to be rich in flavor with balanced spices, salt and acid, but most of all it needed to add moisture and soak through the chicken with the brightness of cilantro. I tried a version with coconut milk and lots of lime, I tried a version with cilantro and loads of garlic. There was a lot of cilantro around here last year. Then it got cold–really cold, and snowy–really snowy. My dear sweet grill sat encased in ice for months and my cilantro marinade went nowhere.
Then it finally started to all melt and my testing resumed. Now that the snow and ice are finally melted, I have finally perfected the cilantro marinade.
This simple recipe uses lots and lots of cilantro – a large bunch including stems. The secret is blending it, onion, lime juice and cumin together to form a paste. Then toss the paste with the chicken and forget about it for awhile – even overnight. How you grill is up to you. Don’t want to grill, try broiling it.
I love this with a bowl of beans and rice and grilled onions. I serve it with warm tortillas too so if people want it fajita style they can go for it. As for the beans, I usually make my simple pinto bean recipe. The recipe is from the early days and is a little unpolished, but it’s still a solid and tasty recipe. It can be found in my post for Bean Tostadas. If you are more of a black bean fan, then I highly recommend the Cooking Light recipe for Moros y Cristianos (Cuban Style Black Beans and Rice).
I decided to post this for Cinco de Mayo, but the flavors are more versatile than just Mexican or South American. You could easily make this and serve it with an Indian meal or even an Asian meal. When I make this, I make a huge amount and then use the leftovers for the whole week. Sunday’s grilled chicken with rice and beans turns into Monday’s burrito night, Tuesday’s barbecued pulled chicken and Wednesday’s rice noodle stir-fry. All the meals will please the whole family too; that’s just a bonus though because I love it. Enjoy!
- 1 large bunch cilantro (about 4 cups)
- 1 small sweet onion, peeled and quartered
- 10 cloves garlic
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 8 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (about 3 chickens)
- Thoroughly wash and drain the cilantro and add to the bowl of a food processor or the jar of a blender. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, salt, lime juice and olive oil. Pulse until the large pieces are cut up, then blend until smooth.
- In and large bowl combine the marinade with the chicken pieces, tossing to cover all the pieces with a thick coat of the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours or overnight.
- To grill heat a grill rack over medium heat and oil before adding chicken. Cook chicken pver direct heat for 10 minutes and then turn it over. Continue to cook the chicken for another 10 minutes and test the chicken's temperature. Continue to cook until the breast meat reads 165 degrees and the leg and wing pieces reach 180 (when they taste the best). The total time will vary based on the size of the chicken pieces and the type of grill. When the chicken is done remove it from the grill and serve with lime wedges.
- You can half this recipe. Unused marinade may be frozen or stored in the refrigerator for two days.