Get the recipe for my favorite Fajita Marinade, equally delicious with beef or chicken. It has great savory flavor, plus a little sweetness and spice.
Move over taco night, this recipe is all about making things sizzle with amazing fajitas. The best fajitas start with this fajita marinade recipe. It’s so simple to put together and absolutely worth the time it takes to marinate. It has citrusy lime, jalapeno, onion, garlic, and cilantro all pureed together to give maximum flavor to the meat quickly.
Scroll down to read more about how it all comes together or click here to jump straight down to the recipe.
Video: Making Marinade For Fajitas
Why Use A Marinade?
A marinade is a liquid that you soak foods in before cooking. They add flavor and can make meats more tender. While a brine does similar things with a salt solution, a marinade uses acidic ingredients like vinegar or uses enzymes found in foods such as citrus juice.
The marinade recipe below is the best of both worlds. It has acidity to act like a marinade, but it also has salty soy sauce (don’t worry, you can’t tell that that’s what it is!) and kosher salt to also really tenderize the meat like a brine does. The salt also helps to bring flavor right into the meat, whereas a marinade usually only penetrates a short way in.
Using this marinade on your strips of meat before cooking them for fajitas gives it such amazing flavor, seasoning, and texture. It’s totally worth the time and planning ahead. But note, you don’t actually have to marinate for very long to have an effect.
Fajita Marinade Ingredients
For this fajita marinade recipe we’re using lime juice for acidity and zest for extra citrusy flavor. It gets garlic, onion, jalapeno pepper, and fresh cilantro, giving it lots of similar flavors to our homemade Fajita Seasoning. We also need soy sauce and brown sugar to round things out, along with olive oil and salt.
All of that is thrown into a blender or food processor with a cup of water. That really extracts all of the flavor elements into the liquid so that they can more easily flavor the meat inside and out. Just blend it up and you’re ready to marinate!
What Meats To Marinate
Are you planning on making chicken fajitas or steak fajitas? The good news is that this marinade is delicious on both. And it will work on shrimp too!
The recipe makes enough for 1 and a half pounds of beef, chicken, or shrimp. Skirt steak or flank steak are great options for fajitas, as are boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Cut them into slices before marinating so that each and every bite is bursting with great flavor.
Some people put their peppers and onions into the marinade as well. I find that the vegetables end up too tender and that the meal ends up with a very “samey” flavor. So I prefer to keep the veggies out of there.
How Long To Marinate Meat For Fajitas
If you’re keeping your beef or chicken whole, you’ll want to marinate it for 3 hours, or up to 8 hours, in the refrigerator. If you’re cutting it into strips first, 1 hour is plenty, 2 hours maximum. For shrimp, 30 minutes is enough, 1 hour maximum.
If you have marinated for the maximum amount of time listed but are not ready to cook, simply remove the meat/shrimp from the marinade, pat it dry (don’t rinse it), and put it into a sealed container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it. Discard the marinade.
Can You Freeze Meat In The Marinade?
I prefer to not freeze chicken or been in this marinade. It can have too large of an effect and ruin the texture of the meat. Instead, I marinate the meat for the times given and then remove it from the marinade before freezing. The flavor elements are all still in there, but you won’t have as drastic of a negative texture change.
I do not recommend freezing marinated shrimp. Shrimp were usually already frozen (even if you bought them thawed) and refreezing them affects their texture, with or without a marinade surrounding them.
Making Your Fajitas
You can cook your marinated meat a few different ways. Put it in the air fryer like in this Air Fryer Chicken Fajitas recipe or cook it on the stovetop in a large skillet like I do with the onions and bell peppers in this Fajita Veggies recipe.
You could also grill your meat, but you’d either want to use a grill pan or wait to slice the meat until after cooking.
Then it’s time to pile that delicious fajita meat and veggies into warm tortillas. Complete your fajitas with shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, or pico de gallo. A side of cilantro-lime rice pairs perfectly.
More Great Marinade Recipes
If you love this fajita marinade, you’ll want to try these other great recipes too.
- Best Steak Marinade Recipe
- Marinade for Tri-Tip
- Greek Chicken Marinade
- Chicken Wings Marinade Recipe
Podcast Episode About Making Fajita Marinade
Listen to me explain briefly about how to make this recipe, with some great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:
- 1 cup water
- 2 limes, zested and juiced
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/2 onion
- 1 jalapeno
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- Put all ingredients into the blender and blend it up.
- Add steak, chicken, or shrimp and refrigerate for the following amounts of time: 3- 8 hours for whole pieces of steak or chicken, 1-2 hours for sliced steak or chicken, 30-60 minutes for shrimp.
- Remove meat/shrimp from marinade and pat dry. Discard marinade. Cook immediately or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 6 hours.
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