margarita_brined_chicken-square So you hear all the time about brining big things like whole turkeys and chickens, but did you know that you can also brine small cuts of meat like pork tenderloins and chicken pieces? It’s true. It’s a great way to get a lot of flavor and moisture into the meat quickly.

Now…I’m not a drinker. In fact, when I was adapting this recipe, I was kind of hilariously aware of how naïve I am when it comes to matters of liquor–is tequila naturally sweet? Is it bitter? I dunno, but I do know that if I were a drinker, I would probably really like margaritas. I really like margarita-flavored stuff. Jelly Bellies? Yes. Virgin margaritas? You bet. Chicken that’s been soaking in a margarita brine? Absolutely.

I love boneless skinless chicken thighs because they are juicier and more flavorful than breasts and they naturally come in smaller portions, and really, if you trim the excess fat, they’re easy to fit into a healthy diet. If you don’t love the idea of chicken thighs, though (or you just want to use something else), you could throw in some bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, some peeled and deveined shrimp, or a pork tenderloin.

To get the brine started, you’ll need some kosher salt, water, and brown sugar.

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water, brown sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt is dissolved, then remove from heat.

Add in some cold water, orange juice, limeade (or tequila…yes, I realize that those two are in no way the same thing),

margarita brined chicken flavors

lime zest, orange zest, and peppercorns.


Place the chicken thighs

boneless skinless chicken thighs

in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, then pour the brine mixture over the chicken. Seal and refrigerate for 6-12 hours.

brining chicken thighs

When ready to cook, preheat an outdoor grill. Remove the chicken thighs from the brine, rinse lightly, and pat dry with a paper towel. Brush with extra-virgin olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper. Adjust the heat settings on the grill to medium and place the chicken thighs on the grill. Place the halved citrus, cut-side down, on the grill. Cook for about 5 minutes per side (the chicken…you don’t need to turn the fruit.).

When done cooking, transfer the chicken to a plate and carefully transfer the grilled fruit. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then squeeze the juice of the fruit over the chicken and serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings.

Margarita Brined Chicken from Our Best Bites



  1. 1
    Absolute says:

    My years In the army taught me a lot of things. And a lot of those things where alcohol. Tequila is not sweet (almost no liquors are without a flavoring) and even experiences drinkers don’t mess around with tequila sometimes. But this seems a great use for it. Also soaking in beer.

  2. 2
    Meredith Holman says:

    thanks Kate! I needed this one this week 🙂

  3. 3
    Wendy says:

    I am so not a drinker either, but anything with lime sound good to me!!! Thanks for the recipe Kate!

  4. 4
  5. 5
    Amy says:

    This looks great! Any suggestions for side dishes that would go well with this?

  6. 6
    Thesha says:

    No alcohol in this house either but I have always loved virgin margaritas. This sounds delicious! Thanks!

  7. 7
    renee says:

    Just a fairly non-related FYI. I learned last week that pink peppercorns that are in the gourmet blend you used are related to the CASHEW tree. If someone is highly allergic to tree nuts, the PINK peppercorns could cause a reaction.

  8. 8
    Emily says:

    Sweet now I have something I am motivated to serve for dinner besides your Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream! You think I’m kidding….but I’m not 🙂

  9. 9
    Amie says:

    What is the difference between a brine and a marinade? This looks delish!

  10. 10
    K Williams says:

    I made this last night and it was a hit with the whole family! Thanks for the idea. I followed the recipe and it turned out quite salty. I only had the printed recipe, not the whole posting. So I didn’t see that the second cup of water should be added to the brine with the juices, zests, and peppercorns. Perhaps you might edit the recipe for those of us who lack imagination and tend to follow recipes explicitly. Thanks!

    • 10.1
      Jodi says:

      I did the same thing! The chicken was too salty. Next time I’ll know to add the extra water with the juice and peppercorns.

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