Weekend Recipe: Skillet Chicken Fajitas

Skillet Chicken Fajitas
Photo: Courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

To create indoor chicken fajitas that didn’t require a slew of garnishes to be tasty, Cook's Illustrated took a fresh look at the key ingredients.

For well-charred, juicy chicken, we marinated boneless, skinless breasts in a potent mix of smoked paprika, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and sugar before searing them hard on one side and finishing them gently in a low oven. We revamped the usual bland mix of bell pepper and onion by charring poblano chiles and thinly sliced onion, and then cooking them down with cream and lime. Finally, we finish the dish with small amounts of complementary garnishes: pickled radish, queso fresco, and cilantro leaves.

Skillet Chicken Fajitas
Serves 4


1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to 1/2-inch thickness

Rajas con Crema:
1 pound (3 to 4) poblano chiles, stemmed, halved, and seeded
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
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
8 - 12 (6-inch) flour tortillas, warmed
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
Spicy pickled radishes
Lime wedges

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We like to serve these fajitas with crumbled queso fresco or feta in addition to the other garnishes listed.

1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Whisk 3 tablespoons oil, lime juice, garlic, paprika, sugar, salt, cumin, pepper, and cayenne together in bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.

2. FOR THE RAJAS CON CREMA: Mean­while, adjust oven rack to highest position and heat broiler. Arrange poblanos, skin side up, on aluminum foil–lined rimmed baking sheet and press to flatten. Broil until skin is charred and puffed, 4 to 10 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through cooking. Transfer poblanos to bowl, cover, and let steam for 10 minutes. Rub majority of skin from poblanos and discard (preserve some skin for flavor); slice into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Adjust oven racks to middle and lowest positions and heat oven to 200 degrees.

3. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add onion and cook until charred and just softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add cream and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced and cream lightly coats onion, 1 to 2 minutes. Add poblano strips, lime juice, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Transfer vegetables to bowl, cover, and place on middle oven rack. Wipe out skillet with paper towels.

4. Remove chicken from marinade and wipe off excess. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook without moving it until bottom side is well charred, about 4 minutes. Flip chicken; transfer skillet to lower oven rack. Bake until chicken registers 160 degrees, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes; do not wash out skillet.

5. Slice chicken crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Return chicken strips to skillet and toss to coat with pan juices. To serve, spoon few pieces of chicken into center of warmed tortilla and top with spoonful of vegetable mixture, cilantro, and Spicy Pickled Radishes. Serve with lime wedges.

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