Sheet Pan

Jalapeño-Marinated Chicken Tacos With Watermelon Salsa

May  3, 2021
18 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 4 hours 10 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Makes 8 tacos
Author Notes

This is the taco recipe that made me stop hating tacos, finally. I blitzed up all my leftover cilantro stems, garlic cloves, jalapeños, salt, sugar, and a generous glug of olive oil, and marinated a couple pounds of cut-up, boneless chicken thighs in this herby liqueur. I roasted the chicken in a hot oven, warmed up a soft flour tortilla in the green chicken fat, topped it off with some leftover watermelon I had magicked into a spicy salsa—all doused in hot sauce—and, as Nigella Lawson says, "applied to face." I stood by my stove that day and ate one taco at a time, made a ritual out of the assembly. —Eric Kim

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: I Made You Birthday Tacos, 873 Miles Away. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the tacos
  • 4 large jalapeños, 1 whole, 3 deseeded
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup cilantro stems
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces (I usually just quarter each thigh)
  • 8 small, soft flour tortillas
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving
  • For the salsa
  • 1 cup watermelon, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 large jalapeño, thinly sliced into rings
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
  1. In a food processor or blender, blitz the jalapeños, garlic, cilantro stems, olive oil, salt, sugar, and pepper and toss with the halved chicken thighs. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain the chicken in a colander to get rid of excess marinade, then lay on a sheet pan and roast at 400° F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
  3. Meanwhile, stir together the watermelon, red onion, lime juice, jalapeño, cilantro, salt, and pepper and set aside. That's your salsa.
  4. When you're ready to taco up, heat up the tortillas in a dry pan. Top each with some chicken and salsa, and serve with the lime wedges.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Alyssa Ann
    Alyssa Ann
  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • Linda D
    Linda D
  • jamie_gonzales
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.

6 Reviews

Linda D. July 21, 2021
WOW! Absolutely fabulous! Thank you for another great recipe, Kim. So glad there is more watermelon in the fridge because I’m making it again!
jamie_gonzales July 12, 2019
Has anyone tried grilling the chicken thighs instead of using the oven? Sounds delicious!
Alyssa A. December 10, 2018
FANTASTIC - I don't even like cilantro and this was delicious!
Eric K. December 11, 2018
Yay! Thanks for taking the time to review. I love these tacos.
Debby July 28, 2018
Any suggestions of what to sub for the cilantro? Can’t stand it...
Eric K. July 29, 2018
Hm, parsley would work fine! The main flavor profile is jalapeño, so as long as you don’t skimp on that, the marinade’s really just a base for what you like.