Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Recipe (Or Instant Pot!)

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This delicious, healthy, Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken is a great way to either let dinner mostly cook itself (slow cooker), or get it on the table fast (Instant Pot or Ninja Foodi).

A white plate holds Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken served over quinoa with black beans, fresh cilantro, jalapeno slices and chopped, red onion.

Why Use A Slow Cooker?

The one thing I truly love about slow cookers is that they make the most tender chicken on the planet. It’s the kind of “fall-off-the-bone” texture we all love. And if done properly, it will work with boneless chicken too!

Can I Use Chicken Breasts?

You can. Chicken breasts tend to be a bit dryer when cooked, but they will work just fine here. However, if they are on the thicker side, you may have to increase the cooking time just slightly. But check it at the recipe time first. You can always close it up and keep on cooking!

Can I make This a Freezer Meal?

You absolutely can! Simply pack everything in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 4 months. When you are ready to eat it, thaw it in the fridge for a full 24 hours, then proceed with cooking it in your slow cooker.

And yes, I know a lot of people put frozen meat into their slow cookers. But for food safety reasons, I cannot recommend that here.

A closeup of a plate of Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken served over quinoa and garnished with cilantro, lime, jalapeno, red onion and black beans.

Is This Chicken Spicy?

No, but it can be. We love it spicy, which is why I recommend jalapeno peppers as a garnish. But it’s totally up to you! 

How Can I Make This Chicken Spicier?

Add jalapeno peppers to the slow cooker. Then garnish with fresh peppers at serving. Chop them fine for cooking, and chop or slice them any way you want for the garnish.

Can You Put Raw Meat In A Slow Cooker?

Yep! In fact, that’s the whole point! A slow cooker will keep everything within food safety ranges as long as the meat isn’t frozen.

Should I Brown The Chicken Before Adding It To The Slow Cooker?

Not for this recipe. I know some recipes will call for browning meat first. But for this recipe, I do not recommend it.

A plat of garnished Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken sits on a wood cutting board.

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Recipe Cost

Since groceries are so dang costly these days, I thought I would start adding rough cost estimates to my recipes. Just please understand that these prices are true for my area at the time I shopped for the ingredients. They may be different in your area. But at least it will give you a ballpark idea.

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (2.5 lbs): $8-12 USD
  • Fresh lime juice (1/3 cup or about 3 limes): $0.75-1.50 USD
  • Fresh cilantro (1/4 cup): $0.50-1 USD
  • Garlic (8 cloves): $0.50-1 USD
  • Red onion (1 cup chopped): $1-2 USD
  • Black beans (15 oz. can, drained and rinsed): $1-2 USD
  • Ground cumin (2 tsp): $0.25-0.50 USD
  • Smoked paprika (1 tsp): $0.25-0.50 USD
  • Salt (1 tsp): $0.10-0.25 USD
  • Black pepper (1/4 tsp): $0.10-0.25 USD
  • Chicken broth (1/4 cup): $0.25-0.50 USD
  • Jalapeno pepper (1): $0.25-0.50 USD

The total cost range for these ingredients would be approximately $13.35-21.50 USD, or $2.23-3.58 USD per serving approximately.

How To Serve Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken

The possibilities are endless, but here are some suggestions:

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Can Be Served Over

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Millet

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Can Be Served In

  • Salads
  • Tortillas
Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken garnishes sitting on a wood cutting board. Lime slices, chopped cilantro, jalapeno pepper slices and chopped, red onion.

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Can Be Served With

  • Black beans
  • Chopped red onions
  • Lime slices or wedges
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Jalapeno pepper – If you want it spicy.

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Recipe Additions

While these are not called for in the recipe, you can expand this recipe by adding any of the following:

For Cooking:

  • Corn

For Serving:

  • Sour cream (or yogurt)
  • Fresh, chopped tomatoes
  • Salsa
  • Tortillas (for making tacos or burritos)
A white plate on a wood surface holds Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken, quinoa, lime, black beans, jalapeno pepper slices, red onion and fresh cilantro.

About The Ingredients

Boneless skinless chicken thighs – You can also use boneless skinless chicken breasts if you prefer.

Fresh lime juice – This is truly best freshly squeezed, but bottled will work in a pinch.

Fresh cilantro – You’ll want extra to sprinkle on at serving.

Garlic cloves – Use the largest garlic cloves you can find.

Red onion – You’ll want to add a 1/4 cup to the slow cooker, and the rest you’ll sprinkle on at serving.

Ground cumin

Smoked paprika – Make sure it’s smoked! Regular paprika won’t be nearly as good here.

Salt

Ground black pepper

Chicken broth – No sugar or dextrose added.

Canned black beans – No sugar added.

Jalapeno pepper – Optional. For medium spice, simply sprinkle on some chopped jalapeno at serving. But if you want it extra spicy, finely chop up half a jalapeno and add it to the spice mixture at the beginning of the recipe. Then use however much you want of the fresh stuff at serving.

How To Make Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken

Slow Cooker Instructions

Spices in a small mixing bowl with pressed garlic, fresh cilantro and lime juice.
Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken sauce mixed in a small mixing bowl.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the lime juice, cilantro, garlic, cumin, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Mix them well to make a “sauce”.

Chicken thighs sitting on the bottom of a slow cooker insert.
Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken sauce poured over chicken thighs in a slow cooker insert.

Next, place your chicken into a slow cooker and pour the lime-cilantro mixture over it.

Onions sprinkled over chicken thighs in a slow cooker.

Sprinkle about a 1/4 cup of chopped red onion over the top.

Pouring chicken broth into a slow cooker with chicken thighs and Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken sauce.
Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken, shredded with a wooden spoon, sitting in a slow cooker.

Add some chicken broth to the slow cooker, cover it up, and let it cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours, until the chicken is cooked all the way through and tender. It should easily fall apart when stirred. Stir well to completely shred chicken.  If your chicken ends up being a little tougher than it should be, simply remove the chicken from the slow cooker onto a plate or cutting board and shred it using two forks.

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken served over quinoa and garnished with jalapeno pepper slices, lime slices, onions and black beans.

Serve this over rice or quinoa and garnish with black beans and jalapeno pepper, if using.

Instant Pot Instructions (Or Ninja Foodi Instructions)

Follow the slow cooker instructions through step 3.

Place the chicken in the IP insert, and pour the sauce over the top.

Add the chicken broth. Note that most pressure cookers need more liquid to cook. Mine did just fine with this (I used a Ninja Foodi). If you think you will need the full cup of liquid, feel free to add 1 full cup of chicken broth. You will simply have more sauce when it’s done.

Close the lid and set the valve to the sealing position.

Select manual/pressure cook mode and set the timer for 25-30 minutes on high pressure.

Once the timer beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, and then do a quick release to release any remaining pressure.

Open the lid and stir the chicken to shred it.

Serve as indicated above.

Chopped cilantro laying on a round, wood, cutting board.

Storage

Store any leftovers in an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Freezing

This can be frozen if packed well. Freeze for up to 4 months. A freezer bag works great!

Reheating

From frozen – Thaw in the fridge for 24 hours, or in the microwave.

From fridge – Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop. You may need to add a little bit of extra chicken broth to the pot if you do this on the stovetop.

Recipe Supplies

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Instant Pot sold on Amazon. (Affiliate link)
Ninja Foodi sold on Amazon. (Affiliate link)

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A white plate holds Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken served over quinoa with black beans, fresh cilantro, jalapeno slices and chopped, red onion.

Crockpot Cilantro Lime Chicken Recipe

Delicious chicken you can eat by itself, in burritos, tacos on even in burrito bowls with rice or quinoa. See Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi cooking instructions in post above.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 317kcal
Author: The Gracious Pantry

Equipment

  • 1 Slow Cooker (5 or 6 qt) or
  • 1 Instant Pot or
  • 1 Ninja Foodi or

Ingredients

  • lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • cup fresh lime juice (about 2-3 limes + extra for serving)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (plus extra for serving)
  • 8 large garlic cloves (pressed or minced)
  • 1 cup chopped red onion (divided)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chicken broth (no sugar or dextrose added)
  • 15 oz. can black beans (drained and rinsed – no sugar added)
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper (optional – see suggestions above)

Instructions

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • In a small mixing bowl, combine the lime juice, cilantro, garlic, cumin, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Mix them well to make a "sauce".
    Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken sauce mixed in a small mixing bowl.
  • Next, place your chicken into a slow cooker and pour the lime-cilantro mixture over it. Add a ¼ cup of chopped red onion.
    Onions sprinkled over chicken thighs in a slow cooker.
  • Add some chicken broth to the slow cooker, cover it up, and let it cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours, until the chicken is cooked all the way through and tender. It should easily fall apart when stirred. Stir well to shred well.  If your chicken ends up being a little tougher than it should be, simply remove the chicken from the slow cooker onto a plate or cutting board and shred it using two forks.
    Pouring chicken broth into a slow cooker with chicken thighs and Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken sauce.
  • Serve this over rice or quinoa and garnish with black beans and jalapeno pepper, if using.
    Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken served over quinoa and garnished with jalapeno pepper slices, lime slices, onions and black beans.

Notes

Please note that the nutrition data given here is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible. Data does not include extra garnishes or additions.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 317kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 180mg | Sodium: 577mg | Potassium: 784mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 186IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 3mg

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