A simple marinade makes for a super flavorful, perfectly charred, smoky grilled cilantro lime chicken wings.
If friends are coming over and we’re lighting up charcoal for the grill, chances are very high that we’re making these grilled cilantro lime wings.
This easy marinade brings all the flavor, while grilling transforms them into crispy, slightly charred delights. These chicken wings are so good that we want to lovingly force feed them to all of our meat-eating friends and family.
These cilantro chicken wings can be a snack, appetizer, or a main entree. Make potato salad, grill some veggies, or have a salad on the side, and you have a whole meal.
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Don’t get me wrong- fried chicken wings are great. But a grilled chicken wing is a thing of beauty, plus it’s healthier than its fried counterpart.
Grilled chicken wings marinade
While this wing marinade doesn’t seem like much, when this humble list of ingredients is blended together it becomes truly delicious.
- Cilantro (stems and leaves)
- White onion
- Lime juice
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Once you have your marinade blended together, dump into a plastic bag with the wings (or split between two bags if there is not enough room).
At this point it will look like you dumped a chunky green smoothie into a bag of raw chicken wings (I mean, that’s basically true), but have faith. Once you grill these wings, you will be a believer in this marinade.
I recommend marinating time be at least 2 hours and no more than 12 hours. I like to get my marinade going in the morning of grilling day. That way, when it’s time to grill and chill, I just remove them from the marinade bag and put them on the grill- it’s that easy.
There seems to be a common misconception that you need to marinate meat for days to get this amazingly flavorful protein. Don’t believe the bragging dads at the cookout, because meat doesn’t need to marinate that long.
Definitely do not marinate your wings longer than 24 hours. If you marinate for a day or longer, your meat can become highly unpleasant. Salt and sugar break down meat some, but it’s especially the lime juice- being exposed to acid for too long- that makes the texture of the meat become mushy.
When your wings are in the happy zone of marinating, it becomes tender. But the real magic (and purpose) of any marinade is for it to be the first thing that hits the hot grill, developing the marinade flavors into a lovely crust.
Crust, not mush, friends. Marinate wisely.
How to make grilled cilantro lime wings
Let’s talk wings. For these cilantro lime chicken wings we use whole wings, meaning the drumette and wingette are still attached with the wing flap.
We prefer grilling them whole and then breaking them apart as you eat them (we ain’t shy). I also find that a whole chicken wing has a much lower chance of possibly drying out, since it’s all together.
If you prefer the wingette and drumette to be separated, that will work fine for this recipe also, just cut down on the cooking time. You can either buy the drumette and wingette already separated, or buy whole wings and break them down.
Now that you have your chicken, you are just a few simple steps away from juicy, charred, delicious chicken wings. Once you’ve prepped your marinade, let the wings marinate for a few hours. Then drain from the marinade.
We are a charcoal grill people. Yeah yeah yeah, I know- gas is faster and easier. But there is no denying that food grilled over charcoal just tastes better thanks to those lovely coals and smoke.
I also understand that not everyone has the setup for a charcoal grill or wants one, so both grilling methods work with this recipe.
Whichever grilling method you choose, the concept is the same. Have two cooking zones, one for indirect heat and one for direct heat. Roughly 20 minutes of cooking time later, you have delicious cilantro lime chicken wings.
How do you know when chicken wings are done
There are a couple ways to check that your wings are done. The obvious is to use a meat temperature. The internal temperature should be 165 F. You can stop cooking when they reach 160 and let them rest.
Another way is to take one off the grill and puncture with a fork. If the juices run clear and not bloody- you’re good.
Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken Wings
- 1 Charcoal or gas grill
- 2.75 lb whole chicken wings (about 10 wings)
- ½ of a bunch of cilantro (stems and leaves)
- 3 garlic cloves
- ½ of a medium white onion
- 1 jalapeno, roughly chopped
- 1 juice of lime
- 1 tb cumin
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 3 tb olive oil
- lime wedges and chopped cilantro for serving
- Combine cilantro, garlic, onion, jalapeno, lime juice, cumin, olive oil, salt and pepper in a processor and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning.
- Add chicken wings to a plastic bag and add marinade. Seal and shake around to evenly coat the wings. Use two bags if necessary.
- Put in fridge and let marinate for 2 – 12 hours, no more than 24 hours.
- While your charcoal is heating up, remove wings from the fridge, drain marinade, and let them come to room temperature. (If using a gas grill, turn on one side of the grill and preheat to 400 degrees).
- Arrange your hot coals on one side of the grill.
- Place wings on the direct heat side until charred, about 5-7 minutes, flipping halfway through. This time may vary depending on how hot your grill is.
- Move your wings to the indirect heat side for 10 minutes. Flip and cook for another 10 minutes. Time may vary depending on how hot your grill is, so check often for doneness.
- Remove from grill. Drizzle with lime juice and chopped cilantro.