Key West Chicken


Big, bold flavor for a chicken dish that's anything but boring.

Key West Chicken
Photo: Will Dickey
Active Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 5 mins

The flavors of South Florida are captured in this Key West Chicken recipe by a tart and sweet marinade made with orange and lime juices and zest. For an easy grilled main, use boneless skinless chicken breast to allow the flavors to soak in quickly. Pair with your favorite salad for a light and healthy meal, or serve alongside hearty sides like grilled corn on the cob, grilled potato salad, and even grilled peaches.

What Ingredients Are in Key West Chicken?

Key West chicken is simple to whip up with a few fresh ingredients and pantry staples.

ingredients for Key West Chicken in small bowls
Will Dickey

Made from fermented soybeans, tamari boasts a rich, umami-heavy flavor, similar to soy sauce. Favored for its thicker consistency and gluten-free, you can find tamari in the condiment section of your grocery store or in the ethnic section. Sub in soy sauce in a pinch.

Honey provides a little sweetness to balance the citrus juices. It also works as a binder to keep the marinade on the chicken. In short, this liquid sweetener is essential. Look for products labeled pure honey. Some available for purchase at grocery stores may include other sweeteners and ingredients like corn syrup.

Fresh Citrus Juice and Zest
This recipe calls for orange and lime juice and zest. When shopping for citrus, choose firm fruits with a bit of give and without any soft spots or bruises. Use a microplane or box grater to zest, and always wash your citrus beforehand.

Canola Oil
With a neutral flavor, canola oil is ideal for grilling the Key West Chicken and preventing the meat from sticking to the grates.

Like onions, leeks, and garlic, shallots are part of the allium family and can typically be found in the grocery store's produce section. Smaller and purple or brown colored, shallots are prepared the same way as onions; start by removing the papery skin and ends.

Garlic Cloves
Minced garlic provides a little heat and onion flavor. Peel the clove and roughly chop to mince garlic.

Chicken Breasts
While chicken breast is available as skin-on, choose boneless skinless chicken breast for this recipe to allow the marinade to fully penetrate the meat.

How to Make Key West Chicken

Don't skimp on the marinade time. That's what makes this grilled chicken recipe different from any other you've ever had.

Step 1. Mix up the marinade

Whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade—tamari, honey, orange zest, orange juice, lime zest, lime juice, oil, salt, pepper, shallot, and garlic—in a large bowl.

Add the chicken breasts to the marinade, and toss to coat. You can use your hands or tongs; just make sure all the chicken is well coated. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap, and chill the chicken in the fridge for at least 30 minutes; 1 hour is better.

chicken breasts in marinade
Will Dickey

Step 2. Cook the sauce

A few minutes before your marinating time ends, preheat your grill or grill pan to medium-high heat (or about 400°F to 450°F on a grill).

Then, remove the chicken breasts from the marinade. Set chicken on a separate plate. Pour what remains of the marinade into a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the marinade to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally until the marinade is reduced to about 1/2 cup. This should take 3 to 4 minutes, but if you have extra marinade, you may need to cook a little longer.

cooking key west chicken marinade in a saucepan
Will Dickey

Step 3. Grill the chicken

Now that the marinade is cooked and safe to use as a basting sauce, it's time to cook the chicken breasts. Oil the grill grates or grill pan, and place the chicken breasts on the hot grates. Baste the breasts with the sauce, and turn after a few minutes. Baste the other side of the chicken.

Continue to turn and baste the chicken breasts until they're cooked through, or a thermometer reads 165°F in the thickest part of the meat.

grilled pieces of chicken breast on a grill plate
Will Dickey

When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the grill, and place it on a platter. Give it one final baste with any remaining sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve with lime wedges or orange wedges.

How Long Do You Marinate Key West Chicken?

This recipe recommends marinating the chicken for 30 minutes to an hour. But don't fret if you haven't given yourself enough time. With even 10 minutes, this marinade can permeate the meat and provide additional flavor.

Can you leave chicken in marinade for too long?

A little extra soak in a flavorful marinade can often be beneficial for chicken, but don't forget about the bird completely. The orange and lime juice is acidic and will begin to break down the protein in the uncooked chicken after two days.

How Long Do You Cook Key West Chicken?

12 to 15 minutes, or until a thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken registers 165°F

Should You Wash Chicken Before Marinating?

There is no need to wash meat before marinating or cooking it. In fact, washing meat can lead to potential food safety issues, such as cross-contamination with chicken bacteria into the sink or onto other surfaces.

To kill germs that could cause a foodborne illness, always cook chicken to 165°F, per the Food and Drug Administration's guidelines on food safety.

What to Serve with Key West Chicken

Serve Key West Chicken with a side of sweet and fresh oven-roasted corn on the cob, creamy mashed potatoes, and crisp cucumber and Vidalia onion salad.

Editorial Contributions by Alexandra Emanuelli.


  • ¼ cup lower-sodium tamari

  • 3 Tbsp. honey

  • 1 Tbsp. grated orange zest plus 1/4 cup fresh juice (from 2 oranges), plus wedges for serving

  • 1 Tbsp. grated lime zest plus 2 Tbsp. fresh juice (from 3 limes), plus wedges for serving

  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil

  • ½ tsp. fine sea salt

  • ½ tsp. black pepper

  • 1 large (1 1/2 oz.) shallot, finely chopped (1/4 cup)

  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (2 tsp.)

  • 4 (8-oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded 1/2-in. thick

  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Whisk together tamari, honey, orange zest, orange juice, lime zest, lime juice, oil, salt, pepper, shallot, and garlic in a large bowl. Add chicken, and toss to coat. Cover and chill until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

  2. Preheat grill to medium-high (400°F to 450°F). While grill preheats, remove chicken from marinade, and set chicken aside. Place marinade (about 3/4 cup) in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium-high. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/2 cup, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

  3. Place chicken on oiled grates; grill, uncovered, turning and basting occasionally with marinade, until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of chicken registers 165°F, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large plate; garnish with parsley, and serve with orange wedges and lime wedges.

Related Articles