Cilantro Lime Chicken Drumsticks

$5.25 recipe / $1.75 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.82 from 37 votes
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I finally got around to cooking some of the chicken drumsticks that I bought last week and they are soooo good! I love southwest inspired flavors, so marinating the chicken in cilantro lime was a natural choice for me. This savory, garlicky marinade infuses the chicken and creates the most wonderful pan juices, which I then spooned over rice. It’s safe to say that I’ll be making these Cilantro Lime Chicken Drumsticks again in the future.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Drumsticks in the baking dish with lime and cilantro

Do I have to use drumsticks?

Don’t have drumsticks? No prob. This would work equally as well with bone-in or boneless chicken thighs. While you could use chicken breasts, I prefer the tender juicy dark meat for baking. If using breasts, I suggest pounding them out thin to increase the meat to marinade ratio and be sure not to over cook them because breasts dry out quickly.

Can I grill this Cilantro Lime Chicken?

This is also a great recipe for the grill. I don’t have one, so I popped mine in the oven, but the smoky flavor of the grill would be an amazing addition. Not to mention, cilantro lime is such a great summery flavor! I’m over here day dreaming about grilling poolside in the summer sun… Is winter over yet?!

Close up of Cilantro Lime Chicken Drumsticks in the baking dish
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Cilantro Lime Chicken Drumsticks

4.82 from 37 votes
These garlicky Cilantro Lime Chicken Drumsticks are like a blast of summer to get you through those winter blues. Also great for the grill!
Servings 3 to 4 servings
Prep 45 minutes
Cook 45 minutes
Total 1 hour 30 minutes


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.24)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced ($0.24)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin ($0.10)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • Freshly cracked pepper ($0.05)
  • 2 limes ($0.66)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro ($0.40)
  • 6 chicken drumsticks (about 1.75 lbs.) ($3.54)


  • Combine the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 10-15 cranks of a mill) in a bowl.
  • Use a zester, microplane, or small-holed cheese grater to remove the zest from one of the limes. Add about 1 tsp zest and 3 Tbsp juice to the marinade.Pull the leaves from 1/4 bunch of cilantro and chop finely. Add the chopped cilantro to the marinade and stir to combine. The other 1/4 bunch of cilantro will be added after baking.
  • Pour the marinade into a gallon sized zip top bag and add the chicken drumsticks. Close the bag tightly and massage to mix and coat the chicken pieces in the marinade. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or longer if desired, turning the bag occasionally to redistribute the marinade.
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the chicken pieces to a casserole dish so they are all in one layer, trying not to overcrowd. Pour the rest of the marinade in the bag over the chicken.
  • Bake the chicken for 40-45 minutes, basting once or twice throughout. For more browning, turn the broiler on at the end of the cooking time and broil for 2-4 minutes, or until the desired amount of browning is achieved. The total cooking time will ultimately depend on the size of your drumsticks and how closely they are packed together in the baking dish. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the meat has reached 160ºF to be sure.
  • Garnish the chicken with fresh slices of lime and more chopped cilantro leaves.

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Serving: 1ServingCalories: 528.6kcalCarbohydrates: 7.13gProtein: 48.6gFat: 33.57gSodium: 763.5mgFiber: 1.87g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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How to Make Cilantro Lime Chicken – Step by Step Photos

Oil, garlic, pepper, chili powder in a bowl

Start the marinade by combining 2 Tbsp olive oil, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 10-15 cranks of a pepper mill).

Juiced and zested lime on a blue cutting board next to a fine holed cheese grater
Zest the lime using a zester, microplane, or a small-holed cheese grater. Add about 1 tsp of the zest to the marinade and about 3 Tbsp of the juice (you may need to cut open the second lime to get 3 Tbsp of juice).

Chopped Cilantro on a blue cutting board

Finely chop about 1/4 bunch of cilantro (leaves only). The other 1/4 bunch will be added to the chicken after baking.

Finished Cilantro Lime Marinade in a white bowl

Add the lime zest, juice, and chopped cilantro to the marinade and stir to combine. 

Marinating Chicken in a zip top bag

Add the marinade and 6 chicken drumsticks to a large zip top bag. Massage the bag to mix the marinade and coat the chicken pieces. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Drumsticks in a baking dish, ready to bake

When you’re ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place the chicken pieces in a baking dish, making sure they’re in a single layer and not over crowded (the more space between the pieces, the faster they’ll cook).

Close up side view of uncooked chicken in the baking dish, remaining marinade poured over top

Pour the rest of the marinade from the bag over the chicken. I made sure to scoop up the rest of the minced garlic and chopped cilantro from the bag and pile it on top of the chicken.

Baked Cilantro Lime Chicken in the baking dish

Bake the chicken for 40-45 minutes, or until the internal temp is 160ºF (you can use a meat thermometer to be sure). For extra browning, turn on the broiler and let the chicken brown under the broiler for 2-4 minutes, or until browned to your liking. I maybe left mine under the broiler just a tad too long, but it was still delicious.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Drumsticks topped with fresh cilantro and sliced limes

Fresh cilantro has a much different flavor than cooked cilantro, so you’ll want to garnish the cooked chicken with the second half of the cilantro. Chop it fresh just before adding to the chicken. I also added thin slices from the second lime. Gorgeous!

Cilantro Lime Chicken Drumsticks in the baking dish with baking juices

The sauce in the bottom of the dish is TO-DIE-FOR, so don’t let it go to waste. Try not to let the lime slices sit in the hot liquid too long, though, the rind can add a bitter flavor.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Drumstick meal in a bowl with rice and sweet potatoes

I spooned some of that liquid from the bottom of the dish over the rice that I served with the chicken. I also served the chicken with roasted sweet potatoes. Don’t worry, that recipe is coming tomorrow! :)

Cilantro Lime Chicken Drumsticks meal prepped in square meal prep containers

I packed these bowls up for the refrigerator so we could just grab one and reheat when we’re hungry. I put two drumsticks in each container for the boyfriend, and one each for me, so we got four meals out of this dish.

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  1. This chicken was excellent! I just made it tonight, and it was very easy to prepare. I served it with some broccolini on the side. Would definitely make again!

  2. I made this tonight with chicken thighs and it is wonderful. Mind you, I thought it seemed like a ton of cilantro and garlic… but hey, I love both. It was so yummy. Only wish I had more juice (for lack of a better word) in the pan…. maybe for gravy, maybe for drinking. Don’t judge.🤣😉💯 while it was baking I baked some sweet potatoes with it. Lunch is looking good tomorrow

    1. I added a little chicken broth to the Ziploc bag I used to marinate the chicken…shook it good and added the liquid to the pan. That worked fine once the chicken started baking and releasing its own juices. Hope this helps.

  3. This is one of my favorite recipes on this site! I did want to ask something about the nutrition though. It says one serving is 1261 calories? Is this the calories for the whole recipe? Because I’m pretty sure if you broke this into 3 servings, two drumsticks and whatever amount of marinade you got would not be equivalent to 1261 calories.

    1. Let me check with our dietitian to see if those numbers are correct. :)

    2. Alright, we got it figured out! This is a great example why calculated nutrition facts should be taken with a BIG grain of salt. There are a lot of databases out there with nutrition facts for ingredients and we use the FoodData Central database from the USDA. Even within that one database there are several entries for chicken drumsticks with skin and bone, and they all have different (in this case drastically different) nutritional data. We checked out several other databases and recalculated the nutrition for this recipe with data that was more inline with the average values for chicken drumsticks from multiple databases. It should look better now! :)

  4. Hi Beth!

    This looks so good! As all your stuff does :) I accidentally picked up bone-in things with the skin on. For this recipe, do you recommend leaving the skin on the thighs? Or should I take it off before marinating? And then should I double the amount of everything since the thighs are so much bigger? I am BRAND new to cooking (you’ve been teaching me!) and I just don’t know what would be best! Thank you thank you!!

    1. You’ve got this Kari! I recommend keeping the skins on as they’ll give you great flavor. But if you don’t want to you can certainly remove them.

  5. Easy and tasty. My lines were past their prime zest-wise, so I only used the juice but the sauce was still sooooo good. I skipped the baggie (let’s reduce plastic use, please!) and just rubbed the marinade on the drumsticks and let them marinate in the Pyrex container that I baked them in. Since I skipped the zest, I couldn’t resist sprinkling some Tajín over the drumsticks after rubing in the marinade, for a little color and to boost the lime flavor. So yeah, I realize I modified the recipe slightly to work with what I had in my pantry, but I’m sure it would have been just as delicious if I’d used the zest and skipped the Tajín too. Served with Jasmine rice, Mexican black beans, and Chile spiced roasted butternut. Will definitely make it again.