Grilled Chicken Tacos with Fruit Salsa

Grilled chicken tacos with fruit salsa replace standard salsa made with tomatoes with salsa made with stone fruits and all the other usual suspects, including onion, cilantro, and lime. Easy. Unexpected. The chicken boasts a nice and not-too-hot spice rub.

A black platter with several grilled chicken tacos with fruit salsa, a few cherry tomatoes, and a wooden board with cut chicken, halved plums, and queso fresco.

These grilled chicken tacos with fruit salsa are a nifty detour from your usual taco night. They’re easy, unexpected, and they may, in fact, make you rethink your go-to salsa recipe, especially when you find yourself standing there facing that inevitable glut of ripe stone fruits on your counter from not being able to resist everything at the farmer’s market. But hurry. You’re going to want to make these as often as you can before stone fruits go out of season.–Angie Zoobkoff

Grilled Chicken Tacos with Fruit Salsa

A black platter with several grilled chicken tacos with fruit salsa, a few cherry tomatoes, and a wooden board with cut chicken, halved plums, and queso fresco.
Marinated chicken makes up the heart of this dish, cooking away on the grill until it develops a light char on the skin, while the dark leg and thigh meat remains juicy and succulent. The sweetness of the plums is balanced by the tang of freshly squeezed lime juice and the fresh bite of cilantro, making one of the most richly flavored salsas you’ll ever encounter, and the perfect pairing for the rich smoky chicken.
Eva Kosmas Flores

Prep 45 mins
Cook 1 hr
Total 6 hrs
Entrees
American
3 to 4 servings
911 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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Ingredients 

For the marinated chicken

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, chipotle, or ancho chile
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds large chicken leg quarters

For the plum salsa

  • 1 to 2 large stone fruits such as plums, peaches, nectarines, or pluots, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the spice rub

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

For serving

  • About 12 corn or flour tortillas (6-inch or 15-cm)
  • About 1/2 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 ounce queso fresco* crumbled

Directions
 

Marinate the chicken

  • In a small bowl, stir together the lime juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and cayenne pepper until combined. Dump the mixture into a large resealable plastic bag along with the chicken leg quarters. Press as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing, then gently massage the bag to evenly coat the chicken. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, turning it occasionally.

Make the fruit salsa

  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the plum, red onion, bell pepper (if using), cilantro, lime juice, and salt together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The salsa tastes better after sitting for a few hours, so go ahead and whip it up right after you get your chicken marinating. (You can store in the refrigerator for up to a few days.)

Make the spice rub

  • In a small bowl, stir together the salt, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, ancho chile, chipotle chile, and cayenne pepper until combined.

Grill the chicken

  • Preheat a charcoal grill by heating the coals until they’re pale grey and glowing orange, about 20 minutes, or preheat a gas grill to medium.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat it dry. Coat it with the olive oil and then the spice rub.
  • Move the hot coals to one side of the grill or turn off the burner on one side of your gas grill. Place the chicken on the opposite side of the grill from the coals or flame. Grill until the skin is crisp and the chicken is cooked through, 60 to 75 minutes, flipping it a total of about 4 times. Let the chicken cool slightly. And then use your hands to remove and discard the skin. Take the meat off the bones, discarding the bones and coarsely chopping the meat.

Serve

  • Warm each tortilla in a skillet over medium heat, allowing it to toast for about 1 minute on each side. Place a handful of the chicken along the center of each tortilla and then drizzle about 1 tablespoon of salsa on top. Top with a handful of cabbage and the queso fresco and serve.
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Notes

*What is queso fresco?

Literally, “fresh cheese”. Queso fresco is made from cow’s milk, or sometimes a combination of cow and goat milk, and is lighter in taste and texture than other cheeses. This freshness makes it a perfect addition to summer vegetables and grilled meats, especially tacos. It crumbles easily and it a lovely, tangy addition to salads, too. If you can’t find it, feta or goat cheese come pretty close and can stand in, in a pinch.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 4tacos, based on 3 portionsCalories: 911kcal (46%)Carbohydrates: 73g (24%)Protein: 39g (78%)Fat: 51g (78%)Saturated Fat: 12g (75%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 9gMonounsaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 164mg (55%)Sodium: 1041mg (45%)Potassium: 724mg (21%)Fiber: 5g (21%)Sugar: 10g (11%)Vitamin A: 1085IU (22%)Vitamin C: 26mg (32%)Calcium: 233mg (23%)Iron: 6mg (33%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

Amazing! The grilled chicken was almost gobbled before I could put it in the tortillas. Full of flavor and very moist. The plum salsa is a refreshing change and went well with the chicken. This chicken was so moist and flavorful.

We warmed tortillas in a skillet and then added chicken, plum salsa, cabbage, and queso fresco. I love tacos with a passion but this chicken was so tasty on its own, I felt bad putting salsa and other taco components on it. It was delicious but it totally masked the chicken. The leftover chicken never made it into tortillas. It was used in a salad and just on its own. It's that good. Next time I would probably just use thighs because the quarters were unwieldy.

The lovely rich balance in these grilled chicken tacos among savory, sweet, and tart was able to transport me to a warmer setting as I sat grilling with the snow coming down. The depth of flavor that the plum salsa provides against the juicy chicken makes this a go-to in our taco arsenal.

For those of you who typically shy away from dark meat, it truly shines in this dish and really allows the dish to develop deep flavor over the grill while not drying out. I opted to briefly grill the plums as well to bring out their natural sweetness and add another layer of smokiness to the dish. If this dish lifts the palate this much during winter, I can't wait to try this one out when summer hits.

I don't have a charcoal grill so I used my gas grill and the smoker box which turned out nice. As I'd have done on a charcoal grill, I kept one end of the grill much hotter so the chicken was cooking indirectly and had enough time to cook through without the skin becoming overly charred.


Originally published June 6, 2017

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