Crispy Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Lime Ranch.
Weeknight style Cheesy Baked Crispy Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Lime Ranch…and all the toppings. Because loaded tacos are just better. Ground chicken seasoned with a smoky chipotle chili spice mix, stuffed into hard shell tacos, topped with cheese, and oven-baked. These tacos are crunchy on the outside, but spicy and cheesy inside. Serve each taco with a creamy, cooling cilantro lime ranch sauce, and a mix of your favorite taco toppings. They come together in minutes and are so delicious…the perfect weeknight dinner. Bonus, the chipotle chicken is great as a leftover. Pile it high onto your favorite tortilla chips for some seriously delicious nachos or serve it up atop greens for a Mexican inspired salad.
As a kid, tacos were a weeknight staple in our house. I’ve touched on this before, but my dad cooked tacos for dinner at least once or twice a week for multiple years straight. It probably wasn’t until I started to take over the cooking around the age of fourteen that we started to switch things up. So yes, the typical weeknight ground beef taco was a staple, and my dad had them down to a T.
He’d make his tacos with ground beef and store-bought taco seasoning. Then he’d simply stuff the meat into tortillas with a little cheddar cheese and nothing else. Well…maybe some lettuce for my mom and I. But no beans, no avocado, not even cilantro or a squeeze of lime. Very, very basic, and it’s just what my brothers wanted. At the time, I didn’t know any better, so I greatly enjoyed these tacos too. I took mine in a hard shell and oven-baked for extra crispiness on the outside, and soft and cheesy inside.
And there you have it.
That’s my childhood taco story. Did we ever get sick of eating tacos? Honestly, I don’t think we did. I’m pretty sure that we were the ones requesting taco night so often. We loved it and still do! I’m always making tacos, whether it’s these quick skillet chicken tacos, my favorite Caribbean shrimp tacos, or these saucy instant pot BBQ chicken tacos. Tacos are still on the menu every couple of weeks.
But my absolute go-to taco?
It’s these. They’re classic, so simple, cheesy, crunchy, and SO GOOD. I love them, my brothers love them, and pretty much every other human who enjoys Mexican food (even just a little) enjoys these crunchy tacos.
To make these weeknight chicken tacos…
It is SIMPLE.
Pick up some ground chicken, turkey, or even ground beef. Just be sure to use what your family loves most! Simply brown the meat, add seasonings, and stuff into hard tacos. Then top with cheese, and bake in the oven until melted and crisp.
Doesn’t get any easier, but yet this is a dinner that everyone loves.
I do have a few little secrets however that make these tacos better than the rest.
The seasoning blend.
Over the years, I feel like I’ve kind of perfected the taco seasoning mix. It’s just a touch spicy, a little smoky, and hinted with garlic. I use a mix of chipotle chili powder (key ingredient) and smoked paprika to keep the taco meat extra flavorful. Most tacos mixes use regular chili powder, but I’ve always found that to lack flavor. Using chipotle chili powder adds the perfect amount of spiciness.
I like to use a good amount, so be sure to adjust this to your family’s taste level. Start with two teaspoons and work your way up to three if you like things spicy!
My Shells? I make them at home.
Well, kind of, and the shells aren’t technically a part of the recipe. BUT I’m including it in the notes. Instead of using store-bought taco shells I like to take corn tortillas, stuff them with the taco meat plus cheese, then oven bake them until the tortillas are crispy. I rub each tortilla with olive oil and then flip them halfway through cooking. This is key to getting the tacos extra crispy on both sides.
If you have a couple extra minutes, I would highly recommend making your own “shells”. They’re very, very good…and much healthier than store-bought too!
That cilantro lime ranch? You need it too.
Most tacos are topped with sour cream, but trust me this cilantro lime ranch is so much better, but it’s also not your average ranch.
I used fresh cilantro and plenty of lime in place of the usual herb mix and stirred in some pickled jalapeños for a spicy, tangy kick. This is the perfect sauce to dollop onto each cheesy, crunchy taco.
If you wanted to take the toppings a step further, I would recommend a pineapple salsa or mango salsa. But you all know me, I love a good fruity salsa. Oh, and maybe add a nice margarita too. This spicy mango marg is my personal favorite.
If you make these weeknight Crispy Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Lime Ranch, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
Weeknight Cheesy Baked Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Lime Ranch.
Crunchy on the outside...spicy and cheesy inside. Serve each taco with a creamy, cooling cilantro lime ranch sauce, and a mix of your favorite taco toppings.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground chicken, beef, or turkey
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2-3 teaspoons chipotle chili powder, use to your taste
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, use to your taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 hard shell tacos (see notes for homemade option)
- 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
Cilantro Lime Ranch
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the ground chicken and onion. Cook, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the chicken is browned, about 5 minutes. Add the chipotle chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt. Add 3/4 cup water. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly around the chicken, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup cilantro.
3. Line the taco shells up on a sheet pan or in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Transfer to the oven and bake 5 minutes. Evenly divide the meat among each taco shell and top with cheese. Bake 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted.
4. Meanwhile, make the ranch. Combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake or stir until creamy.
5. Serve the tacos topped with ranch, avocado, red onion, and any other desired toppings.
For Easy Homemade Hard Shells: Warm 8-12 corn tortillas for 30 seconds to 1 minute in the microwave, until pliable. On a baking sheet, rub the tortillas with olive oil. Lay each flat and then layer evenly with cheese and chicken. Fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling, gently pushing to adhere (see above photo). Transfer to the oven and bake for 5-8 minutes, then flip and cook another 5 minutes more, or until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are crisp.
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