Chicken fajitas and sheet pan suppers would seem like a marriage made in a busy home cook’s heaven. I mean, who wouldn’t fall in love with the idea of chicken strips, bell peppers, and onions tossed in a Tex-Mex inspired marinade, oven-roasted for a few minutes, and plated up on a busy weeknight? Sadly, it turns out that the reality—like most fairytale Hollywood celebrity unions—rarely winds up as happily-ever-after as one would hope.
If you’re like me, you’ve no doubt been seduced by the noisy sizzle of fragrant onions and seasoned meat strips at a neighborhood Tex-Mex restaurant. (Psst! That sizzling cast iron platter? It’s just a prop to further a calculated marketing move called the “Fajita effect.” It doesn’t do anything other than make you drool while it overcooks your food.) I had high hopes of coming up with a one-pan approach to making restaurant-style fajitas, but my initial test batches were a let-down. The flavors were right, but the chicken, peppers, and onions ended up steaming in their own juices. I forced my family to choke down tray after tray of soggy, limp piles of meat and veggies swimming in orange-y liquid. Still, despite my kids’ insistence that I throw in the towel, I persisted.
Why? Because (A) I’m no quitter, and (B) I knew my flavors were right and sensed that a breakthrough was right around the corner. Also, (C) I don’t really care if my kids have to eat the same thing four nights in a row.
So I kept testing. I tried altering the cooking temperature, preheating the sheet pan in the oven before adding the ingredients, and adjusting the ratio of vegetables—all to no avail. Finally, Henry suggested that I raise the ingredients up on a wire rack—similar to what I do with many of my roasted chicken recipes (like this one and this one)—to see what would happen.
Spoiler: The rack worked!
The extra liquid released from the chopped up veggies and chicken drip through the rack, allowing the fajitas to cook more evenly when elevated! Just make sure you buy a sturdy, oven-safe stainless steel rack like this one. (Chrome racks can flake with time or vigorous scrubbing and may not be heat-safe up to 575°F, like stainless racks.)
No rack? I’m giving you fair warning that your fajitas will steam, and the vegetables will end up limp. It’ll still taste good, but you’ll want to tilt the pan and spoon off the extra liquid before serving.
Me? I’m going with the rack. See the difference?
While you’re waiting for your fajitas to finish cooking, you might as well whip up my simple dairy-free Avocado Crema as a topping, too.
This zesty sauce was developed as an accompaniment to the Shrimp Tacos in my exclusive One and Done! bonus e-book for those of you who have already preordered our cookbook, Ready or Not! (You’ve heard about our new book, right?)
This 40-page thank you gift is packed with 10 brand-new, never-before-seen one-pan/one-pot recipes. If you already preordered our second cookbook, you can download your copy here. Remember: These exclusive e-book bonuses will vanish into thin air come August, so don’t miss out!
Okay—enough blathering. Ready to cook up some incredible Whole30-friendly Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas?
- ¼ cup avocado oil or olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch strips (Step away from the boneless, skinless breasts. They’ll dry out.)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, deseeded, cored and sliced into ¼-inch strips
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper, deseeded, cored, and sliced into ¼-inch strips
- 1 small white onion, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- 1 large Hass avocado
- ¼ cup full-fat coconut milk
- ¼ cup chives, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper