Cilantro Chicken Sandwiches with Chili-Spiced Tots is a recipe inspired by so many of my favorite things. Cilantro is hand-down my favorite herb, always and forever, and I never met a chicken sandwich that didn’t speak to my soul. Paired that with tater tots, and you’ve got incredible comfort food.
Cilantro chicken starts out a marinade so packed with herbs and spices that that chicken only needs an hour in it to become flavorful. I start out the recipe by making a spice mix that, honestly, would be good on anything. The spices include all of the classic Tex-Mex spices, coriander, cumin, and oregano. Chili powder rounds out the flavors and gives the chicken a deep, rich color.
Half of the spice mix goes into the marinade with fresh cilantro and lime and the rest is reserved for the tater tots. The tater tots in this recipe are far from homemade. I use Ore Ida frozen tater tots because tots, in the form that we all know and love, are pretty damn tricky to make, and I wanted this recipe to be easy and approachable.
I may not make the tater tots from scratch, but coating the tots in my amazing Tex-Mex spice rub takes them from boring to a recipe you’ll crave again and again.
To make the tater tots even more over-the-top, I drizzle them with Mexican crema for extra decadence.
The other noteworthy choice I made on the tater tots is their size. Ore Ida makes mini tater tots, that I f*cking LOVE! Sometimes frozen and oven-baked fries and tots lack the crispiness of the real fried product. I think the ratio of crunchy outside and creamy inside is just right when it comes to these mini tater tots.
Once the chicken is marinated, the meal comes together really quickly. The sandwiches are built on a ciabatta bun, but if you’re watching carbs, this meal would be just as flavorful and amazing without the bun. In fact, that’s how I ate it when I was recipe testing, and I loved it!
Just a few simple ingredients are needed to finish off this beautiful dish. The chicken is topped with sliced avocado, caramelized onions, fresh arugula, and lime juice. That’s it! The chicken is richly spiced so that you really don’t need to add too much to it.
The creamy texture of the avocado acts almost like the condiment for this sandwich, while the caramelized onions bring a touch of sweetness that is the perfect balance to the spicy chicken. Fresh arugula and lime juice elevate the sandwich to new heights and bring a bright freshness to the flavors.
Cilantro Chicken Sandwiches with Chili-Spiced Tots is a perfect weekend lunch or dinner to share with family and friends.
The only thing that would make this sandwich taste better would be pairing it with an ice cold beer and enjoying it on a patio in the sunshine.
You could also easily make this recipe for a crowd and grill the chicken outside on the barbecue pit for extra warm weather fun! Try this delicious recipe out and let me know what you think.
A small food processor is a relatively inexpensive piece of kitchen equipment that you'll use again and again. If you don't have one, click the image to purchase one!
Cilantro Chicken Sandwiches with Chili-Spiced Tater Tots
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ bunch cilantro
- 1 lime zested
- ½ C canola oil
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts if you prefer
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 Tb butter
- 1 Tb olive oil
- 4 ciabatta rolls
- 2 C arugula
- 2 avocados
- Mexican crema or sour cream
- lime juice
Ore Ida Mini Tater Tots
To make marinade
- Roughly tear the cilantro bunch into 2 to 3-inch sections. Place all of the ingredients and half of the spice mix (reserve the remaining half for your tater tots) into a blender or small food processor and blend until the cilantro is finely minced and the ingredients are well combined.
- If you don't have a blender or food processor, you can also finely mince the cilantro by hand and mix together with the remaining ingredients. Whisk vigorously though so that you create a nice emulsified (a fancy way of saying thick and creamy like salad dressing) marinade. I've also linked to a small food processor for purchase above that is an amazing kitchen tool for very little money.
- Place the chicken thighs into a gallon size Ziploc bag or a glass bowl and cover with marinade. Rub the chicken with the marinade to ensure every piece is thoroughly covered. Marinade for at least one hour and up to four.
To make tater tots
- Prepare the tater tots according to the package instructions. I usually add about 5-10 minutes to the cook time to make extra crispy tots. Also, be sure to stir and flip the tots halfway through the baking for even cooking.
- Once the tots are cooked, remove from the oven and season with as much of the remaining spice mix as desired. I usually use almost all of it, but you may want to use a lighter hand if you're feeding kids or sensitive palettes.
To make sandwiches
- Once the chicken has marinated and while the tots are cooking, prepare the caramelized onions. Check out my Caramelized Onions post for details on how to make them.
- Once the onions have softened and have started to caramelize around the edges, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring often. You want the onions to be a rich caramel color all over but not burned so turn the heat down at any sign of too much darkening. Once cooked, season the onions with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- While the onions are cooking, place a large nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and place directly into the hot pan. There is enough oil in the marinade that you won't have to worry about sticking.
- Cook the chicken for 6-7 per side or until a nice char starts to develop around the edges and the meat is cooked through. If the outside starts to darken too quickly, turn your heat down to medium. Remove the chicken from the heat once cooked.
- Split the ciabatta rolls down the middle and smear the inside with a little butter, about 1-2 tsp per roll. Place in the hot oven (whatever temp your tater tots need is fine or 400 degrees if you're skipping the tots) for 5-10 minutes until the rolls are hot and the edges are toasty.
- Once the chicken has cooked and the rolls are toasted, build your sandwiches by first placing a chicken thigh on the bottom half of the bun. Top the chicken first with half of an avocado sliced, then ½ C of arugula, and a drizzle of crema and lime juice. Top with the other bun half and serve the sandwich with the seasoned tots. For extra deliciousness, drizzle the tots with crema too.
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