When I first cloned this dish in 2007 it was called Tequila Lime Chicken. Was the tequila removed from the recipe and the name to satisfy concerned teetotaling Applebee’s customers? I really don’t know. What I do know, however, is that this dish is still one of the chain’s best sellers.

Upon examining the dish at the restaurant recently I discovered that the chicken is brushed with a zesty lime sauce before the Mexi-ranch sauce is applied. I’m not sure if the restaurant’s version of the dish has always included this step, but I do know that my first version of the recipe did not, so it was my responsibility and resolute duty, as a dedicated food hacker, to instantly get cracking on an improved hack of this fine dish. The zesty lime sauce clone is here now, as are improvements for the Mexi-ranch sauce and chicken marinade. At the restaurant, the dish is served with a side of delicious Mexican rice. If you’d like to do the same, you’ll find a new clone of that simple recipe here.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons lime juice
½ teaspoon Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
⅛ teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

⅔ cup mayonnaise
⅓ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons diced Roma tomato
2 tablespoons diced onion
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon dried dill weed
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup diced Roma tomatoes (about 2 tomatoes)
¼ cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro
1 teaspoon lime juice
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

3 cups water
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon hickory liquid smoke
4 skinless chicken breast fillets
1⅓ cups shredded cheddar/Jack cheese blend

Fried tortilla strips
4 lime wedges

Cooking method

1-Combine all of the ingredients for the zesty lime sauce in a medium bowl. Whisk well, then set aside.

2-Combine all of the ingredients for the Mexi-ranch sauce in a medium bowl. Cover and set this aside as well.

3-Combine all of the ingredients for the pico de gallo, then cover and set it aside along with the two sauces.

4-Prepare the chicken marinade by combining all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Pound the chicken breasts flat under a piece of plastic wrap with a kitchen mallet. Add the chicken to the marinade, then cover and chill it for 1 hour.

5-Preheat your barbecue grill to high about 30 minutes before the chicken is done marinating (you can also use a grill pan that is preheated over medium heat). When the chicken has marinated for 1 hour, remove it from the marinade and place it directly on a well lubricated grill. Cook the chicken for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until done.

6-Assemble each dish by placing a chicken breast on a plate. Brush a little zesty lime sauce over the chicken, then spoon on some of the Mexi-ranch sauce. Sprinkle about ⅓ cup of cheese over the top of the chicken, then microwave it for 30 to 60 seconds on high heat to melt the cheese.

7-To serve, arrange the chicken breast on top of a bed of fried tortilla strips. Serve with the pico de gallo and a wedge of lime on the side.

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