Grilled Chicken Marinade: Juicy, Flavorful & Foolproof

Living the married, college full-time, working crazy hours life with bills galore meant my husband and I were the definition of poor college students. Despite that, I loved to invite friends over for dinner, and my go-to meal was always grilled chicken.

Why? Because a simple but amazing chicken marinade recipe could transform humble ingredients into a flavorful, mouthwatering feast worthy of 5-star reviews. This marinade quickly became my staple, a popular chicken recipe among friends who craved that perfect balance of juicy, charred perfection.


My Secret Weapon: The Marinade

The secret to my best chicken marinade was its adaptability. While the basic recipe was incredibly simple, I’d often tweak the flavors, adding a touch more citrus for extra tangy, zesty notes. Whether it was a casual weeknight meal or a summer barbecue, this grilled chicken marinade never failed to impress. It’s a testament to the power of simplicity and fresh ingredients—a reminder that even on a tight budget, you can create dishes that are truly extraordinary.

Chicken Marinade Recipe

Recipe by Whisk and NibbleCourse: MainCuisine: American


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This simple yet flavorful marinade will transform your grilled chicken into a juicy, tender, and irresistible dish.


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper


  • In a bowl or resealable bag, combine all the ingredients and whisk or shake to combine.
  • Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat evenly.
  • Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
  • Preheat your grill to medium heat.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the excess.
  • Grill the chicken for 5-6 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
  • Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.


  • For extra flavor, baste the chicken with the remaining marinade during the last few minutes of grilling.
  • Feel free to adjust the amount of garlic, salt, and pepper to your taste.
  • You can also use this marinade for baking or pan-searing chicken.
  • Leftover marinade can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

What Do I Love About This Grilled Chicken?

  1. The Juiciness Factor: The extra virgin olive oil helps keep the chicken incredibly moist and juicy, even when grilled.
  2. Tenderness: The fresh lemon juice and balsamic vinegar work together to break down the fibers in the chicken, resulting in a remarkably tender bite.
  3. Savory Depth: The combination of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce adds a salty depth of flavor that’s hard to resist.
  4. Caramelized Goodness: The brown sugar lends a touch of rich sweetness that caramelizes beautifully, creating a nice crust when the chicken is grilled.
  5. Flavor Harmony: All the ingredients in this marinade work together in perfect harmony, creating a perfect chicken marinade that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

How Long Should I Marinate Chicken?

The key is to let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes. This allows the marinade ingredients to infuse their flavors and moisture into the meat, ensuring the juiciest, most flavorful chicken. A helpful tip is to pierce the chicken breasts with a fork before marinating. This allows the marinade to seep into the chicken, resulting in an even more juicy and flavorful outcome. While 30 minutes is the minimum, the ideal amount of time for marinating is 4 – 5 hours.

READ: Chicken Pita Wraps

How to Grill Chicken and How Long to Cook Grilled Chicken?

  1. Prep the Grill: Heat your grill on medium heat and make sure to preheat it thoroughly. This helps prevent the chicken from sticking and ensures even cooking. You can also brush the grates with oil for extra precaution.
  2. Grill Time: Cook the chicken for 5 – 6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the chicken breast. The most reliable way to know when the chicken is done is to use a food thermometer. The internal temperature should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be completely cooked through.
  3. Perfectly Cooked: This combination of marinating and grilling time will give you the most perfectly cooked, juiciest grilled chicken you’ve ever tasted.

Alternative Cooking Methods: Beyond the Grill

Don’t worry if you don’t have a grill or the weather isn’t cooperating – this versatile marinade is perfect for other cooking methods too. It’s all about adapting and making the most of what you have, right?

If you’re looking for a hands-off approach, oven-baking is a great option. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the chicken in a baking dish, skin-side up, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). Basting the chicken with the reserved marinade halfway through cooking will keep it extra juicy and flavorful.

For a quicker meal, try pan-searing the chicken. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 5-7 minutes per side, or until cooked through. You’ll get a beautifully browned exterior and a tender, juicy interior. To maximize the marinade’s flavor, baste the chicken with the remaining marinade during the last minute of cooking.

Remember: Regardless of your chosen method, always use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken is cooked to perfection. No one wants undercooked chicken, but overcooked chicken can be dry and tough. So, aim for that sweet spot of 165°F (74°C) for the juiciest, most flavorful results. And don’t forget to let the chicken rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving – this allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in an even more delicious eating experience.

Chicken Marinade with Yogurt: A Creamy Twist

For a tangy and tenderizing marinade with a lusciously creamy texture, consider adding yogurt to the mix. Greek yogurt, in particular, works wonders due to its thick consistency and high protein content. It not only helps to keep the chicken moist but also creates a beautiful crust when grilled or baked.

Simply substitute half of the olive oil in the recipe with an equal amount of plain Greek yogurt. The yogurt’s acidity also helps to tenderize the meat, resulting in a succulent and flavorful chicken dish. Feel free to experiment with different herbs and spices to create a yogurt marinade that suits your taste.

READ: Herbed Goat Cheese

What Type of Chicken Should I Use?

This summer chicken marinade works beautifully with various types of chicken. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a classic choice, especially if you prefer leaner meat. If you’re grilling, try butterflying the breasts to ensure even cooking. Alternatively, thinly sliced chicken tenders offer a quicker cooking time and are perfect for kebabs or salads.

For those who prefer a richer flavor and more forgiving cooking time, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are a fantastic option. The bone adds extra flavor, while the skin crisps up beautifully on the grill. Just be sure to adjust your cooking time accordingly, as thighs typically take a bit longer to cook through than breasts. Remember, this marinade is versatile and adaptable, so feel free to experiment with different cuts of chicken to find your favorite.

Variations on the Marinade: Flavor Adventures

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavor combinations. Try adding fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme for an earthy aroma, or spices like cumin or paprika for a smoky kick. For a touch of sweetness, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup can add a whole new dimension to your marinade. Get creative and explore what your taste buds love!

Pairing Suggestions: Complements to Your Creation

Grilled chicken is incredibly versatile and pairs well with a variety of dishes. For a light and refreshing meal, serve it with a colorful salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers. For a heartier option, pair it with grilled vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppers, or a side of fluffy rice pilaf. And to complement the flavors of the marinade, a crisp white wine or a cold beer is always a welcome addition.

Tips for Leftovers: Creative Culinary Uses

If you have leftover grilled chicken, don’t let it go to waste! Shred it and add it to salads, sandwiches, or wraps for a quick and easy meal. You can also toss it with pasta, vegetables, and your favorite sauce for a delicious pasta salad. The possibilities are endless, so get creative and enjoy the fruits (or rather, meats) of your labor!

READ: Kale Chickpea Salad

Personal Anecdotes: A Culinary Journey

I’ll never forget the first time I made this marinade. I was a broke college student living in a tiny apartment, but I wanted to impress my friends with a delicious home-cooked meal. This simple marinade transformed ordinary chicken into a culinary masterpiece that had everyone raving.

It quickly became my go-to recipe for any occasion, and it’s still a favorite in my household today. The beauty of this marinade lies in its simplicity and adaptability, proving that you don’t need fancy ingredients or complicated techniques to create a truly memorable meal.

Ways to Jazz Up Your Grilled Chicken: Elevate Your Meal

  1. Salsa Fiesta: Add a burst of freshness with a simple fruit or vegetable salsa. My personal favorite is a mango salsa – it’s the perfect sweet and tangy complement to grilled chicken.
  2. Salad Sensation: Serve your grilled chicken over a bed of salad. Simply chop the chicken and toss it with your favorite greens and a cilantro-ranch dressing. It’s a light and refreshing meal that’s perfect for summer.
  3. BBQ Bliss: For a classic BBQ experience, slather your chicken with your favorite BBQ sauce during the last few minutes of grilling. It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!
  4. Flavor Burst: Elevate your grilled chicken with a few simple additions. A squeeze of lime or lemon, a sprinkle of fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, green onions, or basil, or a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce can all transform a simple grilled chicken into a culinary masterpiece.

Nutritional Information

Calories224 kcal
Carbohydrates12 g
Protein33 g
Fat3 g
Cholesterol96 mg
Sodium1291 mg
Potassium633 mg
Sugar10 g
Vitamin A45 IU
Vitamin C5.5 mg
Calcium23 mg
Iron1.1 mg

Health Benefits: Nourishing Your Body

This flavorful marinade not only tantalizes your taste buds but also offers some potential health benefits. The lemon juice and balsamic vinegar in the marinade provide antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from damage.

Additionally, the olive oil is a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, while the garlic has been linked to various health benefits, including boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation. Read here about this study.


With its simplicity, versatility, and delicious flavor, this grilled chicken marinade is a true kitchen staple. Whether you’re grilling for a crowd or simply preparing a weeknight meal for yourself, this recipe is sure to become a favorite. So fire up the grill, preheat the oven, or heat up your skillet, and get ready to experience the mouthwatering magic of this marinade for yourself!


FAQs: Your Burning Questions Answered

What kind of chicken can I use?

You can use any kind of chicken you like: boneless, skinless breasts, bone-in, skin-on thighs, drumsticks, or tenders. Whether you prefer skin-on or skin-off, bone-in or bone-out, just keep in mind that different cuts will take more or less time to cook. Always check the internal temperature for doneness; it needs to reach 165°F (74°C).

How long do I need to marinate the chicken?

The minimum marinating time is 30 minutes, but you can marinate it for as long as overnight. I’ve found that if chicken starts to get tough, it’s been marinated for over 24 hours. If you have less time, consider poking holes in the chicken with a fork to allow the marinade to penetrate more quickly.

Can I freeze marinated chicken?

Absolutely! Adding marinade to chicken breast before freezing is perfectly safe. Place the chicken in a resealable bag, remove excess air, and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw the chicken overnight in the fridge before using.

How should I cook the marinated chicken?

The chicken can be grilled, baked, or cooked on the stovetop. The previous section has detailed information on each method. You can also check the recipe card below for specific instructions.

Is it better to marinate or season chicken?

Marination serves two basic functions: it acts as a brine, where the salt penetrates the meat and seasons it fully, helping to ensure juiciness and even cooking. The ideal time for this brining effect is between one and eight hours. It also infuses flavor.

What are the three main ingredients when marinating?

A typical marinade is made with three essential components: an acid (like vinegar, wine, or citrus), an oil (like olive or sesame), and a flavoring agent (like herbs or spices). These elements work together to transform the taste and texture of the dish.

Why is lemon used to marinate chicken?

Salt and lemon help to give you the absolute juiciest, most tender chicken. As a bonus, it’s 100% good, gluten-free, and dairy-free. You can make this in just 5 minutes or less, marinate for 30-60, and cook on the grill, in a pan, or in the oven—either way, it works.

Whisk and Nibble

Whisk & Nibble is a blog devoted to all things related to food - from sharing recipes for meals and drinks to highlighting the latest dessert trends and culinary lifestyle content. Visitors can find ideas and inspiration for all eating occasions while enjoying engaging writing about food culture. Whisk & Nibble aims to bring readers together over the shared joy of cooking and dining.

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