Think dry, bland chicken breasts are the way of the world? You’ve been settling! Time for the BEST CHICKEN MARINADE.

Chicken breasts on a plate with a lemon soy marinade

Pin this recipe on Pinterest to save for later

Pin It!

This quick combination of marinade ingredients not only will make your chicken actually taste like something (that “something” being savory, herby, and down-right delicious), it works double-time to tenderize the chicken and make it juicy.

Just 15 minutes of marinating time can work wonders to juicify (<—my new favorite verb) and flavorize (<—my other new favorite verb) your chicken.

What is a Marinade?

  • A marinade is a mixture of ingredients that generally contains an oil, acid, and a variety of spices and is used for soaking cuts of meat prior to cooking.
  • Marinades flavor the meat, make the meat more tender and moist, and can help prevent the meat from drying out as easily.
  • You can marinade meat for as little as 15 minutes or up to 24 hours, depending upon the marinade ingredients.

Below, you’ll find the key components of a stellar chicken marinade that you can tweak to suit the recipes you’d like to use it in or what you have on hand.

  • I like to cook a big batch of marinated chicken, then dice it up for salads, wraps, and grain bowls for lunches throughout the week. (This Air Fryer Chicken Breast is another favorite.)
  • Chicken cooked with this marinade is also tender and tasty enough to enjoy on its own, a rarity for many chicken recipes.


If you’d like to make plain shredded or diced chicken that is a blank canvas, try my easy methods for How to Cook Shredded Chicken, Crock Pot Shredded Chicken, and Instant Pot Chicken.

Chicken breasts with marinade

The Makings of a Marinade

A chicken marinade should have four key components: fat, acid, seasoning, and time. You can play around with these in endless combinations.

  • Fat. Fat plays two roles in a marinade. It transfers flavors that are fat-soluble to the meat (meaning you won’t be able to taste other ingredients as well without fat). Fat also helps to keep the meat moist. 99% of the time, I use olive oil. Vegetable oil is another excellent, neutral option.
  • Acid. Acid tenderizes the meat by breaking down its fibers. Citrus juices, vinegar, yogurt, and buttermilk are four excellent options. For today’s recipe, I am using lemon juice. Lemon pairs beautifully with chicken and is easy to have on hand.
  • Seasoning. Here the possibilities are truly endless! Citrus zest, herbs, aromatics (like onion and garlic), and spices can all come into play. The one non-negotiable is SALT. I use either kosher salt or, for even more complexity, soy sauce and a dash of Worcestershire.
  • Time. MARINATING LONGER IS NOT BETTER! The ideal amount of time to marinate chicken is 5 to 6 hours, but even 15 minutes makes a difference. See below for more.

How Long to Marinate Chicken

  • Marinating chicken for too long can actually cause it to become tough, negating the original benefits of the marinade.
  • Typically, I find that marinating chicken between 5 to 6 hours is ideal for both texture and taste.
  • I don’t recommend keeping chicken in a marinade with citrus juice or vinegar for more than 6 hours, as its texture declines from there. After 12 hours, the meat may even start to break down.
  • Chicken can rest in a buttermilk/yogurt marinade for up to 24 hours. So, this is the best choice for those who want an overnight chicken marinade.
Easy chicken marinade with lemon and spices

The Best Easy Chicken Marinade

Today’s chicken marinade is a simple go-to that works well for a variety of recipes (like Grilled Chicken Thighs, to name just one) and everyday enjoyment.

Marinating chicken is healthy AND delish. It’s a perfect way to increase the appetite appeal of your wholesome meals.

The Ingredients

  • Olive Oil. My choice of fat for the marinade. You only need a little bit (this chicken marinade is not unhealthy in the slightest) and olive oil offers healthy fats, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Lemon Juice and Zest. This tenderizes the chicken and gives it bright citrus notes. I also use the zest to make the most of the lemon.
  • Herbs. You can use almost any dried or fresh herbs for this chicken marinade. I’m a sucker for an Italian chicken marinade, so my most-used herbs are oregano and thyme or simple Italian seasoning.
  • Seasoning. Soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce season the meat to help the others flavors shine and they add a more complex umami component compared to kosher salt alone. Fresh garlic is my other must-have chicken marinade seasoning. It’s a dream with the lemon and herbs.

More Sweet & Spicy

For a chicken marinade with a little more spice and a little more sweet, check out this fan-favorite Chicken Thigh Marinade.


For inspiration for how to play around with chicken marinades, check out these recipes:

The Directions

  1. Pound the chicken (if using breasts). Thighs and tenders do not need pounding.
Three raw pieces of meat on a cutting board
  1. Poke holes all over the chicken (this helps the marinade absorb more quickly).
Lemon juice, oil, soy sauce, and spices in a bag
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a large ziptop bag.
Raw meat in a plastic bag
  1. Add the chicken.
Three chicken breasts in a bag of chicken marinade
  1. Seal the bag and make sure the chicken is coated in the marinade.
  2. Marinate at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes or refrigerate for longer. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Grill the marinaded chicken or bake the marinaded chicken as desired.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a plate, let rest for a few minutes, then ENJOY!

Dietary Note

If you need this recipe to be gluten free, swap the soy sauce for tamari and ensure the Worcestershire sauce you use is gluten free.

Chicken marinade on chicken breasts

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F. You can also gently reheat chicken in the microwave.
  • To Freeze. Freeze chicken in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Meal Plan Tip

Stir the marinade ingredients together up to 1 day in advance. Refrigerate until you’re ready to marinate the chicken.

Delicious chicken marinade for baking chicken

What to Serve with Chicken

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

Non-Slip Cutting Board

With a non-slip cutting board like this one, you won’t have to worry about it moving around while you’re slicing meat.

Chicken breasts on a plate with a lemon soy marinade

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

Ready to IMMEDIATELY improve your cooking? Marinate your chicken!

With this easy, effective chicken marinade recipe, healthy baked and grilled chicken will become something you look forward to enjoying for a dinner, instead of a bland burden.

As always, if you try this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think! Your comments make my day and are so helpful for others too.

Chicken Marinade

4.97 from 28 votes
The absolute BEST chicken marinade. Quick, healthy and perfect for grilling or baking chicken. Juicy, flavorful chicken every time!

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 30 mins

Servings: 4 servings


  • 1 ¾ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders*
  • 6 garlic cloves minced or grated (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Juice and zest of 1 medium lemon about 1 teaspoon zest and 1/4 cup juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


  • If making chicken breasts, place them on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, and with a meat mallet or rolling pin, pound into an even thickness. (If using tenders or thighs, you can skip the pounding).
  • With a fork, poke holes all over the chicken (this will allow the marinade to absorb).
  • In a large ziptop bag, combine the garlic, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  • Add the chicken. Seal the bag, removing as much excess air as possible.
  • “Squish” the bag to coat the chicken, then place the bag on a plate or inside a shallow baking dish to guard against leaks.
  • Marinate the chicken at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes (the longer the better), or refrigerate for up to 12 hours (I find about 5 to 6 hours is ideal—since this is a small amount of lemon juice, you can push to 24 hours if absolutely necessary). Do not let marinade for longer, or the meat will start to break down. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for 15 minutes prior to cooking.
  • When ready to cook: Preheat your grill to medium high (425 to 450 degrees F) or preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off any excess.
  • To grill: cook chicken over high heat until charred in spots and the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer, flipping halfway through, about 8 to 12 minutes total for breasts or thighs or 4 to 8 minutes for tenders. Do not overcook!
  • To bake: Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a foil- or parchment-lined baking dish large enough to hold it comfortably without the chicken touching. Bake the chicken until it reaches 160 F to 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part. Don't overcook! For breasts you will need about 14 to 16 minutes (for small/medium breasts that are about 6 to 7 ounces), 16 to 20 minutes (for medium/large breasts that are 8 to 10 ounces), or 20 to 25 minutes (for larger breasts). Bake thighs or tenders for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken to a plate and cover. Let rest for at least 5 minutes. Serve!


  • *You can also use this recipe for bone-in chicken pieces, including drumsticks. For drumsticks, instead of poking the chicken with a fork, cut a few slashes with a knife. Bone-in chicken will need a longer cooking time.
  • TO STORE: Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F.
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.


Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 305kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 43gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 127mgPotassium: 813mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 82IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 38mgIron: 2mg

Join today and start saving your favorite recipes

Create an account to easily save your favorite projects and tutorials.


More Delicious Chicken Recipes

Did you try this recipe?

I want to see!

Follow @wellplated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

Share this Article


This post contains some affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.

You May Also Like

Free Email Series
Sign Up for FREE Weekly Meal Plans
Each includes a grocery list, budget, and 5 healthy dinners, helping you save time, save money, and live better!

Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

Learn more about Erin

Leave a Comment

Did you make this recipe?

Don't forget to leave a review!

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating


Leave a comment

  1. This was very easy and delicious. I added 1 teaspoon of ground coriander just for kicks because I love this spice. I’ll now put it into a rotation of loved recipes.5 stars

  2. I am planning to make this for a party this weekend and so I needed to triple it. The lemon juice/zest does not increase when you triple the recipe using the feature for that even though the other ingredients do increase. Is this right? The recipe says 1/4 cup of lemon juice when you’re making it for three and the same when it’s for 12. Is this right? I would so greatly appreciate an answer. Would love to try this recipe! Thanks!

    1. Hi Evelyn, sometimes the times and ingredients in the recipe don’t change when trying to increase the sizes. Unfortunately that is not something I can fix because it’s a plugin issue. If making the recipe 3X, then you would use 3x the ingredients. Hope you enjoy it!

  3. My family absolutely loved it! I used fresh chicken thighs w/bone in and the skin on. I took about 55 minutes on 425, but they were perfect and beautiful.5 stars

  4. I tried this marinade last night on chicken thighs that I brined first. Delicious!!! I was a little skeptical about the soy sauce and Worcestershire, but the chicken was crispy brown and juicy!! Thanks!!5 stars

  5. I have made this several times, as written, everyone loves this recipe. It has become a favorite for our family and friends!5 stars

  6. why are there no amounts listed for the marinade?
    im new to cooking and have no idea how much of anything goes into this

    1. Hi Douglas, I’m so confused. The recipe card with directions and ingredients is listed right above the area where you commented. There is even a “jump to recipe” button at the top of the screen to help you get there faster. Could you please check again?

  7. No measurements without a lenghty “X” marks the spot that is too frustrating to express. I will grill elsewhere.

    1. Hi Len! I’m sorry you had trouble navigating the website! There is a “jump to recipe” button at the top of every post that takes you straight to the recipe.

  8. Super easy and taste amazing. Thank you so much for your recipes and the knowledge you share. Nobody ever taught me to tenderize chicken and poke holes and especially never taught me anything about marinading. So again, thank you. If I can make good food using your recipes then anyone can.5 stars

  9. I made this last week to put raw chicken in and freeze. I pulled it out of freezer and put in fridge yesterday and cooked for dinner tonight. I liked it. My husband really liked it. Our son wasn’t crazy for it. He thought it was a little too lemony. Overall, I would definitely make it again, but I might make some adjustments to the measurements. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes with all of us!!4 stars

  10. I love this marinade! This has been a weekly chicken recipe for me and my husband. After cooking I slice the chicken and place it on a simple salad with avocado oil and salt dressing. This is a very filling and healthy dinner!5 stars

Load More Comments