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Think dry, bland chicken breasts are the way of the world? You’ve been settling! Time for the BEST CHICKEN MARINADE. Use it for grilling, chicken in the oven, and more!

Chicken breasts on a plate with a lemon soy marinade

Why You’ll Love This Simple Chicken Marinade

  • The Tastiest Chicken EVER. This combination of marinade ingredients will not only make your chicken actually taste like something (that “something” being savory, herby, and downright delicious), it comes together with mostly pantry ingredients. Win!
  • Juicy, Tender, and Never Dry. It’s not just about flavor! This marinade works double-time to tenderize the chicken and make it juicy.
  • No Long Marinating Time Needed. Just 15 minutes of marinating can work wonders to juicify (<—my new favorite verb) and flavorize (<—my other new favorite verb) your chicken.
  • Super Versatile. This chicken marinade recipe works for any cut of boneless chicken, be it chicken breasts, chicken thighs, or chicken tenders. You can use this simple chicken marinade for grilling (it would be excellent with my Grilled Chicken Sandwich or these Grilled Chicken Tenders), for baking (try it with my Baked Chicken Breast), or for Air Fryer Chicken Breast.
Chicken breasts with marinade

5 Star Review

“Absolutely phenomenal. Total hit at my house and I have an extremely picky six-year-old!”

— Crystal —

How to Make the Best Chicken Marinade

The Ingredients

  • Olive Oil. My choice of fat for the marinade. You only need a little bit!
  • 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. 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 Marinade Ideas

For more inspiration, check out these recipes:

The Directions

  1. Pound. Pound the chicken (if using breasts). Thighs and tenders do not need pounding.
Three raw pieces of meat on a cutting board
  1. Poke. Poke holes all over the chicken (this helps the marinade absorb more quickly).
Lemon juice, oil, soy sauce, and spices in a bag
  1. Mix. Combine the marinade ingredients in a large ziptop freezer bag.
Raw meat in a plastic bag
  1. Add. Place the chicken in the bag.
Three chicken breasts in a bag of chicken marinade
  1. Close. Seal the bag and make sure the chicken is coated in the marinade.
  2. Marinate. Marinate chicken at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes or refrigerate for longer (up to 6 hours). Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Cook. Grill the marinaded chicken or bake the marinaded chicken as desired.
  4. Rest. Transfer the chicken to a plate, let rest for a few minutes, then ENJOY!
Delicious chicken marinade for baking chicken

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate cooked 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 Prep Tip

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.

What to Serve with Marinated Chicken

Chicken marinade on chicken breasts

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Basting Optional. As long as you marinade the chicken for at least 15 minutes, basting isn’t necessary. If you like, you can reserve some of the marinade and use it to baste the chicken during cooking.
  • Reuse Marinade Carefully. If you plan to reuse marinade for basting or saucing, either reserve some before adding the chicken OR if the marinade has already touched raw meat, boil it for several minutes to kill harmful bacteria. Note that boiling will likely change the flavor of the marinade (citrus will become less pronounced and it can taste saltier, for example), so be sure to taste it. It is also likely to reduce and thicken during boiling, which can be a good thing if you are using it as a sauce.
  • Some Marinating Is Better Than None. Citrus juices like lemon and lime do a great job marinading chicken quickly. Even if you only have 15 or 20 minutes, marinate your chicken it anyway!
  • But Marinating Longer Is Not Always Better. Marinating chicken for too long can cause it to become tough, negating the original benefits of the marinade. I find that marinating chicken between 5 to 6 hours is ideal for both texture and taste.
Easy chicken marinade with lemon and spices

Chicken Marinade

4.74 from 212 votes
The BEST chicken marinade for breasts, thighs, legs, whatever! Use it for grilling or baking to get juicy, flavorful chicken every time.

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 30 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 3/4 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

Instructions
 

  • 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!

Video

Notes

  • *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.

Nutrition

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

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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 wellplated.com 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!

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Recipe Rating




121 Comments

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    1. I’m sorry to hear the recipe wasn’t to your taste, Karen. I know it’s disappointing to try a new recipe and not enjoy it. I (and many other readers) have enjoyed it, so I really wish they would’ve been a hit for you too! Did you use kosher salt? All seasonings can definitely be adjusted to your preference.

  1. This is an AMAZING recipe. O love yhe flavors and the tenderizing effects on the chicken breasts. I am about to make again for tonight!! Thanks so much!5 stars

  2. We just made these. So good! We even forgot the lemon juice. This is my new go to recipe for grilled chicken!5 stars

  3. This was the best and most tender chicken ever. I didn’t have all the ingredients so I improvised but it was awesome!5 stars

  4. I’ve never reviewed a recipe in my life. This is the most flavorful marinade I’ve ever tasted. I only marinated for 15 minutes and it was enough. The pounding of the chicken although slight made a difference. Piercing the chicken also was a good tip. Printing this! PS While it was on the salty side it was fine bc I love that. Adjusting the salt to taste should alleviate any picky comments.5 stars

  5. Absolutely delicious!! Quick and simple recipe with amazing flavor. Only change I made was replaced oregano with italian seasoning.5 stars

  6. Great marinade; I thought you had a dry brine recipe for chicken, but I could not find it.
    But this was great. thanks!5 stars

  7. Making this for second time today. Surprisingly good! It wasn’t overwhelmingly lemon and herb, the other additions round it out nicely. I use coconut aminos in place of soy sauce, cut the amount of thyme in half because we’re sensitive to it, and cut the amount of salt in half too since our sea salt is finer than kosher salt. Really yummy on the grill!5 stars

  8. Hi
    What is the sodium amount in this recipe. I was surprised that I didn’t see it, since you have alot other information.

    1. Hi Constance, I stopped including sodium info because it can vary so much depending upon what products you used, and I found a lot of conflicting info online, so ultimately I didn’t feel comfortable publishing it because sometimes it wasn’t even in the ballpark. If you’d like to calculate it yourself, there are lots of free tools online (myfitnesspal.com is popular). I hope that helps!

  9. Loved this! I didn’t have any thyme so used a teaspoon of Herbs de Provance instead. Absolutely delicious 😋5 stars

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