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When it comes to easy, inexpensive, and healthy meals, chicken thighs are your BFF. This Chicken Thigh Marinade gives you juicy, fully flavored chicken that’s a little sweet and a little spicy (if you so choose), with a bright touch of citrus.

Chicken thighs made with chicken thigh marinade

Chicken thighs are one of the simplest, most satisfying proteins to cook.

  • They are forgiving and relatively foolproof. Since they have a slightly higher fat content, it is harder to overcook chicken thighs than it is Baked Chicken Breast or Grilled Chicken Breast.
  • Chicken thighs are healthy. They do not deserve the negative reputation as being “less healthy” than chicken breasts. Chicken thighs are an excellent source of lean protein and iron. Plus, thighs contain more calcium, potassium, vitamin B, and vitamin E than chicken breasts.
  • They take well to a wide range of seasonings. Chicken thigh meat is inherently richer in taste than chicken breasts, making it ideal for playing around with different flavor profiles. From Asian-inspired recipes (Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken; Sweet and Sour Chicken), to Crockpot Mexican Chicken, to Indian (Slow Cooker Chicken Curry), there’s variation available so you’ll never get bored.
  • They are budget-friendly. At the grocery store, chicken thighs cost less per pound than chicken breasts.
  • They cook fast. At medium-high heat (about 400 degrees F), boneless, skinless chicken thighs cook in about 8 to 12 minutes. Now that’s speedy!
A marinade for chicken thighs in a jar

Simplest, Best Chicken Thigh Marinade

Marinating chicken isn’t mandatory from a health and safety standpoint, but for the best-tasting results, it is best to marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.

After 12 hours, the meat will start to break down, especially if you use citrus juice in the marinade.

A good marinade needs a combination of 5 key elements: salt, spice, sweet, acid, and umami.

Herbs are also a nice addition, but not strictly necessary.

Easy chicken thigh marinade in a glass jar

This recipe is a go-to simple chicken thighs marinade when you want to serve chicken thighs as a main dish and want something more spice-forward.

(For those who are afraid of heat, fear not: it’s spiced, but not super spicy; for a less spiced chicken thigh marinade with lemon, check out my classic Chicken Marinade.)

  • It hits all the key marinade elements.
  • I usually have everything I need to make it on hand.
  • The combination of sweet, spicy, and tangy ingredients gives the thighs impressive complexity.

To prepare chicken thighs, simply mix the marinade ingredients together, let the chicken rest in the marinade for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours, then follow my Grilled Chicken Thighs recipe or bake as you please. It’s that simple!


The Ingredients

  • Chicken Thighs. The chicken thighs soak up the marinade beautifully, creating flavorful, tender, and mouthwateringly-juicy results.
  • Garlic. I used a hefty amount of garlic to really give the chicken a punch of delicious garlic flavor.
  • Honey. Naturally sweetens the marinade. The honey will also caramelize during cooking, resulting in a luscious, glaze-like finish.
  • Soy Sauce. For that scrumptious umami goodness.
  • Dijon. Adds a little tang to the marinade.
  • Worcestershire. The perfect blend of sweet, savory, and tangy. (Also a key ingredient in BBQ Chicken Marinade.)
  • Spices. I used a mix of cumin, salt, and cayenne (optional). The combination is rich, earthy, and a little spicy.
  • Lime. Both the zest and juice are used in the marinade. It adds freshness, zip, and citrus flavor.

The Directions

Chicken thigh marinade in a small glass jar
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients.
Raw meat marinating in a plastic bag
  1. Add the chicken, tossing to coat. Marinate chicken for 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. Cook the chicken on the grill, or bake it in the oven. Let rest for a few minutes. DIG IN!
A sauce in a jar with a spoon

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate thighs in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days. 
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or 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

Up to 1 day in advance, stir the marinade ingredients together. Refrigerate until you’re ready to add the chicken thighs.

Chicken thighs with herbs

More Ways to Use Cooked Marinated Chicken Thighs

Top down view of marinade ingredients in a glass jar

What to Serve with Chicken Thighs

  • Citrus Juicer. The easiest way to juice a lime.
  • Baking Dish. This is ideal if you want to bake the chicken thighs.
  • Grill Pan. Perfect for grilling the thighs on the stovetop.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can I Marinate Chicken Thighs?

You can marinate chicken for 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. It is OK to marinate chicken thighs overnight using this marinade. I don’t recommend marinating the thighs any longer than 24 hours, as the meat will start to break down.

How Do I Make a Spicy Chicken Thigh Marinade?

To make this a spicy chicken thigh marinade, use an additional 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne or add 1 tablespoon of sambal oelek.

Can I Make a Chicken Thigh Marinade With No Soy Sauce?

Sure! You can swap coconut aminos, tamari, or replace the soy sauce with a little more Worcestershire and kosher salt.

Chicken Thigh Marinade

4.74 from 38 votes
The BEST chicken thigh marinade made with simple ingredients: soy sauce, garlic, honey and spices. Use it for baked or grilled chicken thighs.

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 50 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 6 garlic cloves roughly chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
  • Juice and zest of 2 small limes about 3 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl or large ziptop bag, combine the garlic, oil, honey, soy sauce, Worcestershire, Dijon, cumin, salt, and cayenne, lime juice and zest.
  • Add the chicken thighs and toss with the marinade to evenly coat. Marinate the chicken at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 12 hours (I find about 4 to 6 hours is ideal—since this is a small amount of lime juice, you can push to 24 hours if absolutely necessary). Do not let marinate for longer, or the meat will start to break down. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for 15 minutes prior to cooking.
  • TO GRILL: When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the a gas, charcoal, or indoor grill to medium-high heat (about 400 degrees F). Scrub the grill grates clean. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off any excess. Oil the grates, then place the chicken smooth-side down. Grill the chicken thighs for 8 to 12 minutes, flipping once halfway through, or until the chicken registers 155 degrees to 160 degrees F at the thickest part when tested with an instant read thermometer (chicken is considered fully cooked through at 165 degrees F, but its temperature will rise as it rests). Transfer to a plate or cutting board, cover, and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Enjoy warm.
  • TO BAKE: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place 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 155 to 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part, about 15 to 18 minutes. Don't overcook! Cover and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Video

Notes

  • TO STORE: Refrigerate thighs in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days. 
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or 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. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 341kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 45gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 215mgPotassium: 678mgFiber: 1gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 131IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 49mgIron: 3mg

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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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116 Comments

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  1. This was the best marinade! My family loved it. My husband loves his Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce on everything. Sometimes marinades compete with that taste, but this one mingled in deliciously. I don’t like BBQ smokey flavor so this was a win/win for us. I doubled the recipe and marinated chicken thighs in one bag and chicken breasts pounded to even thickness in another. for about 2 hours and then brought to room temp before grilling. It was so flavorful and juicy. I cannot thank you enough for this delicious meal!5 stars

  2. OMGGGGG this marinade is incredible!!! probably the best chicken I’ve ever made. I had to make a few substitutions due to what I had on hand (used lemon for lime, sweet & spicy mustard for Dijon) & also added a little seasoned pepper, coriander & oregano. Marinated 24 hours, air fried it for 19 minutes on 375, it was a triple batch and there is NO leftovers. Everyone from my 1 year old to my 60 year old dad devoured it. Will definitely be in my regular rotation. Thank you for sharing!!! 💜5 stars

    1. Lillian, you’ll want another acid. I’d try 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar!

  3. Really tasty! I did it in the air fryer with vegetables and potatoes. Cooked the thighs for 20 mins skin side down then turned them over and added vegetables which I coated in oil and added onion powder and paprika, then cooked for a further 20 mins. Was delicious5 stars

  4. What do I do I’m cooking thighs with marinade on…it’s alot. It’s almost cooked. What should I do it doesn’t look like yours. I’m baking.

    1. Hi Deborah, I’m not really sure what you are asking? The marinade needed to be shaken off before cooking. The photos represent them being grilled so if you are baking, it won’t look the same.

  5. I noticed when I was using the button for scaling the recipe up that the amount of lime juice and zest didn’t change, and that the verbal description for the amount of garlic didn’t change, either.

    I was happy with the amount of lime for 4lbs of chicken (3 T juice and 1 t zest), but thought 12 cloves of garlic was a bit much so I used the 6 cloves recommended for 2lbs of chicken.

    I’ll definitely be using this marinade again!

    1. Hi Mia, that’s correct, the way the lime is written it won’t change but definitely adjust based on the other ingredients. The text doesn’t change either when changing the serving sizes. This is a plugin issue and unfortunately I can’t change it on my end. Glad you enjoyed it!

  6. Easy and delicious marinade! I baked the chicken thighs and they turned out great. Thank you for sharing your recipe.5 stars

  7. It was very good. The limes really bumped up the cost of this, but I do think they were necessary. Thanks for a great recipe.5 stars

  8. I’m going to make this marinade tonight. However in the nutritional chart it doesn’t show the sodium content. I’m on a lower sodium diet and will probably substitute the Soy Sauce.

    1. Hi Scott, 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. This is a quick and easy marinade that tastes amazing! I also really appreciate that the volume of ingredients was just right for the amount of meat, which I appreciate… Some other recipes I’ve found online seem wasteful. I will be checking out other recipes on this website.5 stars

  10. This is a delicious marinade. I did find that the amount of cumin called for really overpowered all the other flavors. I will definitely make it again, but use 1 1/2 or just 1 tsp of ground cumin, so that more of the lime taste comes through.4 stars

  11. This marinade sounds delicious, but if I would like to make chicken for a room temperature presentation at a picnic would that work with this recipe?

    1. Hi MKD! This marinade works for any chicken you’d like to make. How you serve it, is up to you. Enjoy!

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