Elevate your cooking skills with our mouthwatering grilled chicken marinade recipe! Explore the perfect blend of herbaceous vibrant flavors that guarantee tender, juicy, and savory results every time you fire up the grill. (Psst, this recipe also works on baked, roasted, and pan-seared chicken too—we just happen to love this lemony marinade on grilled chicken most).
Two mistakes we often see with grilled chicken recipes are that they are overcooked – making it dry and tough. And that it wasn’t marinated. Marinating is the simple trick to juicy, tender grilled chicken. Just like our steak marinade, or our simple pork chop marinade, this easy recipe can help this mild protein amp up flavor for amazing easy dinners. And help you to become a grill master.
Why Marinate Chicken
Marinating chicken is a great way to add tons of flavor to the mild protein. The acidity from the marinade’s citrus juice helps break down proteins, making it more tender and helping the chicken stay moist on the grill.
Overall, even a quick marinade is the easiest way to help the grilled chicken to be juicy and incredibly delicious right off the grill with minimum effort. However, allowing the chicken to sit in the marinade for six to eight hours is ideal for the biggest flavor gains.
This simple recipe is perfect to jazz up grilled whole chicken; use it before smoking chicken breasts or smoked chicken thighs. And altho we love grilled chicken, it also works on quick pan-seared chicken thighs too.
Ingredients for Grilled Chicken Marinade
- Avocado oil – olive oil or your favorite neutral cooking oil
- Lemon juice – from fresh lemon
- Garlic cloves – for added flavor, use smoked garlic confit.
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Smoked Paprika
- Fresh Parsley, basil, and cilantro
We suggest a blend of fresh herbs for the best grilled chicken marinade but feel free to mix and match. If you have fresh dill, use it. Rosemary or tarragon, go for it! And if you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, adding some of our GirlCarnivore Over Easy Spice blend is a great option. If you’re using a pre-mixed Italian seasoning spice blend, check the salt content and adjust as needed.
Other quick flavor enhancers to this easy chicken marinade recipe are balsamic vinegar (acid) and Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or coconut aminos (umami flavor enhancer).
How to make this chicken marinade
- Start by mixing the chicken marinade ingredients; combine the oil, fresh lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
- Then add the fresh minced herbs and stir to combine.
- Pour the marinade over your raw chicken and store in a resealable bag or air-tight container in the fridge until you’re ready to grill. If using a bag, leave a bit of it unsealed and gently press as much air out as possible. Then seal completely.
- When ready to grill, remove the chicken from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels before placing it on the grill grates.
- Follow our recipe for grilled chicken legs for amazing results! This marinade is also perfect for grilled spatchcock chicken. Always grill chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F with an instant-read thermometer.
Girl Carnivore Expert Tips
- Marinate the chicken pieces in a resealable Ziploc bag or glass container. Avoid metal pans and trays, as the acid in the marinade can react with the metal causing additional undesired flavors.
- Always marinate chicken and meat in the refrigerator.
- If you add sugars to the marinade, remember that it can help with nice grill marks but also can burn when the sugars caramelize on the heat of the grill pan or cast iron skillet.
- Always make sure the chicken is cooked to 165F with a digital meat thermometer.
Any cut of chicken is ideal for marinating. We love this marinade on dark meat like grilled chicken legs and grilled chicken thighs, but it also is perfect for white meat like boneless chicken breasts. You could even marinate a whole chicken if desired. Just make sure to dry out the cavity by using balled-up leftover newspaper or a paper towel for at least 20 minutes before grilling.
Yes, you can use this marinade on other meats like fish, turkey, or pork chops. However, adjust the marinating times for your chosen protein to get the best results.
Cover the chicken in a non-reactive dish or resealable bag, and make sure it’s sealed well before placing it in the fridge. Marinate for at least 30 minutes but up to 8 hours. Avoid letting the chicken sit in the marinade for too long, as the acidity can cause the chicken to become mushy over time.
Always store any marinated meat in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
No. Once the marinade has touched raw meat, you need to discard it. It’s best to double the marinade and reserve a portion of it, setting it aside in a different container if you want to baste the flavorful chicken in it as a finishing sauce on the grill.
Grilled Chicken Marinade
- 1 cup avocado oil olive oil, or canola oil
- 1/2 cup lemon juice fresh squeezed
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp parsley minced
- 2 tbsp cilantro minced
- 1 tbsp fresh basil minced
- To make the marinade, whisk the oil, fresh lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika in a bowl.
- Add the minced fresh herbs and stir to combine.
- Add the chicken to a resealable ziplock bag or airtight container over the chicken.
- Seal and marinate in the fridge for 6 to 8 hours.
- When ready to grill the chicken, remove the chicken from the marinade and pat it dry to remove the excess oil before placing it on the grill.