Grilled Chicken Marinade Recipe

Having a great grilled chicken marinade in your back pocket is essential for summer grilling. This delicious chicken marinade packs a flavor punch without being overpowering, and it’s great with any kind of chicken, especially these grilled chicken thighs!

Food just tastes better when it’s been cooked outside. You can throw just about anything on the grill, from steak and potatoes to veggies and even bread.

grilled chicken marinade recipe - grilled chicken thighs, potatoes and lemon on a plate.

GRILLED CHICKEN MARINADE RECIPE

Grilling season is in full swing and I am always looking for something new to throw on the grill. However there are some things that are just meant for the grill and just scream summer, like the perfect Grilled Chicken Marinade.

I have tried different flavor combinations for grilling chicken over the years, but this is the one that’s stuck. It’s uncomplicated and unpretentious, super simple to whip up and tastes absolutely amazing on grilled chicken thighs, chicken breast, drums…even pork!

grilled chicken marinade - grilled chicken thighs on a plate

HOW TO MAKE THE BEST GRILLED CHICKEN MARINADE

A good marinade can be what takes your chicken from ho-hum to OMG in a 30 minutes. So what is a good seasoning for grilled chicken? The key to a good chicken marinade is to have a combination of ingredients:

  1. Salt – salt has flavor, as we all know. Just don’t get too heavy handed with the salt as it can actually dry out the meat.
  2. Acid – Acids, like lemon juice, vinegar and mustard, help to tenderize the meat. Leave them on too long though, and they can break down the meats and dry them out, similar to salt.
  3. Fat – Fats, like olive oil and canola oil carry flavor and help to infuse the marinade into the meat.
  4. Flavor – This may be the most important of all! Add flavor to your grilled chicken marinade with potent, high-flavor ingredients like garlic, herbs and spices to really pack a punch to your chicken.

grilled chicken on a plate

HOW LONG DO YOU MARINATE CHICKEN FOR?

Once the marinade is combined, place the chicken in the marinade for at least 1 hour. If you plan to marinate for longer than 2 hours, wait to add the acids (in our case, the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar) until the last hour or so.

PRO TIP: Don not reuse leftover marinade. If you’d like to baste the chicken in the marinade as it cooks (not always necessary, but can add flavor and juiciness), be sure to reserve some of the marinating liquid BEFORE adding the meat. Any marinade that is leftover from the meat should be discarded.

HOW LONG DO YOU COOK CHICKEN ON THE GRILL?

The answer to this question actually depends on the type of chicken, and the thickness. One thing to remember with any type of chicken is just like a good steak, you want to set the chicken on the grill, then leave it to cook and get those beautiful grill marks. Chicken breasts should register 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer, and chicken thighs and drumsticks should be at 180 degrees.

  1. Boneless grilled chicken thighs or breasts take about 4-5 minutes per side.
  2. Bone-in grilled chicken thighs or drumsticks take at least double the time as boneless. Watch for flare-ups, and move the chicken off of the direct heat to finish cooking if necessary.

PRO TIP: If your grill has a thermometer gauge, use it. You want your grill to be between 350-400 degrees F when closed (and you need to keep it closed when cooking!). Don’t just rely on the knobs for low-medium-high temps. My grill run pretty hot, so those settings are pretty much useless.

Looking for a great grilling utensils set? Try this grilling set that includes tongs, a spatula and a basting brush! (aff).

grilled chicken dinner plate

WHAT IS A GOOD SIDE DISH FOR CHICKEN?

The great thing about chicken is that it is complimented by so many different sides. We love a good Homemade Mac and Cheese or Macaroni Salad. But my favorites side dishes to grill with are things that actually go on the grill with the chicken! Current faves are Grilled Zucchini and Grilled Potatoes. So much flavor!

Grilled Chicken Marinade recipe - chicken on a plate with grilled potatoes and zucchini and lemon

Want some more delicious Grilled Chicken recipes and more for the grill? Try these:

Grilled Chicken Thighs Recipe:

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Close up of grilled chicken

Grilled Chicken Marinade

Having a great grilled chicken marinade in your back pocket is essential for summer grilling. This delicious marinade packs a flavor punch without being overpowering, and it's great with any kind of chicken!
 
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 373kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or breast
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Combine all ingredients in a large ziploc bag. Press as much air out of the bag as possible when you seal it. *Tip - if using breasts, lightly pound them out to an even thickness for even cooking.
  • Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. (If marinating longer than 2 hours, wait to add the lemon juice during the last hour or so).
  • To cook: Heat grill to medium heat (about 350-400 degrees). Cook chicken for 4-6 minutes per side or until cooked through. Internal temperature should reach 165 degrees F. (Time will depend on the thickness of the chicken).
  • Transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before serving.
  • If desired, garnish with fresh chopped parsley before serving.

Notes

I've used both chicken breasts and thighs for this marinade, and both are tasty. My family definitely prefers thighs. 

Nutrition

Calories: 373kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 45gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 215mgSodium: 1235mgPotassium: 603mgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 54IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 32mgIron: 2mg
Keyword grilled chicken, grilled chicken marinade

A great grilled chicken marinade collage

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Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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Comments

  1. Unbelievable. I was concerned that the hour would not induce enough flavor but it was absolutely amazing and so full of taste. Loved it!

  2. How differently should I prepare this recipe if I’m using skin-on thighs and drumsticks? I’m having a BBQ in 3 days.

    1. If you’re using bone-in chicken, you can still use this marinade, but it will take quite a bit longer on the grill. To speed things up and avoid the chance of burning, you could par-cook the meat in the oven and then throw it on the grill. Or, start skin side down on oiled grates for 15 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 20-30 minutes or until it’s 165 degrees internally.

  3. Sooooooo good! Everyone loved it— super savoury, but with a bit of sweetness. Tender, juicy and plenty of leftovers to freeze ❤️ . Thanks!

  4. Love this recipe! It’s so easy and my husband loves it – it’s definitely a staple in our home! I bake rather than grill and it turns out fabulous. We also cut up the leftovers and use them on salads which is wonderful too.

  5. Fabulous!! I used a dark mushroom soy sauce, that is kinda thick, otherwise I followed the recipe. Marinated 2 hours. I did chicken tenders, so really easy to dry out on the grill. They were perfect, everyone commented that it was amazing to get grilled chicken tenders that were moist & juicy. Will be doing this again.

  6. Best marinade ever! So tasty and the chicken thighs turned out sooo juicy! Definitely adding this to my summer rotation. Thank you for this fantastic recipe!

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