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For simple, affordable, and nutritious meals, chicken thighs can’t be beat. This Chicken Thigh Marinade is a mouth-watering blend of sweet and savory flavors, perfect for grilling, baking or broiling your chicken.

Love chicken thighs? Be sure to try my Bacon Wrapped Chicken Thighs or Greek Yogurt Marinated Chicken Thighs next.

Grilled chicken thighs on a white platter.
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Why You’ll Love This Marinade Recipe

  • Versatile – Use it for any cut of chicken, pork or beef!
  • All-Purpose – Marinade and grill, bake or broil your chicken!
  • Easy to Make – The marinade takes about 5 minutes to whisk together.
  • Tender and Juicy – This marinade creates the most mouth-watering grilled chicken thighs.

Why Chicken Thighs?

Chicken thighs are just as delicious as chicken breasts, and might I add easier to cook, more versatile and more forgiving!

  • Easy to Cook and Relatively Foolproof – As hard as you may try it is difficult to overcook chicken thighs thanks to a slightly higher fat content.
  • They’re Versatile – You can use just about any seasoning you like.
  • Budget Friendly – You’ll find boneless skinless chicken thighs cost less per pound than chicken breasts.

What you need

Marinade Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Brown Sugar – Light or dark, whichever you happen to have on hand. Don’t have brown sugar? Try honey as a substitute.
  • Soy Sauce – Opt for low-sodium soy sauce so you can control the salt level.
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Dijon Mustard – Not every kitchen has dijon on hand, and if you don’t have any on hand, Worcestershire sauce will do in a pinch. I recommend using about a tablespoon.
  • Lemon Juice – Fresh squeezed is best, but bottled is fine. Lime juice is also delicious.
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic Powder – or a clove of fresh garlic.
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Fresh Herbs – Like parsley or thyme (optional)
  • Chicken Thighs – I used boneless skinless thighs to create this marinade recipe, but it works with any cut of chicken.

How To Marinate Chicken Thighs

See the recipe card below for full, detailed instructions

  • Place the chicken thighs into a resealable plastic bag.
  • Whisk the marinade together in a bowl.
  • Pour the marinade over the chicken in the plastic bag. Seal, pressing out as much air as possible to ensure that all the surface area of the chicken is covered with the marinade. Gently massage to coat.

How Long Should You Marinate Chicken Thighs?

With this marinade, you have a few options:

  • Prepare the marinade, add the chicken and marinate for 20-30 minutes at room temperature while you prep other elements of the meal. Then cook as directed.
  • Place the chicken in the bag with the marinade and refrigerate for 2-24 hours. Any longer and the texture may become mushy
  • Place the chicken and marinade in a freezer bag and freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight.

Cooking Instructions

This chicken marinade is versatile and can be used for baking, broiling, or grilling your chicken thighs. Here’s a quick run-down of each (assuming you are using boneless, skinless chicken thighs):

  • Grilled Chicken Thighs: Heat an outdoor grill to medium heat (about 350-400℉). Grill chicken for 4-6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, tent with foil and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Baked Chicken Thighs: Bake for 25-30 minutes at 425℉. Broil for a few minutes at the end for deeper color. Rest 5 minutes before serving.
  • Broiled Chicken Thighs: Preheat the broiler and adjust the oven rack to the middle of the oven. Line a broiling pan with foil or use a cast iron skillet. Broil for about 20 minutes, basting with any reserved and unused marinade. Rest 5 minutes before serving.

Serving Suggestions

Chicken goes with anything right? You can serve this chicken marinade with pasta like Stovetop Mac and Cheese or Macaroni Salad. You can serve it over rice or with a side of sweet potato wedges.

If I’m grilling the chicken, I love to just grill the whole meal. So I’d add some yummy Grilled Zucchini and Grilled Potatoes.

Be sure to serve some lemon wedges with your chicken for a burst of freshness with every bite!

Grilled chicken thighs, potaotes and lemon on a white plate.

Storage Tips

How To Store Leftovers

Let chicken cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container or resealable plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Add chilled to salads and sandwiches or reheat in the microwave.

To freeze fully cooked chicken, cool and store in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat as desired.

Recipe Tips

  • IMPORTANT NOTE – Do not use reuse the marinade. If you would like to use some of the marinade for basting the chicken as it cooks, make sure to set some aside before you use it. Once it touches the raw chicken it may become contaminated with harmful bacteria. Any marinade that is leftover from the meat should be discarded.
  • You can prepare the marinade ahead up to 3 days. If the olive oil solidifies in the fridge, just let it sit out for about 20 minutes. It will soften and liquify and you should be good to go.
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs can be baked, broiled or grilled with this marinade. However if you’d like to use bone-in chicken thighs, I recommend you start with pan roasting, to sear all sides, then finish in the oven.
  • Add some fresh herbs, like chopped parsley to the marinade for brightness.
  • Leftovers are great for meal prep – making sandwiches, tacos, wraps and salads for the week ahead! Just chop up the chicken thighs and add them to your favorite meals.

More Chicken Thigh Recipes

Close up of grilled chicken

Grilled Chicken Marinade

4.79 from 32 votes
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 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 8 servings


  • 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
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  • Prepare the chicken: Place chicken thighs in a resealable plastic bag.
  • Prepare the Marinade: Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Cover/Seal: Pour the marinade over the chicken in the plastic bag. Seal, pressing out as much air as possible to ensure that all the surface area of the chicken is covered. Gently massage to coat. If cooking right away, set the chicken aside for 20-30 minutes then cook as desired.
  • Refrigerate: Refrigerate for 12-24 hours. Any longer and the texture of the meat may change.
  • Freeze: Place chicken and marinade in a resealable freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight and cook as desired.


  • Grill: Heat an outdoor grill to medium heat (about 350-400℉). Grill chicken for 4-6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, tent with foil and rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • Bake: Bake for 25-30 minutes at 425℉. If desired, broil for a few minutes at the end for deeper color. Tent with foil and rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • Broil: Preheat the broiler and adjust the oven rack to the middle of the oven. Line a broiling pan with foil or use a cast iron skillet. Broil chicken for about 20 minutes, basting with any reserved and unused marinade or juices from the pan. Tent with foil and rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • If desired, garnish with fresh chopped parsley or other fresh herbs just before serving.


This marinade works wonderfully with all cuts of chicken, pork or beef. 
Keyword grilled chicken, grilled chicken marinade


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

Nutritional Disclaimer Kristin Maxwell of “Yellow Bliss Road” is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. For accurate calorie counts and other nutritional values, we recommend running the ingredients through your preferred online nutritional calculator. Calories and other nutritional values can vary depending on which brands were used.

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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4.79 from 32 votes (14 ratings without comment)

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  1. Susan says:

    I’ve never left a review for a recipe before (and always kind of wondered if it’s people’s friends and family members writing them lol). This recipe really is very good, though – the best marinade I’ve tried for bbq chicken and one I’ll definitely be using again. Thanks for posting it!

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome Susan! Love the comment! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Janetbuffaloe says:

    I can’t wait to get started…

    1. Janetbuffaloe says:

      Thank you excellent recipes..i can’t wait to get started

      1. Kristin says:

        You are so welcome Janetbuffaloe! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Leslie says:

    This was Very Good!!

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Leslie!

  4. Nolee says:

    This has become my go-to grilled chicken recipe. It is really outstanding!

    1. Kristin says:

      Love the feedback Nolee! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Amanda Mercer says:

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

    1. Kristin says:

      Love the feedback Amanda! Thank you so much for stopping by.

  6. Ellyn says:

    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. Kristin Maxwell says:

      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.

  7. Sharon Deon says:

    Delicious and easy….my go to for chicken on the grill.
    I serve it with roasted baby potatoes and salad.

    1. Kristin says:

      Nice! Thanks for stopping by Sharon.

  8. Tori says:

    This is incredible! So easy & quick. No customizations needed.

    1. Kristin says:

      Awesome feedback Tori! Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Pauline says:

    very good , I made thighs, going to do breast next

  10. Tcousins says:

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

  11. Amy B says:

    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.

    1. Kristin says:

      Nice! Thanks for the awesome feedback Amy.

  12. Pam says:

    Really quick, easy and delicious. I’ll be using this often. Thanks!

    1. Kristin says:

      Awesome feedback Pam! Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Lara says:

    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.

    1. Kristin says:

      That’s awesome Lara! Thanks for the awesome feedback.

  14. Alexandra says:

    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!

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome Alexandra! Thanks for stopping by.

  15. General says:

    Sounds tasty, gonna try it today

  16. Jess says:

    This is the marinade to end all marinades. Used it on every kind of cut of chicken as well as pork chops and we even did it in the oven once because there was no grill. It’s just the best. I think this might even be my second time reviewing it lol

    1. Kristin says:

      Hi Jess, Thank you so much for sharing your positive feedback.

  17. Phil Gordon says:

    If I make a large jar of this marinade, how long will it last in he fridge? 6 months?

    1. Kristin Maxwell says:

      Hi Phil, the marinade alone, if kept in a tightly sealed jar, would last in the fridge at least 2 weeks and up to several months. Because the oil can go rancid though, I’d say use it up within a month.

  18. Laura L Aubuchon says:

    We looking for something new to do with boneless chicken thighs so tried this recipe. I could just eat the marinate alone it was so good. The chicken was juicy and delicious, thanks for the recipe, I have something new to do with chicken thighs. WooHoo

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome Laura! Thanks for stopping by.

  19. J Bear says:

    Moist, flavorful, quick! Had everything in the fridge and pantry, so this made for a great weeknight company-dinner with little fuss. Marinated about 45 minutes and flavor was really wonderful. Longer would have been even better. Served with just white rice from the rice cooker, and bright green beans with butter, salt, garlic…SO GOOD! Thank you for the solid, yummy recipe! I’m always amazed how the humble chicken thigh can be so easily elevated!

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome J! Thank you so much for stopping by to leave some positive feedback.

  20. SJS says:

    We make this regularly – like 2 or 3 times a month. We always double it so we have lots of leftovers. So good.

    1. Kristin says:

      That’s awesome SJS! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave some positive feedback.

  21. Charles says:

    Is it safe if i already put the lemon juice in and i cant make it until tomorrow?

    1. Kristin says:

      Yes you can. The reason we suggest to wait on the lemon is to keep the acid from “cooking” the chicken.

  22. Sophia Traylor says:

    Nutrition facts?

    1. Kristin says:

      We are slowly updating the site to include nutrition facts on all of our recipes. In the meantime, my fitness pal is an excellent resource.

  23. Susan and Eric says:

    Fast and easy for busy nights. We made this again tonight as written. The payoff was a really good busy Monday night meal. Thank you for sharing your recipe with us Midwesterner’s.

    1. Kristin says:

      You are so welcome Susan and Eric, thank you so much for taking the time to leave some positive feedback.

  24. Deb Patterson says:

    This looks like a marinade that I could use for Labor Day. In your notes above the recipe it recommends not adding the acid (lemon juice and vinegar) until the last 30 minutes but doesn’t mention that in the recipe itself. What has worked best? (Not sure I’ll remember to do that when everyone is over!! :))

    1. Kristin says:

      Oh good catch. I fixed that – the reason is that the acid can break down the meat, making it tough. So add it during the last hour or so if you’re marinating for longer than 2 hours.

      1. Deb Patterson says:

        Was a hit with everyone and I remembered to put in the lemon juice! Will be using this marinade again! Thanks!

  25. Lisa says:

    Great marinade. I used skinless and boneless hicken thighs and marinated for 3 hours. Chicken was delicious, tender and juicy. Thank you Kristin

    1. Kristin says:

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  26. Julia says:

    Best chicken marinade! My family including my kids love it. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    1. Kristin says:

      You’re so welcome Julia! thank you so much for stopping by!

  27. Pamala OldenKamp says:

    This is an excellent marinade. Well done!!! I marinated skinless, bone in thighs for about 12 hours. Very, very good but next time I’ll aim for overnight.

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Pamala! and thanks for sharing your experience.

  28. Abby says:

    Would this work if I put all of these ingredients in the crockpot and cooked it on low?

    1. Kristin says:

      I haven’t tried that with this recipe so I can’t say for sure how it would turn out. I might leave the lemon juice out if you want to give it a try.

      1. Abby says:

        I actually tried it and it worked! I added the balsamic and lemon juice about 30 minutes before it was done and it turned out well!

  29. Kat C says:

    Just made this recipe & my husband and I really enjoyed it. I let sit overnight and chicken was tender and juicy. Been looking for this recipe for months.

    1. Kristin says:

      Thanks Kat! So happy that you and your family loved this recipe!

  30. Alesia says:

    I just tried this delicious recipe for the first time and my family and I loved it! It is so easy to make. I used chicken thighs and it was moist and tasty. Thanks for this great recipe. 🙂

    1. Kristin says:

      Thanks Alesia! So happy that you and your family loved this recipe!

  31. Sharon says:

    Hi Kristin. Can this recipe be baked?

    1. Kristin says:

      Sure, you could bake this in the oven. I’d recommend 425 for about 20 minutes. The chicken should register 165 on a meat thermometer.

  32. Andrew says:

    Can I marinade these for up to 48hrs?

    1. Kristin says:

      I wouldn’t recommend it, because the acid in the marinade can cause the meat to breakdown and become tough. If you must make this recipe further in advance, I recommend placing everything in freezer bags then freeze until ready to use.

  33. Rebecca says:

    Incredible! Super flavorful and requires very little marinading time. I substituted orange juice for the lemon because that’s all I had, and it was delicious! My kids and my picky parents even loved it. Haha. Already making it again tomorrow!

    1. Kristin says:

      So happy that you and your family loved this recipe! Thanks for stopping by Rebecca.

  34. Ellissa says:

    Hi Kristin, I just finished making the marinade to take camping would it be a big no no to add my bell peppers to marinade as well or should I do separate veggie marinade?

    1. Kristin says:

      I would just add them when you’re ready to cook.

  35. Lesla M Fox says:

    Loved it. Very easy too.

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Lesla for sharing your positive experience.

  36. Eric A. says:

    Jumping to the end, the chicken was really good.

    The marinade smelled like Chex mix awesome. I followed the directions as written. Marinated thighs and drum sticks, 90 minutes.

    I used a Weber charcoal grill, set up for indirect heat, but grilled over the hot side with a lid temp of 350F.

    The only thing I would change on my system would be to turn more often and extend the cooking time. Yes, I did not take a temperature reading as I should have, but it was a hectic day.

    Bar-none, this is an in my back pocket, in the recipe file, and in my farm truck’s glove box kind of recipe. Thank you.

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Eric for sharing your positive feedback and experience. thanks for stopping by!

  37. Patrick OHare says:

    Great recipe. Easy and such great taste.

  38. Kelly says:

    This was so good!! Honestly best grilled chicken we’ve ever had, and we grill A LOT! I subbed a few things, did coconut aminos instead of soy sauce, coconut sugar instead of brown sugar (was out of brown sugar), and pineapple juice instead of lemon juice. YUM!! My 18 month old loved it too! We only had time to let it marinate for a few hours and that was plenty! The marinade creates like a glaze over the chicken, so yum!!

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Kelly! So happy that you and your family loved this recipe!

  39. Noelle says:

    This is hands down the best chicken thigh marinade ever! This will be a summer staple in my fridge, for sure. Thank you for sharing:)

    1. Kristin says:

      You’re so welcome Noelle! thank you so much for stopping by!

  40. Susan says:

    Kristin, Thank you for such a wonderful recipe. This is my first time trying out the Recipe for my Family and my mother’s 90th birthday party picnic. It couldn’t be that easy, but the ingredients sound delicious , putting them all together.

    1. Kristin says:

      Nice! Thank you Susan.

  41. Becki says:

    One of the best marinades ever!!!

  42. Rudy says:

    Made on Saturday, on my way to the grill to make it again

  43. Jose Antonio Crespo says:

    Excellent Recipe..

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Jose!

  44. Roxanne says:

    Amazing! Perfect for bone-in chicken thighs. Think this will be our new summer standard. We served with spinach salad and grilled corn on the cob. Numerous compliments!!

    1. Kristin says:

      Yummy! Thanks for stopping by Roxanne.

  45. DARDUGGLE says:


    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Darduggle! and thanks for sharing your experience!

  46. Jane says:

    Marinade is delicious. I added some fresh ginger and garlic. Skipped the lemon juice. Substituted salt for fish sauce. And finally used palm sugar (coconut sugar) in place of brown sugar. Will also add some green onion to the marinade next time as I made an extra batch and stored in an airtight container in my fridge. I think this would be good on some pork ribs!

    1. Kristin says:

      Hi Jane, Great ideas, love that you made it your own!

  47. Aya says:

    Omg. I have the most picky husband but trying this marinade i finally found something he loves this will be on our grilling rotation permanently. Thank you very much.

    1. Kristin says:

      That’s Awesome Aya! thanks for stopping by.

  48. Jackie says:

    This was awesome! The only problem was there was not any left overs for me!!! Will use this recipe again and again and again! Thanks!!

    1. Kristin says:

      Nice! thanks Jackie!

  49. Leora says:

    Amazing marinade!! My picky family loved it, I used Worcestershire sauce in place of soy sauce and added more lemon juice and garlic powder to it. I made twice the amount that I usually would and had no leftovers at all

    1. Kristin says:

      That’s awesome Leora! So happy that you and your family loved this recipe!

  50. maryann bova says:

    Grilling chicken thighs tonight and this marinade sounds spot on! They’ve been soaking in a brine for a couple of hours, now I am going to throw this yummy marinade together and let those puppies soak it up for a couple of hours!

    Will pop back in to give my star rating, how it was, if I tweaked it at all, etc.

  51. Jess says:

    Great marinade! Used on bone-in, skin on chicken thighs. Didn’t have garlic powder so I added 3 fresh minced cloves of garlic. Only had time to marinate a little over an hour in the fridge but turned out awesome!

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Jess!

  52. Jene says:

    Made this chicken tonight, turned out great!!!

    1. Kristin says:

      Thank you Jene! So glad you enjoyed it!

  53. CL says:

    I made these last night and they were delish. I am a cook and they are perfect as is. The marinade took seconds to put together, has the perfect combination of sweet, salt and tang, and does not use too much oil. I grilled boneless, skinless thighs for 6 minutes per side and they were melt in your mouth juicy. I will keep this as my “go to” chicken marinade from now on.

  54. Ruth Garcilazo says:

    Going to try this today sounds yummy