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!

  7. 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. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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. 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.

  10. 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.

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

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

  13. 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. 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. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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?

  18. 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.

  19. 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!!

  20. 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:)

  21. 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.

  22. 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!!

  23. OUTSTANDING! DELICIOUS!! SIMPLE!!! WE USED REAL GARLIC AND SOME HERBS (ROSEMARY AND THYME). THIS IS A FANTASTIC, TASTY RECIPE. (SORRY ABOUT THE CAPS LOCK PROBLEM) A NEW FAVORITE!!!!!!

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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!!

  27. 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

  28. 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.

  29. 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!

  30. 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.