Citrus Chicken Marinade

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Citrus Chicken Marinade with fresh cilantro, lime, and orange juice adds so much flavor to chicken! Bake the chicken in just 12 minutes or grill it in even less time.

Looking for more ways to change up chicken? Chicken Taco Marinade and Cilantro Lime Chicken are the two most popular chicken recipes on my site!

The Best Citrus Chicken Recipe

I’m obsessed with grilled chicken! It’s my go-to throughout the Spring and Summer, but I even grill in the Fall and Winter. It’s so easy to whip up a marinade when I have some free time in the day and then dinner is pretty much ready to go when everyone is home and hungry.

This citrus chicken has been a huge hit in my home. Each and every bite is packed with flavor! Plus, the quick marinade that gets made serves multiple purposes — it flavors the chicken, rice, and beans. So you’ll have a complete meal with minimal prep time!

Citrus Marinade For Chicken

Here are the ingredients in Citrus Chicken Marinade:

  • Oranges: We use the zest and juice here!
  • Limes: Again, zest and juice for maximum flavor.
  • Cilantro: This herb adds a bright, citrusy freshness and flavor. Replace with flat-leaf Italian parsley if you aren’t a fan of cilantro.
  • Soy sauce: We use lite soy sauce to control saltiness in this marinade. If you only have regular/all-purpose soy sauce, just reduce the amount of salt added.
  • Honey: Balances the tangy flavors and adds some sweetness.
  • Dijon mustard: A great flavor add and thickener; make sure to use Dijon, not yellow mustard (the two aren’t interchangeable here!).
  • Minced garlic: Or use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Salt & pepper: Adjust this addition to personal preference and add until flavors “sing.”
  • Olive oil: We add oil last and slowly drizzle it in while blending to get a nice emulsion. Sometimes when oil is blended for an extended period it can take on a metallic flavor, so I like to avoid that by adding the oil after everything is smooth. 

How Long Can Chicken Marinate in Citrus?

A lot of marinades will call for extended marinating periods, even overnight. But NOT this Citrus Chicken Marinade. In fact, whenever there is citrus or an acidic component, we recommend a shorter marinating time, about 2-3 hours, and no longer than 4 hours. This is because the citric acid will begin to “cook” the chicken and will result in drier chicken. (Thighs are more forgiving than breasts with longer marinating time.) If you’ve ever had ceviche, you’ve seen the magic of “cooking” raw foods with citrus!

QUICK TIP

And on the flip side, even 30 minutes of marinating the chicken is effective. For a quicker marinating time, cut breasts in half horizontally to create 2 thin pieces. For thighs, poke a few holes using the tines of a fork. This will help the marinade penetrate the meat for the shorter marinating time.

QUICK TIP

Marinate or marinade? The two words talk about the same thing, but one’s a verb and one’s a noun. When you put a sauce onto uncooked food and let it absorb flavor, you are marinating it. The sauce that you pour over the raw food is called a marinade. And in this recipe, you are marinating the chicken with delicious citrus marinade. Confused yet?!

Citrus Chicken Marinade Grilling Tips

  • Thighs or breasts? Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are our meat of choice in this Citrus Chicken Marinade. The meat is extremely tender and more forgiving (meat doesn’t dry out) if grilled or marinated a little too long. That said, breasts will work too. If using breasts, slice breasts in half before marinating. Slice and/or pound your chicken breasts into evenly thick pieces before marinating. That way they’ll soak up all the delicious flavor from the marinade and they’ll cook evenly. We don’t want to pound the breasts to be flat, just to be even thickness throughout. Even thickness means all parts of the chicken will be done at the same time. I really like this meat mallet, and here’s a good YouTube video that illustrates the pounding process.
  • Flip chicken while marinating. Throughout the marinating process, be sure to flip the bag of marinating chicken onto the other side. We don’t want just one side of the chicken getting flavorful!
  • Generously oil your grill grates. I do this by rolling up a few paper towels, drenching them in oil (canola or vegetable), and using tongs, rubbing the drenched paper towels along the grill grates. This will contribute to a beautiful sear, and ensure the chicken doesn’t stick to the grates. 
  • Let the chicken rest. Tented with foil, let the chicken stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting in. This allows the juices to redistribute inside the chicken; this means juicier meat!

Citrus Chicken Marinade Serving Suggestions

Our favorite way to enjoy this chicken is over Coconut Rice — so good! When going this route, we typically throw some veggies on the grill or roast veggies to serve on the side.

Make the rice while the grill preheats and the chicken cooks. If you’re grilling the veggies, put them alongside the chicken on the grill. Divide rice among plates, add thinly sliced chicken on top, veggies on the side, and drizzle the sauce over everything. 

Another way to serve this: in a big salad! Toss some mixed greens with half of the reserved sauce. Add diced or thinly sliced chicken, some mandarin or clementine oranges, feta or goat cheese, and candied or toasted sliced almonds or pistachios. Drizzle the remaining sauce on top and enjoy!

QUICK TIP

We love zesting the limes and oranges with a microplane and then juicing them with this citrus juicer. These two tools make the recipe prep a breeze!

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Citrus Chicken Marinade

5 from 4 votes
A robustly flavored Citrus Chicken Marinade comes complete with fresh orange and lime juice. The citrus sauce has three purposes -- marinating, basting, and a finishing sauce.
Print Recipe

Citrus Chicken Marinade

5 from 4 votes
A robustly flavored Citrus Chicken Marinade comes complete with fresh orange and lime juice. The citrus sauce has three purposes -- marinating, basting, and a finishing sauce.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Healthy
Keyword Citrus Chicken Marinade
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Marinating Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Chelsea Lords

Ingredients

BLEND:

  • 1/3 cup orange juice + 1 tsp zest (1-2 large oranges)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice + 1 tsp zest (1-2 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon each: Dijon mustard, minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

CHICKEN & SERVING:

  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (Note 1)
  • 15 oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • For serving: we love this chicken over coconut rice or cilantro lime rice
  • Optional, for serving: 1 large ripe avocado, diced

Instructions

  • PREP: Use a microplane to zest & a citrus juicer to juice oranges and limes. Remove large pieces of fat/gristle and cube the thighs into 1-inch pieces.
  • BLEND: Add everything under "blend" to a small blender jar and blend until smooth; about 45 seconds.
  • DIVIDE SAUCE: Pour 1/3 cup of the sauce in a mason jar in the fridge. Remove another 3 tablespoons and place in a separate jar in the fridge.
  • MARINATE: Pour the rest of the marinade into a large bag. Add cubed chicken thighs to the bag. Seal the bag without air in it and knead the marinade into the chicken. Place in the fridge and marinate for 30 minutes up to 3 hours. Don't marinate longer than 4 hours.
  • HEAT OVEN: Position an oven rack 6 inches from the element. Preheat the broiler to high and let it fully heat up. Line a sheet pan with foil. OR TO GRILL, see Note 2.
  • SKEWER CHICKEN: Remove chicken from marinade and thread onto the skewers letting any excess marinade drip off (discard).
  • BROIL: Place skewers, spaced apart, on prepared pan. Broil for 12 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160°F and has a golden exterior. Right out of the oven sprinkle some salt on the skewers (add to taste). Take the reserved 3 tablespoons sauce and brush over the chicken.
  • SERVING: Meanwhile, add drained & rinsed beans to a bowl and pour over a few tablespoons of the reserved 1/3 cup sauce. Gently stir and season if needed. Pour more or reserved sauce in rice (add to taste). Divide rice and beans evenly among 4 bowls. Add chicken on top. Drizzle any remaining sauce on top of bowls and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are the only meat that works well with the method of oven-broiling. To use breasts, you'll want to grill them.
Here's how to prep for grilling chicken breasts: before marinating, slice breasts in half horizontally. Then, pound chicken breasts into evenly thick pieces (don't pound to flatten, just to ensure pieces are even thickness throughout to ensure even cooking). I really like this meat mallet, and here's a good YouTube video that illustrates the pounding process. No meat mallet? Use the base of a frying pan or even your fist to even out the chicken!
Note 2:  To Grill Chicken: Preheat grill to medium-high (400-450 degrees F.) Add chicken to a clean, well-greased grill (I grease grill grates by holding a vegetable oil-drenched paper towel with tongs and rubbing it across grates). Using tongs, pick up chicken from the bag, allowing excess marinade to drip off. Place chicken flat on the grill, and use a pastry brush to immediately brush on some of the reserved 3 tablespoons basting mixture. Close grill and cook for 4-5 minutes or until nicely caramelized. Use a sharp metal turner to scrape up and flip the chicken to the other side. Brush chicken generously with the rest of the reserved basting mixture. Close the grill and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the chicken registers 160 degrees F. (Timing will vary based on the size of the chicken and the actual heat of the grill.) Remove to a plate and cover loosely with foil to rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice. Taste and add more salt if needed.

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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5 from 4 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Tried it with 2 split chicken breasts (bone-in)
    and was pleasantly surprised at the nice
    orangey flavor.
    I didn’t use a microplane because, well… I’m not Martha Stewart – but used the cowbell grater for both the orange and lime, which worked great. Marinated for 3 hours and put on grill.
    This is a solid marinade base for poultry. Highly recommend!

    1. So thrilled to hear this! Haha it sounds like you’re Martha Stewart! 🙂 Thanks for your comment Karl! 🙂

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