Grilled Chicken Marinade {With Video}

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The absolute best chicken marinade recipe! Easy and delicious via chelseasmessyapron.com

The absolute best grilled chicken marinade recipe! This easy-to-whip-together marinade will become a summer staple. This marinade creates ridiculously good flavored chicken and keeps it super moist.

Pair your perfect grilled chicken with an easy summer salad like this Greek pasta salad or this easy fruit salad recipe.

Shot of grilled chicken covered in chicken marinade

Grilled Chicken Marinade

The very first purchase my husband and I made as a married couple was…a grill! Yes, we found that more important than even a bed, because come on, grilled food is the BEST!

Right before we needed to return our moving truck we drove it to Home Depot, bought a grill, and drove the grill home. We were so excited to have our very own grill that we made meals on it for about two weeks straight.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. We ADORE grilled chicken. My whole family loves it and it is probably the most common dinner at my home. In fact, you can find dozens of delicious grilled chicken recipes on my site. Some readers’ favorites? These grilled taco chicken bowls, this mango chicken, or this pineapple chicken.

But today I’m sharing my go-to, all-purpose best grilled chicken marinade. So, let’s talk ingredients.

Chicken marinade ingredients

All good recipes have four main components: fat, salt, acid, and heat. In this recipe, we hit all 4 points; oil (fat), salt, acid (vinegar & lemon juice), and heat (grilling). Below are some more details about the ingredients in this chicken breast marinade.

  • Vegetable oil: the oil keeps the chicken moist and juicy. I use vegetable oil since we use a lot of it in this recipe and it’s a lot cheaper than olive oil, but feel free to use olive oil instead!
  • Soy sauce & red wine vinegar: break down the fibers to help make the chicken tender! The soy sauce also adds a good amount of salt.
  • Worcestershire sauce: gives the chicken a great Unami, salty flavor.
  • Honey: balances the other ingredients perfectly and adds a very subtle sweetness to the chicken.
  • Lemon juice: this also helps break down fibers and gives the chicken a great hit of flavor and a needed acid element.
  • Garlic, mustard, pepper, and parsley: all great (simple) flavor enhancers that pair great with chicken.

How to marinate chicken:

The best part about a grilled chicken marinade is just how easy it is! Simply whisk all the ingredients together and submerge the chicken breasts in the mixture.

I’ve included lots of tips below on marinating and grilling chicken.

Grilled chicken on a cutting board

Chicken marinating and grilling tips

  • Score meat before marinating: to help the marinade penetrate deeper, prick the surface of the chicken a few times with the tines of a fork.
  • 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 AND they’ll cook evenly.
  • Flip and/or stir: throughout the marinating process, be sure to flip the bag of chicken breasts on the other side, or stir the breasts in the marinade. We don’t want just one side of the chicken getting flavorful!
  • Refrigerate: make sure the marinated chicken is in the fridge while it’s marinating. Don’t leave it out on the counter for any length of time as bacteria will spread quickly.
  • 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, rub the drenched paper towels along the grill grates. Doing this will contribute to a beautiful sear, and ensure the chicken doesn’t stick to the grates. 
  • Baste the chicken: before adding the chicken to the marinade, take out some of the mixture to brush over the chicken as it grills. This adds a TON of flavor for very little effort!
  • Let the cooked chicken rest, tented with foil, for 5-10 minutes before cutting in. This allows a redistribution of the juices inside the chicken.

Not grilling the chicken? Check below for alternative cooking methods.

Alternate chicken cooking methods

Cooking times will vary depending on several factors so I always recommend using a thermometer to test your chicken as it cooks. Aim to hit 165 degrees Fahrenheit. (Undercooked = unsafe; Overcooked = dry chicken)

  • Baked Chicken: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place chicken on a baking sheet (do not cut breasts in half for this method) lined with parchment paper.  Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway. Remove from the oven, and loosely cover sheet pan with foil. Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • Sautéed Chicken: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add (horizontally halved) chicken breast and cook for 4-6 minutes per side until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. As you sauté the chicken, brush it generously with the reserved marinade. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate, and loosely cover with foil. Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting in.
    • Remove extra marinade: to ensure the meat is cooked properly if you choose to stir-fry or sauté it, be sure to drain off any excess marinade. Otherwise the meat will “stew” instead of char.

How long can chicken marinate for?

Most recipes tend to get better the longer you marinate, but this grilled chicken marinade is an exception. I’ve tried all different kinds of marinating times and around 4-6 hours yields the best end product.

Honestly though, even 30 minutes of marinating will give you deliciously flavored chicken! I wouldn’t recommend marinating more than 6 hours because the acid (lemon and vinegar) begins to “cook” the chicken.

Is it OK to bake chicken in its marinade?

After raw chicken has marinated in any kind of liquid, that liquid is no longer safe to consume. However, you can baste the chicken early on in the cooking process because that marinade will get cooked along with the chicken.

If you want to use marinade that has touched raw chicken, boil it vigorously for 1-2 full minutes in a separate pot. Use a clean basting brush or spoon to add it to the cooked chicken.Grilled chicken on a plate ready to eat

Ways to jazz up your grilled chicken:

  • Add an easy fruit or vegetable salsa: this mango salsa is my personal favorite.
  • Serve it on a salad: chop up the chicken and add it to some greens. Dress it with the cilantro ranch dressing from this BBQ Chicken Salad recipe; yum!
  • Add it to a burrito bowl: serve it on top of rice or quinoa, add in some roasted vegetables, and drizzle on your favorite sauce (can be as simple as a squeeze of lime/lemon and some fresh herbs!).
  • Sprinkle on fresh herbs: add some fresh cilantro, parsley, green onions, or basil after grilling.

More easy chicken recipes:

Quick tip: don’t re-use this grilled chicken marinade! Once the marinade has touched raw meat, it’s no longer safe to consume. If you want extra marinade as a sauce or to baste the chicken at the end of cooking, set aside some of the marinade BEFORE adding it to the raw chicken.

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Grilled Chicken Marinade

5 from 21 votes
The absolute best grilled chicken marinade recipe! This easy-to-whip-together marinade will become a summer staple. This marinade creates ridiculously good flavored chicken and keeps it super moist.
Print Recipe

Grilled Chicken Marinade

5 from 21 votes
The absolute best grilled chicken marinade recipe! This easy-to-whip-together marinade will become a summer staple. This marinade creates ridiculously good flavored chicken and keeps it super moist.
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword grilled chicken marinade
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Marinating Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 25 minutes
Servings 6 -8 servings
Calories 313kcal
Cost $8.65

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

Marinade

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice + 1 teaspoon zest (~2 large lemons)
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper (use 1 teaspoon if sensitive)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian flat leaf parsley, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey, separated

Optional honey lemon sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice + 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Instructions

  • MARINADE: Combine 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, about 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1/2 tablespoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons minced parsley, 3 tablespoons yellow mustard, 1-2 teaspoons minced garlic (for a more intense flavor use 2), and 1 tablespoon honey in a large bowl.
  • RESERVE: Set aside 1/3 cup of the marinade and save it for later.
  • PREP CHICKEN: Remove fat from the chicken and pound the chicken to an even width (about 1 inch wide everywhere.) If breasts are very wide, cut them in half to get them 1 inch wide. Prepping the chicken like this will ensure even grilling and make sure more chicken gets all those great marinade flavors.
  • MARINATE: Place the chicken in the marinade and marinate for at least 30 minutes to 6 hours. The chicken is best at 4-6 hours. Too much longer and it tends to get salty/cooked by the vinegar and lemon.
  • PREP GRILL: Make sure your grill grates are clean and greased. To grease, dredge a paper towel in vegetable oil and holding it with tongs rub it all over the grate. Grease once the grill is fully preheated. Preheat the grill to medium heat about 375-450 degrees F. Don't go hotter than 450 to avoid drying out the chicken.
  • GRILL: Grill the chicken until completely cooked through (about 4-6 minutes per side depending on heat of the grill and thickness) Chicken should be at 160 degrees F at its thickest part (carry over heat will bring it to 165 degrees). For 1 inch thick breasts grilled at 400 degrees, it takes generally 5 minutes on the first side and 4 minutes on the other side.
  • BASTE: Generously brush chicken with the reserved marinade mix as it grills. Keep grill closed as much as possible though.
  • OPTIONAL: For a quick lemon butter sauce to serve over the chicken, combine: 3 tablespoons melted butter, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and 3 tablespoons honey in a small bowl. Add some pepper and parsley if desired. Serve with the chicken.

Video

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 313kcal

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Nutrition facts in grilled chicken

 

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86 Comments

  1. This looks great Chelsea!!! Just found your recipe by following your Turkey, Bacon, and Avocado Flatbread recipe from Pinterest. I have been looking for a great marinade for the 4th! Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Do you think I could bake this chicken? We’re having afternoon/evening thunderstorms regularly so there hasn’t been much grilling happening!

  3. I made this tonight & it was sooo good! I’ll definitely be using it again. Next time I’ll marinate it longer (I only had 2 hrs) but it was still delicious.

  4. Your ingredients require 4 tbs honey, but your instructions require 1 tbs honey. I will try the 4 tbs. Which is correct?

    1. It is separated 🙂 1 tablespoon for the marinade and 3 for the optional lemon honey sauce if desired. Enjoy!

  5. 5 stars
    I haven’t even cleared the table yet, but I had to leave a comment. The recipe is aptly named. This is amazing chicken! My thought on tasting the first bite was that the marinade makes the chicken taste almost like steak. Tender, moist steak. Delicious!! I’ve saved the recipe in 3 locations so that I don’t misplace it!

    1. This made my night Susan!! So thrilled it was a huge hit 🙂 Thanks for trying some of my recipes and leaving comments!

  6. Hi, this dish looks amazing! I have a question. My husband *hates* mustard. There’s no way I could even sneak 1/2 teaspoon into any recipe lol. Would it be fine if I left it out? Thanks in advance. 🙂

  7. Hi! This chicken looks delicious! I can’t wait to try it! I was wondering if you think it’d be okay to marinate it for around 8 hours? I know you stated that 5-6 hours is optimal, but with my work schedule I can’t “time it right.” Maybe cut down on the vinegar, if that seems to cook it?? I would appreciate any suggestions…or I’ll try marinating for the 8 hours, if you think that will work. Thanks so much!! Excited to try it!

    1. Hi Kara! I think if you cut out or down the vinegar it would be fine to marinate for that long! 🙂 I hope you love this chicken!

  8. This was sooooo good!!! I marinated it for about 9 hours. Served it with asparagus and mushrooms. Very tasty and will definitely be making again and again.

  9. Looking forward to trying this but wondering what would be best to serve this with? Having a hard time trying to figure out what would blend well with all these great flavors! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  10. Looking forward to making this tonight! Can you please give some recommendations for side dishes for this chicken marinade recipe? Was thinking simple roasted potatoes with salt & pepper, but open to other ideas : )

  11. Would a vinegar based slaw be ok with this or too much vinegar? What are your go to sides with this chicken?

    1. So happy you enjoyed it! Thank you for the comment 🙂 I actually have a steak marinade being published tomorrow! Check back for that 🙂

  12. 5 stars
    We had this two nights ago and it turned out very good. We had grilled 4 pounds of chicken and not one piece was left!
    We are going to do it again today for our Sunday family dinner. thank you for a great recipe!

  13. Hi! I am going to make this for a big group on Canada day. In the marinade do I put the 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP soya sauce? Is is some of it reserved for something else?

  14. I made drumsticks with this. My teen took a few bites and said, “This is really good!” And I didn’t even measure everything exactly or marinate more than 40 min. I did cut the oil down to 1/2 cup and it worked fine. I need to try this on chicken breast when I have more time. Thanks!

  15. 5 stars
    The only vinegar that I had was a nice aged Balsamic , and only mustard was Dijon, but besides that I followed everything exactly and OMG This is a keeper! I will try it as the recipe states next time, and there Will be a next time!!! Thx so much for posting, Nanci

  16. 5 stars
    Very good recipe, so much so that I used the left over marinade from the first batch for a second (longer) meal the following day. Was even better on the second day as the marinade had had time to set.
    I DID make a couple of variations which I felt added more punch ; i replaced the pepper with fresh, ground cumin, used less honey than instructed, and used chicken legs (i pulled the skin loose and cut slits into the meat for better absorption), then baked the entire thing in the oven for about 20 minutes (heat and grill).

    My 11 year old son ADORED the end result!! Definitely a great recipe!! Thank you

  17. 5 stars
    This recipe is absolutely amazing! I only marinated the chicken tenderloins for about 45 minutes and cooked them on a charcoal grill until charred and internals to 165. I didn’t even remember the optional lemon butter sauce and honestly, they were just perfect without it. Thank you so much!

  18. 5 stars
    This recipe is fantastic! Tasty and easy. My family loves it. Only change I make is to use Dijon mustard and half breast half thighs.

  19. 5 stars
    I tried out this recipe this evening, and I am extremely happy with it. Truly the best grilled chicken I’ve ever had! Definitely adding it to my go to recipes.

  20. 5 stars
    This is hands down the best chicken marinade! Even my husband who HATES mustard (I never told him it was in the recipe) loved it. So easy to throw together and oh so yummy!

  21. 5 stars
    I tried this marinade for a family gathering and it was a huge hit! We barbecued it on the grill…we had none left! I almost had to referee for the last few pieces! ?? It will be my staple marinade for chicken now. Thanks so much!

  22. 5 stars
    SOOOOO incredibly delicious
    Im doing a carb free week and needed a ton of great marinates for my protein and this was SO damn good

  23. 5 stars
    I have been making salads with grilled/baked chicken for at least 18 years. My husband said that this was THE BEST chicken that he has ever had. I subbed in olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, and basil. I sliced the grilled chicken and topped it over a salad of butter lettuce, sliced radishes, diced red onion, avocado, & goat cheese. Used the reserved marinade for salad dressing, instead of basting the chicken during grilling. Yum!

      1. 5 stars
        Absolutely the BEST chicken marinade EVER! Everyone gobbled it up…I can’t wait to share it with all my friends and try a bunch of your other recipes. Thank you for the YUM!

        1. Yay! So happy to hear you enjoyed the marinade! 🙂 Thanks for the comment Suzanne; I hope you love whatever you try next! 🙂

  24. This Marinade sounds delicious. Could I make it without honey? So many marinades have sugar in them. Please let me know. Thank you!

  25. 5 stars
    This is my go to recipe for chicken. Do you think you can make a large batch of this and use it as needed?

    1. So happy to hear that! 🙂 Are you talking about freezing it or using throughout the week? You can absolutely make a large batch of it and cook it up; it will last about 4 days in the fridge. Hope that helps!

  26. All i have is white distilled vinegar or white cooking wine, can either of these be subbed for the red wine vinegar?

    1. Glad you enjoyed! 🙂 I found that to be the perfect amount of soy sauce for the recipe, feel free to reduce or increase to personal preference!

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