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Citrus Chicken Marinade

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


  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice + 1 tsp zest (1-2 large oranges)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice + 1 tsp zest (1-2 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro or parsley
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoons each: Dijon mustard, minced garlic
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (Note 1)
  • For serving: we love this chicken over coconut rice and roasted or grilled veggies make a nice side!


  • PREP: Use a microplane to zest orange(s) and lime(s) to get 1 teaspoon zest of each. Use a citrus juicer to juice oranges and limes to get 1/3 cup orange juice and 2 tablespoons lime juice. If using chicken breasts instead of thighs, see Note 1 for chicken prep.
  • BLEND: Add lime and orange zest and juice to a blender or food processor. Add 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, salt & pepper to taste (I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Blend until smooth, about 45 seconds. Drizzle in olive oil and blend just until emulsified. Do not over-blend with oil; it can make the sauce taste metallic.
  • SEPARATE SAUCE: We're going to separate the sauce for three different uses. Remove 1/3 cup and place in a separate jar or container and refrigerate (this will be our finishing sauce). Remove another 3 tablespoons and place in a separate jar or container (this will be our basting sauce).
  • MARINATE: Pour the rest of the marinade into a large bag. Add chicken thighs or breasts to the bag. Seal the bag without air in it and knead the marinade into the chicken. Place in the fridge and marinate for 2-3 hours, flipping the bag to the other side halfway in between marinating time. Do not marinate longer than 4 hours (Note 2).
  • 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.
  • SERVING: We love serving this chicken over coconut rice with some roasted or grilled veggies. Divide rice evenly among plates and then top with grilled sliced chicken. Drizzle the reserved 1/3 cup finishing sauce evenly over everything and enjoy!



Note 1: Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are our meat of choice. The meat is more tender and moist (more forgiving if grilled/marinated a little too long). Breasts will work; here's how to prep: 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: Marinating time: 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. Even 30 minutes of marinating the chicken is effective. If planning to marinate for short time, poke a few holes using the tines of a fork into the thighs (no need to do this to breasts). This will help the marinade penetrate the meat in the shorter marinating time. (Don't pierce thighs if marinating for 2+ hours).
Why divide the sauce? Raw chicken can contaminate other foods, so we take pains to be sure the raw meat never touches the basting or finishing sauce. The sauce that goes into the marinade is discarded after use to prevent any cross-contamination issues. Food safety, people!