Chicken Marinade

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Easy chicken marinade that uses a mix of pantry staples and fresh ingredients. A combination of olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, parsley, and garlic makes each bite burst with of flavor.

Grilled chicken breasts served on a plate with lemon

Chicken is almost always on the menu at our house. Although I admit, it can get a little repetitive and boring eating the same thing on a regular basis. Applying a chicken marinade is a tasty solution! Not only does the protein infuse and deliver more flavor, but the right marinade also makes it more tender and juicy. A win, win!

Whisking together a combination of savory, aromatic, and tangy ingredients is a game-changer for chicken. This marinade recipe is a light honey mustard base, a classic pairing for poultry. All you need is under 60 minutes of marination time for the flavors to transfer before it gets cooked.

Bowl of chicken marinade being whisked

How to make your own chicken marinade

Chicken marinades are incredibly versatile and go well with breast, legs, thicken, half pieces, and wings. When building a marinade, make sure that you have ingredients in each of these categories:

  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Aromatics
  • Sweetener
  • Acid

This mixture ensures that the chicken is brined to make it juicier and tender. A harmonious blend of flavors is delivered to the surface. You can also use alcohol to provide stronger flavors because it acts as a solvent and can move to the interior of more efficiently. An excellent example of how I apply this is in my tequila lime chicken recipe.

How much marinade to use

Here’s a good rule of thumb: 1 pound chicken = 1/2 cup (120ml) marinade 

It’s no secret; chicken often falls victim to becoming dry and overcooked. This is especially true with grilled chicken due to the high direct heat. It also can be bland and uninteresting. However, a chicken marinade can save the day!

Marinating chicken breasts in a baking dish

Benefits of using a chicken marinade

  • The oil dissolves fat-soluble flavor compounds like the oil in lemon zest, mustard, and capsaicin in black pepper to evenly disperse on the surface.
  • Salt acts like a brine, helping the chicken hold more water and become juicier, easier to eat and become more savory in flavor.
  • Garlic and soy sauce are high in glutamates, which gives an umami flavor. Garlic also has unique flavor compounds that can infuse into and coat the exterior of the chicken.
  • A little bit of honey balances the lemon juice but also encourages quicker browning through the Maillard reaction and caramelization. This process encourages more color and flavor development.
  • The lemon juice brightens the flavor and can provide some tenderization properties, but only at small amounts for relatively a short amount of time.

Marinating chicken inside a ziploc bag

Marination time

For this chicken marinade recipe which contains lemon juice (an acid), marinate for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than 1 hour. Too much acid makes the surface mushy and dry. It can also turn the chicken white and give a cooked appearance.

Cooking the protein with acid is something you want in ceviche, but not chicken. Another alternative is to marinate for 24 hours max, not adding in the lemon juice until the last 30 to 60 minutes of marination before cooking. This process can prevent the undesirable texture development mentioned above.

Flavorful chicken breasts sliced apart on a platter

All chicken cuts work well

For this chicken marinade recipe, I used chicken breasts. They seem to benefit the most because the meat is so lean and neutral. The marinade helps it stay juicy once cooked and add a layer of extra flavor to each serving.

Any cut like thigh, drumsticks and even wings can benefit from this honey mustard marinade. Experiment with different ingredients to create exciting flavor combinations! Just make sure to keep the essential ingredients categories in mind.

More chicken marinade ideas

Balance the acid in the marinade

Acids like vinegar, lemon juice, and buttermilk are commonly used in marinades. Note that too much can cause the marinade to be overly acidic, reducing the chicken’s natural pH. The muscle proteins over time will pack together, squeezing out the moisture. To prevent this, use a small amount of the acidic ingredient, no more than 25% of the marinade recipe. Also marinate for a shorter period, 30 to 60 minutes.

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Chicken Marinade

Easy chicken marinade that uses a combination of olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, parsley, and garlic to make each bite burst with of flavor.
Pin Print Review
3.92 from 45 votes
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Condiment
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 4 pieces boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Instructions 

  • In a medium-sized bowl whisk together olive oil, water, lemon juice, mustard, soy sauce, honey, salt, garlic, parsley, black pepper, and lemon zest.
  • Add chicken to a baking dish or large resealable plastic bag.
  • Pour marinade over the chicken, cover and refrigerate. Press out the excess air if using a Ziploc bag.
  • Marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, up to 60 minutes maximum time.
  • Flip over every 15 minutes for even marination.
  • Remove chicken from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture from the surface.
  • Discard marinade.
  • Cook chicken using the desired cooking method, such as grill, bake or saute.
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes before slicing.
  • Serve with lemon wedges.

Notes

  • Chicken can be marinated overnight by wait to add the lemon juice until the last 30 minutes to 1 hour of marination time.
  • Recipe Yield: 1 cup of marinade which is good for up to 2 pounds of chicken. 
  • Chicken Pieces: You can use breasts, thighs, quarters, wings, legs and bone-in pieces.
  • Grill: Preheat grill over high heat, about 400-450ºF (204-232ºC). Carefully grease the cooking grates with the oil. Keep one burner off for indirect heat cooking. Place the chicken on the direct heat side of the grill and close the lid. Cook each side for about 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness and type. Move to the indirect heat side of the grill and finish cooking covered until the recommended internal temperature is reached and it's fully cooked.
  • Saute: Heat a large cast iron or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and allow to heat. Saute one side for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium and flip over. Cook about 4 to 6 minutes more.
  • Bake: Preheat oven to 450°F. Add chicken to a greased foil-lined sheet pan or baking dish. Bake until fully cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness and type of chicken.
  • Doneness Temperature: Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 160-165ºF (71-74ºC). Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes to account for an increase in temperature due to carryover cooking.
  • MAKE IT PALEO: Use maple syrup instead of honey.
  • MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: Use gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. 

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Nutrition Facts
Chicken Marinade
Amount Per Serving
Calories 230 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Fat 5g8%
Sodium 481mg20%
Potassium 37mg1%
Carbohydrates 5g2%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 3g3%
Vitamin C 17.8mg22%
Calcium 7mg1%
Iron 0.3mg2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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31 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Janet says

    I usually have low sodium soy sauce on hand, so would you adjust the salt in this marinade recipe? Thank you for all the wonderful information you provide.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Janet- Low sodium soy sauce has about 37% less sodium. You can add 4 teaspoons of soy sauce total to get closer to the salt amount, or leave as is since there is already additional salt in the marinade. Let me know how it turns out!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Dennis- I think I would still marinade the bulk chicken for 30 minutes, pat dry and then transfer to the bag that you are planning to sous vide in. Then cook according to your recipe. Let me know how it turns out!

    • Stephanie says

      Would this marinade be good to boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute and serve over the cooked chicken?

  2. Alison says

    I’ve been using this marinade constantly this summer! Makes perfect chicken to throw on top of all your salad recipes. Yum!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thanks for your feedback Helen. It’s sort of a brine/marinade, so the salt is higher than traditional recipes. However, it certainly can be reduced to your desired level. Did you happen to dry the surface of the marinated meat before cooking? That could help reduce some of the salt flavor.

  3. mike says

    I just made this tonight and it turned out great. I added some ginger powder for a little pop. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Chris says

    I made this tonight and it was delicious. I didn’t feel like messing with the charcoal and I don’t own a gas grill so I did the saute method. Very good and very easy.
    Thanks.

  5. Jan Thompson says

    I tried this tonight and it was delicious! Marinated for one hour and it was amazingly moist and tender. It was a bit salty though, so I will adjust the salt to perhaps half or else double the soy sauce instead. What would you recommend? I was looking for a marinade to try out for a dinner party with friends this weekend and I’m happy I found it!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback Jan! Did you pat dry the chicken before it was cooked to remove the marinade? You can reduce the salt if you’d like to 1-2 teaspoons to reduce the saltiness. I’m so happy that you found my recipe as well!

      • Jan Thompson says

        No, I did not pat dry, but I think I will reduce the salt amount, because I like the flavor that the soy sauce (combined with all the other ingredients) provides!

  6. Mondo says

    I tried this today and boy was that some good chicken! The chicken came out juicy and flavorful. I doubled the recipe for 3 large bone in breasts. Marinaded for 1 hour and turning every 15 minutes as stated. I also didn’t pat dry the chicken before putting it on the grill. Amazing taste! This will be our go to marinade, thanks so much Jessica!

  7. Ann says

    I don’t consider myself to be much of a cook, but I made this for my (grown) kids this evening, and it turned out perfectly. I used low sodium soy sauce but all of the recommended kosher salt, and wiped the chicken before cooking. Cooking to 160 and then observing the resting time meant that the chicken was perfectly cooked. I will make this again!

  8. Mary Jo Campana says

    I baked the chicken and served it with saffron rice…delish! This will definitely be my go to marinade recipe.

  9. Dana says

    So awesome! Entire family loved it! FYI, I did not have Dijon, so I substituted with Stone Ground Mustard, it gave it a nice texture and flavor. I also ran out of soy sauce so I used coconut amino. It came out fantastic. Thank you for posting the recipe. It’s a keeper for sure!

  10. Shannon says

    Made this tonight with boneless, skinless chicken thighs on the grill! chicken was organic so a little bit smaller, 4 mins on each side and maybe 5 to 8 mins more indirect cooking.
    First time grilling without hubby and he came to an intact house and yard 😛 Oh, and chicken has his stamp of approval!

  11. Maria Terry says

    Made this last night. I had all the ingredients on hand, they’re all staples in my kitchen. So many wonderful flavors. While eating dinner I decided I could reduce the salt and use it as a salad dressing. Keep those hits coming!

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