This chimichurri chicken recipe is a simple and easy meal loaded with flavor! The juicy pieces of grilled meat pair nicely with the delicious tangy herb sauce.
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Are you looking to spice up your weeknight chicken dinner? It only takes five minutes to make the homemade chimichurri sauce. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a flavor game changer! I use the Argentinian condiment for two critical roles: a marinade and a herb vinegar topping.
Before the chicken hits the grill, marinate it for 30-minutes. It’s also nice to have the extra sauce ready to drizzle or dip. What’s great about this recipe is that since the barbecue is fired up, you can toss vegetables like zucchini, corn on the cob, or portobellos for a complete meal.
For a lean protein option, use boneless skinless chicken breast. The meat stays juicer when soaked in the marinade. Look for about 8-ounce pieces for quick cooking without drying out. If thicker than 1-inch, slice them in half into cutlets.
If you prefer dark meat, chicken thighs or drumsticks also work well. Adjust the time as needed. Bone-in and skin-on pieces need more cook time.
Sauces & Condiments
Season the chicken
The chicken is simply seasoned with salt and pepper. I like to do this step first because it gives the salt a chance the dissolve while preparing the sauce. It also restructures the proteins, helping them to retain moisture while cooking. The extra time allows it to evenly and rapidly add a savory flavor to the surface.
Make the chimichurri sauce
If you haven’t tried this uncooked Argentinian sauce, you are in for a treat! I love to pair it with a delicious New York strip steak. You can make green chimichurri with fresh parsley, cilantro, cumin, salt, garlic, red wine vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, and red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. All you must do is add everything except the fat to a blender for a food processor.
Let the blades quickly break down the herbs and emulsify the oil into the sauce. I like the texture to be chunkier, with some visible pieces of green, or you can process until very smooth. If you want more than a ½ cup of sauce for serving, double the recipe.
A quick marinate
The small amount of acid from the red wine vinegar and salt in the chimichurri sauce helps season and tenderize the chicken. I use just enough to coat the pieces, about ¼ cup. They don’t need to be drenched. Soak for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour before cooking the chicken. The pieces will have a nice herb crust when grilled.
Grilling the meat
I like to lightly dry the surface of the meat with a paper towel to wick up excess moisture before barbecuing. This technique makes achieving golden brown sear easier and prevents flares up. The marinated chicken cooks over medium-high heat between 400 to 425ºF (204 to 218ºC) on both sides for about 5 to 8 minutes.
I look for the meat to have dark char marks and be cooked about 50% before flipping. If using a gas grill or charcoal set-up, have a lower temperature indirect heat side. Transfer the meat to this area if you need to finish cooking more gently.
Check for doneness
The chicken breast is fully cooked when no longer pink and turns opaque. Use an instant-read thermometer to check on the thickest part of the meat. It should read between 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºF).
For thighs, target 165 to 170ºF (74 to 77) because it has more fat and connective tissues. Cover and let the meat rest for 10 minutes to allow for carryover cooking before slicing and serving.
Serve this with
Some cooks don’t like cilantro. Substitute the portion of cilantro in the sauce with parsley. Add basil if you want an anise note.
Sherry vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and white wine vinegar are suitable substitutes. You want a mild spice from the acetic acid in the vinegar, with some aged flavor notes from the starting ingredient.
Yes! You don’t need to fire up the barbecue, but it does add a nice smoky flavor to the meat. You can use a grill pan, cast iron skillet, or nonstick pan to cook the chicken on the stove top—Cook in hot olive oil over medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes per side.
Add dry and wet seasoning to the chicken
Since we use the chimichurri sauce for the marinade and topping, I didn’t want it to be overpoweringly salty. The additional seasoning with salt and pepper before marinating gives better control over the sodium level. The first layer of salt acts as a dry brine. I find the meat to retain moisture better on the grill.
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- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, 4 pieces
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup cilantro leaves, firmly packed
- 1 cup flat leaf parsley, firmly packed
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons garlic, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
- Season the Chicken – Evenly season both sides of each meat with 1 ½ teaspoon salt and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to marinate.
- Make the Chimichurri Sauce – Using a blender or food processor, add the cilantro, parsley, red wine vinegar, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, cumin, and crushed red pepper. Process for 20 seconds to break down the leaves, stopping to scrape the sides of the cup as needed.With the machine running on low speed, slowly add the olive oil in a thin steady stream in the lid or feed tube opening. Cover and process on medium-high speed until the sauce is slightly thickened, with small herb pieces, about 30 to 45 seconds. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Marinate the Chicken – Add the chicken to a baking dish or large resealable plastic bag. Add ¼ cup of the chimichurri sauce, and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate. Press out the excess air if using a plastic bag. Marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 60 minutes. Reserve and refrigerate the remaining sauce for serving.
- Dry the Chicken – Before grilling, use paper towels to pat dry the surface to remove excess moisture.
- Preheat the Grill – Preheat the grill over medium-high heat between 400 to 425ºF (204 to 218ºC). Keep one burner off for indirect heat cooking. Clean and carefully grease the grates with the oil.
- Grill the Chicken – Place the chicken on the direct heat side of the grill and close the lid. Cook until the internal temperature reaches between 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 5 to 8 minutes per side, depending on thickness. If browning too quickly, move the chicken to the indirect heat side to complete cooking.
- Rest the Meat – Cover and rest the chicken for 10 minutes, then cut into ¼-inch thick slices against the grain.
- Serve – Serve chicken with the reserved chimichurri sauce.
- Sauce Yield: About 3/4 cup
- Extra Sauce: Double the chimichurri recipe
- Storing: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave the chicken on high heat in 15 to 30-second increments until hot.
- Making the Sauce without a Blender/Processor: Using a chef’s knife, finely chop the cilantro, parsley, and garlic. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cilantro, parsley, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, cumin, and crushed red pepper. Slowly add the olive oil, vigorously whisking until slightly thickened.
- Cooking Chicken Thighs: Cook until internal temperature reaches 165 to 170ºF (74 to 77ºC). About 25 to 30 minutes for bone-in, 10 to 15 minutes for boneless.
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