Lemon Basil Chicken

Lemon Basil Chicken is so quick and easy and makes everything better! 

This Lemon Basil Chicken Recipe is crazy juicy from an easy marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, basil, oregano, garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes!  It’s super easy and super flavorful and perfect to toss in pasta, salad, wraps, pitas, etc. You will LOVE having this Lemon Basil Chicken on hand! 

up close of sliced lemon basil chicken on a white plate

I originally made this Lemon Basil Chicken Recipe for a summer roasted garden vegetable linguine I was making, and it was so tasty, I just couldn’t leave it alone.  Since then, I’ve also used in my Chicken Caesar Salad – and on a daily basis!

I started cooking this Lemon Basil Chicken to have on hand so I could toss it any pasta, salad, wrap or sandwich I was making – SO convenient, SO delicous!  My favorite lunch is a wheat wrap of  lemon basil chicken, brown rice, lettuce and ranch yogurt sauce.   Mmmmm, I eat that more than anything else – thanks to this healthy Lemon Basil Chicken Recipe!

THE BASICS OF LEMON BASIL CHICKEN:

  • Easy AND SIMPLE
  • FRESH with the BASIL herb flavor
  • Lemon!  but not too much
  • tastes like summer (even when it’s not!)
  • TENDER
  • JUICY
  • Uber VERSATILE with different dishes and meals

WHAT CUT of CHICKEN FOR LEMON BASIL CHICKEN?

I know many of you are going to ask if you can use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts for this Lemon Basil Chicken – and the answer is yes!  I chose chicken breasts because they are leaner but chicken thighs are inherently juicier and reheat better.  You can also use chicken tenderloins as well.  In fact, this lemon basil marinade would also be fabulous for shrimp, salmon, pork and steak – it makes EVERYTHING better!

What makes the Best Lemon Basil Chicken?

The best Lemon Basil Chicken starts with a fabulous marinade infused with lemon juice, olive oil, dried herbs and seasonings. I love marinating chicken because it is the easiest way to tenderize chicken and infuse otherwise boring chicken with tons of flavor. And bonus, by marinating chicken, all the work to create a flavorful bite is already done for you when its time to eat.   All you have to do is cook the Lemon Basil Chicken and devour!

Sadly, many pre-made store-bought marinades are full of processed ingredients, like high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors.  If you make your own Lemon Basil Chicken marinade at home, however, you don’t have to worry about that AND you also can save a lot of money.

With this easy marinade, every bite of Lemon Basil Chicken is moist, tender and guaranteed to seep with lemon basil goodness.  No more boring chicken!

lemon basil chicken sliced on a white plate with lemon slices and basil

Marinade 101 to make your best lemon basil chicken!

Safety first, when it comes to marinating Lemon Basil Chicken – or any chicken!  You never want to contaminate your chicken or work space and have all the time and effort go to waste.  Follow these simple rules to maintain sanitary conditions and food safety:

  • What containers to use: For easy cleanup, use food-safe plastic bags during storage, and discard the bags after marinating. You may also use food grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass containers to marinate food.
  • Where to marinate: Always marinate food for a prolonged period of time in the refrigerator, never on the counter. You can marinate on the counter for 30 minutes to help bring the chicken to room temperature and cook evenly, but no longer. If you marinate in a container instead of a plastic bag, cover the container during storage in the refrigerator.
  • Reusing marinade: Never reuse marinade used for raw meat or poultry unless you boil it first to destroy any harmful bacteria. If you plan to use some of the marinade as sauce for the cooked food, your best bet is to reserve a portion of the marinade before putting raw meat and poultry in it.
  • Storing marinated food: If things get busy and you end up not cooking the chicken, don’t worry! You can store marinated poultry in your refrigerator for two days IF it does not contain lemon or other citrus juices. Beef, veal, pork, and lamb roasts, chops, and steaks may be marinated up to 5 days.  Again, if your marinade contains a high amount of acid then it might change the texture of the protein and actually start to “cook” it, so don’t marinate with citrus for a prolonged period of time.
  • Cook it safely: Be sure to use a food thermometer and cook protein  to a safe minimum internal temperature.

Ingredients for Lemon Basil Chicken 

This Lemon Basil Chicken marinade is incredibly versatile and works well with any cuts: breast, legs, thicken, half pieces, and even wings. When assembling a marinade, make sure that you have ingredients in each of these categories:

  • Oil:   I like extra virgin olive oil for this Lemon Basil Chicken because it has more flavor.
  • Salt:  salt enhances all of the other flavors.  You can pile on herbs and seasonings but if a marinade is missing salt – it will taste bland.
  • Aromatics:  I use garlic powder and onion powder in this Lemon Herb Chicken marinade because they are more potent and distribute evenly than fresh.   I then infuse the marinade with fresh basil, dried parsley, dried oregano, ground mustard and red pepper flakes for a rounded flavor profile.
  • Acid:  the acid in this marinade is obviously the lemon.  You can use freshly squeezed or bottled lemon juice.

The combination of these elements ensures that the Lemon Basil Chicken is brined to make it juicier and more tender from the inside out and and a harmonious blend of aromatics ensures it is flavorful from the outside in.

Once familiar with this relationship  of oil, salt, aromatics and acid, you can make variations and substitutions to meet your needs. The rule is 1 pound of chicken = ½ cup marinade.

showing how to make lemon basil chicken by adding olive oil, basil, garlic, lemon juice and balsamic to a glass bowl

Benefits of Chicken Marinade

I love using chicken marinades!  There simply is no other way to tenderize and infuse chicken with the same level of flavor.  Here are just a few benefits of using a marinade in this Lemon Basil Chicken recipe – and all chicken recipes!

  • 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 as a brine, helping the chicken hold more water and become juicer, easier to eat and more savory in flavor.  Salt first draws out the liquid from the meat by osmosis; then the brine is reabsorbed into the protein while breaking down muscle structures. The brine draws flavors further down below the surface into the cut.
  • Garlic also has unique flavor compounds that can infuse into and coat the exterior of the chicken.
  • The lemon juice brightens the flavor and can provide some tenderization properties, but only at small amounts for relatively a short amount of time.
showing how to make lemon basil chicken by adding chicken breasts to marinade with olive oil, lemon juice, basil and garlic in a glass bowl

HELPFUL TIPS LEMON bASIL CHICKEN

Lemon Basil Chicken is super easy to make!  But here are a few tips and tricks to ensure the BEST lemon basil chicken recipe.

  • Pound the chicken to an even thickness. This not only helps the chicken cook more evenly but tenderizes it as well.  If you don’t have a meat mallet, you can use the side of a can.  I place my chicken in the ziploc bag I’m going to marinate it in for convenience.
  • Use a sealable plastic bag or large bowl with plastic wrap covering.  You want to seal in the juices and flavors as much as possible. Squeeze out excess air.
  • Marinate your food in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.  This will help keep your food safe from food-borne illnesses.
  • Keep marinating chicken away from other foods in your fridge to avoid unsafe contamination of the raw protein. I place my plastic bag in a Tupperware container to prevent any possible spills or leaks from spreading.
  • Make sure to discard the unused marinade once it’s time to cook the Lemon Basil Chicken and don’t use it as a sauce unless you cook it first because it will contain raw chicken juices. Bring to a boil for at least 2 minutes if using as sauce.
  • For the best results, try to marinate the chicken for 12 hours for maximum flavor.  If you use chicken tenderloins or fillets, however, you will only want to marinate for up to 6 hours because the lemon juice can cause the chicken to become mushy.
  • If you can’t get to cooking your marinated chicken within 12 hours,  you can freeze the chicken in the marinade to be used later.  That’s a benefit of using the freezer ziploc bags – you can just toss them right into the freezer for later. Then, when it’s time to cook, thaw the Lemon Basil Chicken and cook!
marinated lemon basil chicken on a white plate with lemon slices and basil

Is LEMON BASIL CHICKEN HEALTHY?

Yes!  This Lemon Basil Chicken uses lean chicken breasts and no added sugar, honey or bad-for-you ingredients  – all you get is flavorful, yummy chicken that’s quilt free!

This Lemon Basil Chicken recipe is also naturally dairy free and gluten free – just pair with sides that also are gluten or dairy free to maintain those standards.

TOOLS FOR LEMON BASIL CHICKEN

To continue with the easy and simplicity of this Lemon Basil Chicken recipe, you do not need any expensive or numerous kitchen gadgets. All you need is:

  • Your favorite pan or skillet
  • Cutting board
  • Good sharp knives

LEMON BASIL CHICKEN STOVE TOP DIRECTIONS

  1. If your marinated chicken has been refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (time permitting).
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Once very hot, add chicken and cook, undisturbed for 3-5 minutes, or until nicely browned on one side.
  3. Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 5-7 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through. Remove to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

LEMON BASIL CHICKEN GRILLING DIRECTIONS

  1. If your marinated chicken has been refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (time permitting).
  2. Meanwhile, grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 375-450°F.
  3. Grill chicken undisturbed for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. (An inserted thermometer should read 165 degrees F.)  The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken.
  4. Remove chicken from grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

CAN I PREPARE LEMON BASIL CHICKEN AHEAD OF TIME?

Yes, please do! Since this Lemon Basil Chicken is made by marinating, time is required for the chicken to soak up all the flavors. Also, you can have a container of cooked chicken in the fridge for up to four days that you can warm up or serve cold on a salad, sandwich, wraps etc.

CAN I FREEZE LEMON bASIL CHICKEN?

Yes, yes, and yes! To freeze:

  • Marinade: Whisk together, add to a freezer bag, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Chicken: After you have cooked the chicken, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze Lemon Basil Chicken for 2 to 3 months.
top view of lemon basil chicken on a cutting board

HOW TO REHEAT LEMON BASIL CHICKEN

  • From frozen:   thaw Lemon Basil Chicken in the refrigerator overnight.  You can also defrost in the microwave but take care to defrost slowly so your chicken doesn’t get rubbery.
  • From fridge: you can warm chicken in a skillet on the stove top or in the microwave at 30 second intervals.  Take care not to overcook or it will become dry.  You can also reheat in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or just until warmed through.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH LEMON BASIL CHICKEN?

Lemon Basil  Chicken is fantastic served with any sautéed, roasted or grilled veggies you have on hand.  One of my particular favorite combos is roasted cherry tomatoes (bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes), brown rice, slivered almonds and feta.   Here are some more of my favorite sides to serve with Lemon Basil Chicken:

Looking for more easy Chicken Marinades?

up close of sliced lemon basil chicken showing how juicy it is

Lemon Herb Chicken

Lemon Herb Chicken is so quick and easy and makes everything better! It's crazy juicy from an easy marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, basil, oregano, parsley, garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes!  This Lemon Herb Chicken is super easy and super flavorful and perfect to toss in pasta, salad, wraps, pitas, etc. You will LOVE having this chicken on hand! 
Servings: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken breasts 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice approx. 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil, minced or 1 TBS dried
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or ¾ tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp EACH onion powder, dried parsley, salt
  • 1/4 tsp EACH pepper, dried oregano ground mustard, red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • Place chicken inside a freezer bag and pound chicken thin with a meat mallet. (If you don't have a meat mallet, you can use the side of a can) Whisk marinade ingredients together and add to chicken. Marinate chicken for 4-12 hours, occasionally flipping bag over.
  • STOVETOP DIRECTIONS
  • Let chicken sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (time permitting).
  • Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Once very hot, add chicken and cook, undisturbed for 3-5 minutes, or until nicely browned (or blackened if you prefer) on one side. Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 5-7 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through. Remove to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  • GRILLING DIRECTIONS
  • Let chicken sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (time permitting) before grilling.
  • Meanwhile, grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 400°F.
  • Grill chicken undisturbed for for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. (An inserted thermometer should read 165 degrees F.)
  • Remove chicken from grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Delicious in pasta, salad, wraps, sandwiches, pitas, etc.

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35 Comments

  1. Toni says

    such a simple thing: marinating chicken… but it can make or break dinner right? Thanks for this great recipe… will try it this week! ps) looking forward to your hot lemon cake post!! 😉

    • Jen says

      Hi Toni, good to hear from you! Yes, LOVE marinating chicken, can’t wait to hear how you like this Lemon Basil chicken! I haven’t gotten to making the Hot Lemon Cake yet (I always have huge list in my “to make” queue), but I will let you know as soon as I do. I am excited to make it – and eat it 🙂

  2. Sophia @ NY Foodgasm says

    Your shots are absolutely stunning, I don’t know how you do it!! You ever tried using fresh basil in this? I think that would be AMAZING!!

  3. Kecia says

    This type of pasta is absolutely one of my favorite things to eat! Wonderful recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Kecia! I love a light pasta with veggies and chicken in the summer!

  4. Platter Talk says

    We are in love with this chicken dish – thanks for sharing; it’s gorgeous!

    • Jen says

      You are so kind Dan, thanks for bringing a smile to my face 🙂

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Brandon! Its super quick and easy, hope you like it!

  5. Sonrisa says

    Made the chicken and loved it. This will be one of our weekly recipes!!!!

    • Jen says

      YAY! So happy you loved it Sonrisa! Its a nice quick, easy, tasty one!

  6. beverly terry says

    hi,
    i just got this lemon chicken recipe and would LOVE to have it on the pasta in the photograph (gorgeous photo!). what kind of ‘sauce’ or vinegrette did you use??

    thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Beverly, thanks so much for visiting! The pasta is from another recipe which it looks I need to post sooner rather than later! To simplify it, I roasted 12 oz. pkg. cherry tomatoes, 1 small zucchini, sliced and cut in half, and 1/2 bunch asparagus, cut into 1” pieces tossed with
      4 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon sugar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper for 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until crisp-tender. I then combined these roasted vegetables and oil/spices with the 1 lb. pasta, 1/4 cup lemon juice, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil and up to 1 cup reserved pasta water to reach desired consistency. I hope that’s not too complicated written in this form! Enjoy!

  7. Melody says

    love to cook, and like you flavorful recipes

    • Jen says

      Ah, thanks so much Melody! So happy you found my blog and love my recipes! I hope you continue to enjoy!

  8. Sairah says

    Lovely photos—I’ve long been on the look out for just such an “all-purpose” chicken recipe, so thanks for posting! Question for you: does this have to be thawed chicken that’s marinated? I have frozen chicken breasts, can I dump those in the freezer bag and let it marinate as it thaws overnight?

    • Jen says

      Hi and thank you Sairah! I have never tried this recipe with frozen chicken but I think it should e just fine. Please let me know how it turns out!

  9. Stacy says

    WOW!!! This was a party in everyone’s mouth, absolutely delicious!!! I tripled the recipe to freeze some for future fajitas, but seriously we could not keep our hands off of this…We made this chicken with the roasted vegetables and linguini…I would love this with angel hair also so I can twist more of the pasta around all of those scrumptious veggies! YUM!!! Thanks again 🙂

    • Jen says

      Awesome Stacy! I am so happy you loved it so much! and yes, it would be outstanding with angel hair as well! Thanks for making my day!!

  10. Layne says

    I made this tonight and included it in the salad and it was amazing! Jesse said we need to eat it more often. Thanks Jen!

    • Jen says

      Awesome Layne, so happy you both liked it! Thank YOU!

  11. Peachy says

    I have lots of fresh basil in my garden. How much should i put if I make this recipe?

    • Jen says

      How nice to have all those fresh herbs. The general rule is 3:1 fresh herbs vs dried. Enjoy!

  12. Amy says

    I love this recipe and have made it so many times. I generally sub rosemary for the basil, use fresh garlic and slice the chicken into strips before marinating. When I did a Whole30 this recipe was a go-to. Occasionally I mix the dry seasonings in advance and put them in an empty spice jar. New house gift: a jar of the seasonings, a bag of lemons, a nice bottle of olive oil, some simple instructions, and a gift card to a grocery store.

    • Jen says

      Hi Amy, I was on a cruise without internet for over a week and I am all sorts of behind but thank you so much for your comment! I am thrilled you love this recipe so much and your substitutions sound fabulous! I LOVE your house gift idea – absolutely brilliant! I am going to have to borrow that 🙂 Thanks so much for making my recipes! It’s comments like yours that keep posting fun!

  13. Natalie Neff says

    In a pinch, what can be substituted for dried mustard?

    • Jen says

      Hi Natalie, you can use 1 3/4 teaspoon yellow mustard. Enjoy!

  14. Mary Ann says

    Made this yesterday with the Ceasar Salad and the Croutons and the Salad Dressing ( which I thought I would never
    make homemade ) . I will never buy store bought again. I was nervous about the anchovies but have never been disappointed by anything I’ve made from your site so I went with it. Everyone absolutely loved it and asked for
    the recipes which I printed off and gave them. Thank You for such wonderful recipes that are easy to follow and a joy to share.

    • Jen says

      That is awesome Mary Ann, I’m thrilled the salad was such a hit! I’m so glad you braved the anchovies and that it was worth it! Thank you for taking the time to comment and brighten my day!

  15. Mary Crabtree says

    I think I will love this once I figure out how to make it. I find your page very difficult to follow, especially the marinade as to how much of everything to use. Thank you for sharing I do appreciate something new and yummy to add to my menu.

    • Jen says

      Hi Mary, the recipe has all of the exact measurements. You can use the “jump to recipe” button at the top of the post to skip directly to the recipe.

  16. Crystal says

    Can you bake the chicken?

  17. Laura says

    I cook alot and my husband suggest I would probably like this recipe so I tried it. Its very good!!! Everyone in the family liked it and it will become a regular in my house. Many thanks for sharing. Always looking for good recipies.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Laura! I’m so pleased to hear this chicken is a new repeat favorite!