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!
I originally made this Lemon Basil Chicken Recipe for a summer roasted garden vegetable linguine I was making, and it was so tasty, I just couldn’t leave it alone.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!)
- 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!
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 = 1/2 cup marinade.
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.
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!
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
- If your marinated chicken has been refrigerated, let 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 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.
LEMON BASIL CHICKEN GRILLING DIRECTIONS
- If your marinated chicken has been refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (time permitting).
- Meanwhile, grease and preheat the grill to medium heat, 375-450°F.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Grains: brown rice, white, rice, quinoa, Greek Lemon Rice or go low carb with cauliflower rice, zoodles or spaghetti squash
- Veggies: Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Broccolini, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Carrots, Sauted Brussels Spouts, Glazed Carrots
- Pasta Salads: Creamy Bacon Pea Pasta Salad, BLT Pasta Salad with Lemon Chive Dressing, Greek Pasta Salad, Italian Pasta Salad
- Green Salads: a big green salad,Wedge Salad, Cucumber Tomato Salad, Corn Salad
- Fruit Salads: Perfect Fruit Salad, Creamy Grape Salad, Pina Colada Fruit Salad
- Potatoes: Company Mashed Potatoes, Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes, Smashed Potatoes, Twice Baked Potatoes, Roasted Pesto Potatoes
Looking for more easy Chicken Marinades?
- Chipotle Chicken
- Chili Lime Chicken
- Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Greek Chicken
- Buffalo Chicken
- Salsa Verde Chicken
- Lemongrass Chicken
Carlsbad Cravings Original
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