Balsamic Marinade for Chicken

The best Balsamic Chicken Marinade for juicy, effortlessly flavorful (the marinade does all the work!), versatile, chicken every time. The chicken is seeping with complex savory, tangy, slightly sweet, herbaceous notes and elevates everything it touches to “insanely delicious” (just read the reviews)! Cook it on the stove, grill or oven (all methods included) and serve simply or try it in grain bowls, salads, wraps, pasta, or sandwiches.

up close of marinated balsamic chicken thinly sliced on a plate showing how juicy it is


Balsamic Vinegar Chicken

This Balsamic Chicken Marinade is one of my absolute favorite versatile marinades. Here’s why you’ll love it:

  • RAVE REVIEWS. “This was insanely delicious!! A huge hit with my family,” “5 ⭐️,” This is our absolute fave!! Bursting with so much flavor!”
  • MULTI-DIMENSIONAL FLAVOR. The balsamic is enhanced and balanced by lemon, Dijon, honey and spices to create the most jaw dropping balsamic marinade out there. The chicken is dripping with so much intoxicating flavor you will be obsessed. 
  • ELEVATES EVERYTHING. This marinated balsamic chicken is delicious in its simplicity alongside your favorite sides, amazing in sandwiches (BLT!), paninis, grain bowls, wraps, etc.
  • CAPRESE EVERYTHING! It’s also fabulous in Caprese salad, Caprese sheet pan chicken, Caprese chicken pasta and Caprese chicken wraps, etc.
  • QUICK AND EASY. The marinade takes all but 5 minutes to whisk together.
  • PANTRY FRIENDLY. It’s made with ingredients I can almost guarantee you have on hand – which means you can enjoy a delicious, succulent chicken dinner with hardly any effort any night of the week. 
ingredient icon


The balsamic chicken marinade is made with a balance of tangy, bright ingredients, but what truly elevates it above the rest are the seasonings. The unique blend adds complex flavor without overpowering the subtleties of the balsamic. Let’s take a closer look at what you need: (measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Chicken:  boneless chicken breasts pounded to an even thickness or chicken thighs. 
  • Olive oil: use quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Balsamic vinegar:  use quality balsamic vinegar for the best flavor. More details on how to choose balsamic vinegar to follow.
  • Lemon juice: freshly squeezed is best but you can use bottled.
  • Honey: mild clover honey to balance the tangy balsamic and lemon juice.
  • Dijon mustard:  I promise it won’t make your balsamic chicken taste like mustard!  It adds a depth of tanginess.
  • Seasonings: dried oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes inject the marinade with a rainbow of flavor.

How Much Balsamic Chicken will this Make?

This recipe will marinate 1 pound (16 oz.) of chicken, however, it is easy to scale up or down to suite your needs.  4 oz. of chicken is the recommended single serving portion of chicken, but this varies depending on the individual and what sides are being served.  I would say 6-8 ounces is closer to realistic.

Balsamic Chicken Recipe Variations

  • Swap citrus.  Swap the lemon juice for lime juice or orange juice.
  • Swap seasonings.  Mix up the flavor profile and swap the Italian seasonings for Cajun seasonings, Fajita seasonings, or Asian inspired seasonings such as Chinese 5 Spice, ginger and garlic.
  • Make it spicy.  Add additional red pepper flakes or swap the red pepper flakes for some cayenne or chipotle chili powder.
two marinated balsamic chicken breasts on a plate garnished by parsley

How to select AND USE DIFFERENT balsamic vinegars

Not all balsamic vinegar is created equal. Some bottles sell for a few dollars, others demand as much as $200 a bottle. So, what’s the difference? How can you select the best balsamic vinegar without breaking the bank? Should you use the same type of balsamic for everything? 

There are 5 types of balsamic vinegar:

  • Traditional balsamic: the most expensive, not necessary for marinades
  • Condimento balsamico: second most expensive, also not necessary for marinades
  • Balsamic Vinegar of Modena I.G.P.: less expensive, perfect for marinades
  • Non I.G.P balsamic: can be close to I.G.P. quality but not guaranteed
  • Imitation balsamic:  the least expensive, to be avoided

In short, the highest quality vinegars are not necessary for marinades and should be reserved for finishing dishes.  Less expensive but still quality Balsamic Vinegar of Modena I.G.P.  is what you want to use in marinades and salad dressings.  Read on if you’re interested in more about the different types of vinegar or skip to the next section (I find it fascinating!).

up close of balsamic chicken thinly sliced on a plate

How to make Balsamic Marinade for Chicken

This balsamic chicken marinade is easy to whip up!  Let’s take a closer look how to make it (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Pound chicken to an even thickness.  Place chicken breasts in-between two pieces of plastic wrap or I like to place my chicken in a large freezer size bag.  Pound the chicken to an even thickness using the flat side of a meat mallet, rolling pin or side of a can.
  • Make marinade.  Whisk the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and seasonings together in a large plastic bag. Add chicken, push out excess air and turn to coat.
  • Marinate chicken.  Marinate chicken at room temperature for 30 minutes if you’re short on time or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator.
showing how to make balsamic chicken marinade by adding balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs to a glass bowl and adding chicken

How to Cook Balsamic Vinegar Chicken

This balsamic chicken recipe is so tasty and versatile, you’re going to want to serve it year-round!  Here’s a few different cooking methods to meet your year-round needs:

side view of marinated balsamic chicken sliced on a plate

Balsamic Vinegar Marinade for Chicken Food Safety Tips

When it comes to marinating chicken or any protein, there are some safety rules to follow to avoid cross contamination.  Follow these simple rules to maintain sanitary conditions and food safety:

  • Use food safe containers.  I prefer food-safe sealable plastic bags such as freezer Ziploc bags.  They really allow the marinade to envelop the chicken vs. a dish in which the marinade might not cover all of it.  Sealable bags are also great for easy cleanup – just toss them! You may also use food grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass containers and cover with plastic wrap if they don’t have a lid.
  • Squeeze out excess air.  When using a plastic bag, make sure to squeeze out excess air before sealing then roll up the bag so the chicken is nice and snug.
  • Flip chicken occasionally.  If you marinate the chicken in a shallow dish, make sure to flip it over occasionally so it marinates evenly.
  • Marinate in the refrigerator. Always marinate chicken for a prolonged period of time covered in the refrigerator and not at room temperature to avoid food-born illness.  Only remove it from the fridge to the counter 30 minutes before you’re ready to grill to help bring it to room temperature so it cooks evenly.  
  • Don’t reuse marinade.  Never reuse a marinade even for basting unless you boil it first to destroy any harmful bacteria. If you want to use the marinade for basting, drizzling or dipping, it is best to reserve a portion before you add the chicken.
  • PRO TIP: You can also reserve a couple tablespoons of marinade (not contaminated) to drizzle on veggies before grilling or cooking like I do in my chicken fajita recipe and many kabob recipes to make them uber flavorful without any extra work!

Balsamic Vinegar Chicken Marinade Recipe Tips

This balsamic chicken is very simple to make but here are some helpful tips:

  • Pound chicken to an even thickness.  Pound the thickest part of the chicken so it’s even with the thinnest part to ensure the chicken cooks evenly.  You don’t want one side to be cooked perfectly and the other side to be raw or overcooked/dry.
  • Tenderize chicken.  Pounding the chicken also tenderizes it as well.  If you don’t have a meat mallet, you can use the side of a can or rolling pin.
  • Marinate Chicken.  You can get away with marinating the balsamic chicken for as little as 60 minutes if it is pounded thin, but the longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful it will become. I recommend at least 4 hours but closer to 12 hours is ideal.
  • Reserve marinade.  If you only have 60 minutes to marinate your chicken, reserve ¼ cup of marinade before adding the chicken and store separately.  Brush the reserved marinade over the cooked chicken to make the flavor pop.
  • Don’t over-marinate chicken. On the other hand, you don’t want to marinate the chicken longer than 12 hours because the acid (balsamic vinegar and lemon juice) can actually constrict the protein fibers and make your balsamic chicken tough and chewy.
  • Bring chicken to room temperature before cooking.  Transfer the marinating chicken to your kitchen counter 30 minutes before grilling.  Room temperature chicken cooks more evenly and quickly which translates into juicier chicken because there is less time for moisture to be released while cooking.
  • Clean grill.  You should clean your grill grates before and after grilling with a wire grill brush to remove any residue. This will help create beautiful grill marks and help prevent the chicken from sticking.
  • Use a hot grill.  Heat up the grill with the lid closed cranked to the maximum temperature so it can achieve temperature more quickly; plan on 10-15 minutes.  Once the grill is hot, you can adjust the temperature.  Don’t add the chicken until the grill reaches temperature or you won’t get those beautiful grill marks.
  • Flip only once using tongs. After you add the chicken breasts to the grill, don’t touch them for a full 5 minutes. You need enough time for the chicken to sear and then they will naturally release from the grill. Once you can easily move the chicken, then you can flip it over using tongs.
  • Don’t overcook!  Cook chicken breasts just to 165 degrees F. Chicken breasts are a lean protein and therefore can dry out if overcooked.  Use a meat thermometer to eliminate all of the guess work to achieve succulent, juicy chicken every time.  
  • Let chicken rest.  Let the cooked balsamic chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing. This gives the juices that have pushed to the outside of the meat time to redistribute throughout the chicken.  If you cut into the chicken immediately after cooking, valuable, moisture-giving juices will run out.
top view of marinated balsamic chicken on a white plate

How to Serve Balsamic Chicken

This marinated balsamic chicken recipe is fabulous on its own or it can be added to salads, wraps, sandwiches, etc. Here are just a few ideas for freshly cooked balsamic chicken or to reimagine leftovers:

  • Balsamic chicken salad: slice up the chicken and add it to your favorite greens and veggies with a drizzle of balsamic dressing.  You can also use it in this caprese salad recipe with tomatoes, mozzarella, avocados, asparagus and bacon.
  • Balsamic chicken pasta salad: chop up the chicken and add it to cooked medium pasta dressed with pesto mixed with a little olive oil. Add any of your favorite fixings such as cherry tomatoes, cucumbers mozzarella pearls, fresh basil, pine nuts, etc.
  • Balsamic chicken sandwiches:  make a caprese chicken sandwich by smothering bread with pesto and layering with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and balsamic chicken.  Add any additional toppings your belly desires such as avocado, bacon, sprouts, etc., etc.  
  • Balsamic chicken panini:  is constructed the same as the aforementioned chicken sandwich but the outsides of the bread are brushed with olive oil then pressed in a panini press. If you don’t have a panini press, you can cook it like a grilled cheese in a skillet with melted butter instead.
  • Balsamic chicken wraps:  slather a tortilla or flatbread with pesto then pile with lettuce/mixed greens, sliced tomato, sliced mozzarella, and chicken.  You can also get creative and add cucumbers, avocado, basil and bacon.
  • Balsamic chicken pasta: thinly slice chicken and add to your favorite meatless pastas such as Cacio e Pepehealthy Alfredo, margherita pasta, roasted red pepper pastamushroom spaghetti or mushroom orzo.  You can also create your own pasta by tossing freshly cooked pasta with tomatoes (or any of your favorite veggies) cooked with plenty of garlic in butter and olive oil along with freshly grated Parmesan. 

What goes with Balsamic Vinegar Chicken

This marinated balsamic chicken pairs well with pretty much everything from salad to pasta salad, to potatoes rice to fruit. In the summer months, we keep it as simple as balsamic chicken with grilled corn, watermelon and green salad. In the winter, I love it with garlic butter mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.  Here are a few of our favorite accompanying sides:

Balsamic Vinegar Marinade for Chicken FAQs


This balsamic chicken marinade tenderizes and flavors the chicken so all you have to do is marinate and cook!  In order for a marinade to be effective, it must contain acid, fat, salt, sweetener and flavor enhancers.  The combination of these elements ensures that the protein is juicy, succulent and flavorful from the inside out. Here’s how it works:
FAT:  The olive oil dissolves fat-soluble flavor compounds from the seasonings and other flavorings and injects them into the chicken.  Fat also adds moisture and helps produce tender, juicy chicken.
ACID:  Balsamic vinegar and lemon juice help tenderize the chicken by breaking down lean muscle fibers.  They also boast layers of rich and tangy flavor.
SALT: creates a brine, which increases the moisture capacity of the chicken, helping it become juicer and more flavorful.  First, the salt hydrates the muscle tissues via osmosis; second, it changes the cells’ structure so that they can no longer contract when cooking.  This means less water will be squeezed out and lost, resulting in juicier protein. Finally, the brine draws the aromatic flavor further down below the surface into the protein and enhances all of the flavors.  You can pile on herbs and seasonings but if a marinade is missing salt – it will taste bland.
SWEETENER:  Honey balances both the salt and the acid.  It also promotes caramelization, quicker browning and beautiful grill marks. 
FLAVOR ENHANCERS:  ingredients can vary, but this balsamic chicken marinade includes Dijon, onion powder, garlic powder, dried herbs, red pepper and black pepper.  These seasonings add the oomph and make it the “best” balsamic chicken marinade!


No, you should NOT poke holes in the chicken before marinating. This actually drains out the valuable juices and will result in less juicy chicken.  You can cut slits in thick pieces of chicken like chicken legs to reach deeper into the protein, but never holes.

up close of marinated balsamic chicken breasts sliced on a white plate

Want to try this Balsamic Chicken Marinade?

Pin it  to your recipe BOARD TO SAVE FOR LATER!


©Carlsbad Cravings by

Balsamic Vinegar Marinade for Chicken (Balsamic Chicken)

This balsamic chicken marinade elevates chicken to a whole new level of YUM! It’s seeping with complex savory, tangy, slightly sweet, herbilicious notes. The marinade is made with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, Italian herbs and seasonings that inject the chicken with loads of effortless flavor. And the best part of this balsamic chicken marinade? It does ALL THE work! Come dinner time, just cook the chicken (grill, oven and stove methods included) and serve with your favorite sides like mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus or in salads, wraps, pasta, or sandwiches.
Servings: 4 -6 servings
Total Time: 21 minutes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

Save This Recipe To Your Recipe Box

You can now create an account on our site and save your favorite recipes all in one place!



  • Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a freezer bag or glass bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or refrigerate up to 12 hours (the longer the better).
  • When ready to cook, remove chicken from the refrigerator and let rest 15-30 minutes before cooking.


  • Preheat grill to 400 degrees, clean and grease grates.
  • Grill chicken undisturbed for 5-7 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through. (An inserted thermometer should reach 165 degrees F.) Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.


  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add chicken and cook, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes, or until deeply golden on one side.
  • Flip 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 to 165 degrees F.


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and lightly grease a baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Drain chicken from marinade and add to prepared baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for 16-18 minutes (depending on thickness), or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. (Baking is for chicken approximately 1/2-inch thick, increase cooking time as needed for thicker chicken)



Absolutely!  This balsamic chicken marinade will work with any cut of chicken including chicken thighs, chicken tenderloins, chicken drumsticks, chicken legs or chicken wings.  You will just need to adjust the cooking times if you swap out the cut of chicken, so keep that meat thermometer handy!  


  • Storage: store cooked balsamic chicken in airtight containers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • Microwave: chop up or slice the chicken so it reheats more evenly then transfer a small portion to a microwave safe dish.  Heat for one minute then at 30 second intervals as needed. 
  • Oven:  transfer chicken to an oven-proof dish.  Cover with foil and reheat at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or just until warmed through.


You can freeze the uncooked balsamic chicken in the marinade or after it’s cooked.
  • Freeze chicken in marinade: add the chicken to the marinade ingredients in a freezer safe bag, squeeze out excess air and freeze for up to 3 months.  When you’re ready to use, the chicken will marinate as you thaw the chicken in the refrigerator.
  • Freeze 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 for 2 to 3 months.


  • Marinade:  whisk the marinade together in an airtight container up to 5 days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator WITHOUT the chicken.
  • Chicken: cooked balsamic chicken makes fantastic meal prep or leftovers if not initially overcooked.  If you are making the chicken specifically to reheat later then consider slightly under-cooking it because it will cook a little more when reheated.    

Did You Make This Recipe?

Tag @CarlsbadCravings and Use #CarlsbadCravngs

Leave a Review, I Always Love Hearing From You!

Reader Interactions

leave a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Shari Giarraputo says

    Is it possible to use chicken tenders?

  2. John L. Arata says

    Will this marinade work with skin on and bone in chicken thighs and legs

  3. Lisa says

    Whoa, Jen! I just made this marinade and put the chicken thighs in it. I had to taste it first, it is amazing! I can’t wait for dinner tonight, I’m going to serve the roasted thighs with quinoa and broccoli rabe. This recipe will have a permanent spot on the refrigerator door. Thanks for your great recipes!

    • Jen says

      Your entire meal sounds wonderful Lisa, YUM! I’m so happy this balsamic chicken is a new favorite!

  4. Lisa says

    Wow, this chicken was so delicious! i can see making it again for a BLT! I used boneless skinless thighs, it was a lovely dinner.

    • Jen says

      I’m so happy you loved it! I love the idea of using it on a BLT, I’m going to have to try that next!

      • Dare says

        Dang! It took me half a day to scroll down to the recipe. Do you really have to say this much to make a good food blog? Who has time to read that much? People are hungry get to the point!

        • Jen says

          There is a “jump to recipe” button at the top of every post. I guess you missed it.

        • Marcia says

          It’s a blog…and some of us actually like reading the blog! Jen puts a lot of time into sharing wonderful recipes/tips with us and you shouldn’t be so rude!

        • Libby says

          There is really NO need to be rude. BE KIND and “Jump to Recipe” if you don’t want to read Jen’s tips. SMH

        • Terry Truxillo says

          Simply scroll to the actual recipe…

  5. Leah and Carly Boens says

    This was insanely delicious!! A huge hit with my family. My daughter and I cooked it on the grill. We Give it a 5 ⭐️

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for the 5 star review! And bravo to your daughter!

  6. Lauren Hobar says

    This is our absolute fave!! Bursting with so much flavor! Have you ever tried to cook this in a crockpot? We are about to have baby #1 and I’m looking for more crockpot options so and this chicken is one of our most versatile favorites for meals!! Thanks for all your incredible recipes!

  7. Heather says

    Can I marinate for 24 hours?

    • Jen says

      No, I don’t recommend marinating for that long, otherwise the acids in the marinade can break down the chicken and make it either tough or mushy. Sorry!

  8. Tawny says

    Just made this tonight, and the chicken breasts turned out so delicious! I modified the recipe. I didn’t have Dijon mustard on hand, just used the regular mustard instead, I added chicken bouillon and monkfruit sweetener because I like it a little bit saltier and sweet. It turned out so good! Definitely will make this again. Thank you for the recipe!!!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Tawny, I’m so pleased it will be on repeat!