Chimichurri Chicken

Chicken Chimichurri is crazy juicy, dripping with flavor and can be grilled, pan-fried or baked with just minutes of hand’s-on prep!

Chimichurri Chicken is vibrant, garlicky, tangy, spicy, oh so tender and about to become one of your go-to chicken recipes!  It is marinated in a zesty, herb-infused chimichurri sauce originating in Uruguay and Argentina that takes just 5 minutes to whip up.  After marinating, you will love that all you have to do is cook the chicken and dinner is served!  The Chicken Chimichurri is stand-alone scrumptious with roasted veggies or grilled zucchini or fabulous in salads, sandwiches or wraps. Let’s chimichurri!

We love chicken marinades!  They are the easiest way to infuse chicken with flavor and make dinner time a breeze.  Some of our most popular chicken marinades include: best grilled chicken marinade, Greek chicken, cilantro chicken,  chili lime chickenHawaiian chicken ,buffalo chicken and now you can add this chicken chimichurri to the list.

HOW TO MAKE Chimichurri Chicken VIDEo

chicken chimichurri sliced on a cutting board showing how tender it is
chimichurri chicken on a plate topped with chimichurri sauce
top view showing how to serve chicken chimichurri by adding it to a bowl with rice, pineapple and grilled bell peppers

CHICKEN Chimichurri INGREDIENTS

The Chimichurri Sauce is the star of this Chimichurri Chicken recipe.  It is used both as the marinade and the finishing sauce.  The good news is this this bright, flavor packed sauce is incredibly quick and easy to make in your food processor with just few ingredients like parsley, oregano, red-wine vinegar, red chili peppers (or flakes) and olive oil.  Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need to make it (full recipe measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Parsley: Please use flat leaf parsley rather than curly parsley. Flat leaf parsley is bold and aromatic, while curly parsley can be muted and is used more for a garnish.  Most importantly, curly parsley is more likely to be bitter if not extremely fresh. 
  • Cilantro: We love cilantro combined with parsley for its zesty, citrusy notes.  It is not traditional, however, so feel free to substitute it with an equal amount of parsley if you wish.
  • Oregano:  This herb is aromatic, earthy, and minty. You are welcome to use fresh or dried – but dried is actually more authentic!
  • Shallot:  Onions aren’t traditional in Chicken Chimichurri so shallots offer a subtle compromise.  Shallots are mild and sweet in flavor with a hint of garlic and won’t overwhelm the sauce, but just enhance it. One shallot is considered all of the bulbs within the shallot.
  • Garlic:  Look for plump and succulent fresh garlic for optimal pungent flavor.  Use more or less to taste depending on how garlic forward you would like the recipe.  
  • Red wine vinegar:  This adds the sharp tanginess that really makes the chicken come alive.  I don’t recommend substituting with white or balsamic vinegar.
  • Lemon juice:  I like using lemon juice with red wine vinegar for multi-dimensional tanginess but you may substitute the lemon juice with red wine vinegar.  Use fresh lemon juice for the best flavor but bottled may be used.
  • Red pepper flakes: Many authentic Uruguayan chimichurri recipes use fresh red chilies, so I’ve used Fresno peppers here, but feel free to use red chili flakes instead.  If using fresh peppers, remove the seeds and white membranes because those carry the most heat.  Save the seeds so you can add them to taste if you would like the chimichurri spicier.
  • Salt and pepper:  Everything needs to be seasoned with salt and pepper!  Season to taste before and after the chicken is cooked.
  • Olive oil:  You can use extra virgin olive oil for a stronger flavor, regular for a milder flavor or a blend of the two depending on your personal preference.
top view of the best chimichurri sauce recipe with parsley, oregano, red chili flakes, garlic and olive oil
  • Go all parsley:  Swap the cilantro for parsley.
  • Play with green proportions:  Add more cilantro instead of the parsley or vice versa.
  • Basil chimichurri:  Swap all or some of the parsley or cilantro for basil.
  • Use other greens:  Swap in a different green for the cilantro and/or parsley such as fresh dill, mint, kale, chard, arugula mustard greens and more.
  • Customize spice level.  In most regions, chimichurri is meant to be spicy but you can customize the heat.  The following is for Fresno peppers; if you use a smaller/spicier pepper, you’ll need to use less. If you know you don’t like heat, start with half of a chili pepper.  If you know you like some heat, start with one chili pepper.  If you know you love heat, start with 2 chili peppers. Add some of the seeds to taste if you would like it spicier.  Remember the sauce will have more of a kick when you taste it plain but will mellow when combined with whatever you’re serving it on or with.
  • Use red chili flakes instead of fresh peppers.  You may substitute the fresh chilies with ½-1 teaspoon of dried red chili flakes. Start with a little then add more to taste.
  • More or less garlic:   If you like more of a garlic forward chimichurri recipe, use 4 garlic cloves.  If you like milder garlic, start with 2 cloves.   After the chimichurri is mixed and allowed to rest for 15-30 minutes, you can taste and add more finely minced garlic if you prefer.
  • Customize consistency.  Add more or less olive oil depending on how thick or thin you prefer your chimichurri.  If you would like additional olive oil after the sauce is mixed, stir it in, rather than blend it to avoid bitter over-oxidation.
  • Season to taste.  You may prefer a more garlicky sauce, a tangier sauce or spicier sauce, so be prepared to make it your own.
  • Asian chimichurri:  I’ve served Asian chimichurri with both Asian steak and Asian salmon and it was phenomenal.  Swap the parsley for cilantro, basil and mint, red wine vinegar for rice wine vinegar and oregano for ginger, and add a splash of fish sauce and toasted sesame oil.  

HOW TO MAKE CHIMICHURRI Chicken

Chimichurri Chicken is extremely easy to make with an assist from the food processor. However, you are welcome to chop all of the ingredients by hand and combine them in a bowl if you wish. 

Step 1:  Make Chimichurri

  • Finely chop aromatics.  We want to chop the shallot and garlic first along with the vinegar and lemon juice to make sure the aromatics are finely minced before adding the parsley. 
  • Chop herbs.  Add parsley, cilantro and oregano.   Pulse several times to chop.
  • Pour in the olive oil.  Add the olive oil while the processor is running in order to emulsify the olive oil and red wine vinegar. An emulsion is simply a blend of two liquids that don’t normally bind together.  The beauty of emulsification is that it creates a cohesive sauce. Don’t overmix or the olive oil can oxidize and become bitter.
  • Reserve some chimichurri.  Remove ⅓ cup chimichurri sauce to use as a topping for the cooked chicken.
showing how to make chimichurri chicken by making the chimichurri marinade by 1) adding garlic, red wine vinegar and red chili peppers to food processor, 2) pulsing to chop, 3) adding flat parsley, 4) pulsing with olive oil

Step 2:  Marinate Chicken

  • Pound chicken to an even thickness.  Place chicken breasts in-between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness using the flat side of a meat mallet, rolling pin or side of a can. 
showing how to make chicken chimichurri by pounding the chicken to an even thickness using a meat mallet
  • Combine chicken and chimichurri.  Transfer chicken to a freezer size bag or large bowl and toss evenly with the remaining chimichurri. 
  • 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 chimichurri chicken by marinating the chicken with chimichurri

HOW TO COOK CHICKEN CHIMICHURRI

This Chimichurri Chicken 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:

showing how to make chicken chimichurri by grilling the chicken on an outdoor grill and basting with chimichurri
top view of chimichurri chicken on a plate showing how juicy it is
showing how to serve chicken chimichurri by adding it to a bowl with rice, pineapple and grilled bell peppers
showing how to serve chicken chimichurri by adding it to a bowl with rice, pineapple and grilled bell peppers

Commonly Asked Questions

WHAT IS CHIMICHURRI?

Now that we’ve established Chimichurri Chicken is delicious, what exactly is it? Chimichurri is a vibrant, zingy, uncooked herb and oil sauce originating in Argentina and Uruguay, popular throughout South America.  Chimichurri is made with a variety of herbs, garlic and olive oil; the name and color change depending on the herbs and spices used (chimichurri verde or chimichurri rojo).

This herbaceous sauce has a similar consistency and method of preparation as Chimichurri but a zippier, tangier and often spicy flavor profile.  It can be used as a condiment, dressing or marinade like in this Chicken Chimichurri recipe.

WHAT IS CHIMICHURRI MADE OF?

Chimichurri, like many condiments with a long history, has many variations depending your region, preferences and pantry. However, purists will claim classic Argentinian chimichurri includes only fresh parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, chili peppers or flakes, salt and pepper.

Many non-authentic chimichurri recipes include white or red onion, shallots, cilantro, basil, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, and paprika.  I have even made mango chimichurri with cilantro and Asian chimichurri with mint and fish sauce!

A nod to chimichurri rojo: While green chimichurri (chimichurri verde) is the more well-known version of chimichurri in the states, you will also find a red chimichurri (chimichurri rojo) in Argentina as well.  It is made with similar ingredients with the inclusion of roasted red peppers and smoked paprika which add the red color and a smoky flavor.  

WHAT DOES CHIMICHURRI SAUCE TASTE LIKE?

Chimichurri’s bright flavors cut through the savory, richness of Argentina’s world-renowned grilled cuts of flank steak or any grilled proteins. It’s tangy, zingy, garlicky, a tad bit spicy, and jam packed with bright herbal freshness.  It is a flavor bomb that ensures everything it touches is dripping with flavor. 

Red wine vinegar imparts a vibrant sharpness, verdant parsley packs the herbaceous punch, oregano fortifies with earthy, peppery assertiveness, garlic injects the pungent flair and red chili peppers pump in the heat.  The sauce is riddled with strong flavors which are married together by the glassy olive oil to create a lovely, cohesive depth of flavor.

Chimichurri sauce is served at room temperature over hot meats or veggies so its tapestry of flavor can really shine.

HOW DID CHIMICHURRI GET ITS NAME?

Chimichurri’s etymology is steeped in lore, but the famous sauce was most likely first connoted by gauchos (cowboys), who used it to jazz up the meat they grilled over open fires while on the pampas. 

Others claim it originated with a nineteenth century Irish solider named “Jimmy McCurry” who was either a freedom fighter or meat trader traveling with indigenous troops fighting for the independence of Argentina. Because his name was difficult for Argentines to pronounce, “Jimmy’s curry” got turned into chimichurri.

More likely, however, the name comes from the Basque country word tximitxurri, meaning “a mixture of several things in no particular order.”

IS CHIMICHURRI CHICKEN SPICY?

Like many recipes, chimichurri varies from region to region.  In some areas of Argentina, chimichurri is heavy on garlic and light on spice, in other areas, it is light on garlic and heavy on spice; in some areas, it doesn’t contain red pepper flakes at all!  In the United States, however, chimichurri is increasingly seen as a spicy herb sauce. The chili flakes cut through and compliment sauce’s tangy, robustness. The beauty about making your own chimichurri recipe, however, is that you can customize the spice level. If you’re sensitive to spicy foods, start with less chili flakes and add more to taste.

IS CHIMICHURRI CHICKEN HEALTHY?

Chimichurri Chicken is made with chicken breasts which are low in carbs and high in lean protein.  The sauce is packed with healthy ingredients like parsley and garlic which translates to loads of good-for-you benefits, including calcium, carotenes, iron, fiber and vitamins A, C, E and K.  It is naturally low in carbs and sugar-free.   The base of the sauce, however, is olive oil, which is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which means it is high in calories and should be enjoyed in moderation.

WHY IS MY CHIMICHURRI CHICKEN BITTER?

Chimichurri Chicken can taste bitter either because 1) the parsley is bitter to start with and has tainted the sauce, or 2) the sauce was overmixed with the olive oil causing oxidation.  To prevent bitter chimichurri, make sure to taste the parsley before using and don’t mix the olive oil at too high of a speed or for too long or the polyphenols in the olive oil break away from the fatty acids resulting bitter tasting chimichurri.

CAN YOU USE PARSLEY STEMS IN CHIMICHURRI?

Yes, when measuring parsley, chop the leafy top of the bunch away from the bottom stems, but you don’t need to remove the leaves from the stems.

CAN CHIMICHURRI GO BAD?

Chimichurri sauce is made of fresh herbs so it can go bad quickly if not refrigerated.  When refrigerated it can last up to 7 days.  You’ll know your chimichurri has gone bad once it tastes bitter, caused by either the herbs or the oil breaking down.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PESTO AND CHIMICHURRI?

Both pesto and chimichurri are herb, garlic, olive oil-based sauces, but the similarities stop there.  Chimichurri is primarily made of parsley, whereas, pesto is made of basil.  Chimichurri is tangy and spicy due to the addition of red wine vinegar and red chili flakes, whereas pesto is earthy, nutty and salty due to the addition of Parmesan and pine nuts.  Chimichurri is most commonly used as a marinade for meats or for basting or draping grilled meats, whereas pesto is most commonly used in pasta dishes.

up close of sliced chicken chimichurri showing how juicy it is

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up close of sliced chicken chimichurri showing how juicy it is

Chimichurri Chicken

Chimichurri Chicken is vibrant, garlicky, tangy, spicy, oh so tender and about to become one of your go-to chicken recipes!  It is marinated in a zesty, herb-infused chimichurri sauce originating in Uruguay and Argentina that takes just 5 minutes to whip up.  After marinating, you will love that all you have to do is cook the chicken and dinner is served!  The Chicken Chimichurri is stand-alone scrumptious with roasted veggies or grilled zucchini or fabulous in salads, sandwiches or wraps. Let's chimichurri!
Servings: 3 -4 servings
Total Time: 4 hrs 22 mins
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 12 mins

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Ingredients

CHIMICHURRI SAUCE/MARINADE

  • 1 shallot, peeled
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 small red chilies, seeded (OR sub ½-1 tsp red pepper flakes)
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

ADD LAST

  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro (may sub flat-leaf parsley)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions

MAKE CHIMICHURRI

  • Add shallot, garlic, chili peppers/flakes, red wine vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper to a food processor. Pulse, stopping and scraping down sides occasionally until finely minced (or mince by hand).
  • Add parsley, cilantro and oregano; pulse until the herbs are almost chopped to desired consistency.
  • Pour in the olive oil while pulsing to combine, just until the herb leaves are finely minced but still have some body. Don’t over-process once you add the olive oil or the chimichurri can taste bitter. Add additional red wine vinegar for tangier, red pepper flakes for spicier or salt and pepper if desired.

MARINATE CHICKEN

  • Remove ⅓ cup chimichurri for topping cooked chicken. Add remaining chimichurri to a freezer bag or bowl, add chicken and toss to evenly combine. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or refrigerate up to 12 hours (the longer the better). Refrigerate the reserved ⅓ cup chimichurri sauce seprately.
  • When ready to cook, remove chicken and chimichurri from the refrigerator and let rest 15-30 minutes before cooking.

TO GRILL CHICKEN:

  • Preheat grill to 400 degrees with the lid closed, clean and grease grates.
  • Grill chicken undisturbed with the lid closed for 5-7 minutes per side, until chicken is cooked through. (Cook to 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer, then allow to rest for 5 minutes to carryover to 165 degrees F.)  
  • Top cooked chicken with reserved chimichurri (that never touched the raw chicken). Season with freshly cracked salt to taste.

TO COOK CHICKEN ON THE STOVE:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet or indoor grill pan 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 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer, then allowed to rest for 5 minutes to carryover to 165 degrees F. 
  • Top cooked chicken with reserved chimichurri (that never touched the raw chicken). Season with freshly cracked salt to taste.

TO BAKE CHICKEN IN THE OVEN:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish.
  • Bake the chicken for 14 to 16 minutes (for small/medium breasts that are about 5-6 ounces), 16 to 20 minutes (for medium/large breasts that are 7 to 9 ounces), or 20 to 25 minutes (for larger breasts). As always, I recommend using an instant read meat thermometer for the most accurate/juiciest chicken. Cook to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, then allow to rest for 5 minutes to carryover to 165 degrees F.
  • Top cooked chicken with reserved chimichurri (that never touched the raw chicken). Season with freshly cracked salt to taste.

Video

Notes

Tips and Tricks

  • Chicken: This Chicken Chimichurri will work with any cut of chicken including chicken breasts, 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!
  • Parsley: Please use flat leaf parsley rather than curly parsley. Flat leaf parsley is bold and aromatic, while curly parsley can be muted and is used more for a garnish.  To avoid bitter chimichurri, always taste the parsley before making to ensure you don’t ruin the entire batch. 
  • Shallot:  Shallots enhance the sauce but aren’t traditional in chimichurri, so take them or leave them. One shallot is considered all of the bulbs within the shallot. You may also use ¼ of a red onion.
  • Red wine vinegar: I don’t recommend substituting with white or balsamic vinegar. You may, however, substitute the lemon juice with additional red wine vinegar.
  • Adjust to taste: If you’re not sure how strong, spicy or tangy you would like your chimichurri sauce, start with small amounts and gradually add more to taste.  If the chicken tastes like it’s missing something, it is likely salt and/or heat. 
  • Ways to use Chimichurri Chicken: See post for lots of ideas!

How to Store and Reheat

  • To store:  Store cooked chicken in airtight containers in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
  • To freeze: Let the cooked chicken cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air.  If you want access to individual pieces of chicken without having to thaw all of the chicken, then wrap each chicken breast in plastic wrap before adding to the freezer bag. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.  Let thaw completely in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • To reheat in the microwave: Chop up or slice the chicken so it reheats more evenly then transfer a small portion to a microwave safe dish.  Heat for 45 seconds then at 15 second intervals as needed.
  • To reheat in the 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.

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2 Comments

  1. Laurie Gallop says

    Omgosh this is amazing. You have so many amazing receipes you share but this one is the bomb

    • Jen says

      That is awesome you made it already! I’m thrilled you loved it so much, thanks Laurie!

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