Grilled Chicken Marinade
This grilled chicken marinade will make dry, bland and boring chicken a memory of the past and is destined to become your favorite go-to marinade! It’s savory, tangy, slightly sweet, with layers of complex flavor due to a few key seasonings. It’s stand-alone scrumptious or fabulous in salads, sandwiches or wraps. Best of all, this grilled chicken marinade is made with pantry friendly ingredients of soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, and seasonings so you can create effortlessly flavorful chicken in minutes. Come dinner time, just cook the chicken (grill, oven and stove methods included) and serve with your favorite sides like roasted potatoes, fruit salad.
Prep Time
5minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
12minutes 4hours for marinating
Prep Time
5minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
12minutes 4hours for marinating
Best Grilled Chicken Marinade
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighspounded to an even thickness
  • 1/3cup olive oil
  • 3tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2tsp EACH onion, powder, garlic powder, salt
  • 1tsp EACH dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, paprika
  • 1/2tsp EACH pepper, red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a freezer bag or glass bowl. Add chicken to the marinade and turn to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or refrigerate up to 12 hours (the longer the better).
  2. When ready to cook, remove chicken from the refrigerator and let rest 15-30 minutes before cooking.
TO GRILL CHICKEN:
  1. Preheat grill to 400 degrees, clean and grease grates.
  2. 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.
TO COOK CHICKEN ON THE STOVE:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
TO BAKE CHICKEN IN THE OVEN:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and lightly grease a baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. 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 time is for chicken approximately 1/2-inch thick, increase cooking time as needed for thicker chicken.)
Recipe Notes

CAN I USE OTHER CUTS OF CHICKEN?

This 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!  

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT LEFTOVERS

  • Storage: store cooked 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.

HOW TO FREEZE

You can freeze the uncooked 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; use immediately so it doesn’t marinate too long and become mushy.
  • 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.

HOW TO MAKE AHEAD 

  • 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.    

Chicken Marinating and Grilling Tips

This easy grilled 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. 
  • Slice breasts in half before marinating. When you pound the chicken to an even thickness, you’re aiming for ½-inch thickness.  If your chicken is super thick, then cut in half through the equator to create cutlets before marinating.  
  • Reserved marinade for veggies. You can 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!
  • Marinate chicken for four hours.  You can get away with marinating the grilled 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.
  • 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 grilled chicken tough and chewy.
  • 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.
  • 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.  
  • All purpose chicken:  see post for lots of ideas on how to use this grilled chicken!