The BEST chicken marinade for grilled chicken. This is the most flavorful marinade, and it always makes delicious, tender, juicy chicken. This marinade combines flavors from two cuisines to make it absolutely out of this world.
This is the grill we got. It doesn't take up much space but has a big enough grilling surface so it's not a pain to use. And the folding wings are also super helpful for extra surface area to place all your cooking stuff. I'm kind of regretting not getting a grill as soon as we moved into this apartment.
So I decided it's time to share with the world my secret chicken marinade that I've been using for YEARS.
It makes the most flavorful, most tender grilled chicken breast. I use this marinade both for grilled and pan-fried chicken, it works really well no matter which way I cook the chicken. Are you ready for this??
Related recipe: Balsamic Grilled Vegetable Salad
What makes this the BEST chicken marinade
The reason this marinade will rock your taste buds is because it is a combination of two really tasty flavor profiles: an Asian-style marinade and an Italian/European style marinade.
The soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sriracha are all typical ingredients in Asian cooking and they make an amazing marinade on their own.
The Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar are more typical for Italian/European cooking and also make a great marinade on their own.
Combine that all together?? OH MY GOSH. You get a complex mix of flavors that tastes so good even though you can't quite put your finger on what specifically is the secret ingredient. Trust me. You've got to try this marinade. And then come back and thank me.
Related recipe: Grilled Asparagus White Bean Salad
Tips to make this Grilled Chicken Marinade
This marinade makes enough for about 4 small chicken breasts.
This chicken marinade looks like it has lots of ingredients, but it's really quick to put together. You don't have to measure everything out exactly, just eyeball it if you feel comfortable. If you decide to actually measure out the ingredients, then just use the same tablespoon measure for most of the ingredients to save time and cut down on dirty dishes.
(Marinating chicken is never pretty... but this is how it looks. It's OK that the chicken is not fully submerged, you'll stir halfway through the marinating process anyway.)
I would say the key ingredients to this marinade are: lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, honey (or brown sugar) balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and salt. If you're short on time or don't have the other ingredients, make a quick marinade using just these ingredients. The acidity of the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar tenderize the chicken, the soy sauce and garlic give it lots of flavor, and the honey/sugar adds a touch of undetectable sweetness that help brown the chicken nicely on the grill.
But if you have a couple of extra minutes, the Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, fresh ginger, and a bit of spice from the red pepper flakes or sriracha really add a whole depth of flavor and a bit of a kick to this marinade.
For the longest time I skipped Worcestershire sauce when cooking, and then I finally caved. I mean, it's just a few bucks, but it adds so much flavor and lasts for a long time. So worth it. If you're gonna get Worcestershire sauce, get a quality kind that has lots of flavor (such as this one) instead of a cheaper version that has colors and corn syrup added for flavor.
How to grill whole chicken breast
I always hesitate providing grilling instructions, because they really vary so much depending on the thickness of your meats and how well your grill holds the heat in. But here is what we always do, and it seems to work. We always end up with juicy, tender chicken, even if it is reheated the next day, so we are doing something right:
- Marinade the chicken breast in the fridge for 30 minutes - 4 hours. Stir halfway. Remove from the fridge 15 minutes before grilling and allow to sit at room temperature.
- Preheat the grill to hot hot hot (300-350F minimum).
- Place the chicken breast "nice" side down onto the grill and close the grill cover immediately. I don't pat it dry, I like to leave the marinade juices on the chicken.
- Grill for 8-10 minutes. Resist checking on it! Carefully open the grill and flip the chicken (put away the "dirty" chicken tongs now). Cover and continue to grill for 7-8 minutes, or until the temperature registers to be 165 in the center.
- Use clean tongs to move the chicken from the grill to a clean plate and allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.
Using this marinade for chicken skewers or grilled vegetables
This marinade would also be great for chicken and veggie skewers. Just marinate the chopped chicken breast and chopped veggies (zucchini, bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms) in this marinade, and then assemble your skewers. You might need to double the marinade recipe if you're making more than a few skewers. Your skewers will also cook faster than whole chicken breasts, so don't overcook them and dry the chicken out.
If you're thinking of using this marinade for grilled vegetables... it will work but it is not my go-to for vegetables. Obviously, it will add a nice flavor to your vegetables, you can't go wrong with this. But since the vegetables don't really absorb flavor as much as chicken (or other meat), you're really overdoing it here with this marinade. I feel like a simple combination of grated garlic, bit of lemon juice + olive oil, Italian seasonings, and salt is enough to add lots of flavor to the vegetables, and it will stick to the vegetables better. This marinade is more liquid than you would like for vegetables.. but that's just my 2 cents. If you have an awesome marinade for grilled vegetables, please share it with me!
Variations on this chicken marinade
You can try the following variations to this chicken marinade, whether you're missing ingredients, or just want to try a new flavor:
- lime juice instead of lemon juice
- brown sugar instead of honey
- spicy brown mustard instead of Dijon mustard
- flavored salt
- adding ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- using a balsamic glaze (such as this one) instead of the balsamic vinegar + honey/sugar
- finely minced hot pepper instead of red pepper flakes or sriracha
Looking for side dishes to serve with grilled chicken?
- No mayo potato salad with feta and olives - great side dish for barbecues, picnics, and potlucks
- Coleslaw orzo salad - the perfect balance of a pasta salad and coleslaw!
- Mexican pasta salad - a veggie forward pasta salad with Mexican-inspired flavors. Always a crowd pleaser
- Broccoli Ranch Pasta Salad
Looking for more easy recipes for grilling?
- Shrimp and vegetable skewers
- Pork and vegetable kebabs
- Grilled naan pizza
- Pork burgers
- Turkey burgers with guacamole
- Venison burgers
Does this all sound delicious?? Let me know with a comment and a star rating below! And don't forget to share it on Facebook or save it for later on Pinterest.
Best Chicken Marinade for Grilled Chicken
- lemon squeezer
- microplane grater
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon (or use lime juice)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 4 garlic cloves grated
- ½ inch ginger peeled and grated
- pinch of red pepper flakes or drizzle sriracha optional
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or use spicy or yellow mustard)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 chicken breast halves (about 2 lbs chicken)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all the marinade ingredients (through the salt), including the finely grated fresh ginger and garlic. Add the chicken breast (whole or sliced) and stir to coat in the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours, stirring halfway through. Remove from fridge 15 minutes prior to grilling.
- To grill whole chicken breasts: Preheat the grill to a high temperature (300-350F). Use tongs to carefully pick up the chicken from the marinade and place on the grill (no need to drain or pat the chicken dry, but take care not to splash the marinade all over because it touched raw chicken). Close the grill cover and cook undisturbed for 8-10 minutes. Use the same tongs to flip the chicken, cover, and cook for another 7 minutes, or until fully cooked on the inside to 165F. Use clean tongs to remove the chicken from the grill. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.
- To pan-fry the chicken: Preheat a large non-stick pan or a grill pan (such as this one). Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chicken to the pan and allow to cook undisturbed over medium heat for about 7-10 minutes. Use tongs to carefully flip the chicken, cover, and allow to cook for 7-10 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked on the inside. The chicken might release a lot of juices - in this case, uncover and just keep cooking until the juices evaporate and the chicken caramelizes and turns a lovely golden brown color.