See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
The BEST Chicken Marinade! Take the flavor of your chicken to the next level with this easy chicken marinade. Use it for grilling or baking, with chicken breasts or chicken thighs.
This chicken marinade is one of my favorite easy chicken recipes! When you use a marinade for chicken, not only does it add flavor, but it also helps to make the chicken extra tender and juicy. And it’s so quick and easy!
We’ve been making this recipe all summer long. It makes the best grilled chicken, and it’s one of our favorite ways to get dinner on the table in the warmer months. For more tips on how to grill the best juicy chicken breasts, see my Grilled Chicken recipe.
I’ve also used this marinade for baked chicken and my family loved it! This zippy chicken marinade recipe is one that I turn to year-round. It’s so much better than any store-bought marinades, and so simple to make yourself just like my steak marinade recipe.
The Best Chicken Marinade
- Simple ingredients come together to make the most flavorful marinade for chicken.
- This recipe is versatile! Use it for grilled chicken, baked chicken, or cook your chicken on the stove. I love to sear chicken in a cast iron skillet to get a nice browned crust.
- This recipe can be used as a chicken breast marinade or chicken thigh marinade. It’s perfect for boneless or bone-in chicken, grilled chicken thighs and it makes the best chicken kabobs. You can even use it for chicken tenders.
Serve your marinated chicken with your favorite side dishes. See my side dish suggestions below. Or, try these serving suggestions:
- Slice the chicken and wrap it in tortillas with cheese and avocado.
- Slice and serve chicken in sandwiches or make Chicken Salad.
- Add it to salads. Try this BBQ Chicken Salad with my Homemade BBQ Sauce or a simple Green Salad.
When I’m grilling chicken, I alternate between using a marinade and using this Chicken Seasoning, which is a dry rub that adds enticing flavor to chicken. Both are recipes that you’ll want to have in your collection.
Chicken Marinade Ingredients
- Olive Oil: Olive oil is a key ingredient because it helps to transfer the flavors from the other marinade ingredients to the meat. The olive oil also helps to prevent the meat from sticking to the grill or baking pan.
- Soy Sauce: Soy sauce brings lots of flavor. I use a low sodium soy sauce.
- Lemon Juice: It’s important to include an acid, such as lemon juice, in a marinade because it helps to tenderize the meat. The lemon juice also adds flavor. Lime juice also works well in this recipe like my marinated Cilantro Lime Chicken.
- Brown Sugar: Adds a touch of sweetness. You can replace the brown sugar with honey or omit the sweetener entirely if you prefer a no sugar marinade.
- Worcestershire Sauce: For flavor.
- Garlic: For that flavorful punch that only fresh garlic can bring.
- Italian Seasoning: I love using dry herbs because they are an easy way to bring lots of flavor. Sometimes I use dried oregano instead of Italian seasoning. Dried rosemary or thyme would also work well. If you prefer, you can also use fresh herbs. The olive oil in the marinade will help infuse their flavor into the chicken. Try chopped fresh cilantro, parsley or oregano.
- Pepper: Ground black pepper adds flavor. I don’t add salt to this recipe because the soy sauce provides salty flavor. I tend to use less salt in our meals, but if you prefer you can add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the marinade.
If you’re looking for a marinade with Dijon mustard, try my Honey Dijon Grilled Chicken. It’s another easy way to add some zip to your grilled chicken!
Find the full printable recipe with ingredient amounts and instructions in the recipe card below.
How to Marinate Chicken
- You can marinate chicken in a zip-top plastic bag, bowl or baking dish. Combine all of the marinade ingredients in the bag, bowl or dish.
- If desired, before adding the chicken, reserve a few tablespoons of the marinade to brush on the chicken as it cooks.
- If you are using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, it’s best to pound them to an even thickness before adding them to the marinade. This helps them to cook evenly and also tenderizes the meat.
- Make sure that all of the chicken is coated with the marinade. I like to flip the bag over (or flip the chicken pieces if using a bowl) about halfway through the marinating time to make sure both sides soak up the flavor.
- Always marinate chicken in the refrigerator.
- For food safety, always discard extra marinade that has come in contact with raw chicken.
How Long to Marinate Chicken
Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. If the chicken is left in the marinade for a long time, the acidic lemon juice may begin to partially “cook” the chicken. I try to marinate chicken for 1-4 hours to infuse flavor and also minimize the exterior of the chicken starting to break down from the lemon juice.
Side Dishes for Chicken
Our favorite sides to serve with chicken include Potato Salad, Coleslaw, Macaroni Salad, Italian Pasta Salad and Biscuits. On the lighter side, we love this Corn Salad, Fruit Salad, Kale Avocado Salad, Tabouli and Quinoa Salad.
When it’s hot outside and you don’t want to turn on your stove or oven, the Instant Pot is a great way to make an easy side dish. Try Instant Pot Corn on the Cob, Instant Pot Baked Beans or Instant Pot Potato Salad.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 pounds chicken breasts or thighs, boneless or bone-in
- Combine olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Italian seasoning and pepper in a bowl or large zip-top plastic bag. Whisk or squeeze bag to mix. (Optional: reserve a few tablespoons of marinade in a separate container to brush on chicken while cooking.)
- Add the chicken to the bag or bowl* and coat chicken with marinade. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. I usually aim to marinate chicken for 1-4 hours.
- Discard marinade and cook chicken in the oven, on the stove, or on the grill, as desired. Chicken is done when the internal temperature registers 165° F on an instant read thermometer.
- If you are using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, it's best to pound them to an even thickness before adding them to the marinade. This helps them to cook evenly and also tenderizes the meat. Place chicken breasts in a zip-top bag or between two layers of parchment paper or plastic wrap and use a rolling pin or meat mallet to pound the chicken.
Excellent marinade. I made this tonight for baked boneless chicken breasts. Used 1/2 tsp oregano and 1/2 teaspoon marjoram for the spice. Next time I will swap in thyme and rosemary and see how that compares. I also used low sodium soy sauce (as you call out in recipe) since that is what I buy. My husband did sprinkle a bit of salt on his chicken, but I did not think it needed any salt. I will definitely make this again. It is a keeper. Thank you.
Oh my!! I made this recipe with boneless chicken breasts baked in the oven.
Kept it in the marinade for 4 hours and it is delicious! I am tossing all my other marinade recipes!
Thanks for bringing chicken to the next level. Loved the flavor and how moist it was! Can’t wait
to prepare it again!
Thank you! 🙂
Is this recipe using skinless chicken or does it matter? We prefer skinless/boneless. Thanks!
I usually use this marinade on boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. I hope you enjoy it!
Thank you! Exactly what I wanted to hear!
Decided to try this recipe today, marinaded my chicken for 6 hours and cooked over charcoal grill. The only thing I changed was that I used fresh squeezed lemon juice. Have to say this was the best chicken we have eaten in a while, very juicy and the flavor was absolutely delicious. Will diffintely make this a regular meal and would be good on fish and possibly as a salad dressing!!! Thanks for a delicious recipe.
I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe! I always use fresh squeezed lemon juice. It makes so much difference! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.
This was perfection, thank you!
This is seriously the best chicken marinade! I’ve made it a handful of times since I found your recipe.
Curious, have you tried a crockpot version of this chicken?
You could use the cooking method in my Crockpot Chicken Breasts recipe. Just skip the rub used in that recipe and use this marinade instead to marinate the chicken before cooking.