Easy Lemon Chicken Marinade (5-Minute Prep!)
This easy lemon chicken marinade gives chicken a ton of fresh flavor thanks to just a few ingredients and a simple marinade trick. The ultimate in simple sauces, just five minutes of hands-on time to make the marinade yields the most juicy, flavorful chicken you’ve ever tasted.
5 star review
“WOW, this recipe is perfection!! I made a double batch of this recipe a week ago planning to freeze half for later. That never happened. The chicken was so delicious that my family never got tired of eating the leftovers. I would change absolutely nothing about this. Thank you Robyn!”– Emily
About this Lemon Chicken Marinade Recipe
This isn’t just another boring chicken recipe, in fact, this is the best lemon chicken marinade that will take simple chicken to the next level.
Now, I get it, marinades can take a time bit of planning ahead, but don’t let that stop you, as the flavor payoff is definitely worth it!
And, this easy chicken marinade is so quick and easy to throw together and then when it comes to hands-on cooking time, the chicken takes only fifteen minutes.
Plus, this lemon garlic marinade doesn’t have to be reserved for summer, this is a great marinade for all times of year – just use an indoor grill pan in the winter.
Once you try this simple sauce, you’ll definitely want to try some of my other favorite marinades that take chicken to the next level like this Greek yogurt chicken marinade, honey mustard marinade, and honey orange dijon chicken skewers.
Visual Guide: How to Make Lemon Chicken Marinade
Tips & Tricks for Super Juicy Lemon Chicken
This lemon and herb marinade comes together in no time, by simply mixing the marinade ingredients and using half to marinate the chicken (while saving the remaining marinade for drizzling later — hello flavor boost!).
Into the bag or baking dish with the chicken and marinade, I recommend adding two tablespoons of water which helps the marinade permeate the chicken faster.
Once the chicken is done cooking, let it sit for a few minutes (for super juicy chicken) then drizzle it with the remaining marinade as a fresh sauce.
The great thing about this recipe is that the chicken only needs to marinate for 30-60 minutes – long enough to do a couple chores around the house, preheat the grill, or prep some dinner sides — I recommend one of these quick and easy BBQ side dishes for grilled chicken!
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Extra virgin olive oil: I love the light, buttery flavor of the extra virgin olive oil in this recipe. But you can also use any other neutral flavored oil in its place like avocado, vegetable or canola oil.
Lemon juice: The fresh lemon juice helps to tenderize and infuse the chicken with lots of flavor.
Lemon zest: The lemon zest really helps punch up the lemony flavor from the lemon juice and just adds a little something extra to this recipe.
Fresh parsley: Fresh herbs add so much flavor to this marinade. Feel free to use another fresh herb like dill or basil.
Sugar: The sugar helps tenderize the chicken, so I don’t recommend skipping it (but you can if you need to). You could substitute it with coconut sugar.
Dijon mustard: One of my favorite ingredient staples to keep on hand, especially great in dressings and sauces/ marinade recipes. I like the subtle heat that Dijon mustard brings but you could use any mustard you like.
Kosher salt: Look for kosher salt with the regular iodized salt at the grocery store (it has a subtler flavor). Use less iodized salt if that’s what you have on hand.
Garlic cloves: Fresh minced garlic definitely elevates this simple recipe, but if you’re very short on time or don’t have any on hand, 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic powder can be substituted.
Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts work well in this recipe. Chicken thighs have a higher fat content which adds flavor when grilled.
Can I marinate the chicken overnight?
I don’t recommend marinating the chicken longer than 60 minutes as the acidity from the lemon breaks down the protein, leaving it with a mushy texture.
Can I use the marinade for other meats or vegetables?
Yes! The marinade is excellent with fish and shrimp, and with vegetables like zucchini and yellow squash. For fish, shrimp, or vegetables, just marinate for 30 minutes maximum.
Can I freeze the marinade?
Yes, you can freeze the marinade and uncooked chicken together for a super easy meal. Simply place the marinade, chicken and water in a 1-gallon freezer bag and stick in the freezer. When you’re ready to use, defrost the chicken and cook it immediately.
How to Store & Freeze
Grilled lemon chicken will keep well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days, in a sealed container.
The grilled lemon chicken also freezes well, stored in a sealed freezer friendly container for up to 2-3 months.
This Recipe is…
Follow my step-by-step video:
Lemon Chicken Marinade
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (6-8 ounce each), or boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl.
- Pour half of the lemon chicken marinade along with 2 tablespoons of water into a 1-gallon zip-top bag or baking dish. Set the remaining half of the lemon chicken marinade aside.
- Toss the chicken to coat, then press as much air out of the bag (if using) as possible, or cover with plastic wrap (if using a baking dish). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 60 minutes, flipping every 15 minutes.
- When ready to grill, heat a gas grill to high. Allow to preheat for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shake off any excess, and discard any remaining marinade from the bag or dish.
- Grill, with the cover down, for 6-9 minutes, then flip, and grill uncovered until the internal temperature reaches 160, about 2-6 additional minutes.
- Remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice against the grain into ½ inch slices, and serve drizzled with remaining marinade.