This chicken marinade gives you so much flavor and keeps your chicken juicy and tender. This is one of those recipes you will have on repeat all summer.

This marinade pairs perfectly with my steak marinade if you’re like my household and have steak lovers and others who prefer chicken. I make both of these marinades quickly, set them aside, and marinate both of the meats.

I like to use this marinade a lot during the summer months when it’s too hot to cook inside. Within 30 minutes, the chicken can be marinated and ready to go. There is nothing better in the summer. It also transports nicely, so you can take it to a BBQ potluck or take it camping for the weekend.

What is a marinade?

  • When it comes to marinade, it’s pretty simple to make and is just a mixture of ingredients that generally contain oil, acidity, and a variety of spices that you allow your meat to soak in prior to cooking.
  • Marinating the meat, allows the meat to become more tender and moist, which helps in the cooking process so that the meat doesn’t dry out as easily. This can be pretty helpful depending on the type of chicken you are using.

Key marinade components

There are always four main components when it comes to any marinade: fat, acid, seasoning, and the amount of time it sits in the marinade.

There are endless combinations when it comes to marinades.

  • Fat: There are two reasons we use a form of fat in a marinade. The first is that it transfers flavor to the meat. The fat also helps to keep the meat moist. You can use vegetable oil or olive oil, or a neutral-flavored oil.
  • Acid: By adding acidity, it will help tenderize the meat by breaking down the fibers. Some great options for acidity are citrus juice, vinegar, yogurt, and buttermilk. I love to use lemon juice; it pairs wonderfully with chicken and is easy to have on hand.
  • Seasoning: This is where I truly believe the options are endless. You can use spices and aromatics like citrus zest, onion, garlic, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. These are just a few suggestions; you can definitely play around with the flavors.
  • Time The perfect amount of time for marinating chicken is around 5 to 6 hours, but every 15 to 30 minutes makes a difference.

Chicken Marinade Ingredients

  • Olive oil This will keep your chicken extra moist and juicy. You can use vegetable oil as an alternative.
  • Lemon juice or vinegar I like to use a combination of both vinegar and lemon juice, but you can use either or both. The acid in these ingredients helps break down the fibers in the chicken to make it tender.
  • Garlic When it comes to garlic, fresh is always the best way to go, but jars will always work too. I sometimes will switch out garlic powder because it sometimes will burn when grilled.
  • Italian seasoning The Italian seasoning blend is such a great combo for marinades or almost any meal.
  • Soy sauce This will add the saltiness component. You can also use a low-sodium soy sauce if you’re concerned with the level of salt.
  • Brown Sugar this is the sweetness component and can be changed up with honey or maple syrup.
  • Dijon mustard mustard will give a good amount of spice and flavor.
  • Worcestershire sauce has great flavor and a little more saltiness. I feel Worcestershire has its own flavor component.
  • Salt and pepper to taste!


While this recipe is perfect as is, you can add other ingredients and flavours to customise it to your tastes.

  • Vinegar switch the red wine vinegar for balsamic, or apple cider vinegar, or instead of lemon juice use lime juice.
  • Sweetener Almost any sweetener will work here; I generally use brown sugar because that is a staple in my pantry, but honey and maple syrup work wonderfully.
  • Flavor In place of the Italian seasoning, you can sprinkle in a little basil, parsley, green onions, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. I also like to add a little bit of lemon zest or use fresh herbs instead of dried ones because fresh is always better.
  • Asian Flavors Mix together olive oil, sesame oil, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and minced garlic.
chicken marinade

Tips for the perfect chicken marinade

  • The great thing about this marinade is that it can be made up to three days ahead. All you need to do is simply store it in the fridge until you’re ready to add the chicken. When you remove the marinade from the fridge, you might need to let it come to room temperature for 15–20 minutes because the oil will solidify a little bit.
  • This recipe allows you to be pretty flexible when it comes to the cut of chicken you want to use, so you can use anything from boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, chicken tenders, or even a nice drumstick.
  • A great way of making your chicken breast absolutely wonderful is to tenderize it, home cook assembles has great tips for tenderizing your chicken
  • As a meal prep, you can double or triple the quantity that you think you might need for a meal so that you have extra to use in green salads, pasta salads, and sandwiches.
  • If you’re looking for ways to pair the marinated chicken, here are a few suggestions: mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, broccoli salad, or strawberry spinach salad.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you cook marinated chicken?

When I cook marinated chicken, my favourite way is on the grill. If the weather is not nice enough (in Canada, we barbecue all year round), I will use an indoor grill pan on the stove. If you’re using a bone-in chicken cut, I would suggest baking it because it does take a little bit longer to cook.

How long do you marinate chicken?

When it comes to marinating chicken, it depends on the cut of chicken you are using. For boneless, skinless cuts, you want to marinate for a minimum of 1 hour; if you are using a cut with a bone in and skin on, you’ll want to marinate for at least 4 hours. I suggest marinating for no longer than 7-8 hours.

Do I need to poke holes in my chicken before marinating?

In order for the marinade to soak in completely and make the chicken juicy, it’s helpful to piece the chicken with a fork all over. before placing it in the marinade.

Is it better to marinate in the fridge or at room temperature?

You should always marinate chicken in the refrigerator; it is a food safety hazard to marinate chicken at room temperature.

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Absolutely Perfect Chicken Marinade

This chicken marinade gives you so much flavor and keeps your chicken juicy and tender. This is one of those recipes you will have on repeat all summer.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Marinating 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Condiment
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings


  • 1 bowl or freezer bag


  • 2-3 pounds chicken
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire
  • cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper for taste


  • Place all the ingredients in a large bowl or resealable gallon-sized bag.
  • If using a bowl, whisk to combine the ingredients. If using a bag, seal the bag and shake to combine the ingredients.
  • Add 2-3 pounds of chicken, then marinate for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours.
  • Proceed with the cooking method of your choice.
Keyword chicken, marinade
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