Lemon Chicken Marinade

This Lemon Chicken Marinade is going to blow your socks off! So easy to make with simple ingredients, it easily transforms chicken into a dazzling dish for anytime.

a gray plate with rice, lemon marinated chicken, and green beans.

Lemon Chicken Marinade Recipe

One of the biggest problems I find with recipes for easy dinners is sometimes they just don't have a lot of flavor.

But weeknight meals shouldn't have to lack flavor. Instead of heading out for takeout so you don't have to eat boring leftovers (again), why not make dinner taste better? Then you'll be more inclined to stay home because you just can't get enough of whatever it is!

Marinades are one of my favorite ways to infuse more fragrance and flavor into our food. Any protein from chicken to seafood to pork chops can be marinated in delicious ingredients that infuse moisture and flavor into the final dish.

This Lemon Chicken Marinade is one of my current favorites. I simply make the marinade the night before or on my lunch break. Then an hour or two before dinner, I pour it over the chicken and let it rest.

When it's time to grill, pan-sear or bake your chicken, it will have picked up on all the lemony goodness, plus the honey, spices and herbs and will come out so delectable and perfectly tender.

Try this marinated Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken!

marinade that has been shaken together in. mason jar

Why You'll Love This Recipe

This lemon marinade for chicken is going to be your new favorite, and here's why:

  • Mixed up in a mason jar, cleanup has never been easier.
  • You can use it for any all kinds of chicken recipes. It works with any cut of chicken or turkey — and it works for seafood too.
  • Cook up the chicken any way you like: in the air fryer, on the grill, in the oven, on the stove.

This marinade is perfect for weeknight meals, but it works for fancy dinners too. If you want to impress someone with your cooking skills, marinades are sure to make you look good! Your chicken will turn out so tender and full of zesty lemon flavor.

If you are lucky enough to have a lemon tree in your yard, like we do, marinades are a great way to use them up!

lemon chicken marinade ingredients on a wooden table

Ingredients

Here's what you will need to grab at the grocery store to make this recipe:

  • olive oil: Use any neutral-tasting oil like avocado oil instead.
  • lemons: Fresh lemons, please! You're going to need the lemon juice and the lemon zest. You can use lime juice, too.
  • honey: Substitute agave nectar or maple syrup if needed.
  • salt & pepper: You can use lemon pepper instead of black pepper if you don't want to zest the lemons.
  • fresh parsley: Fresh herbs are best, but 3 tablespoons of dried parsley or Italian seasoning can be used instead.
  • red pepper flakes: You can leave these out if spice is a concern.
  • raw chicken: We prefer boneless chicken thighs but you can use any cut of chicken you prefer!

Successful marinade recipes utilize an acidic component (that's the lemon juice here), a neutral tasting oil (like avocado or olive oil) and some flavoring agents (the honey, parsley and spices). For best results and a flavorful marinade, follow this recipe exactly to get the proper ratio of marinade ingredients.

lemon chicken marinade poured over raw chicken.

Best Chicken for Marinades

This marinade makes enough for about 2 pounds of chicken, so pick up your favorite cut of chicken. Here are some ideas:

  • bone-in chicken
  • boneless chicken
  • chicken tenders
  • chicken breasts
  • whole chicken
  • chicken thighs
  • chicken wings
  • chicken legs

In this recipe, I'm going to use boneless chicken thighs, so adjust cook times accordingly based on whatever cut you use.

Feel free to use this lemon herb chicken marinade recipe on seafood as well. It would be great on grilled shrimp or salmon, too.

How to Make a Lemon Marinade

Okay, let's make this easy lemon chicken marinade! Let's take it step by step:

honey added to a mason jar of marinade
parsley leaves in a jar of marinade

Add all the marinade ingredients to a mason jar. You can also whisk together the ingredients in a bowl.

I prefer to start with the liquids, then add the spices and herbs on at a time.

parsley and red pepper flakes in a jar of marinade

Cover and shake until combined! Shake a little longer than you think you need to — we want to emulsify the oil with the ingredients it naturally wants to separate from.

It will look like this once you have shaken it well:

finished marinade in a jar

You can store the jar in the fridge until you're ready to use it (up to 2 days), or use it right away.

raw chicken thighs in a bowl
raw chicken thighs resting in lemon marinade in a glass bowl.

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl or a large, zip-top freezer bag. Pour marinade over chicken and toss using tongs to coat chicken.

Cover with plastic wrap (or zip up if using a plastic bag). Let the chicken marinate for at least 1-2 hours, but for even more flavor do it for longer, like 6-8 hours. Don't marinate it for longer than 24 hours, though, as the lemon juice can do some weird things to the chicken after that long.

a lemon zester on a table with a half a lemon and lemon chicken and a tea towel.

Then, cook how you like. You can pan-sear the chicken thighs, bake them in a baking dish or — my favorite — grill them.

If you want to grill, grill the marinated chicken over medium high heat on each side until chicken reaches 165ºF internal temperature with a meat thermometer.

Check out my grilling tips for successful cooks every time!

For a gorgeous presentation, add a few fresh lemon wedges to the platter or each dinner plate to let everyone add lots of flavor if they'd like.

cut chicken thighs on a plate

FAQ

What are 3 common ingredients in a marinade?

Marinades commonly include an oil (such as olive oil or avocado oil), an acid (like lemon juice) and flavorings. Common flavorings include fresh herbs, salt, pepper and spices.

How long should I marinate chicken?

Chicken should be marinated for at least an hour to infuse some flavor. For more flavorful chicken, the ideal time is 6-8 hours, but the raw meat can be left in the marinade for up to 24 hours.

How do you make chicken marinade?

Combine a cooking oil, an acid (like lemon juice) and some herbs and spices in a mason jar. Shake to combine really well, so that the oil emulsifies. Then pour over chicken and let it rest for at least an hour.

grilled lemon chicken thighs on a white plate

What to Serve with Lemon Chicken

Lemon chicken is so good with other dishes! However, since lemon is such a strong flavor, you may not want to use too many other acidic flavors in your other dishes.

Try serving lemon chicken over a bed of pasta, risotto, rice or quinoa.

Slice it and put it on a salad with your favorite toppings and salad dressing.

It's also great on its own with side dishes like green beans, broccoli or potatoes.

For leftovers, try adding it to this hearty lemon chicken soup.

For more ideas, check out these side dishes for grilled chicken and ideas for using leftover chicken.

More Marinade Recipes

marinade that has been shaken together in. mason jar

Lemon Chicken Marinade

A zesty Lemon Chicken Marinade takes chicken dishes up a notch!
5 from 44 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Rest Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 1 cup
Author: Madison | A Joyfully Mad Kitchen

Ingredients

for the marinade

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ bunch of parsley leaves roughly one cup
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

for the chicken

  • 2 pounds boneless chicken I used thighs

Instructions

  • Add all marinade ingredients to jar. Cover and shake until combined. (You can also whisk together the ingredients in a bowl.)
  • Place chicken in bowl or zip-top bag. Pour marinade over chicken and toss using tongs to coat chicken. Let chicken marinate for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours. 
  • Cook marinated chicken on the grill, in the oven or in a skillet. It is done when the chicken reaches 165º internal temperature with a meat thermometer.

Notes

To cook chicken on the grill, cook over medium high heat on each side until chicken reaches 165º internal temperature with a meat thermometer.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 474kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 135mg | Sodium: 310mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g

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