Lemon, herbs, and chicken are a classic flavor combination that is always good and fresh. Citrus and fresh herbs are bright components in this easy Lemon Chicken Marinade that you can serve in a variety of ways. Read on for our simple recipe for lemon herb chicken, suggested marinating times, and the many ways you can enjoy delicious, tender lemon-herb chicken breasts, thighs, or legs tonight.
A Fresh marinade for Lemon chicken Recipe
Fresh is the name of the game with this simple marinade that calls for a few simple ingredients like lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. You’ll love the flavor that this basic combination adds to chicken, creating a meal that is full on flavor.
ingredients for Lemon Garlic chicken marinade
Gather these easy-to-find ingredients to mix together the lemon herb chicken marinade and get your chicken soaking in flavor asap:
- chicken – you can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chicken thighs, or legs
- lemon – you’ll use both the zest and juice of a lemon for ultimate citrus flavor
- oil – we recommend avocado oil or olive oil
- garlic – use 1 clove (1 teaspoon) of minced garlic, or you can sub 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- fresh herbs – you can use any herbs you’d like, or a mix of herbs; some delicious ones to use here are thyme, rosemary, tarragon, and sage; can sub in 2 teaspoons of dried herbs in place of fresh herbs
- fine salt and black pepper
See the recipe card below for ingredient amounts, instructions, and complete nutrition analysis of a single serving, including calories, carbohydrates, fiber, protein, sodium, cholesterol, and more.
how to make Lemon Chicken marinade
You can have this lemon-herb chicken marinade ready to go in less than 5 minutes, and get your poultry soaking away in its flavor bath.
- Place the chicken in a heavy-duty zip-top bag, a reusable silicone bag, a large bowl, or a freezer bag or another freezer-safe container.
- Combine all of the lemon chicken marinade ingredients in a bowl; whisk together and pour over the chicken. Make sure the chicken is immersed in the marinade and then just let it soak. Read below for our recommended marinating times.
how long should I marinate Lemon chicken?
You can marinate chicken in the refrigerator or in the freezer. Here are the two basic methods:
- How long to marinate chicken in the refrigerator: When the chicken is covered with the marinade, whether in a bowl or a bag, place it in the refrigerator. Marinate the chicken for a minimum of 4 hours to allow the acid to tenderize the chicken and the flavors to penetrate the meat. On the long end, you can safely leave the marinated chicken in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, covered or sealed in the bag, before cooking. We recommend that you turn the bag over every 12-24 hours (or toss the chicken, if it’s in a bowl).
- How long to marinate chicken in the freezer: You can also prep this chicken marinade and place the whole thing (bag, chicken, and marinade) in the freezer for up to 2 months. Just be sure to squeeze as much air out of the bag before sealing it. When it comes time to thaw the marinated chicken, take it out of the freezer and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking.
4 ways to cook marinated Lemon chicken
After your chicken has been marinating in this delicious lemon chicken marinade, there are several different ways you can cook it. Here are our suggestions:
- Oven baking: Preheat the oven to 375℉. Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the juices. Place the chicken in a baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Bake the lemon marinated chicken until the juices run clear and chicken is no longer pink in the middle, 15-20 minutes. Make sure the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken registers 165℉ on an instant-read thermometer.
- Oven broiling: Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the juices. Position the top oven rack 8 inches below your oven’s broiler element. Preheat the oven broiler to medium-high. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet or in a cast iron pan. Broil on each side, turning once, until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle, 3-5 minutes per side. Make sure the thickest part of the chicken registers 165℉ on an instant-read thermometer. If the chicken is cooking too quickly, move the pan to a lower oven rack. Note: When broiling chicken, you’ll have the best results if the chicken is an even thickness.
- On the grill (and kebab style): Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the juices. Grill whole marinated chicken breasts, thighs, and legs until the chicken is cooked through. For breasts, grill about 8-10 minutes, 7-8 minutes for thighs, and 5-6 minutes for chicken legs. To make kebabs, cut the lemon marinated chicken into 1-inch chunks and thread onto skewers. Grill until the chicken pieces are cooked through, turning often, about 8 minutes total.
- Sauté on the stovetop: Place a skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 teaspoon cooking fat of choice (such as avocado oil, ghee, olive oil, etc.). Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the juices. Place the chicken in the skillet and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until the chicken is lightly browned. Place a lid on the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook an additional 8-10 minutes or until juices run clear and chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Make sure the thickest part of the chicken registers 165℉ on an instant-read thermometer. For juicy chicken or if your pan runs hot, add a few tablespoons of water to the skillet before covering with the lid if desired.
Ways to serve Lemon Chicken
Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy this marinated lemon-herb chicken:
as a big salad: the lemon-herb flavors of this marinated chicken (both hot and cold) are delicious on top of a fresh salad loaded with greens, fresh crunchy veggies, avocado, nuts, and a simple citrus vinaigrette
piccata style: grill, bake, broil, or sauté this marinated lemon chicken, slice it, and serve over cooked pasta or veggie noodles topped with capers, lemon wedges, and a sprinkle of Parmesan
- 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or legs*
- Zest of ½ lemon
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs of choice (such as thyme, rosemary, tarragon, sage, or a mix)**
- ½ – 1 teaspoon fine salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Place the chicken in a large bowl, zip-top plastic bag (or a freezer-safe container, if you plan to freeze the chicken).
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper.
- Pour the marinade over the chicken, then cover bowl or close bag. Gently toss or massage to coat the chicken pieces evenly.
- Marinate the covered chicken in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours and a maximum of 2-3 days before cooking. Or, to freeze, remove as much air from the freezer-safe container as possible, and freeze the chicken in the marinade for up to 2 months.
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* If using chicken legs, increase to 1 1/2 lbs.
** May substitute 2 teaspoons dried herbs in place of the fresh herbs
- Serving Size: 4 oz marinated chicken breast
- Calories: 133
- Fat: 4 g
- (Sat Fat: 1 g)
- Sodium: 252 mg
- Carbohydrate: 0 g
- (Fiber: 0 g
- Sugar: 0 g)
- Protein: 23 g
- Cholesterol: 66 mg
© The Real Food Dietitians
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Jessie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living near Denver, CO where she splits her time among nearby playgrounds, typing away at her trusty laptop, and heating up her home kitchen with delicious experiments. Her best taste tester is her husband, a Denver firefighter with a well-trained palate. A former magazine editor-in-chief, Jessie has a long career in food publishing and health writing. While she once played centerfield for the Northwestern University softball team, Jessie now prefers her fitness in the way of biking up mountain passes and chasing two busy toddlers (the latter proving to be the more exhausting activity).