Food & Nutrition

Garlic Lemon Chicken Marinade

It is so worth the 10 minutes of prep it takes to whip this Garlic Lemon Chicken Marinade together! It is so easy and it simply transforms grilled chicken breast from boring into juicy flavorful perfection!

grilled chicken with oregano sprigs

I originally shared this recipe on June 25th, 2015. I have updated the post by adding more helpful information and added step by step photos to share it again with you today.

Why We Love This Recipe

This recipe is an easy way to add bold flavor to chicken with only 10 minutes of effort! All you need is a few simple ingredients to make the marinade, and then let the chicken soak up all the delicious flavor!

This is a great recipe for summertime grilling and cookouts. Serve it with your favorite summer side dishes like Coleslaw and Potato Salad. You can also slice it and add it to the top of a Caesar Salad or Massaged Kale Salad.

It is so versatile! The flavors of lemon and garlic pair well with a variety of cuisines, so you can add it to many different menus and the flavors pair seamlessly.

You can use it to enhance the flavor of boneless skinless chicken breast, but it also works for chicken thighs and even bone-in chicken!

What’s more, you can customize the flavorings in this recipe to make it just the way you like it by swapping in your favorite seasonings.

Ingredient Notes For This Lemon Chicken Marinade

Lemon Juice and Zest

To make this grilled chicken marinade, I used the zest of an entire lemon plus the juice. Feel free to use less zest if you like a less pronounced lemon flavor but keep the amount of juice so that the acidity of the marinade does its job.


I also added in three cloves of garlic because, well, garlic is awesome and therefore makes chicken awesome.

Pickled Jalapeños (Optional)

Then came the oddball ingredient: pickled jalapenos. Say what? I know, pickled jalapenos are not your typical marinade ingredient, but I really love them because their spiciness is not dry or harsh. Feel free to leave them out or sub in fresh jalapenos to taste if you like.


I also have masses of oregano in my garden right now, so that seemed like an excellent choice for fresh herbs.


If your chicken is frozen make sure to follow these tips how to defrost chicken safely.

This garlic lemon chicken marinade works with chicken thighs and bone in chicken too. Just keep in mind that there is oil in the marinade, so you’ll want to be careful of flare-ups if you’re grilling the meat.

How to Make Garlic Lemon Chicken Marinade

Making homemade chicken marinade is incredibly easy and takes less than 10 minutes to whip up!

zest and juice the lemon, combine the lemon, garlic and oil in the food processor
zest and juice the lemon, combine the lemon, garlic and oil in the food processor

Step 1: Zest the lemon first. Then cut it in half to juice it.

Step 2: Combine the oil, lemon zest and juice and the garlic in a mini-prep or food processor. You can also do this with an immersion blender—whatever you have on hand! Puree to chop the garlic.

add the jalapeno, salt and pepper and oregano to the marinade and then pule to combine

Step 3: Remove the lid and add in the pickled jalapeno (if using), oregano, salt and pepper.

the chicken in a dish with the marinade on it. Grilling the chicken

Step 4: Set the chicken in a glass dish or in a resealable bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken.

As with most other marinades, the longer you let the chicken marinate, the stronger the flavor. You just want to make sure you don’t let it go too long, as it’ll denature the proteins on the exterior of the chicken meat, and will make the texture tough and dry on the outside once it’s cooked.

Marinate it anywhere from 4 to 12 hours for best results. (In a rush? For a chicken marinade that requires a shorter marinating time, I recommend this garlic herb marinade.)

Step 5: Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the used marinade. Grill the chicken over high heat, turning occasionally until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees F when inserted into the center of the chicken.

If grilling bone-in chicken, make sure to take the temperature of the meat closest to the bone without touching the bone.

How to Store Garlic Lemon Chicken Marinade

If you prefer to prep your meals well in advance to make the work week a little easier, feel free to prep this easy chicken marinade ahead of time (just don’t marinate the chicken too far in advance!). You can store this chicken marinade in the fridge for up to a week in a tightly sealed container.

This marinade can also be stored in the freezer for up to three months. If you choose to store this in the freezer, I recommend first freezing the marinade in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop the marinade cubes into a freezer bag. This way, you can thaw out the exact amount of marinade you need without wasting the rest!

grilled chicken on a black surface, sliced with sprigs of oregano

What To Serve With This Grilled Chicken Recipe

FAQs About This Recipe

Can I substitute another herb for the oregano?

Yes you can. Keep in mind that woody herbs like thyme, sage and summer savory are better suited to high heat cooking than tender herbs like tarragon, dill and basil. So we recomend that you choose an herb from the former category.

What can I use instead of pickled jalapenos?

They are optional so you can leave them out completely. If you don’t have them and want to add a bit of heat you can add 20 dashes Tabasco sauce or a generous pinch of cayenne to the marinade instead.

Can I use this recipe for other meats and proteins?

Yes absolutely! It works for tofu, pork, turkey breast and even seafood. Marinate tofu and seafood for 30 minutes only. Turkey and pork can be marinated for 4 to 12 hours.

Can I marinate for longer than 12 hours?

We do not recommend it. The lemon in the marinade will start to denature the chicken and make it tough. Instead, you can remove the chicken from the marinade and keep it refrigerated until you are ready to grill it.

Can I cook the chicken on the stove or in the oven instead?

If you want to cook this chicken indoors you can use a grill pan, a skillet or cook it in the oven. Make sure to take the internal temperature to ensure it is cooked to a safe temperature of 165 before resting and serving.

More Easy Marinade Recipes:

If you love grilling, This Cajun flank steak is another grilling winner. And don’t miss our favorite healthy burger recipe line-up. Are you following my chicken board on Pinterest?

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter or follow me on instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie



With only 10 minutes of prep, this recipe for Garlic Lemon Chicken Marinade transforms grilled chicken breast from boring to juicy and flavorful.



  • 1 lemon, preferably organic
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeno, optional
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast


  1. Zest the lemon. Cut in half and juice it.
  2. Combine lemon zest and juice, garlic and olive oil in a mini prep, blender or in the blending jar for an immersion blender. Puree until the garlic is finely chopped.
  3. Add jalapeno, oregano, salt and pepper and pulse just to combine. Store in the refrigerator up to one week, or freeze up to 3 months.
  4. Place chicken in a shallow dish or in a resealable bag. Pour the marinade over it. Let chicken marinate for 4 to 12 hours.
  5. Preheat grill to high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the used marinade. Grill, turning occasionally until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the chicken reads 165 degrees F, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Rest the chicken 5 minutes before slicing and serving.


This recipe makes enough marinade for 1 to 2 pounds chicken. You can also use boneless skinless chicken thighs or bone in chicken. For bone-in chicken, use indirect cooking heat to prevent flare-ups.


  • Serving Size: 4 ounces chicken
  • Calories: 223
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Sodium: 223 mg
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 37 g