This marinade for lemon chicken comes together quickly and has lots of flavor. Using lemon juice and peel paired with garlic and herbs, it only needs an hour of marinating time before your meat is ready to cook. Whether you’re making chicken breast, chicken thighs, or chicken wings, this marinade is is going to become your go-to for lemon chicken.
Lemon, garlic, and herbs are such a classic combo, and they come together in this super delicious and easy garlic lemon chicken marinade.
Using a marinade is an easy way to introduce flavor to any protein, and it’s especially great for chicken which can turn out bland if you’re not careful.
But this lemon herb marinade is quickly becoming a new favorite.
It’s bright, easy to make, and gives you chicken that can be eaten on it’s own or tossed onto a simple salad for a complete meal.
Grab these ingredients
(Note: the full ingredients list, including measurements, is provided in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.)
- Lemon – get a fresh one because you want both the zest and the juice.
- Oil – you want a mild oil for the marinade that won’t impact the flavor. My preference is avocado oil as it’s both mild and has a fairly high smoke point.
- Garlic – use fresh garlic for this marinade as it will make a difference in the flavor.
- Dried herbs – oregano and thyme are used in this recipe. You could also add in a little bit of dried rosemary if you like.
- Kosher salt – this recipe uses Diamond Crystal kosher salt. If you’re using a different brand or type, check out the salt conversion chart in this post to get the correct amount to use.
- Black pepper – I like to use freshly ground black pepper (I just use the kind that comes in a grinder from Costco), but pre ground will also work.
How to make lemon garlic chicken marinade
The steps for this recipe are simple:
- zest then juice the lemon,
- pour everything into a cup or bowl,
- then whisk to combine.
Tips for zesting a lemon
- Don’t cut the lemon before you zest it. A full lemon is going to be easier to handle than half lemon, and you won’t have to worry about juice squeezing out when you zest it.
- A microplane is going to give you the best results as it’s easiest to handle and has very small holes. If you don’t have a microplane, use the side of a box grater with the smallest holes.
- Rest the microplane on the rim of a bowl or cup that’s on a flat surface. This will help stabilize microplane and make it easier to apply pressure on the orange.
- Start out pressing the lemon very lightly onto the microplane so you only get the zest and not the pith (the whiteish part between the zest and the flesh). If you need to you can always go back over parts of the orange, but you can’t go back and pick pith out of parts you’ve already zested!
- Short movements are best when zesting. Since a lemon is mostly round, the longer your zesting movements the more adjustments you’ll have to make. This can lead to over-zesting and getting the pith in the zest. Do short swipes of the lemon and rotate the slightly slightly after every one or two swipes.
Is there a secret to a good marinade?
Ultimately you want your marinade to have each of these four key components:
- salt to season the meat,
- fat to coat the meat,
- acid to help break down protein fibers, and
- spices, herbs, or other flavors.
This recipe uses kosher salt, oil for the fat, lemon juice as the acid, and garlic, herbs, lemon zest, and black pepper to give the chicken additional flavor.
Cooking chicken with this garlic lemon marinade
This marinade works for lots of different cuts of chicken: chicken breasts, chicken thighs, chicken wings, and chicken cutlets included.
For all of the above cuts of meat, you want to marinate the chicken for no more than two hours in either a sealable plastic bag or a flat dish (I like to use a 9×13 casserole dish) that’s covered with plastic wrap.
Be sure and flip the chicken halfway through the marinating time to ensure even coverage on both sides!
From there you can cook it any way you like: on the grill, in the oven, or on the stove top. In any case, you want to cook the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of around 165 degrees F.
To see more specific directions for grilling, head to this post about grilled lemon chicken breast!
If you make this orange vinaigrette recipe, then don’t forget to leave a star rating and let me know how it went in the comments below!
5 Minute Marinade for Lemon Chicken
- 1.5 oz cup fresh lemon juice about 1 lemon
- 2 oz mild oil like avocado oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced or pressed
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Zest of 1 lemon
- First zest the lemon. Take out a microplane or other zester, as well as large bowl or cup. If using a microplane, place it against the rim of the bowl. Zest the lemon by rubbing it against the microplane in short swipes, scraping just the vibrant yellow skin off into the bowl and not the lighter pith underneath. You may need to wipe the zest off the bottom of the microplane with your finger to get it all off.
- Once the zest is off, use a sharp knife and cutting board to cut the lemon in half. Juice the lemon into the same bowl as the zest.
- Take out a liquid measuring cup and measuring spoons and measure out oil, kosher salt, herbs, and ground black pepper into the cup. Add in the lemon zest and juice as well, stirring with a whisk to combine everything.