This Quick and Easy Chicken Marinate is the fast way to the best healthy chicken on the grill or in the oven. Perfect on a salad or simple dinner.
Bursting with outstanding lemon garlic flavor, they will make a great salad topping, served in a sandwich or on a plate.
We all know that skinless boneless chicken breast can be tasteless. Made with lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, and a few other ingredients, this marinade delivers a wonderful taste that will take your chicken to the next level.
This could easily be a weeknight dinner recipe since 20-30 in the marinade works well—just enough time to heat, clean, and oil the grill. It will fit a healthy diet like a low-calorie or low-fat diet or even a low-carb keto diet.
Check out some other flavorful chicken recipes, like Garlic Lemon Butter Marinaded Grilled Chicken Breast, Buttermilk Grilled Chicken Breast, Honey Glazed Grilled Chicken Breasts, or Italian Grilled Chicken Breasts.
Ingredients for Chicken Marinade
- Soy sauce - low sodium preferred
- Brown sugar
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Salt—if not brining chicken
👨🍳How to Make and Use Chicken Marinade
- Trim and flatten chicken breasts to ¾ inch and brine (optional) before adding to the marinade. Brine if you wish.
- In a 1-gallon zip lock bag or airtight container, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, olive oil, crushed garlic, and lemon juice. Add salt if you didn't brine the chicken.
- Add the chicken to the marinade and refrigerate for 30-120 minutes, but as little as 20 minutes gives a lot of taste.
- Remove leaving the marinade on the chicken for cooking—do not rinse or pat off. Cook on the grill or in the oven.
🐓How to Cook Marinaded Chicken
Try to use chicken breasts of about the same size and thickness. If thicker than ¾ inches, use a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy pan to even them out. Chicken thighs can be used—see FAQs.
🔥How to grill marinated chicken breasts
- Clean and oil grates. Preheat the grill to 450° surface temperature.
- Grill and flip every 5 minutes until you reach 165° internal temperature—about 10 minutes.
- For a more detailed discussion, please see How to Grill Chicken Breast on a Gas Grill.
If you have questions about controlling your grill temperature, please check my A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill.
♨️How to oven-bake chicken breasts
- Preheat the oven to 400° convection or 425° conventional.
- Place them in a shallow baking dish and bake to 165° internal temperature—about 25 minutes.
- More details at How to Bake Chicken Breasts in a Convection Oven.
Cooking time is dependent on the thickness and size of the chicken. With an average size (about 10 oz) of chicken breast and a 400° oven, about 25-30 minutes is a good estimate to reach a 165° internal temperature—so check a little early.
Yes. Chicken thighs should be skinless, but bone-in or boneless will both work. Cook to an internal temperature of 185° instead of 165° for the breasts.
Skinless chicken breasts can quickly dry during cooking, especially if previously frozen. So if you have time to brine, you should for moister results.
A suggested brine would be two cups of water and one tablespoon of table salt for an hour or two. If you brine, rinse and skip the salt before brushing with the honey mixture.
All salt is not equal in volume due to crystal size. 1 teaspoon table salt = 1 ¼ teaspoon Morton kosher salt = 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
Marinades are generally made of oil, acid, herbs, and spices. In my house, you also must add garlic. Then, it is used to soak various types of meat to transfer the flavors—an excellent, quick, and easy enhancement to many kinds of meat.
For safety, once used, marinades should be considered contaminated and discarded. If you want the marinade to brush the meat during cooking, reserve a small amount ahead if there is enough, or make a bit extra.
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Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Trim chicken breasts of any excess fat and thin to ¾ inch thick with a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy pan—for safety, protect yourself with plastic wrap or a large ziplock bag.
Optional chicken brine: If you have time, brine is always good for skinless boneless chicken breasts. A brine of 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon table salt for 20-120 minutes. If you brine, remove the salt from the marinade recipe and carefully rinse the chicken under running water when removed from the brine.
Mix the marinade a 1-gallon zip lock bag or airtight container, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, olive oil, crushed garlic, and lemon juice. Add salt if you didn't brine.
Add chicken to the marinade, remove extra air, and seal. Refrigerate for 30-120 minutes, but as little as 20 minutes gives a lot of taste.
Remove breasts from the marinade, do not rinse off the marinade. Cook on the grill or oven-bake to 165° internal temperature.
Quick and Easy Chicken Marinade
- 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts - well trimmed
- ¼ cup soy sauce - low sodium preferred
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoons salt
- Trim chicken breasts of any excess fat and thin to ¾ inch thick with a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy pan—for safety, protect yourself with plastic wrap or a large ziplock bag.
- Optional chicken brine: If you have time, brine is always good for skinless boneless chicken breasts. A brine of 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon table salt for 20-120 minutes. If you brine, remove the salt from the marinade recipe and carefully rinse the chicken under running water when removed from the brine.
- Mix the marinade in a 1-gallon zip lock bag or airtight container and combine soy sauce, brown sugar, olive oil, crushed garlic, and lemon juice. Add salt if you didn't brine. Add chicken to the marinade, remove extra air, and seal. Refrigerate for 30-120 minutes, but as little as 20 minutes gives a lot of taste.
- Remove breasts from the marinade, do not rinse off the marinade. Cook on the grill or oven-bake to 165° internal temperature. See cooking instructions in the post.
Your Own Private Notes
- Like most chicken recipes, the cooking temperature and final temperature are critical.
- Try to use chicken breasts of about the same size and thickness. Even them out some with a meat mallet if needed. Maximum thickness of ¾ of an inch.
- Brining is optional but will give more moist results. As little as 20 minutes will give good results, but 30-120 minutes refrigerated is suggested. Longer can start to affect the texture.
- Once used, the marinade should be discarded. If you want to brush some on during cooking, reserve a small amount or make more.
- Both the grill time and oven time can vary by the thickness of the chicken and the exact cooking temperature. So check the internal temperature a bit earlier than you think.
- An internal temperature in the thickest part of the chicken of 165° is the minimum safe temperature.
- Nutrition is calculated without brine, with 10% of marinade absorbed and a 10 oz. skinless boneless chicken breast.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Originally published April 17, 2010. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.