Tender and moist Buttermilk Grilled Chicken Breasts has a garlic buttermilk marinade that adds great taste and acts as a brine tenderizing the chicken.
Garlic or garlic powder
Salt and pepper
Optional other spices or dry rub
Buttermilk makes a perfect marinade for chicken breasts on the grill. Due to the acidic pH, buttermilk will tenderize and moisturize simultaneously—very important for grilled chicken breasts that tend to be tough and dry.
This is an economical and easy marinade for grilled chicken with its flavor. It is flexible in spicing. You can keep it relatively bland with just pepper or add a lot of flavor with the optional spices—keep it light or spice it up with a dry rub or seasoning of your choice.
👨🍳How to Cook Buttermilk Grilled Chicken Breasts
Trim chicken breasts. Flatten to ¾ inch if thick.
Place chicken in a 1-gallon zip lock in a large bowl. Cover with about 1 cup of buttermilk per breast. You want to cover the chicken completely. Then, add ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder per cup of buttermilk. Mix everything well, then refrigerate for 1-12 hours.
When ready to grill, remove from the bag, but do not rinse off the buttermilk—salt and pepper to taste. Another seasoning may be added at this point, like a dry rub.
Preheat the grill to a grill surface temperature of about 450° medium-high on most grills—clean and oil grates.
Grill over direct heat with the lid closed. Flip it about every 5 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°—about 25-30 minutes, depending on the exact grill temperature and thickness of the chicken.
Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
For more details, keep reading. See the Recipe Card below for complete instructions and to print.
⏲️How long to grill chicken breasts
Most chicken breasts will take 20-25 minutes on a grill with a surface temperature of 450°. Smaller breasts may be a bit less, and larger ones may be longer. Remember to never cook on time alone.
A chicken breast is done at 165° internal temperature in the thickest part of the breast. More will dry, and less is unsafe. An instant-read thermometer is required to get this right.
✔️Tips to get it right every time
- When you pick your chicken, try to get about the same size and thickness. If you have thick chicken breasts, flatten the breast a bit with a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy pan. Try for about ¾ inch thick.
- If the chicken was frozen, it must be thawed before proceeding.
- We no longer recommend rinsing chicken, just a good pat dry. See Chicken... To Rinse or Not To Rinse?
- You can NOT cook chicken properly on high heat. You will dry the surface before the inside is even close to done or safe.
- The grill surface temperature should be 450°. A little less is fine, and a smidge more is ok, but never over 500°. To get this right, you should use a grill surface thermometer. The hood thermometer is ALWAYS wrong. Please see A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill for more discussion.
- If you don't have a surface thermometer (you should), then medium to medium-high heat will be about 400°-450° on most gas grills.
- You can use a charcoal grill but must be very careful about surface temperature. And, of course, your time will vary.
- This is very moist but bland, with just buttermilk, garlic, salt, and pepper. That may be what you want.
- You can add hot sauce or fresh herbs and spices to the marinade. Sugars like brown sugar or honey are good for chicken.
- I prefer to marinate with buttermilk and garlic, and then I can individualize the season for the guests. I suggest an excellent BBQ spice rub—see BBQ Dry Rub.
Other marinade and grilled chicken recipes
According to the USDA, chicken and all poultry must reach an internal temperature of 165° in the thickest part of the chicken for safety.
You need to use an instant-read thermometer.
It can be used on any chicken, even with skin like drumsticks, chicken thighs, or bone-in chicken breasts.
Yes, it is one of the best. It imparts flavor, and because of the lower pH, it will also break down proteins to tenderize and add moisture.
You can easily add other flavors to a buttermilk marinade or use it to add flavor, moisture, and tenderize, then add seasoning before cooking.
For food safety, buttermilk marinades should be refrigerated.
The marinade is a noun and refers to the liquid. Marinate is a verb and is the act of using the marinade.
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Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Breasts on a Gas Grill
- 2-4 skinless boneless chicken breasts - Trimmed
- lowfat buttermilk - to cover
- salt and pepper - to taste
- granular garlic powder - ½ teaspoon per cup of buttermilk
- Additional seasoning of choice
- Trim chicken breasts. Flatten to ¾ inch if thick.
- Place chicken in a 1-gallon zip lock in a large bowl. Cover with about 1 cup of buttermilk per breast. You want to cover the chicken completely. Then, add ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder per cup of buttermilk. Mix everything well, then refrigerate for 1-12 hours.
- When ready to grill, remove from the bag but do not rinse off the buttermilk—salt and pepper to taste. Another seasoning may be added at this point, like a dry rub.
- Preheat the grill to a grill surface temperature of about 450° medium-high on most grills—clean and oil grates.
- Grill over direct heat with the lid closed. Flip about every 5 minutes until an internal temperature of 165°—about 25-30 minutes, depending on the exact grill temperature and thickness of the chicken. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Your Own Private Notes
- Try to pick chicken breasts that are about the same size and thickness.
- If the thickness varies a lot, then using a meat mallet or heavy pan to get to about ¾ inch thick.
- I recommend real buttermilk here. You can use a substitute but there is some extra taste with the real stuff.
- Add some rosemary or thyme to the marinade if you want.
- Do not brine with salt before doing the buttermilk marinade/brine.
- Only salt lightly.
- Grill surface temperature is critical to getting this right. So use a grill surface thermometer. Also, use a meat thermometer to be sure the internal temperature is 165°.
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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Inspired by Martha Stewart's Buttermilk Grilled Chicken Breasts.
Editor's Note: Originally Published May 31, 2010. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.