This easy chicken marinade infuses chicken of any cut with the classic Greek flavors of lemon, garlic and oregano plus Greek yogurt for a more tender bite.
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It may be a bold statement to make, but unlike fake politicians, sorcerers, and that guy in Nigeria who says he’ll double your money if you’ll just wire it to him, I’m standing behind my claim that this super easy, extremely delicious Greek Chicken marinade very well could be:
the ying to your yang.
the butter to your nutter.
the pop to your lock.
Which would make this little diddy of a recipe the best lemony, best garlicky, best Greek-y oregano-ish chicken marinade you just might ever make.
How to Make the Greek Chicken Marinade
This greek marinade is my favorite go-to recipe for anything and everything chicken and it does double duty as a dressing for salads too.
Marinade the chicken in just half of this marinade and reserve the other half for basting the skewers as they cook, if you so desire.
The chicken is adequately flavored in just 15 minutes, or let it soak in all that Greek flavor for up to three hours in a bowl or a re-sealable gallon storage bag. I generally don’t go longer than the 3 hour mark to avoid the chicken becoming mealy.
Here’s what’s in this Greek marinade:
- Greek yogurt: This is a new addition to my regular Greek marinade. I added the yogurt after making my Easy Chicken Gyros where the yogurt tenderizes the chicken for a very nice, juicy bite.
- Lemon juice + zest: The acid from the lemon also helps break down the tough fibers of the chicken as it adds a flavorful zip to each bite. Adding the zest of one lemon to the marinade amps the flavor up even that much more.
- Garlic: Because hello, garlic.
- Olive oil: Olive oil adds a bit of fat and helps create a barrier while the chicken is on the grill. However, you’ll still want prepare your grill with additional oil and rotate your skewers so the chicken doesn’t become too charred or burn.
- Oregano: Because dried herbs are stronger in flavor than fresh, I’ve found that dried oregano works best for this marinade, and a healthy dose of it is definitely required.
The Rules: How to Cook Chicken Breasts In Marinade
Flavoring and tenderizing chicken in a marinade is a no-brainer, but there are a few tricks to doing it right.
1. Never, ever, ever reuse marinade used on raw poultry or meat unless you boil it first. It might sound like a good idea to baste your chicken or meat with the same marinade, but there’s a trick to keeping it healthy if you do. Boil any used marinade first to destroy any harmful bacteria. Or set aside a portion of the marinade to use later before putting raw meat and poultry into it.
2. Use acid in your marinade. Whether it’s vinegar, wine, or a citrus juice like lemon or lime juice, acid helps break down the connective tissue in meats, adding flavor and creating a more tender bite.
3. Choose a complimentary oil for more flavor in your marinade. Depending on the flavor profile of your marinade, choose an oil that compliments it and boosts the flavor even more, like:
- Olive oil for Greek, Italian, or Mediterranean-style dishes
- Sesame oil for Asian-style dishes
- Canola or vegetable oil for Mexican or American-style dishes to keep things neutral
4. You want it tender? Add dairy. The real secret to tenderizing is any cut of meat or chicken is adding yogurt or buttermilk to the mix. It’s been done for centuries in Indian cooking with tenderizing yogurt and buttermilk in Southern fried chicken. These two dairy ingredients have a more mild acid level than some other raw enzyme acids from pineapple or papaya, making it perfect for chicken so it doesn’t get mushy.
5. Marinate your chicken for as little as 15 minutes, 3 hours, or overnight. If you go too long, your chicken or meat will turn to mush.
6. Marinate, then cook it how you like it. Cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 160-165°F, and allow to rest for the juices to set. Here’s some basic cooking times to do so, but always defer to a meat thermometer to be sure:
- Bake skinless, boneless chicken breasts at 400°F for 18-22 minutes
- Grill over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
- Pan fry (depending on thickness) over medium heat for 18-22 minutes.
More Greek Recipes You’ll Love Too
- Easy Greek Chicken Kebabs
- Greek Turkey Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce
- Greek Salad with Avocado
- Easy Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce
- Pork Souvlaki with Lemon Rice
The Best Greek Chicken Marinade
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 large breasts)
- ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 lemons juiced and zest of one lemon
- 4-5 cloves garlic pressed or minced
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Place the chicken pieces in a freezer bag or a bowl and set aside.
- Add the Greek yogurt and olive oil to a medium size bowl. Zest one of the lemons and add to the bowl then juice that lemon into the bowl. Add the minced garlic, oregano, kosher salt and black pepper and stir. Pour half of the marinade into the freezer bag or the bowl with the chicken pieces and reserve the other half of the marinade for basting. Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours in the refrigerator.
- When ready to grill, prepare the grill by lightly oiling the grate with vegetable oil or cooking spray and set to medium high heat.
- Grill the chicken, basting with the reserved marinade and turning often so each side browns and has light grill marks, until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.
More Recipe Ideas to Add to This Greek Chicken to Make a Meal
Do you have a favorite side to serve with Greek chicken? Leave your recipe idea in the comments below, or here are a few to think about making too.
- Greek Pasta Salad with Artichoke Hearts and Cucumbers
- Healthy Greek Chickpea Salad
- Greek Zucchini Fritters
- Greek Salad with Barley
- Greek Yogurt Twice Baked Potatoes
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