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Thanks to fresh lemon, garlic, thyme, and more, this bright and flavorful marinade completely transforms any cut of chicken. Use this Lemon Garlic Chicken the next time you need a zesty, healthy protein!
“This is the 2nd time I’m cooking this chicken recipe in 2 weeks. It’s that delicious. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️” – Anne Marie
Reasons You’ll Love This Recipe
- Flavor: The combination of lemon and garlic creates a delicious and savory flavor that is both tangy and robust. The chicken is infused with the flavor of the garlic and the tartness of the lemon, making it taste absolutely delicious. You will also like our Honey Mustard Chicken!)
- Versatility: Lemon garlic chicken is a versatile dish that can be cooked in many different ways, including baking, grilling, frying, or roasting.
- Health benefits: Chicken is a lean protein that is low in fat and high in nutrients, making it a healthy choice for anyone trying to eat a balanced diet.
- Ease of preparation: Like our Shrimp Scampi Pasta, lemon garlic chicken is an easy dish to prepare, with just a handful of ingredients and minimal prep time.
- Freezer-friendly: We love the time-saving, money-saving, sanity-saving benefits of freezer meals. Lemon Garlic Chicken is so easy to double and freeze one for later.
Marinating chicken is THE key to infusing flavor into typically lean, bland poultry cuts. This light and citrusy marinade only requires a few ingredients and yet turns that lackluster cut into something that makes your tastebuds sing.
The star ingredients of Lemon Garlic Chicken Marinade are…
- Fresh lemon juice and zest – Using a fresh lemon really is best!
- Olive oil – You can also use avocado oil
- Minced garlic – Adds a lot of flavor
- Fresh thyme – Here is a little hack on how to get thyme leaves off a stalk.
- Salt and Pepper – Pretty much in all of our chicken marinades!
How to Make Lemon Garlic Chicken Marinade
Place the marinade ingredients straight into a large Ziploc bag and give it a good shake. You could also mix the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and pour it over the chicken. Options galore!
Add the chicken to the ziplock bag with the marinade. Close securely and gently massage it into the meat. Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
Pro Tip: Double and freeze one for later. You’ll be so glad you have a Chicken Freezer Meal ready to go!
Can You Freeze Marinating Chicken?
Absolutely! We suggest using your time wisely by prepping a few freezer meals using this chicken marinade.
Like most of our chicken freezer meals, simply combine the ingredients (the marinade & the chicken) and freeze for later. No need to let the chicken marinate before freezing.
When you want to use it, let the chicken thaw one of these safe ways.
Ways to Cook Marinated Chicken
Chicken breasts are by far the most popular cut to marinate and cook, so we’re giving you several cooking options below. You can grill, bake, slow cook, or pressure cook your boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs).
Here are four easy ways to cook Lemon Garlic Chicken:
Bake in the Oven
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place chicken in a casserole dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken, until done.
Slow Cook in the Crockpot
Place chicken and marinade in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Really! That’s all it takes to get it done, otherwise, you’ll overcook and dry it out.
Here is a whole post about how long to cook chicken in the Crockpot if you’re interested!
Pressure Cook in the Instant Pot
Place chicken, marinade, and 1/3 cup chicken broth in a 6-quart Instant Pot. (Note: If using an 8-quart, add an additional 1/2 cup of broth.)
Lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes and use a quick release of the pressure when the cook time is up. (Note: It will take 10-15 minutes to come to pressure before the cook time starts.)
Grill the Chicken
Pound out the chicken to about 3/4 inch thick (or cut it in half lengthwise) to help with fast and even cooking.
Preheat grill to medium-high heat (400-450°F) and clean the grates well. Grill for 4-6 minutes per side, closing the lid in between flipping. The cook time may take a little longer, depending on the thickness of the chicken.
Ways to Use Lemon Garlic Chicken Marinade
There are many ways to use Lemon Garlic Chicken. Here are a few ideas:
- As a main dish: Lemon Garlic Chicken can be served as a main dish with a variety of sides, such as roasted vegetables, rice, quinoa, or salad.
- In sandwiches: Use sliced or shredded lemon chicken in sandwiches or wraps.
- In salads: Add the chicken to a green salad or a pasta salad to add protein and flavor. Try our Lemon Vinaigrette on top.
- In soups: Use the chicken in a chicken noodle soup or our Lemon Chicken and Orzo Soup to add a zesty flavor.
- In stir-fries: Add Lemon Garlic Chicken to a stir-fry with vegetables and noodles or fried rice for a quick and easy dinner.
- In pasta dishes: It would be a delicious addition to our Creamy Lemon Pasta or tossed with Chicken Pesto Pasta.
The ideal marinating time for chicken is anywhere between 2-24 hours. The specific time can depend on the type and cut of chicken, as well as the acidity level of the marinade.
Yes, over-marinating chicken can actually have a negative effect on the texture and taste of the meat. Acidic marinades, in particular, can break down the proteins in the chicken too much and leave it with a mushy texture.
Absolutely! As freezer cookbook authors, we especially love how easy it is to prep these chicken breast marinades ahead of time and freeze them to have on hand for another night. Every recipe includes freezing instructions, so you can double and freeze a batch anytime.
You shouldn’t reuse marinade but you can boil it to use safely as a sauce over your finished dish using these directions. I actually do this all the time.
To kill all the raw chicken germs, be sure to bring the marinade to a rolling boil in a pot on the stove for at least 1 minute, according to the CDC‘s directions for making water safe to drink.
The World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source notes that bacteria are rapidly killed at temperatures above 149°F (65°C), which is below that of boiling water or even a simmer. So rest assured you’ll be safe if you boil it well for 1 minute. We’d suggest straining it after boiling to remove any chicken pieces.
In our tests, we found that it’s best to marinate your chicken in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours and up to 24 hours. Less than 1 hour didn’t seem to infuse enough flavor into the chicken breasts and more than 24 hours (unless the chicken was frozen for part of that time) can cause them to become a bit mealy and mushy, especially if the marinade has a high acid content.
Yes, you can marinate frozen chicken. Go ahead and throw frozen boneless chicken breasts or thighs in a freezer bag with the marinade and stick the bag in the freezer until you’re ready. Or, place the bag of chicken and marinade in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours, until thawed completely.
Absolutely! All cuts of chicken can benefit from a dip in a marinade. So, these marinades work just as well for chicken thighs and bone-in chicken. Cooking time will vary from our recipes, however, since we direct you how to cook chicken breasts.
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- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Juice and zest of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves (sub: 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1/4 tsp ground thyme)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 – 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders
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Make It Now:
- Mix Up Marinade: Add the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper to a gallon-sized freezer bag, seal, and shake. Add chicken* to the bag, seal, and squish around to make sure the chicken is covered in marinade.
- Marinate Chicken: Place the bag in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. (Tip: Set the bag in a container to prevent any leaks.)
- Cook Chicken: Cook the chicken using one of these methods. The chicken is done when it reaches 165°F internally and/or is no longer pink inside.
- Bake in Oven: Preheat oven to 400°F. Place chicken in a casserole dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. (Tip: Spray the dish/sheet pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking.) Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes, until done. May take longer depending on the thickness of the chicken.
- Slow Cooker: Place chicken and marinade in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Really! That’s all it takes to get it done, otherwise, you’ll overcook and dry it out.
- Instant Pot: Place chicken, marinade, and 1/3 cup chicken broth in a 6-quart Instant Pot. (Note: If using an 8-quart, add an additional 1/2 cup of broth.) Lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes and use a quick release of the pressure when the cook time is up. (Note: It will take 10-15 minutes to come to pressure before the cook time starts.)
- Grill: *Before marinating, pound out the chicken to about 3/4 inch thick (or cut it in half lengthwise) to help with fast and even cooking. To do this, place one breast at a time inside a freezer bag and pound with the flat side of a meat mallet. Preheat grill to medium-high heat (400-450°F) and clean the grates well. Grill for about 4-6 minutes per side, closing the lid in between flipping, until done. The cook time may be longer depending on the thickness.
- Make Extra Sauce (optional): Instead of discarding the leftover marinade, place it in a small pot and bring it to a rolling boil on the stovetop for at least 1 minute. Watch closely so it doesn’t overflow. Strain it, if desired, and use as extra sauce over the cooked chicken.*
Freeze For Later: Follow step 1. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Prepare From Frozen: Thaw, using one of these safe thawing methods, and follow Step 3. No additional marinating time is needed once it is thawed!
How to Know If Chicken Is Done: Chicken is done when it reaches 165°F internal temperature. A digital meat thermometer is a must to help cook chicken perfectly! Another way to tell is if it has no more pink inside when you slice into the middle.
How to Safely Turn the Marinade Into Sauce: To kill all the raw chicken germs, be sure to bring the marinade to a rolling boil in a pot on the stove for at least 1 minute, according to the CDC. The World Health Organization (WHO) Trusted Source notes that bacteria are rapidly killed at temperatures above 149°F (65°C), which is below that of boiling water or even a simmer. So rest assured you’ll be safe if you boil it well for 1 minute. We’d suggest straining it after boiling to remove any chicken pieces.