When you are looking for an easy meal that packs a lot of flavors, prepare this Greek Chicken Marinade and use it to transform chicken into the most flavorful, juicy, tender Greek Chicken with minimal effort.
While delicious for chicken, this Greek Marinade can also be used on lamb, pork, beef, fish, or vegetables.
The Best Chicken Marinade
Chicken is a blank slate and when prepared without seasonings it is quite bland and boring.
But when you marinate chicken, something magical happens. The chicken absorbs the seasonings of the marinade, infusing every bite with flavor.
My all-time favorite marinade is this Greek Chicken Marinade. This simple chicken marinade is made with yogurt, fresh lemon juice, and classic Greek flavors. It works to both tenderize and flavor the chicken, leaving you with juicy, tender, perfectly seasoned Greek Chicken that comes together with minimal effort.
Notes on Ingredients
- Greek Yogurt: Dairy-based marinades, such as yogurt, are the BEST marinade to truly tenderize meats, as they break down the proteins to allow ultimate absorption of flavor. By using Greek yogurt, the chicken is broken down enough to become tender and to also absorb the lemon and oregano flavor easily, making for incredible Greek chicken. Use homemade Greek yogurt or store-bought. Just be sure it is plain and unsweetened, the fat content does not matter for this recipe.
- Lemons: Both the zest and the juice of lemons are used in this marinade. The lemon juice will help to add flavor and work along with the yogurt to tenderize the chicken.
- Oregano: Dried oregano is a classic ingredient in Greek cuisine. It is one ingredient that adds a lot of flavor, therefore little else is needed to be added to this marinade.
- Chicken While I love using this marinade on chicken breasts, it is also great on chicken thighs, chicken legs, and even chicken wings. You can opt to use boneless, skinless chicken or bone-in, skin-on chicken.
The Chicken Marinade
To prepare this Greek Chicken Marinade, mix together the yogurt, salt, oregano, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small mixing bowl or a large measuring cup.
One key tip is to be sure to zest your lemons before juicing--it is almost impossible to zest a lemon after it has been cut.
How to Marinate Chicken
To marinate chicken, of any cut, place the chicken into a large storage bag or shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the chicken and toss to coat. Cover the container or seal the storage bag and place it into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
It is important to note, you do not want to let the fresh meat sit in the marinade for longer than 4 hours, as the acid from the lemon and the yogurt work to break down the fibers of the protein. If left in the marinade too long, the meat will become mushy once prepared.
How to Cook Marinated Chicken
Once the chicken has been marinated, you can grill, bake, or pan-fry the chicken. Simply remove the chicken from the marinade, and discard the marinade. Cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and then let it rest for 10 minutes before eating to allow the juices to redistribute.
- Grilled Greek Chicken: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 375 degrees). Remove chicken from marinade and grill on each side until the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
- Chicken Breasts--5 to 6 minutes per side
- Chicken Thighs--8-10 minutes per side
- Chicken Drumsticks--8-10 minutes per side
- Baked Greek Chicken: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from marinade a place in 9x13 baking dish and bake until chicken reaches 165 degrees.
- Chicken Breasts--15-20 minutes
- Chicken Thighs--35-40 minutes
- Chicken Drumsticks--35-40 minutes
- Pan-Fried Greek Chicken: Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add in 1 tablespoon oil and remove chicken from marinade and wipe off excess marinade. Cook until browned one side and then flip the chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 6-8 more minutes or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
No! It is crucial you discard the marinade! You never, ever want to reuse a marinade used for raw poultry, as you don't want the raw poultry juices to be brushed on the cooked or semi-cooked chicken.
If you marinate the chicken longer than four hours, it will begin to turn to mush. Therefore, if you are not planning to cook the meat within 4 hours of placing it in the marinade, it is best to freeze the meat right in the marinade. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and plan to cook the chicken within 24 hours of placing the frozen chicken in the refrigerator.
No! The flavoring of the yogurt will change the flavor of the chicken and the sugar content in flavored yogurt will also make the chicken taste overly sweet.
Absolutely! I love adding up to 1 tablespoon of minced garlic. It adds a ton of flavor.
Yes! I recommend freezing chicken directly in this Greek marinade. Simply place the chicken in 1-pound increments in freezer-safe storage bags and use ½ cup of the marinade for every pound of meat. Tightly seal the bag, toss to coat, and freeze immediately for up to 1 month. To use, place the bag of marinated chicken in the fridge to defrost overnight. As the chicken defrosts, the marinade works to flavor the chicken. Just be sure to cook the chicken within 24 hours of placing the meat in the refrigerator for best results.
Absolutely! This Greek Marinade is also delicious when used to marinate lamb, pork, beef, fish, or vegetables.
Make it a Meal
- Use the chicken marinade to prepare grilled Greek chicken, then slice it up and serve on top of a Greek salad or Mediterranean Chickpea Salad.
- Use the cooked marinated chicken to prepare Chicken Gyros.
- Serve the marinated, cooked Greek Chicken with a side of Greek Quinoa Salad or Mediterranean Couscous.
- Grill the marinated chicken alongside Vegetable Kabobs for an easy, wholesome meal.
If you enjoyed this easy Greek Chicken Marinade, I would love for you to leave a comment and a review below.
Greek Chicken Marinade
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 pounds chicken (breast, thighs, or legs)
- In mixing bowl or cup, add the yogurt, salt, and oregano.
- Zest the lemon, adding to the yogurt mixture. Once the lemon is zested, roll on the counter to get the juices flowing and then cut open, juicing the lemon over the yogurt mixture, using a strainer to catch the seeds.
- Mix together the yogurt mixture until well combined.
- Place two pounds of chicken into a large storage bag and pour the marinade over the chicken. Seal the bag and use your hands to massage the marinade into the chicken. Alternatively, place the chicken and marinade in a shallow container and toss to coat.
- Place the chicken into the refrigerator and let the chicken marinate anywhere from 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before cooking.
- Remove chicken from the fridge and let come to room temperature 15-20 minutes before cooking.
To Cook Greek Chicken
- To Grill Chicken: Grill over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes per side for chicken breast, 8-10 minutes for chicken thighs or drumsticks, or until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes before eating.
- To Bake Chicken: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place marinated chicken in a baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes for chicken breast, 35-40 minutes for thighs or drumsticks. Let rest for 10 minutes before eating.
- To Pan Fry Chicken: Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Once very hot, remove chicken from marinade, scraping off excess marinade (so it will not splatter in oil). Cook until browned one side (3-4 minutes for breast, 5-7 minutes for chicken thigh or drumstick.) Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 6-8 more minutes (depending on thickness and cut of chicken), or until chicken is cooked to 165 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes before eating.
- This recipe for a Greek marinade is for 1.5 to 2 pounds of meat. While chicken pairs perfectly with the flavors of this marinade, you can use it for lamb, pork, or beef as well.
- Be sure yogurt is plain and unsweetened, the fat content does not matter for this recipe.
- If you are not planning to cook the meat within 4 hours of placing it into the marinade, it is best to freeze it immediately. As long as you cook the chicken within 24 hours of placing the frozen chicken in the refrigerator to defrost, you will have success.
This post was originally published in 2018 but has been updated in 2020 with new pictures and a new video.