Made with yogurt, lemon juice, and oregano, this simple Greek marinade is perfect for chicken, pork, or lamb. The yogurt helps to tenderize the meat and the simple flavors add flair to the dish.
My favorite way to use this Greek Marinade is to prepare Greek Chicken. The chicken absorbs the flavor of this simple marinade, leaving it juicy, tender, and full of flavor. It is a delicious and easy way to prepare chicken breasts or chicken thighs and pairs perfectly with a Greek Salad.
In my book, the key to delicious grilled meat is the marinade.
Especially when it comes to chicken. Chicken, especially grilled chicken, can easily become tough and dried out.
But the secret to juicy, tender, flavorful grilled chicken is a marinade.
And this Greek marinade works magic on chicken, not only because of the delicious Greek flavors but the Greek yogurt is the secret to really juicy, flavorful chicken.
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. Trust me, this marinade is a game-changer when it comes to flavorful, juicy, grilled chicken.
- Greek Yogurt: 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.
- 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.
- Salt: Salt is key to bringing out the flavor of the marinade.
- Meat: While I love using this marinade on chicken breasts, chicken thighs, lamb, pork, and even beef are all great options.
How to Prepare Greek Marinade
This marinade is as simple as mixing together the zest and juice of the lemon with the Greek yogurt, salt, and oregano.
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. And to get the most juice out of a lemon, a great hack is to microwave it for 30 seconds and then use a juicer or a beater from a handheld mixer to extract the juice.
How to Use Marinade
This simple marinade can be for any variety of meat, but my preference is to use to make Greek chicken.
Regardless of the meat you select, 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.
To marinate chicken or any protein, place in a large storage bag and pour the marinade over the chicken and toss to coat. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
NOTE: If you are not planning to cook the meat within 4 hours of placing in the marinade, it is best to freeze the meat right in the marinade. When defrosting chicken, as long as you cook the chicken within 24 hours of placing the frozen chicken in the refrigerator to defrost, you will have success.
How to Prepare Greek Chicken
Using this marinade on Chicken is MAGIC! The chicken absorbs the flavor perfectly and stays tender and juicy. Not to mention is it great to use to serve alone, or sliced up and served on top of a Greek salad or Mediterranean Chickpea Salad.
Once marinated, you can grill, bake, or pan-fry the chicken. You will want to cook 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.
Meal-Prep and Freezer Instructions
Freezing chicken (or any meat) directly in this Greek Marinade is a great hack for easy meal prep.
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, or pork or beef, within 24 hours of placing the meat in the refrigerator for best results. Remember, you do NOT want the meat sitting fully defrosted in the marinade for over 4 hours. When defrosting chicken, as long as you cook the chicken within 24 hours of placing the frozen chicken in the refrigerator to defrost, you will have success.
More Greek Favorites
- Greek Quinoa Salad
- Mediterranean Chicken and Rice Skillet
- Spinach Frittata
- Mediterranean Couscous
- Easy Chicken Gyros
When you are looking for an easy, flavorful meal, whip up this simple Greek marinade and use it for chicken. You are guaranteed to have juicy, tender, flavorful Greek chicken with minimal effort.
Greek Chicken Marinade
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 pound chicken or lamb, pork, or beef
- 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 over the marinade. Seal the bag and use hands to massage the marinade into the chicken.
- Let the chicken marinate anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours (in the refrigerator) 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 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.