Grilled Chicken Breast
This Grilled Chicken Breast is incredibly juicy and tender thanks to an easy marinade flavored with fresh lemon, Dijon, and herbs. It’s cooked on a gas grill for caramelization and flavor. It’s fantastic on its own, or can be served with Chimichurri or Mango Salsa.
I’m a firm believer that grilled meats are the best meats of all, and no joke, I grill every single day. While a Grilled Ribeye is my favorite meat of all, my kids love this grilled chicken breast the most out of any grilled meat I make.
What’s Great About this Recipe:
✅ Unbelievably juicy – The marinade really flavors and plumps up the chicken breast, and gives you a wonderfully juicy and tender meat. No dry chicken here!
✅ The marinade time is flexible – You can marinate the meat for as little as 30 minutes or as long as 24 hours, and I’ll give you tips for how to tweak the marinade to adjust to different times and your schedule.
✅ The marinade is substitution friendly – I share ideas below for changing out herbs and ingredients for the marinade, so it’s easier to use what you have on hand.
A Simple Marinade Does Wonders
For your grilled chicken marinade, you’ll need olive oil, lemons, garlic, Dijon mustard, dried thyme, salt, and pepper:
The marinade does double duty here, and is important for both flavor and juiciness. These ingredients will give you the most classic flavor, but you can make substitutions here as well.
Substitution Ideas for the Marinade
Lemon juice – Limes are fantastic with chicken, and you can swap out an equal amount for the lemon juice.
Thyme – You can substitute dried oregano, rosemary, basil, or parsley here, or even do a mix. I like to use dried herbs for convenience, but you can also use fresh. Just double the amount used.
Dijon mustard – If you’re not a fan of mustard, feel free to swap in soy sauce, coconut aminos, balsamic vinegar, or a half amount of Worcestershire sauce.
Olive Oil – You can also use avocado oil here if you prefer, though I like the flavor of olive oil more.
Tips for Buying the Best Meat
✅ Buy quality chicken without added solutions – Look for air chilled chicken with no retained water. Yes, the low-quality chicken that’s injected with a solution of salt water and additives is cheaper, but it never tastes as good.
✅ Buy smaller chicken breasts – If possible, stay away from gigantic pieces of chicken breast, as they tend to be tougher and more difficult to cook evenly. I recommend buying the smallest breast pieces you see. As a rule of thumb, the three pieces of meat I have here weighed 1.25lbs total.
If you can’t get smaller breast pieces that are less than 1″ thick, you will need to either pound them out flatter with a rolling pin, or slice through the middle to turn them into cutlets, which are just thin-cut chicken breasts. It’s easier to start with smaller pieces of meat from the beginning. The ones I bought here didn’t need any pounding or prep at all.
Step by Step Guide:
Prepare the marinade
In a ziptop plastic bag, make the marinade by combining olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, dried thyme, salt, and pepper:
Shake it all together, then add the raw chicken breasts to the bag, making sure to squeeze out all the air and tightly seal the top.
Why a plastic bag for marinating instead of a bowl?
Using a bag allows you to squeeze the air out and fully immerse all sides of the chicken in the marinade. This also allows you to use less marinade and avoid wasting ingredients.
Marinating Time Guidelines:
If you have an hour: This is the perfect amount of marinade time, and how this recipe was developed. In this case, leave the chicken at room temperature, not in the refrigerator. The FDA says that meat can rest safely on the counter for up to 2 hours, and letting it sit at room temp will give you a more tender and evenly cooked end result. It’s the same idea with this Glazed Spiral Ham and why it’s so good. A warmer starting temperature means less cooking which means less drying out the meat.
If you only have a half hour: the same applies as above. This the absolute minimum for marinating, and will be slightly less flavorful and tender than one hour, but I’ve done it.
If you want to marinate overnight: The chicken needs to be stored in the fridge in this case. Reduce the lemon juice by half, otherwise the meat will become overly tenderized by the acidity. Leave the chicken at room temperature an hour before cooking.
Time to Cook!
Preheat all three burners on a gas grill on high for at least 10 minutes, which should give the grill an internal temp of at least 600F (after you start cooking and opening/closing the lid, it should hover more around 400F, which is perfect).
Turn the heat down to medium and place the marinated chicken breasts on the grates:
Close the lid, and let cook for 2 minutes, then turn the chicken breasts 90 degrees to give cross grill marks on the same side, and close the lid for another 2 minutes.
Check underneath that there is some good caramelization on the bottom, then flip the breasts over.
Repeat this cooking pattern on the other side. Close the lid and let cook for 2 minutes, then turn them 90 degrees, and cook for 2 more minutes.
At this point, the meat should be about done. Check the internal temperature using a thermometer (affiliate). The recommended internal temperature is 165F, but because carryover cooking will raise the internal temperature a few degrees after removing the meat from the heat, I pull it off the grill if it’s at least 160F. Here my 162F is perfect!
Let the chicken rest on a wire rack or plate for at least 5 minutes, then it’s ready to slice and enjoy.
FAQ and Tips
Place in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Yes, chicken freezes beautifully! Store in an airtight container to prevent the meat from absorbing off-flavors, up to 2 months.
The microwave is easiest, and 60 seconds for each breast is a good guideline. With all meats, I like to heat at 70% power. This also tastes pretty good eaten cold, cut up in a salad.
Suggested Sides for This Recipe
- Rice Pilaf – Simple but delicious pairing that stores well.
- Red Potato Salad – A classic side for poultry that can be made ahead of time.
- Cilantro Lime Rice – Put lime in the marinade instead and pair it with this rice!
- Corn and Avocado Bean Salad – A hearty side that can also be mostly made ahead.
- Quinoa Cakes – A fancier option which will elevate the dish.
Grilled Chicken Breast
For the Marinade*:
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice**
- 1 tbsp pressed or minced garlic (4 large cloves)
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp dried thyme
For the Grilled Chicken:
- 3 small chicken breasts (totaling 1.25lbs)
- In a gallon-sized ziptop bag, combine all of the marinade ingredients, swishing them around to mix well.
- If the chicken breasts you're using total 1.25lbs, they will likely be under 1" thick, which is perfect. If yours are not, or if you're using larger breast pieces, pound them with a rolling pin or meat mallet to under 1" thickness.
- Place the chicken breasts in the marinade bag, squeezing all the excess air out. Toss them around in the bag to coat in the marinade, then let sit at room temperature for one hour***. Make sure they are resting on the counter in a single layer, without the breasts on top of each other.
- Preheat all 3 burners of a gas grill over high heat for at least 10 minutes, which should get the internal temperature to at least 600F (once you open the lid and start cooking, it will likely hover around 400F, which is perfect).
- Add the chicken breasts to the grill, close the lid, and let cook for 2 minutes.
- Open the lid, and turn the meat 90 degrees, cooking on the same side for another 2 minutes. This creates grill marks and caramelization going the other way.
- Flip the chicken over, and repeat on the other side, cooking for 2 minutes with the lid closed, then turning 90 degrees, and cooking for 2 more minutes, lid closed.
- Check the internal temperature of the breasts using a thermometer. It's done when it's 160F or above, as it will rise about 5 more degrees from carryover cooking. If the chicken is not 160F, flip the pieces over again (to the first side) and cook for another 2 minutes, lid closed, and check again.
- Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
- Lemon juice – Try an equal amount of lime juice.
- Thyme – You can substitute dried oregano, rosemary, basil, or parsley here, or even do a mix. I like to use dried herbs for convenience, but you can also use fresh. Just double the amount used.
- Olive Oil – You can also use avocado oil here if you prefer.
- Dijon mustard – If you’re not a fan of mustard, feel free to swap in soy sauce, coconut aminos, balsamic vinegar, or a half amount of Worcestershire sauce.
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.