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Want to up your grilling game? Use this recipe for the best grilled chicken marinade to make your grilled chicken super juicy and flavorful and wait for the compliments to roll in! 

Close up of grilled chicken pieces on a stoneware plate.

It’s grilling season! It’s time to load up the grill with burgers, brats, and chicken and make batch after batch of easy potato salad, Italian pasta salad, and creamy grape salad.

It’s also time to trade in our air fryer chicken tenders and easy chicken chili for summery grilled chicken.

But we’ve probably all had bad grilled chicken, right? You know what I’m talking about: chicken that is super dry and kind of flavorless, aside from a few grill marks. 

This year, we’re avoiding all of that by turning to the best grilled chicken marinade. This stuff is simple to make and results in tender, juicy, flavorful chicken.

All of your cookout guests are going to be asking for this recipe! 

A grilled chicken drumstick and thigh arranged on a plate next to grilled corn and coleslaw.


A marinade is a flavorful – often acidic – liquid that is used to soak meats before cooking them.

Most marinades are made with either an acid, such as vinegar or citrus juice, or an enzyme, such as pineapple or yogurt. These ingredients are combined with herbs and spices for tons of flavor. 

As the meat soaks in the marinade, the acid actually breaks down some of the tissues in the meat. This allows the moisture to be absorbed, which in turns makes the final product juicier and more flavorful.

Chicken is a very popular meat to marinade. Because chicken must be cooked all the way through and does not contain much fat, it can easily become dry. Using a marinade helps keep the chicken moist and juicy and delicious.

This recipe is for a super simple but super flavorful grilled chicken marinade. The sugars in the marinade get nice and caramelized during grilling, and the meat ends up with tons of flavor. In fact, I think it’s just about the best grilled chicken marinade you could make! 

Overhead view of several pieces of grilled chicken on a platter, surrounded by various veggie sides.


One of the things that makes this the best grilled chicken marinade is that it uses really straightforward ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen. But there is so much depth of flavor, no one would guess the ingredient list was so simple! 

Marinade ingredients

To make this grilled chicken marinade, you will need:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard 
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme 
  • Dash of your favorite hot sauce
  • Salt/pepper to taste
Ingredients for the best grilled chicken marinade arranged on a gray countertop.

In the case of this recipe, soy sauce and red wine vinegar make up the majority of the acidic component. Worcestershire sauce and dijon mustard are also acidic and really round out the flavor of the marinade.

Brown sugar adds a bit of sweetness and helps create a beautiful caramelization on the grilled chicken. Garlic, thyme, and hot sauce all add lots of flavor. 

I recommend using low-sodium soy sauce so that you can control the final amount of salt in the recipe. Trust me, low-sodium soy sauce is still plenty salty! 

If you don’t like hot sauce, feel free to leave it out. Or add a few dashes if you like a spicier marinade! 

Ingredients for the best grilled chicken marinade in a small bowl set next to a whisk.

Making this recipe

Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Before using the marinade, give it a taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

This recipe makes enough marinade for 2 pounds of chicken. You can use any cuts of chicken you like; I like to poke my chicken all over with a fork before adding the marinade.

Pour the marinade over your desired cuts of chicken in a zip-top bag. Close it up, removing as much of the air as possible.

Whisking together ingredients for the best grilled chicken marinade in a white bowl.

Let the chicken rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes or up to 8 hours. The longer it marinates, the more flavorful the chicken will be.

When it’s time to grill, take the chicken out of the marinade and grill until cooked through. 

If you’d like, you can reserve some of the marinade for basting the chicken while grilling, but make sure any of the basted marinade cooks thoroughly since it previously touched raw meat.

Raw chicken covered with the best grilled chicken marinade in a zip-top bag.


A great thing about using the best grilled chicken marinade is that you can use any cuts of chicken that you like, such as breasts or thighs, tenders, or drumsticks. You can even choose between bone-in or boneless/skinless chicken breasts or thighs.

Grill cuts of chicken over medium-high to high heat. How long it takes to cook the chicken to the correct internal temperature (165°F at the thickest part of the meat) varies depending on the cut, though.

Several pieces of chicken being grilled in a grill pan.

In general, here are some time ranges to keep in mind:

Bone-in breast10-15 minutes
Boneless breast6-8 minutes
Bone-in thighs10-15 minutes
Boneless thighs6-8 minutes
Drumsticks8-12 minutes
Wings8-12 minutes
Bite cut from a grilled chicken drumstick on a stoneware plate next to corn and slaw.

Don’t forget that many things can affect the exact amount of time it can take to grill your chicken, especially if you are grilling outside where the weather is an added factor.

Use more direct heat for boneless chicken and more indirect heat for bone-in pieces or really meaty pieces.

The best way to know when your chicken is done is to use an instant-read thermometer. The chicken is done when the thickest part of the meat reads 165°F.

Whether you prefer drumsticks or boneless chicken breasts, use this recipe for the best grilled chicken marinade to ensure your grilled chicken is perfectly delicious every single time. Serve it up alongside your favorite grilling sides or with a strawberry spinach salad or greek orzo salad for one satisfying meal.

Stoneware plate piled with pieces of grilled chicken. Plates of side dishes are visible in the background.
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The Best Grilled Chicken Marinade

By: Jamie
4.56 from 43 ratings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Marinating Time: 4 hours
Total: 4 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 6
Want to up your grilling game? Use this recipe for the best grilled chicken marinade to make your grilled chicken super juicy and flavorful and wait for the compliments to roll in!


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or grated
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme
  • Dash of your favorite hot sauce
  • Salt/pepper to taste


  • Combine all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together well combined. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired.
  • Pour the marinade over 2 pounds of chicken (see note) in a zip-top bag, removing as much air as possible.
  • Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
  • When ready to grill, remove the chicken from the marinade. If desired, reserve some of the marinade for basting the chicken while grilling, making sure to let any basted marinade cook thoroughly.



I recommend using reduced sodium soy sauce to allow you to better control the salt content of the marinade.
You may use your favorite cut of chicken with this marinade: breasts or thighs (bone-in or boneless, skinless or skin-on), tenders, or drumsticks.
To get the most out of your marinade, try poking the meat all over with a fork before placing in the marinade.
Grilling times will vary depending on the cut of chicken you are using, anywhere from 6-8 minutes per side for boneless breasts to 10-15 minutes per side for bone-in breasts or thighs. Make sure all cuts are cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F at the thickest part of the meat.


Calories: 112kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Sodium: 513mg, Potassium: 105mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 16IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 19mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. Lisa says:

    I made this tonight marinating chicken thighs and breasts for about 90 mins. I gripped sit on the Blackstone with zucchini and eggplant. Amazing flavor!! The picture of your drumsticks were the lure, but the marinade was the absolute bait! Great recipe!! Thank you.

    1. Jamie says:

      So happy to hear this! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your feedback. Happy baking!

  2. Scott says:

    5 stars
    If you make drumsticks although 165 degrees is safe they are more tender and less stringy if you cook them between 180 and 190

    1. Jamie says:

      Great tip, Scott! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Mohammad shahzada says:

    Can I broil instead of grilling?

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi there! You honestly can cook the however you like best after marinating – I just happen to like the way this marinade gets kind of caramelized when you grill it. You could definitely try broiling though if that’s how you like cooking your chicken!

  4. Michael Mcglasker says:

    Can you bake the marinaded chicken in an oven?

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi Michael – Yes, you for sure could! It just won’t get that lovely char that you get from grilling. Happy baking –

  5. Carol says:

    Can I make the marinade a day ahead or freeze chicken in marinade? I want to take it camping.

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi Carol! I don’t typically recommend freezing in a marinade, as the acid in the marinade can cause the meat to take on a “mushy” texture. You could put it in the marinade the night before you plan to leave and make it your first night there, though! Hope this helps –

    2. Cheryl says:

      @Jamie, I made this recipe and froze it and the chicken came out fantastic not mushy at all. When you freeze chicken in marinate it stops the break down process. I’ve been doing it successfully for years. The trick is to get all the air out of the bag before you freeze it. This recipe is fantastic, lick your plate clean good!!!

    3. Jamie says:

      Thanks for that tip, Cheryl! Thanks for stopping by and sharing – happy baking!