This ultimate Greek chicken marinade will take your chicken to the next level! With just six ingredients, this easy, flavorful blend of olive oil, lemon, garlic, and oregano creates tender and juicy chicken. Perfect for pan frying, baking, or grilling, this no-fuss marinade makes tender and juicy chicken perfect for salads to sandwiches.
Growing up in a Greek family and spending summers in Greece, my recipes are often inspired by the Mediterranean. Among the many delicious Greek dishes, the Greek-style marinade holds a special place in my heart with its delightful blend of lemon and garlic.
During my time at Chatelaine, I developed a range of Greek recipes, including a Greek meze appetizer platter where this chicken recipe took the spotlight.
Why this recipe works
What makes this recipe exceptional is the combination of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano, which works wonders for both chicken and pork.
When it comes to Greek cuisine, remember this golden rule: always add more garlic and lemon juice than you think you’ll need. Trust me, it makes all the difference!
Ingredients you’ll need
- This recipe is versatile and can be used on many different cuts of chicken like boneless skinless chicken thighs, chicken breast and even chicken wings.
- Extra virgin olive oil is the base of the marinade. Having a fat in your marinade is key as it helps the transfer of fat-soluble flavors onto the meat while retaining moisture. It also helps to balance the flavors, in particular the acid from the lemon and garlic in this marinade.
- Fresh lemon juice is the acid in the recipe, it helps to balance the flavors but also works to tenderize the meat. Because of the amount of acid in this recipe, it doesn’t need to marinate for too long. Avoid bottled lemon juice for this marinade, you want the real thing as it’s such a key component for the flavor.
- Garlic. And a lot of it! Garlic is a key ingredient in pretty much every Greek dish. Before I put the chicken on the grill, I’ll brush off a little bit of the excess garlic to avoid too much burning on the grill, but you do want a little bit of this charred flavor.
- Salt of course, another key ingredient to balance a marinade.
- Oregano is the herb I reach for often in Greek cuisine and it’s what I use for seasoning in this recipe, but you could also use thyme.
Frequently asked questions
On the island where my family is from (Kefalonia) we don’t use yogurt in our chicken marinades and this isn’t something I have seen done frequently in Greece.
Yes! This is exactly the marinade I use for souvlaki or grilled chicken (breasts, thighs etc.)u002du002dthey are great chopped up in salads as well!
Step by step instructions
It couldn’t be easier to make this chicken marinade then grill the chicken! While you can bake this chicken in the oven, I recommend grilling for the most authentic Greek flavor.
- In a glass bowl, measuring cup, or resealable freezer bag, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and oregano.
- Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, brushing off about half of the garlic from each thigh. Grill the chicken, covered, for 4-6 minutes per side or until it reaches 165°F. Serve with lemon wedges and tzatziki sauce for a delightful meal.
- This recipe uses a lot of garlic, and you may worry about it burning on the grill. The trick is to brush off about half the garlic before placing on the grill. This will allow you to have deep garlic flavor in the chicken but you won’t end up with an overwhelming amount of burnt garlic on the chicken.
- This marinade has a ton of acid and flavor which means the chicken won’t need to sit in the mixture for too long. I typically let it marinade for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Just before serving, sprinke a little bit of fresh lemon juice over the grilled chicken. This helps to brighten the flavors.
More Greek recipes
This recipe was originally published on June 13, 2017 and updated on July 23, 2023.