Favorite Weeknight Chicken Marinade

Recipe By Tessa Arias
August 4th, 2014
5 from 1 vote
5 from 1 vote

My Favorite Weeknight Chicken Marinade is loaded with lemon, herb, garlic, and Dijon flavors and makes for perfectly light and juicy grilled chicken. Plus, learn how to make the perfect marinade with what you have on hand!

Yield: 1 recipe is enough for up to 1 1/2 pounds chicken, beef, or pork

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: I adore the flavor combination of Dijon, lemon, and herbs because it just tastes good with everything.
Texture: The chicken is so juicy and tender. No boring, bland, or rubbery chicken here!
Ease: Super easy. The marinade takes just minutes to make and can be used with ingredients that are likely already in your kitchen. You can use any cut of chicken you like, and even pork or beef!
Appearance: I love grilling chicken in the summer since it makes for such a beautiful plate presentation with those mouthwatering grill marks.
Pros: Fresh, healthy, easy, flavorful, and weeknight-friendly. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Cons: Absolutely none.
Would I make this again? Always!

*This post is sponsored by ACH Food Companies, Inc., the owners of Mazola Corn Oil. All opinions provided are my own.
Our all-time favorite weeknight chicken marinade made heart-healthy with Mazola Corn Oil! Perfect for summer grilling. #partner
So many of you have been asking that I share more weeknight recipes, so today’s post is all about creating easy, yet flavorful marinades. I’m deconstructing what elements make for a perfect marinade so you can get a flavorful dinner on the table with whatever you have on hand. Today’s recipe is for my all-time favorite weeknight chicken marinade, loaded with classic lemon, herb, garlic, and Dijon flavors. The best part about weeknight marinades is that they’re especially wonderful for grilling all summer long!

Favorite Weeknight Chicken Marinade

This recipe was developed through a partnership with Mazola Corn Oil. I was excited when they approached me and asked if I’d like to create some fun summer recipes using super versatile and heart-healthy Mazola Corn Oil. It’s perfect in marinades because it has a mild flavor so the marinade flavorings, such as garlic and herbs, can really shine. Plus, it has a high smoke point, making it wonderful for grilling. I was quite surprised to learn that Mazola Corn Oil has more cholesterol-blocking plant sterols than other cooking oils – even more than olive oil – and is a great source of healthy fatty acids. A recent study also found corn oil can lower bad “LDL” cholesterol more than extra virgin olive oil – a great bonus to cooking with corn oil! For more information, visit Mazola.com.

I love partnering with brands I truly enjoy to create more scrumptious recipes for you guys, so I hope you enjoy today’s recipe as much as I do! I also hope you learn a thing or two about creating homemade marinades. Be sure to check out Mazola on Facebook for new and heart-healthy recipes and special offers!

What are you firing up on the grill for this summer?

Marinades Deconstructed

Guide to Weeknight Marinades


Usually in the form of oil, fat helps emulsify everything together and adds flavor and richness. Some flavor ingredients are fat-soluble, so the fat truly helps transfer flavor into the meat/chicken/pork. Additionally, fat helps retain moisture, helps prevent food from sticking to the grill or the pan while cooking and protects the food from intense heat. Beyond oils, adding coconut milk or yogurt are other ways to incorporate fat into a marinade. Be sure to use heart-healthy oils like Mazola Corn Oil for everyday marinades.


Right beside fat, salt is crucial for a great marinade. Despite popular belief, salt is even more crucial than acid! It adds complexity and juiciness, and may be added in the form of kosher salt, sea salt, or even soy sauce. The best marinades border on brines in order to pack as much flavor and moisture as possible. Never leave out the salt!

Salt ratio:
About 1 teaspoon for 1 1/2 pounds chicken, beef, or pork
About 1/3 cup soy sauce for 1 1/2 pounds of chicken, beef, or pork


Acids, such as vinegar, wine, beer, yogurt, buttermilk, or citrus juices, help flavor penetrate the meat. They break down connective tissue and can help to slightly tenderize tougher cuts of meat. Acid also rounds out the flavor profile with an element of freshness, tanginess, or zing. Too much acid for too long can cause the chicken’s PH level to lower, causing the proteins to pack together. This results in a mushy, tough, and dry texture. To avoid this, add the acid to the chicken marinade just before cooking.

Fat to acid ratio:
About 3 to 4 parts fat to 1 part acid. With chicken, use less acid for less time.


Spices, herbs, and vegetables such as garlic, onion, ginger, or peppers allow you to create fun and interesting flavors for your marinades. Or you can add sweeteners such as honey or citrus zest, hot sauces, mustards, or other condiments such as Worcestershire sauce. The options are endless! Fresh ingredients are always more flavorful, but you can substitute pantry staples as needed.


The smaller and more tender the meat, the less time it needs to marinate. Fish only needs to marinade for 30 minutes. Beef and pork marinades with acidic ingredients are best when used for less than 8 hours. The less acid, the longer any type of meat can be marinated without negatively affecting the texture. Discard the marinade after using.


You can combine the meat, pork, or chicken with an acid-free marinade in an airtight container and immediately freeze. Store in the freezer for up to 6 weeks. Let thaw in the fridge overnight then add the acid component once thawed.

*This post is sponsored by ACH Food Companies, Inc., the owners of Mazola Corn Oil. All opinions provided are my own.

5 from 1 vote

How to make
Favorite Weeknight Chicken Marinade

Yield: 1 recipe is enough for up to 1 1/2 pounds chicken, beef, or pork
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Inactive time 4 hours 5 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
My Favorite Weeknight Chicken Marinade is loaded with lemon, herb, garlic, and Dijon flavors and makes for perfectly light and juicy grilled chicken. Plus, learn how to make the perfect marinade with what you have on hand!


  • 1/4 cup Mazola Corn Oil
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (6 ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


To marinate:

  1. Combine the Mazola Corn Oil, mustard, lemon zest, rosemary, thyme, garlic, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a freezer bag or other resalable container. Add the chicken, turning to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

To cook:

  1. Preheat the grill for direct cooking over medium heat.
  2. While the grill heats, remove the chicken from the marinade. Squeeze lemon juice over the chicken. Grill over direct heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the chicken is firm, opaque, with an internal temperature of 165°F, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from grill and let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

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Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Cookbook Queen — August 4, 2014 at 5:14 am

    Definitely trying this for dinner one night! 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — August 4, 2014 at 7:13 am


  2. #
    Cassie — August 4, 2014 at 6:22 am

    Great ideas, Tessa! I love using spicy mustard in marinades and dressings!

  3. #
    Gaby — August 4, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Adding this to the menu asap!

  4. #
    Julie @ Lovely Little Kitchen — August 4, 2014 at 7:27 am

    This is such a fabulous, informative post. Love it! Can’t wait to try your marinade soon!

    • #
      Tessa — August 4, 2014 at 10:25 am

      Thanks so much!!

  5. #
    Karlyk — August 4, 2014 at 8:27 am

    This sounds so amazing. I’m putting it on my menu for this week, for sure!

    • #
      Tessa — August 4, 2014 at 10:25 am

      Thanks Karly!

  6. #
    Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps — August 4, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Great weeknight dinner tips!

  7. #
    Shauna Altman — August 5, 2014 at 12:48 am

    I’m really trying to eat healthier and to prepare more meals at home. I just followed your blog, hoping that it will give me inspiration to get in the kitchen and cook! By the way, I found you via your chocolate chip cookie comparison picture. Brilliant! I’m one of those people who ask questions like, why do we need to chill the dough for two hours?

    • #
      Tessa — August 5, 2014 at 8:55 am

      Thank you! Glad to have you here, hope you enjoy all the recipes 🙂

  8. #
    Caroline @ chocolate & carrots — August 5, 2014 at 4:20 am

    I’m going to have to try this! Yum!

  9. #
    Kate — August 5, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Made this for dinner last night- it was awesome! The chicken was flavorful and juicy- a big hit with the whole family.

    • #
      Tessa — August 5, 2014 at 9:04 am

      That’s awesome!! Glad you enjoyed 🙂

  10. #
    Amanda — August 5, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Thank you so much for detailing what each item does!! Love this informative stuff and this recipe looks delicious. 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — August 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      Thank you – glad you found it useful!

  11. #
    Dana — August 20, 2014 at 11:34 am

    This is a great marinade. I used a lime. It’s what I had at home. I baked the chicken. It was very moist and flavorful.

  12. #
    Laura @ Relationship Helpers — January 26, 2019 at 10:22 am

    I’ve made this recipe so many times, I’ve lost count! I make it for family and I’ve made it for friends. It’s just so flavorful and it’s easy to prepare.

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