The Best Chicken Thigh Marinade
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Tenderize, lock in the juices, and infuse chicken thighs with mouthwatering flavor thanks to the BEST chicken thigh marinade recipe with soy sauce, lemon, honey, garlic, and other simple pantry ingredients!
Chicken thighs are one of my favorite low-fuss, high-flavor proteins to use in quick and easy, family-friendly dinners. Not only are they budget-friendly, but the darker meat and higher fat make them more flavorful than chicken breasts and harder to overcook. Yet they are still a lean and healthy protein. Now, with this chicken thigh marinade, you can grill (in under 12 minutes!), air fry, or bake the chicken for MAXIMUM flavor and juiciness.
Once cooked, enjoy these easy, inexpensive marinated chicken thighs in dozen of meals alongside rice, quinoa, mac and cheese, cornbread, a salad, grilled vegetables, baked potato, and more. It’s a versatile, family-favorite protein made even more popular with this BEST chicken marinade recipe!
Why You’ll Love This Chicken Thigh Marinade
- It’s simple to prepare: Mix it up in under 2 minutes or even make it in advance with basic pantry ingredients you likely already have on hand.
- The flavor is divine: It’s salty, slightly sweet, acidic, and umami-rich with optional spice for a well-balanced, deep, and complex flavor.
- It’s so simple to use: Just mix it up, marinate the chicken for between 30 minutes to 12 hours, cook (grill, bake, air fry, pan-fry), and enjoy. You can leave it to do all the work while at work or overnight for a super simple dinner protein.
- The results are to die for: This marinade for chicken thighs recipe will help you achieve perfectly tender, irresistibly flavorful, and SUPER juicy chicken thighs.
- It’s versatile: This marinade works just as well for chicken breasts and other chicken cuts, beef, pork, vegetables, etc.
Chicken Thigh Marinade Ingredients
- Olive oil: to help to lock in the chicken juices and make it moist.
- Soy sauce: for salty savoriness. Use regular or reduced-sodium, or tamari/coconut aminos if gluten-free.
- Sesame oil: this has a deeply nutty, toasty flavor that adds delicious depth.
- Worcestershire sauce: packed with sweet, savory, tangy, umami flavor.
- Lemon juice and zest: or lime juice – the acidity tenderizes and adds brightness.
- Honey: or brown sugar/maple syrup – for a subtle sweetness and extra caramelization.
- Garlic: highly aromatic. Minced works best, but garlic powder works in a pinch.
- Black pepper: for subtle heat and flavor.
You’ll also need chicken thighs. I used skin-on bone-in chicken thighs this time, but this marinade also works perfectly with boneless skinless chicken thighs.
What Else Could I Add to a Marinade for Chicken Thighs?
- Dried herbs: especially thyme, rosemary, and/or oregano, or Italian seasoning.
- Dijon mustard: just a little for some heat and tang. Yellow mustard will work too.
- Balsamic vinegar: instead of or with the lemon juice for complex, tangy depth.
- Chili/Cayenne pepper: or red pepper flakes/hot sauce for heat.
How To Make Homemade Chicken Thigh Marinade
First, mince the garlic, then zest and juice the lemon. Transfer them and the remaining marinade ingredients to a large baking dish/bowl or Ziplock bag (big enough to fit the chicken), and whisk/shake well.
Then add the chicken thighs, tossing to coat it well.
How Long Should I Marinate Chicken Thighs?
You can marinate the chicken thighs for a minimum of 30 minutes at room temperature or cover/seal and transfer them to the fridge to marinate for up to 12 hours.
For the best flavor, marinate it for 10-12 hours. Don’t marinate the chicken longer than 12 hours; this can over-tenderize the meat, making it mushy and unpleasant.
How to Grill Chicken Thighs
First, preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 400ºF/200ºC)/ prepare the charcoal BBQ, and liberally oil the grates.
Once ready, remove the marinated chicken thighs from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and place them in a single layer, flat-side down, onto the grill.
How Long to Cook Grilled Chicken Thighs?
Grill the chicken for 10-14 minutes (over direct heat), depending on the size and thickness, flipping once halfway.
The best way to check for doneness is to use a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat (avoid touching bones) to check the internal temperature. It should read 155-160ºF/68-71ºC.
Chicken is considered safe to eat at 165ºF/74ºC. By removing it from the grill 5-10 degrees early, the residual heat will cook it the rest of the way while it rests, so you can avoid dry/tough chicken.
Leave the marinated grilled chicken thighs to rest, tented loosely with foil for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
More Marinades and Seasoning Blends
If you try this best marinade for grilled chicken thighs, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
The Best Chicken Thigh Marinade
- 21 oz chicken thighs 5, I used bone-in, skin-on
For the Marinade
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce use regular or reduced-sodium; use tamari/coconut aminos if gluten-free
- 3 Tbsp honey or maple syrup/ brown suga
- 2 Tbsp olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil optional
- 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest from 1 lemon (or lime)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice from 1/2 lemon (or lime)
- 4 cloves garlic minced; or garlic powder
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Add the chicken thighs, tossing to coat them well.
- Marinate the chicken thighs for a minimum of 30 minutes at room temperature or cover/seal and transfer them to the fridge to marinate for up to 12 hours.For the best flavor, marinate it for 10-12 hours. Don't marinate the chicken longer than 12 hours; this can over-tenderize the meat, making it mushy and unpleasant.
How to Grill Chicken Thighs
- Once ready, remove the marinated chicken thighs from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and place them in a single layer, flat-side down, onto the grill.
- Grill the chicken for 10-14 minutes (over direct heat), depending on the size and thickness, flipping once hallway.The best way to check for doneness is to use a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat (avoid touching bones) to check the internal temperature. It should read 155-160ºF/68-71ºC.Chicken is considered safe to eat at 165ºF/74ºC. By removing it from the grill 5-10 degrees early, the residual heat will cook it the rest of the way while it rests, so you can avoid dry/tough chicken.
- Leave the grilled chicken thighs to rest, tented loosely with foil for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
- Don’t reuse the marinade: For food hygiene reasons, this grilled chicken thigh marinade should only be used once as the bacteria from the raw meat will have contaminated the marinade.
- To store the chicken marinade: You can meal prep this grilled chicken thighs marinade in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (add fresh herbs and garlic up to a day in advance) or in the freezer for 3 months.
- To freeze marinating chicken: Combine the meat and chicken marinade and freeze immediately. The chicken marinades while you thaw it in the fridge.
- Optionally reserve some marinade: Save some of the marinade (before marinating the chicken) to baste the meat while it cooks.
- Other marinade uses: This marinade for chicken thighs will work with other cuts of chicken (breasts, tenderloins, etc.), chicken skewers, other BBQ meats (like steak or seafood), and even grilled vegetables.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.