Want to take your chicken dinner game to a whole new level of tender, succulent, and delicious?! The secret is in the marinade! I have the best chicken marinade recipe for you today. Made of whole milk yogurt, citrus, extra virgin olive oil, and loads of Mediterranean flavors from garlic, fresh herbs, and spices. This yogurt chicken marinade is easy to make and super versatile.
Chicken is a convenient, budget-friendly ingredient for many of us.
Every home cook has a couple go-to chicken recipes in her arsenal. But one can easily fall into a rut, making the same chicken dinner over and over.
And when it comes to chicken breasts, for example, many run into issues--not enough flavor, or way too dry (Confession: dry chicken breast is my biggest enemy because it can totally taste and feel like pressed sawdust!)
Time to foolproof the chicken dinner and take it to a whole new level of delicious...
The key to succulent, extra tender, flavor-packed chicken is in the marinade! And as far as good chicken marinades go, one secret ingredient makes a big difference: creamy whole milk yogurt.
You'll love how versatile this chicken marinade is. It's great for boneless chicken breasts (that's what I used in today's recipe and the video below). But you can use it on any cut of chicken you like.
For quick weeknight dinners--chicken gyros, for example--I often cook my yogurt-marinated chicken in a pan. But if you feel like grilling, or even baking, that will work too.
Why use Yogurt in Chicken Marinade?
With both meat and chicken (especially with chicken breasts), the job of a marinade is to tenderize, while adding flavor.
And, if you’ve been intimated or not sure where to start with marinades, yogurt is the answer.
Creamy, tangy yogurt acts as a great flavor carrier to all sort of herbs and seasonings. More importantly, because of its lactic acid and calcium content, yogurt works very gently to break down proteins so that the meat is super tender and juicy.
So, with a yogurt marinade, as opposed to a highly acidic or vinegar-based marinade, you don’t have to worry about chicken breasts getting tough or turning rubbery!
What’s in the BEST Chicken Marinade Recipe?
Let’s talk marinade magic! My chicken marinade has it all, plus it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Here’s what’s in it:
1. Marinade base: quality whole milk yogurt. I use 1 ½ cups of Stonyfield organic whole milk yogurt (link) from pasture-raised cows. This delicious creamy yogurt is a go-to for me. I love it in marinades, sauces, and I also use it in making my famous Labneh cheese (basically, the best homemade cream cheese!)
2. Citrus and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. These two support the yogurt in building the marinade base. For the citrus, I like to add juice of 2 citrus fruits (lemon or lime will work) and zest of 1 citrus fruit for extra punch.
3. Flavor Makers: Garlic, Spices, and Fresh Herbs. This is a bit of a Greek chicken marinade. As you can expect, loads of fresh garlic (the start of every good thing, in my opinion). Then we have oregano, dried mint and a foursome of warm spices: cumin, coriander, paprika, and nutmeg (just a pinch.) Finally, a generous portion of fresh parsley.
Make this marinade your own!
You can change up the combination of herbs and spices to your liking.
Start with the yogurt marinade base: whole milk yogurt, citrus, and extra virgin olive oil. From there, whisk in the combination of spices and fresh herbs you like
For example, if you have fresh basil or mint, use them instead of parsley. Remember, the finer you chop the fresh herbs, the more flavor they will impart to the marinade.
Want to give your chicken an Italian twist, try some fresh thyme and maybe a little rosemary. Going for a Moroccan vibe? Try a bit of Harissa or Ras El Hanout?
A lot of my Southern friends love heat. If that's you, feel free to adapt the yogurt marinade recipe by adding cayenne or Cajun spice instead.
You get the idea. Don't fall into a rut. Change things up whenever you need to!
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken?
The beauty of this chicken marinade is that it’s yogurt-based, which means it will work to tenderize the chicken in about 15 to 30 minutes. But, it’s safe to marinate your chicken in it for a few hours or overnight, which I highly recommend if you’re after big flavor.
What to Serve Along Yogurt Marinated Chicken?
There are lots of Mediterranean sides and salads that will work perfectly with yogurt marinated chicken! A few ideas:
Sides: pan fried brussels sprouts, baked zucchini sticks, Italian roasted veggies, and Greek lemon rice
Salads: Greek Salad, Balela Salad, 3-Ingredient Mediterranean Salad, or Tabouli
Dips: Toum Garlic Sauce, Classic Hummus, or Tztaziki (if you feel like more yogurt)
Watch the Video for How to Make this Chicken Marinade:
More Easy Chicken Recipes to Try:
Best Homemade Chicken Shawarma
You may also enjoy 50+ Top Mediterranean diet recipes. For all recipes, visit us here. JOIN MY FREE E-MAIL LIST HERE.Print
BEST Chicken Marinade Recipe (W/ Video)
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: Serves 6
Ready to take your chicken dinner to a whole new level of delicious? The secret to tender, succulent, flavor packed chicken is in this yogurt chicken marinade. Made with whole milk yogurt, citrus, and extra virgin olive oil, with loads of Mediterranean flavors from garlic, spices, and fresh herbs.
- 1 ½ cup Stonyfield Organic Whole Milk Yogurt
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil (I used Private Reserve Greek olive oil)
- 10 to 12 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp Dry Oregano
- 2 tsp Dry mint
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1 tsp Coriander
- 1 tsp Paprika
- ½ tsp Nutmeg
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Large handful fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 ½ lb boneless chicken breast cutlets (see notes)
- Prepare the yogurt marinade. Place yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl or large measuring cup like this one. Add garlic, dried oregano and mint, cumin, coriander, paprika, and nutmeg. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste (a large pinch to your liking). Finally, add in fresh chopped parsley.
- Give everything a good whisk or mix until the marinade is well combined.
- Marinate the chicken. Place chicken pieces in large (gallon size) zip-top bag. Pour the marinade on top. Zip the bag shut. Massage the bag so that the chicken is well-coated with the marinade. Place the bag on a baking sheet so that the chicken sits flat in a single layer in the bag. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight (if you don’t have the time, even 30 minutes will make a difference.)
- When ready, remove chicken from the bag, and before you cook it, give it just a bit of a shake to remove excess marinade. You have several options for cooking. In this recipe, I pan-seared the chicken (but you can grill or bake as well.)
- Pan-cooked chicken cutlets: Heat 2 to 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high until shimmering but not smoking. Add chicken tenders to the pan (make sure to shake off any excess marinade before adding chicken to the pan.) Cook on one side undisturbed for 5 minutes until browned. Using a pair of tongs, turn chicken over and cook on other side for another 5 minutes or until chicken is done.
- For grilled chicken breast cutlets: Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high and be sure to oil the grates very well. Grill chicken for 5 minutes on one side, then turn over and cook another 3 to 5 minutes or until chicken is fully done (internal temperature should register 165 degrees F.)
- For baked chicken breast cutlets: Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush a baking dish with some extra virgin olive oil (make sure there is enough oil so the chicken does not stick.) Arrange chicken in one single layer (do not crowd.) Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 10 minutes covered, then uncover and bake another 8 to 10 minutes or so. Watch carefully. This can take less or more time depending on the thickness of your chicken breast cutlets. Remove from heat. Let chicken breasts rest (cover with foil or another pan) for 5 minutes or so.
- Watch the video just above this recipe to see how I make my yogurt marinated chicken
- Cook's Tip #1: This marinade will work for 1 ½ to 2 lb chicken pieces of your choice, I used chicken breast here, but bone-in chicken will work as well. Cooking instructions above are meant for chicken breast cutlets, however.
- Cook’s Tip #2: if you have the time, do allow chicken to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. The lactic acid and calcium in the yogurt will gently break down protein in the meat to help tenderize it, while the minced garlic, spices and fresh herbs work to infuse the chicken with so much flavor.
- Prepare-Ahead Instructions: You can make the actual yogurt marinade 2 nights in advance. Keep the marinade refrigerated, preferably, in a tight-lid glass container until ready to use. You can use it to marinade chicken for a few hours or overnight.
- Nutrition information is based on yogurt marinate only. It will change depending on what cut of chicken you add. If you add 1 ½ lb boneless, skinless chicken, it will be 257 calories per serving (6 servings)
- Visit our Online Shop for our olive oils and all natural and organic spice collections.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Category: Entree
- Method: Mixed
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keywords: Best chicken marinade, yogurt marinade, chicken breast recipe, easy chicken
Looks delicious! Would this recipe be suitable for skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs?
This has become my kids' absolute favorite chicken recipe. They love it on the grill. Made it for kids party recently and they were practically inhaling it. I also love the flexibility of the recipe - you can modify the spices & when I've resorted to pan frying on the stove it's still a hit. It's now permanent part of our family menu & bbq favorites. Thanks, Suzy!
This was CRAZY good!! Thanks for all of the great recipes!
I made this recipe and followed the directions to the T. All worked out fine, but I opted to bake my chicken in the oven. I greased the pan as instructed, placed my chicken, covered my pan with tin foil and placed it in my 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, removed the tin foil and baked another 10 minutes. The problem was, after a total of 10 minutes, the chicken was floating in water, presumably from the yogurt since the chicken wasn't frozen and would not brown. I finally had to pull out my indoor grill and use it to get the chicken to brown. The dish did turn out very tender and tasty, so thank you for the recipe, but next time I'll choose another method of cooking. Thanks again.
Could you air fry this recipe? The same way you air fry other non yogurt chicken marinades? Thanks
Hello! Unfortunately, I don't have an air fryer, so I can't say. If you give it a try, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Hi Suzy! I've been following you for a year now and your recipes never disappoint! I look forward to your Sunday meal plan for the week, too. Thank you! A question regarding this chicken marinade recipe: I only have fresh mint. How much fresh converts to 2 tsp dry? Thank you!!
Hi, Gwen! Thank you so much for the kind words! Glad you find the meal plan helpful! Regarding the mint... I would go with 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint here. Hope that helps!
Can I substitute a dairy free yogurt in this recipe since I’m lactose intolerant?
Hi, Cindy! I don't have a good recommendation for a non-dairy substitute for the yogurt here, as it is the calcium and lactic acid that make the difference in this marinade. If dairy is an issue, you might try something more like the marinade in this recipe instead: https://www.themediterraneandish.com/mediterranean-grilled-chicken-dill-greek-yogurt-sauce/.
I have a dairy allergy and have found sheep milk yogurt as good as if not better than most store bought yogurt. Bellwether Farms makes an excellent product and dairy (cows milk) free.
Hello😊 This recipe sounds amazing, I can’t wait to try it with greek salad and your smashed feta roasted potatoes at the weekend! I’m just wondering to use chicken thighs, would you use boneless skinless thigh fillets or bone in skin on thighs?
Thank you in advance!
Hi, Victoria! Either will work just fine hear. I would just use whichever you prefer (or happen to have on hand).
Hi Suzy: I've been following you for several weeks now and have tried several of the recipes. All of them have been really good, and a nice change from old ones. I was definitely getting in a rut!
My main question is, will you be putting all your wonderful recipes into a cookbook we can order? I'd order several. One for me and others for gifts. I'm trying to eat more healthy style meals and your recipes are great. Keep up the good work! I've ordered the Exotic Spice Bundle and a make your own three bundle of your spices. Can't wait for them to get here!
Thanks for the cooking inspiration!
Hi, Barbara! You are so sweet! Thank you for supporting The Mediterranean Dish! Publishing a cookbook is my dream! Hopefully someday! I'll definitely keep y'all posted!
I made this last week and my husband grilled the chicken. It was phenomenal! The chicken was so tender and moist. You mention potentially using harissa in the marinade. How much would you use with the yogurt? (Its tour harissa recipe which is out of this world!)
Awesome, Kim! Thanks so much
This really is delicious. Made boneless chicken thighs and cook on the charcoal grill then served with tzatziki sauce.
I made this for family that came to visit, what a hit!! My Aunt said it’s to die for & she is right!! I will be making this all the time now! Thank you so much for sharing ?
So glad, Jennifer! Thanks so much for sharing
Would the marinade be good if I make some and freeze it?
Hi Cynthia, I would not advice freezing the marinade as it is yogurt-based. Is that what you are asking?
You can definitely freeze it. I use yogurt based marinades and freeze them.
Odd question here...where did you get the tray you put the chicken on, once it was in the zip lock bag? It looks very useful and versatile.
Hi there! Thank you. The tray was from a small antique shop
This was absolutely delicious! I didn’t have all the spices so I just substituted with what I did have. The yogurt makes the chicken tender and adds a lot of flavor. I will be making this often.
Wonderful, Megan! Thank you for sharing.
I made this because I wanted to try a different marinate as opposed to italian dressing. I didn't have the yogurt, so I used almond milk. I used bone-in chicken breasts and I cooked it in my air fryer. It was so moist and juice and FULL of flavor. This was one of the BEST marinades. I must admit, I used dried herbs (because thats what I had on hand) instead of fresh, but the flavor was phenomenol. All the herb flavors came through. Definitly a go to recipe from now on.?
Thanks for sharing your adaptations! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!
I made this as instructed in the recipe. It tasted so bland and like plain yogurt.
Hi Jennifer, sorry to hear this didn't work out as well for you. I am not sure what might have caused that. There is 10 to 12 minced garlic cloves and 6 or more different spices and dry herbs in this marinade. With just a bit of time in it, our chicken is usually filled with flavor. The only thing I can think of is perhaps the spices used may have been older and did not deliver the same flavor. Hard to say.
I always struggle with making a good chicken, but thanks to this recipe it never fails again! Always so soft and juicy! I cut the chicken breast in cubes, marinate for a couple of hours or a day and cook in the pan on medium heat. So delicious!
That sounds great, Iryna! Thanks for sharing your tip!
Can you use plain Greek Yogurt?
You might try that, Christina. But the consistency of whole milk yogurt here works really well in a marinade.
Wondering how well this would work for notorious tough cuts of beef i.e eye of round???
Thanks for this recipe. I'm a dedicated follower of your blog.
One question (atm, there will certainly be more 🙂 :
Do you have any suggestions what to do with the big amount of excess marinade?y
It tastes so good, hence it seems a shame to throw it away...
Hi there, this marinade is good for about 1 1/2 to 2 lb of chicken. There really is not a ton of excess for me (as you see in the video.) If you are using less chicken, you can cut the ingredients down proportionately.