These charcoal grilled chicken breasts are incredibly moist and flavorful! Make one of these chicken breast marinades for grilled chicken that’s anything but boring!
Chicken is a staple in our house, probably because it’s one of the cheapest and most versatile proteins out there. But, it can also be boring.
If you’ve ever had boiled chicken breasts, then you know what I’m talking about.
So since chicken breasts are pretty bland, it’s important to add flavor where you can. And that’s were a really great chicken marinade comes in!
We often buy a family pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 5-6 lbs) and cook the entire pack at one time. Then we already have grilled chicken breasts ready to add to a variety of dishes throughout the week. It really simplifies dinner time on weeknights, and with just a few different marinades, you can make completely different dishes with your pre-grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts.
Here are 3 of the best marinades for grilled chicken breasts:
The BEST Marinades for Grilled Chicken Breasts
Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken Marinade
This is one of my family’s favorite marinades for grilled chicken breasts, because it’s packed with flavor and just the right amount of sweetness. This honey lemon garlic marinade is perfect if you’re making chicken breasts to add to salads or lunch wraps, or it’s great if you’re just going to be eating charcoal grilled chicken right off the grill.
To make this grilled chicken breast marinade, add these ingredients to a medium bowl and mix well:
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic – I like to use the kind in a jar because it’s easier.
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 teaspoon greek seasoning (or similar seasoning of your choice) – I LOVE Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning! It’s probably one of the most used seasonings in my spice cabinet.
- dash of salt and pepper
Then, add about 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts to the bowl, and let marinate for 2-4 hours in the refrigerator. You DO NOT want to marinate your chicken breasts with this marinade for longer than 4 hours, because the acid from the lemon juice will start to cook the chicken. No good!
Mexican Grilled Chicken Marinade
Another one of our favorite grilled chicken breasts marinades is this Mexican flavored one. We use the Mexican grilled chicken from this marinade to make fajitas, chicken tacos, chicken and cheese quesadillas, and Mexican grilled chicken salads.
To make the Mexican Chicken Marinade, place about 2 pounds of chicken breasts in a medium bowl, and sprinkle these ingredients on top of the chicken:
- Taco seasoning – Old El Paso is my favorite!
- chili powder
- smoked paprika
- red cayenne pepper (optional) – You can leave it out if your kids don’t like spicy foods.
- 3 tablespoons avocado oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
*I didn’t use precise measurements for the spices, but just be sure to sprinkle on a light, even layer of taco seasoning, chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. You can watch the YouTube video at the end of this post to see exactly how much of the spices that I used in the marinade.
Greek Chicken Marinade
If you love Greek salads, then you will LOVE this Greek Chicken Marinade.
Combine these ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix well:
- 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- zest from 1/2 a lemon
- 1 teaspoon greek seasoning – My favorite is Cavendar’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning!
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 sprigs of Greek oregano, finely chopped
- 1/2 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
- dash of salt and pepper
*If you don’t have access to fresh herbs, you can also use dried oregano and rosemary. I just prefer the bright flavors that fresh herbs add to this grilled chicken breast marinade.
You can also add about 1 teaspoon of dill to this marinade for a little extra zing. Plus, dill is a great compliment to other Greek dishes and condiments like tzaziki sauce.
How to Make the BEST Charcoal Grilled Chicken Breasts
1. Prep your boneless skinless chicken breasts.
Chicken breasts right out of the package are usually not very uniform in thickness, so you will need to do a bit of prep work to get them ready for the grill. I typically cut each chicken breast about 2/3 of the way down, or wherever the breasts starts to get thinner.
Then, I take the fatter part of the breast and cut it in half lengthwise… kind of like butterflying it, but cutting all the way through the meat to make two separate pieces. So, each whole chicken breast should be cut into 3 pieces (the thinner “tail” part and the two pieces from the fatter part of the breast).
This method should give you chicken breast pieces that are uniform in size so that all of the pieces will cook pretty evenly on the charcoal grill. Also, by cutting your chicken breasts instead of marinating them whole, you’re creating more surface area for the marinade, which will give your grilled chicken more flavor.
2. Marinate your boneless skinless chicken breasts.
After you’ve cut your chicken breasts into uniformly sized pieces, it’s time to marinate them. Pick one of the grilled chicken marinades above, or you can make a few different chicken marinades and cook chicken for a whole week’s worth of meals at one time, like we did.
Add all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl, add the raw chicken breasts, and combine so that your chicken is completely covered in marinade. Then, refrigerate the chicken breasts. If you’re using a marinade with acid, then don’t let your chicken breasts sit in the marinade for longer than 4 hours. We marinated our charcoal grilled chicken breasts for about 3 hours, which was perfect.
3. Start your charcoal grill.
When your chicken breasts are almost done marinating, go ahead and start your charcoal grill.
I spread about a chimney’s worth of charcoal in an even layer at the bottom of my kettle grill, and once the coals were hot, I added a few hickory chips to the charcoal. Adding the hickory chips does 2 things: 1) obviously adds an extra layer of flavor and 2) the wood chips should catch on fire, which helps to add a nice char to the charcoal grilled chicken breasts.
4. Put chicken breasts on the grill.
Place your chicken breasts on the grill, and close the lid with all the grill vents open. This should give you a hot and fast cook. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken, and then flip.
4. Cook your charcoal grilled chicken breasts until done.
Once you’ve flipped your chicken breasts, you may notice that some appear to be darker than others. The darker pieces are probably on a hotter area of your grill, so you can switch those with pieces that are lighter in color, so that all of the chicken cooks evenly.
Cook your chicken breasts until done. You should cook your chicken breasts to an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees. And always be sure that the juices from your chicken breasts run clear when you cut into them.
5. Remove charcoal grilled chicken breasts from the grill and let them rest before serving.
Just like any grilled meat, you should let your grilled chicken breasts rest before cutting into them. A good 5-10 minutes should be fine.
Then, you can serve your charcoal grilled chicken breasts “as is” with your favorite side dishes, or add the chicken to salads, wraps, sandwiches, etc.
If you’re going to grill a bunch of chicken breasts at one time to use throughout the week, then let the chicken cool down completely before refrigerating in a Ziploc bag. Your charcoal grilled chicken breasts should stay good for a week in the refrigerator.
Want a different way to cook chicken for the week? Try my Whole Smoked Chicken on a Charcoal Grill. Another great, cheap recipe for easy weeknight meals!