I’m always on the hunt for new marinades! Whether the marinade is for chicken, beef, or fish, marinades add so much depth and flavor to the protein. The difference is in the taste! But there’s more to marinating than that.
What is a marinade? A marinade is a sauce in which meat is soaked prior to cooking. Marinade comes from the word brine. Brining gave way to a new idea: the process of infusing flavor using a liquid. A marinade sauce may be either acidic or enzymatic.
An acidic marinade consists of vinegars, wines, and lemon juices. An enzymatic marinade would have ingredients with a neutral pH, such as yogurt, ginger, and pineapple. Oils and herbs are then added to flavor the marinade further, in addition to seasoning.
Why would you marinate meat? Marinades add an incredible amount of flavor to meat. But aside from flavoring the meat, a marinade can also soften it. Acidic marinades are sometimes used to tenderize a tough cut of meat. The way it works is the acid breaks the tissue of the meat down. This allows more moisture to enter the meat, resulting in a much juicier protein once cooked! However, too much acid may cause the outer layer of the meat to get mushy, so the marinade requires a good balance of acid, oil, and herbs.
This brings me to my Greek marinated chicken recipe that I’ll be sharing with you! Have you ever enjoyed a meal so much that you can almost taste it to this day? While in Athens as a teenager, I tasted the perfect grilled Greek chicken. I remember the taste and smell, and the ambiance of the outdoor restaurant with a view of the acropolis. It was a warm evening, and it was one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had.
I needed to recreate it, so I whipped up this marinade inspired by Greek ingredients. And it has since become a staple recipe in our home. This marinade consists of both acidic and enzymatic elements, and has the perfect balance of fresh acidity and neutral flavors. I’ve only used it with chicken thighs, however it would beautifully compliment fish as well (definitely doing that soon!)
What You Need:
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- Juice from 2 lemons
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 3 garlic cloves – minced
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp dill
Start off by prepping your cooking station. You’re going to need a large bowl for the chicken & marinade. It’s nice having a fitted lid for your bowl, but not necessary, as you can use clear wrap to cover.
Combine olive oil, lemon juice, Greek yogurt and chicken thighs in the bowl and coat chicken thighs in marinade evenly. Add the minced garlic, lemon zest, cumin, dill, salt, black pepper, and garlic salt.
I really want to emphasize that all the ingredients make a beautiful symphony of flavor, but in particular cumin is an ingredient you cannot substitute with another spice. The cumin gives the chicken a unique Mediterranean and Greek flavor that you cannot replace.
Once the chicken thighs are coated evenly with the marinade, it’s time for the marinade to do it’s work! Cover the bowl with a fitted lid or Saran Wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
What you do next is entirely up to you! I absolutely love grilled chicken, so my ideal way of cooking chicken will be on a grill. However I know that not everyone has a grill, so I’ll go over two ways you can cook this Greek chicken: on a grill and in the oven.
On the grill:
Preheat grill to 400 degrees F and cook chicken thighs 5 minutes per side on higher heat. This will provide those gorgeous grill marks and add a crisp. Then move the chicken thighs to indirect heat and cook for about another 5 minutes. The easiest way to tell if your chicken thighs are done is with a meat thermometer. The chicken thighs are ready to eat when they’ve reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
In the oven:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. We want to produce the same kind of crispy on the outside, tender on the inside chicken thighs. Place the chicken thighs on a baking sheet and cook for about 35 minutes. Once again, the easiest way to tell your chicken is ready is with a meat thermometer.
I like to broil the chicken thighs for an extra 3 minutes at 500 degrees F at the end. I enjoy a little bit of char on my chicken.
What do I serve with these Greek chicken thighs? The restaurant in Athens served their chicken alongside rice, tzatziki sauce, and lemon wedges, and I gotta say there’s nothing else like this combination of flavors. I hope you enjoy this easy marinade recipe for authentic Greek chicken thighs!