Quick & Easy Grilled Lemon Chicken

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Say hello to the BEST Grilled Lemon Chicken recipe! Chicken thighs (or breasts) are tossed through a quick marinade made of lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, & olive oil, then grilled until perfectly charred. This quick & simple 5-ingredient recipe packs a big punch of lemony, garlicky flavor, despite only taking 20 minutes to make. Serve the lemon garlic grilled chicken on its own, or toss them into any salads, bowls, or pasta dishes you love. Simple, flavorful, versatile, & perfect!

Grilled lemon chicken thighs arranged on a serving plate, with sliced lemon & sprigs of fresh thyme. The plate sits atop a white surface, next to a light blue & white striped linen napkin & a few more sprigs of fresh thyme.

Pin this Grilled Lemon Chicken recipe for later!

I hope you’re in the mood for majorly sunshiney, lemony, garlicky summertime goodness, because that’s exactly what we’re doing today!

This Lemon Garlic Grilled Chicken – aka the most perfect grilled chicken – is probably one of my favorite grilling recipes we’ve shared this summer.

It is…

  • SIMPLE. You need 4 of the simplest ingredients to make this grilled lemon chicken recipe – including the chicken! – & most of them are probably always in your kitchen.
  • QUICK. No long marinade times needed, this grilled lemon chicken comes together in less than 25 minutes.
  • FLAVORFUL. Despite being such a quick & easy recipe, this chicken has amazing lemony, garlicky flavor.
  • VERSATILE. My favorite recipes are versatile recipes, & this lemon garlic grilled chicken totally fits the bill. You can eat it on its own with your favorite summery sides, or use it to add a little sunshiney goodness to your favorite salads, bowls, or pastas.
Side angle of chicken thighs marinating in the lemon garlic marinade in a glass mixing bowl. The mixing bowl sits atop a white surface with lemon wedges & sprigs of fresh thyme.

The first time I threw it together (ahem, you may recognize this sunshiney goodness from a certain summery pesto pasta recipe from earlier this summer!), I figured it would be tasty enough, but nothing mind-blowing.

BOY OH BOY, was I wrong. Despite being so quick & simple, this grilled chicken has intense lemony, garlicky flavor, & it’s quickly become a weeknight fave here at the PWWB house. It’s an embarrassingly easy recipe that is truly so simple, but I feel obliged to share it in its own dedicated blog post because it’s just that good.

I’m pretty sure that as soon as you try it, you’ll fall in love, too!

Grilled lemon chicken thighs arranged on a serving plate, with sliced lemon & sprigs of fresh thyme. The plate sits atop a white surface, next to a bowl of grilled lemon halves & some sprigs of fresh thyme.

A summertime MVP. ♡ Read on to learn more about this Grilled Lemon Chicken recipe, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!

It all starts with an easy marinade for grilled chicken thighs:

Grilled lemon chicken ingredients arranged across a white surface: boneless, sinless chicken thighs, lemon juice & zest, salt & pepper, & sprigs of fresh thyme. A few lemon wedges surround the ingredients.

Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

  • Chicken – You can use either chicken thighs or chicken breasts for this grilled lemon chicken recipe. I always find thighs to be more flavorful & juicier, so that’s why you see them pictured here. If you’re using breasts instead, be sure to either pound the chicken breasts out flat or butterfly them by slicing them in half lengthwise. This will help them grill more quickly & more evenly, creating juicier chicken.
  • Lemon – Use both the zest & juice for maximum flavor. Look for a lemon that has thin skin & feels heavy for its weight to ensure it’s juicy enough!
  • Aromatics – Namely garlic & fresh herbs. The herbs are truly a nice add-in since the chicken picks up plenty of lemony, garlicky flavor from the marinade, but if your herb garden is overflowing, now’s a good time to put some fresh herbs to use. I suggest hardier fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary or oregano – check the Recipe Notes, below, for more suggestions..
  • & olive oil – just the littlest bit to bring it all together.

Add all the ingredients to a bowl, mix it all up, & you’ll be well on your way to grilled lemon chicken bliss.

Suggested marinating time.

Since this lemon garlic marinade is so acidic (it has a lot of lemon juice in it!), you don’t want to let the chicken marinate too, too long. The 20 minutes it takes to preheat the grill should be plenty. Simply add the chicken to the marinade & head outside to light the grill – easy!

Chicken thighs marinating in the lemon garlic marinade in a glass mixing bowl. The mixing bowl sits atop a white surface with lemon wedges & sprigs of fresh theyme.

Meal Prep tip for this grilled lemon chicken recipe:

Prep the marinade ahead of time to make dinner even more effortless. Mix up the marinade & store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. At dinnertime, simply give it a shake, pour it over the chicken & light the grill. Couldn’t be easier!

How to grill chicken:

Unlike grilling chicken wings or other bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs is a really straightforward process. Simply place the chicken over direct, medium-high heat & grill until cooked through. Pretty easy, right?!

Lemon chicken thighs cooking on the grill. The chicken thighs are directly on grill grates of a gas grill. Tongs poke into the side of the frame, flipping one of the chicken thighs over.

Grilled chicken temp:

When it comes to grilling boneless, skinless chicken parts, I like grilling over direct, medium-high heat, about 450-500 degrees F. The high temperature cooks the chicken quickly & creates beautiful (& delicious!) charred grill marks on the chicken.

Reminder: The best way to ensure your chicken is cooked through is to use an instant-read thermometer. The chicken will be ready to pull off of the grill when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the chicken registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

How long to grill chicken:

How long you grill your chicken will vary based on how hot your grill is & how large or thick your chicken pieces are.

How long to grill chicken thighs:

For 1/2-inch thick boneless, skinless chicken thighs, begin checking for doneness after 8-10 minutes, having flipped the thighs about halfway through (after 4-5 minutes grilling time), or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the chicken registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

How long to grill chicken breasts:

If using chicken breasts, be sure to either pound the chicken breasts out flat or butterfly them by slicing them in half lengthwise prior to adding them to the lemon garlic marinade. Thinner, even pieces will grill more quickly & more evenly, helping ensure that your chicken breasts don’t dry out on the grill – there’s nothing worse than dried out chicken breasts!

For 1/2-inch thick boneless, skinless chicken breasts, begin checking for doneness after 8-12 minutes, having flipped the chicken about halfway through (after 4-6 minutes grilling time), or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the chicken registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Other chicken parts:

This grilled lemon chicken recipe was created with ease & quickness in mind, but the lemon garlic marinade will work beautifully on other chicken parts, as well. If you’d like to grill bone-in, skin-on parts, follow the grilling directions in this recipe. If you’d like to grill chicken wings, follow the grilling directions in this recipe.

However you choose to do it, your lemon garlic grilled chicken will be delish!

What to serve with grilled lemon chicken:

What wouldn’t you serve with it is more like the question! With its lemony, garlicky flavor, this grilled lemon chicken recipe lends itself to a variety of different side dishes & usages. Its versatility is one of the reasons you will love it so much!

A few of my favorite summer side dishes for grilled chicken:

  • My go-to summer side dish for chicken is a pile of grilled vegetables. Since you’ll already have the grill running for your lemon garlic chicken, toss some summer veggies on the grill too!
  • When it comes to chicken, potatoes are also always a good idea, too. Cut them into wedges, & make some epic grilled fries.
  • Or keep things really simple. Whip up a green salad with garden cucumber & tomatoes, & toss it all with maple balsamic vinaigrette – my fave!
  • Your favorite seasonal salad! We LOVE Caprese Salad 2.0 at my house (it’s an elevated Caprese salad with burrata cheese & summer pesto), & this lemony grated zucchini salad is also one of my all-time favorites!

Lemon garlic grilled chicken is also a great add-on to any of your favorite summer meals. I love tossing it into pesto pasta with grilled veggies for a fresh summer pasta or into a gorgeous kale salad for a nourishing, low-carb meal. It would even be great in Glow Bowls, one of my fave summer PWWB recipes.

Grilled lemon chicken thighs arranged on a serving plate, with sliced lemon & sprigs of fresh thyme. The plate sits atop a white surface, next to a light blue & white striped linen napkin & a few more sprigs of fresh thyme.

Versatile. Delicious. Perfect. I can’t wait for you to try this Easy Grilled Lemon Chicken Recipe – we love it so much, & I think you will too.

If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know!: Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡

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Grilled lemon chicken thighs arranged on a serving plate, with sliced lemon & sprigs of fresh thyme. The plate sits atop a white surface, next to a light blue & white striped linen napkin & a few more sprigs of fresh thyme.

Quick & Easy Grilled Lemon Chicken Thighs

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4 1x
  • Category: Main Dish, Chicken Recipe
  • Method: Grilling & Smoking
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

The BEST Grilled Lemon Chicken recipe! Chicken thighs (or breasts) tossed through a quick marinade made of lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, & olive oil, then grilled until perfectly charred. Serve it on its own, or toss into any salads, bowls, or pasta dishes you love. Simple, flavorful, versatile, & perfect!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or thinly pounded chicken breast)
  • 1 large, juicy lemon, zested & juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • optional: 2 tablespoons finely chopped hardy fresh herbs, such as oregano, rosemary or thyme (see Recipe Notes)
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

Instructions

  1. Prepare the grill for medium-high direct heat grilling, about 450-500 degrees F.
  2. Prep the chicken: Meanwhile, as the grill preheats, prep & marinate the chicken. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon zest & juice, garlic, olive oil, & chopped herbs (if using). Seasoning with 1 1/2 teaspoons each kosher salt & ground black pepper. Add the chicken to the bowl, tossing to coat in the marinade.
  3. Grill the chicken: Place the marinated chicken on the prepared grill, disposing any excess marinade. Grill the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the chicken registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  4. Serve immediately with your favorite summery side dishes, or tossed into your favorite salads or bowls. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Chicken thighs vs chicken breasts: You can use either boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts for this grilled lemon chicken recipe. I always find thighs to be more flavorful & juicier, so that’s what I typically use. If you prefer to use breasts, be sure to either pound the chicken breasts out flat or butterfly them by slicing them in half lengthwise. This will help them grill more quickly & more evenly, keeping your grilled lemon chicken totally juicy.
  • Herbs: The lemon garlic marinade is truly flavorful enough on its own to not need extra spices or herbs, but if you happen to have some fresh herbs on hand, they make for a great quick addition to this grilled lemon chicken. I prefer hardy herbs for this grilled lemon chicken recipe, such as thyme (pictured), oregano, rosemary, or some combination of the 3! If you’d like to add in some dried herbs, go for it! Similar dried herbs & herb blends, such as dried oregano, dried rosemary, dried thyme or herbs de provence or Italian seasoning, would work great. If using dried herbs, use 2 teaspoons instead of 2 tablespoons as listed in the Ingredients List above. 
  • 10-Minute Meal Prep: While this recipe is super quick & simple to throw together, you can prep the marinade ahead of time to eliminate nearly all of the prep time involved in making this grilled lemon chicken. Simply mix up the marinade & store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. At dinnertime, give it a shake, pour it over the chicken & light the grill. Couldn’t be easier!

Keywords: grilled lemon chicken thighs, grilled lemon chicken recipe, easy, simple, weeknight, summer, grilling & smoking, dairy-free, gluten-free, 5 ingredients

Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Obsessed with all things grilled? Us too! Here are PWWB’s Top Grilling Recipes that you HAVE to try next!

Grilled lemon chicken thighs arranged on a serving plate, with sliced lemon & sprigs of fresh thyme. The plate sits atop a white surface, next to a bowl of grilled lemon halves & some sprigs of fresh thyme.

Ready to Hit the Grill?

If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to this Grilling 101 post, where we dive into all the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.

All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 13 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling & Smoking recipes.

& lastly! Be sure to give @playswellwithbutter a follow on Instagram – I’ll be teaching you how to grill up some goodness all summer long, & we have so much fun on Instagram!

Ready to learn more grilling tips & recipes?

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Thank you so much for reading & supporting Plays Well With Butter. This post includes affiliate links for products I truly love & use on the reg in my own home. All opinions are always my own! Should you make a purchase using one of these links, PWWB will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you, which helps me continue to bring you great original & free content.

Don’t forget to pin these Grilled Lemon Chicken Thighs for later!!!

Grilled Lemon Chicken with graphic text overlay for Pinterest.

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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