Say goodbye to dry, “boring” chicken! This juicy, flavorful Balsamic Marinated Chicken is easy to make and prep ahead for weeknight dinners. Use it to make an impressive entree chicken salad, or serve it on its own with your favorite sides. This versatile balsamic chicken marinade is great for grilling, baking, or air frying!
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Readers often ask me my tips for making chicken in an easy, healthy way that has a little excitement to it. One of my favorite ways to make juicy, flavorful chicken (particularly, boneless, skinless breasts) is this Balsamic Chicken Marinade.
Marinating chicken gives it great flavor, and it’s something that’s easy to do, even with a busy schedule. You’ll need just 5 minutes to whip up this simple balsamic marinade. The rest of the time is hands-off until you’re ready to cook dinner, or do your meal prep for the week.
Ingredients You’ll Need to Make This Balsamic Chicken Marinade
- Balsamic Vinegar. You can use any of your favorite balsamic vinegars for this recipe; however, since this is a marinade that will be discarded, it isn’t necessary to spring for an expensive bottle at the market. If you’re shopping specifically for this recipe, I’d recommend buying a commercial- or condiment- grade balsamic.*
- Fresh Garlic. I use about 3 cloves, or 2 teaspoons, minced.
- Dijon Mustard. Adds a bit more acidity and a little spice to the marinade.
- Honey. Balances the tangy flavors with a touch of sweetness.
- Dried Italian Herbs (“Italian Seasoning”). My favorite blend is Savory Spice Shop’s Italian Herb Blend (thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, and rosemary).
- Kosher Salt and Freshly-Ground Black Pepper
*Shopping for balsamic? Read more about Grades of Balsamic Vinegar from The Spruce Eats.
How to Make Balsamic Marinated Chicken
Making the marinade couldn’t be easier. Simply whisk the ingredients together in a bowl or liquid measuring cup. The mixture will be fairly thick, but pourable.
Prep the Chicken
I like to use skinless, boneless chicken breasts with this marinade. The recipe is enough for 3 to 4 breasts, about 1-1/2 pounds (6 to 8 ounces each). On occasion, I’ve also used this marinade with larger, 10 to 12 ounce breasts.
Before making the marinade, take a look at the thickness of your chicken breasts. If there’s a large variation between breasts, use a meat pounder to bring them to a more uniform thickness. This will ensure even cooking across the batch, so that thinner breasts won’t dry out while the thicker breasts are still coming up to temp.
To pound chicken breasts, I use the flat side of my Reversible Meat Tenderizer, placing the chicken breasts in an unsealed zip-top bag, or between two pieces of plastic wrap.
Tips for Marinating the Chicken
For photography purposes, I marinated this batch of chicken breasts in a shallow, non-reactive baking dish. Lay the breasts in a single layer, and pour the marinade over the chicken, turning the pieces to coat.
For easy cleanup; however, I often marinate chicken in a disposable zip-top bag. Simply place the chicken breasts into the bag and pour in the marinade. Press out any air before sealing the bag, and massage the chicken from the outside to ensure each piece is coated.
How Long to Marinate Chicken
I find that for the best flavor and texture, balsamic chicken should marinate in the refrigerator (covered, if using a pan, to avoid cross contamination) for anywhere from 1 to 8 hours. The amount of time you can marinate without textural changes to the chicken varies by thickness.
Thinner cuts of meat, like cutlets, would need to marinate for less time than whole breast pieces. I’ve taken this marinade up to 12 hours before on a busy day with chicken breasts that were on the larger side, but I wouldn’t go past that.
More isn’t always better when it comes to marinating. When you let proteins sit for too long in a marinade that contains acid (such as vinegar or lemon juice), it will start to break down the fibers. This will change the texture of the meat. In some cases, it will become rubbery and tough, and in others, it can become oddly mushy or mealy.
For juicy, tender chicken, stick within the 1 to 8 hour window with this marinade, going up to 12 hours (overnight) with larger cuts, if needed. The flavor will be there, and the texture will be just right.
How to Cook Balsamic Marinated Chicken Breasts
I love to grill this chicken, but you can also bake it on a sheet pan or air-fry it. Keep in mind that the sugars in the balsamic vinegar can over-caramelize (burn), similar to a teriyaki sauce. To avoid this, make sure your heat source isn’t too high so that the marinade doesn’t burn before the chicken is cooked.
When ready to cook thee chicken, remove the breasts from the marinade and let the excess drip off. Discard any leftover marinade in the bowl or bag.
For all cooking methods, the chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F at the thickest part. After cooking, place the chicken on a platter, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. The internal temperature will rise during this time to 170 degrees F.
Note that cooking times will vary by the size of the chicken breasts you’re cooking. Go by internal temperature to gauge doneness, not time.
Need a great instant read thermometer? I own and love the Thermapen ONE from Thermoworks. It’s fast, accurate, and easy-to-read, ensuring perfectly-cooked chicken breasts, every time.
To Cook on the Grill
Pre-heat the grill to 375 to 400 degrees F and lightly oil the grates. Grill on direct heat for about 6-8 minutes per side (time will vary by the thickness of the breasts), until the chicken reaches the target internal temperature.
When grilling larger chicken breasts, I like to sear them over direct heat and then move them to indirect heat, covered, to cook through. This keeps the marinade from charring too much while the chicken is coming up to temp.
To Bake in the Oven or Air Fry
To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Since the marinade will caramelize in the oven, I recommend lining a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup. Lightly oil the foil (I spray it with cooking spray), and arrange the breasts in a single layer.
Start checking the temperature of the chicken after 20-25 minutes for 6 to 8 ounce breasts. 10-12 ounce breasts will take closer to 30-35 minutes.
To air fry, preheat the air fryer to 360 degrees F and spray the basket with cooking spray. When air frying, I take extra care to remove excess marinade from the chicken to reduce drippage into the base for easy cleanup.
Air fry the chicken breasts for 15-22 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Times can vary significantly by brand/model, so keep a close eye on your first batch to gauge cooking times for the air fryer you’re using.
What to serve with Balsamic Marinated Chicken
I love to use this marinade to make grilled chicken breasts for Grilled Balsamic Chicken Salad. If you’re serving the chicken as the main dish, a few great sides are my Arugula and Fennel Salad, Orzo Salad with Feta, or Heirloom Tomato Salad.
We also like to serve this chicken with Rice Pilaf, Caprese Pasta Salad, roasted potatoes, or grilled vegetables. Or, try a simple side salad dressed with Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette.
More Chicken Breast Recipes
Balsamic Marinated Chicken
- 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts *
- 1/4 cup olive oil **
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 large garlic cloves , minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (Italian seasoning)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- In a measuring cup or bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, Dijon, honey, herbs, salt, and pepper.
- Place chicken in a single layer in a non-reactive baking dish, bowl, or disposable zip-top bag. Pour marinade over the chicken, ensuring the pieces are coated on all sides. If using a bowl or pan, cover with plastic wrap. If using a zip-top bag, press out the air and seal.
- Refrigerate and allow the chicken to marinate for 1 to 8 hours, turning the breasts in the marinade occasionally. When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the marinade, letting excess drip off. Discard the leftover marinade.
- Pre-heat the grill to 375 to 400 degrees F and lightly oil the grates. Grill over direct heat for about 6-8 minutes per side, until the chicken reads 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. Time will vary by the thickness of the breasts.
- If you're using larger chicken breasts, sear over direct heat and then move to indirect heat, covered, to finish cooking through. (This will keep the marinade from over-charring.)
- Transfer the chicken to a platter and tent with foil. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil and lightly oil it or spray with cooking spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes for 6 to 8 ounce breasts, or 30-35 minutes for 10-12 ounce breasts, until the chicken reads 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast.
- Remove from the oven, tent with foil, and let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Preheat the air fryer to 360 degrees F and spray the basket with cooking spray. For easy cleanup, be sure that you've allowed excess marinade to drip away from the breasts.
- Air fry the chicken for 15-22 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. When done, the chicken will read 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast. Rest the chicken for 5-10 minutes, tented with foil, and serve.***