An authentic Greek chicken marinade flavors boneless grilled chicken thighs. Then they are unapologetically smothered with ladolemono sauce.
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Read on for useful tips and step-by-step pictures (2 mins)
Greek Chicken Marinade for Grilled Boneless Chicken Thighs
This is a very easy marinade recipe from the North of Greece. It is primarily used for chicken or pork souvlaki skewers and works just as well when simply grilling boneless skinless chicken thighs. We routinely use it when we are after simple Greek taste notes. Even mushrooms marinated in it and then oven roasted or grilled turn out great.
The flavor profile is bright and aromatic – it relies on Greek oregano with its pronounced savory and earthy notes which are so well suited to chicken. If Greece had to proclaim a national herb it would most certainly be oregano!
Besides oregano (using dried is typical) the marinade ingredients include the usual suspects of Greek cooking – extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic and lemon juice.
To further the savory dimension and add a bit of sweetness an onion is grated to form the base. Not only does it coat the chicken thighs better when semi-liquified but when grilled it caramelizes and creates a different dimension of surface flavor.
NOTE: Greek oregano is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and has a distinctly robust savory flavor. Do not substitute it with Mexican oregano in this marinade recipe if you want to stay the course with authentic Greek flavor. Mexican oregano which is from the verbena family (Verbenaceae) has a more citrusy and mildly licorice flavor. The two are not perfect susbstitutes for each other.
Make the Greek Chicken Marinade Recipe & Grill
Mix. Use the shred side of a box greater to grate the onion. Add the cloves garlic (minced) and freshly squeezed lemon juice, then the oregano, salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Whisk everything together in a bowl and let stand for a couple of minutes for the ingredients to imbibe each other.
Marinate. Coat the surface of the chicken thighs really well. The marinade will behave more like a paste than a liquid and the juices of the onion will become well absorbed by the dark meat. Marinate refrigerated overnight for best results, but 4 to 6 hours will also work nicely.
Grill. Preheat your grill to hot (or a grilling pan over a hot stove). Place the marinated chicken thighs over direct heat (medium-high heat to high) and grill with the lid closed.
How Long to Grill Boneless Chicken Thighs – Instructions
Over the direct heat of a hot grill it generally takes 5 to 6 minutes per side or a total of about 12 minutes. The lid of the grill must remain closed to maintain the temperature. Chicken is safe to eat once the internal temperature reaches 165 F when measured with a food thermometer in the thickest part of the thighs. That being said, when grilling boneless skinless chicken thighs we like to go up to 170 F.
- When you flip the chicken after the initial 5-6 minutes use the opportunity to move the thighs placed towards the periphery of the direct heat to the center and vice versa. In this manner they should all cook evenly.
- Another consideration is that smaller/thinner thigh pieces will cook faster, so you can simply keep them towards the periphery of the direct heat.
- If using a grilling pan you may cover the thighs with a suitable lid to simulate a closed grill.
TIP: You can use a grill pan on your stove top to prepare the chicken over medium-high heat.
A Fresh, Bright Finish with Ladolemono
While the boneless chicken pieces are sizzling you can take the opportunity to make the Greek lemony oil called ladolemono. It is a classic finish for grilled meats in Greece and we most enthusiastically recommend that you do not skip it.
All you need to do is mix extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice in a 2:1 ratio (see the pictures above).
The ladolemono gets absorbed by the thigh meat really quickly due to the fact that grilling generally dries out meat. In addition to replenishing lost moisture it infuses the chicken with the combined deliciousness of spicy fruitiness from the olive oil and citrus notes from the lemon.
Serve the Grilled Greek Chicken
To serve the grilled boneless chicken thighs prepare a platter with a couple of garnishes and herbs for visual appeal. One low calories combination that works well is kalamata olives, lettuce and feta crumbles, another (as seen in the pictures) is mini tomatoes and fresh oregano.
Arrange the chicken on top and liberally drizzle or brush it with the vibrant ladolemono. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!
Hummus, cucumber salads, grilled green beans, Greek pasta salad or traditional Greek salad accompanied by pita bread, thinly sliced red onions and tzatziki are also wonderful additions.
Dish Variations – Greek Yogurt Chicken Marinade & Chicken Breast
If you want the chicken to be exceptionally tender you can prepare the above described marinade with yogurt. The beneficial live bacteria in Greek yogurt will have a tenderizing effect on the meat. All you have to do is add about half a cup to the mixture.
Boneless skinless chicken breasts become exceptionally tender and jucier when treated with a yogurt marinade so if you want a substitute for the thigh meat opt for this variation.
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- 2.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- salt and pepper, to taste, for seasoning
Greek Chicken Marinade
- 1 onion (medium to large)
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp (heaping) dried Greek oregano*
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon (juice of, about 3-4 tbsp)
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
Ladolemono Sauce (optional)**
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Trim excess fat from the boneless chicken thighs.
- In a non-reactive container (or a freezer bag) large enough to accomodate all the chicken grate the onion using the shred side of a box grater. Add the minced garlic, lemon juice, Greek oregano, salt and pepper and olive oil. Mix well and allow to sit for a couple of minutes so the ingredients can imbibe each other.
- Place the chicken thighs in the marinade container and thoroughly coat all the meat with marinade. Marinate refrigerated for 4-6 hours, overnight is best.
- Bring the chicken thighs to room temperature. Preheat your grill to high.
- Grill the boneless chicken thighs for 5-6 minutes per side over direct heat with the grill lid closed. When you flip them over use the opportunity to move the pieces that were on the periphery of the direct heat area towards the center and vice versa. This will ensure even cooking. The thighs are done when the internal temperature reaches 165 F in the thickest parts. (We like to leave them on the grill until about 170 F).
- While the chicken is grilling make the ladolemono sauce. Take a small container for which you have a lid and add the olive oil and lemon juice. Close it and shake vigorously until the mixture is homogenous.
- Place the cooked chicken pieces on a serving plate and drizzle or brush them generously with ladolemono. This will replenish the moisture lost during grilling and infuse the meat with bright, zesty flavors. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.
*Do not substitute with Mexican oregano, it tastes differently. See the notes in the post.
**Feel free to reduce the amount of lemon juice a tiny bit. You can also add half a teaspoon of dried oregano to the sauce.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 511Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 28gCholesterol: 231mgSodium: 837mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 46g