Lemon Chicken Thighs
With a simple marinade and a quick cooking time, these tender Lemon Chicken Thighs will be a new family favorite. Juicy, flavorful, and easy to make on the grill or the stovetop.
These tender chicken thighs are a perfect dinner idea when you need something ultra simple to toss on the grill or in a skillet, but can spare a few minutes to prep earlier in the day. A deliciously simple marinade flavored with lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, and spices does all the heavy lifting for you, and yields the most tender, flavorful chicken without fail.
All About That Dark Meat
We have tons of chicken recipes, and most are written for chicken breasts, it’s true. But there are several reasons to go over to the dark side: chicken thighs and drumsticks, which are considered “dark meat,” tend to be more tender and flavorful. They’re also more forgiving when it comes to cooking times, because they generally have more fat and are more often sold and cooked bone-in. At times they are also more economical, because so many recipes and home cooks favor the more common, easy-to-prepare breast meat.
So, if you see a great deal on chicken thighs, don’t shy away. Snatch them up and make these lemon chicken thighs ASAP!
Ingredients & Common Substitutions
Here is a visual overview of the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities!
- Chicken thighs: Pictured here are boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which work really well for this recipe. If using bone-in thighs, plan for a longer cooking time. If using skin-on thighs, sear them with the skin-side down first for a nice crispy effect. You can use the exact same recipe for chicken breasts, just with a faster cooking time.
- Honey: This adds just a touch of sweetness to the marinade. I highly recommend it, but you can omit if you prefer.
- Dijon mustard: Can be swapped with a whole grain mustard or even 1 teaspoon of ground mustard added with the spices.
- Fresh lemons: You can use refrigerated lemon juice in the marinade in a pinch — the citrus does double duty by adding flavor and beginning to tenderize the chicken — but it’s well worth picking up a fresh lemon or two if possible, both for the flavor and so that you can grill or pan-fry a few slices along with the chicken. They look beautiful and are a tasty garnish for anyone who especially loves lemon!
Is it better to buy bone-in or boneless chicken thighs?
For this recipe, it really doesn’t matter, and in fact I prefer the quick cooking time of boneless thighs. When slow-cooking, however, for instance in a recipe that calls for baking, braising, or using a Crockpot, I would recommend bone-in chicken thighs for the added flavor and prevention of overcooking.
How To Make Tender Lemon Chicken Thighs
Simply whisk together all marinade ingredients in a medium prep bowl.
You can also use a sturdy zip-top bag, but since it would need to be discarded afterwards, it’s a lot more sustainable to reach for the prep bowl, and honestly, it’s less messy, too!
Add the chicken and turn to be sure it’s mostly submerged and covered by the marinade.
Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least one hour and up to 12 hours.
Can you marinate chicken in lemon juice overnight?
It is not recommended to leave chicken in a lemon-based marinade overnight. The lemon’s naturally-occurring citric acid will begin to break down the chicken, resulting in an “off” texture when cooked. This exact process of natural tenderizing is why citrus marinades are so terrific for chicken, but when left to run too long, it can and will backfire.
For best results, prep lemon chicken thighs in the early or mid-afternoon the same day you plan to eat them. The morning is perfectly acceptable, however. The chicken thighs will be just fine while you’re at work and ready to cook as soon as you return home.
When ready to cook, remove chicken from the prep bowl. Discard the marinade.
Heat a large skillet, grill pan, or grill over medium-high heat, and add just enough olive oil to coat the cooking surface. (Avocado or vegetable oil works, too.)
Wait to add the chicken until the pan is hot and the oil begins to shimmer, but not smoke. Place chicken thighs in the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
An instant-read thermometer makes it easy to know exactly when your chicken is done.
A light sprinkling of fresh parsley, either curly or flat-leaf, is a beautiful garnish. For extra presentation points, throw a few lemon wedges onto the grill or pan alongside the chicken. Turn them occasionally until they soften and develop browned edges as shown here.
With its light, zesty flavor, this chicken pairs well with any Mediterranean-inspired side dish, or your favorite pasta salad for a crowd-pleasing summer meal. Try it with a fresh lemon orzo salad, pearl couscous with tomatoes and cucumbers, an herbed potato salad, or roasted baby potatoes.
Put Leftovers To Good Use
Enjoyed this meal and lucky enough to have extra? Woohoo! Of course you can simply reheat in the microwave (use 50% power for chicken to avoid it drying out!) or repurpose it in this irresistible chicken pesto pasta salad or in place of the salmon in this meal-worthy Greek salad.
More Lemon Chicken Recipes
If you love these flavors, try my recipes for lemon thyme chicken, lemon rosemary chicken, or lemon chicken pasta next. All quick and easy meals guaranteed to satisfy the family or dinner guests!
If you try these Lemon Chicken Thighs, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
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Lemon Chicken Thighs
- 1/3 cup chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for the pan or grill
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8-10 cranks fresh-cracked black pepper
- 1 and 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- lemon wedges and fresh Italian parsley optional garnish
- Combine broth, 3 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, mustard, oregano, garlic powder, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large prep bowl. Whisk well to combine.
- Add chicken thighs to the bowl and turn to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 12.
- When ready to cook, remove chicken and discard marinade. Heat a large skillet, grill pan, or grill over medium-high heat, and add just enough olive oil to coat the cooking surface. Add chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Serve right away with lemon wedges and parsley, as desired.
- Amount: The amount of chicken is flexible. The same volume of marinade should work for as little as 1 pound or up to 2 pounds of chicken thighs.
- Adjustments for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs: This recipe also works perfectly with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, and many people will prefer their deeper flavor and the opportunity to get the skin nice and crispy. They will, however, take considerably longer to cook — likely twice as long.
11 Comments on “Lemon Chicken Thighs”
This lemon chicken turned out perfectly. I absolutely loved this marinade and the fact that you’re using thighs which are so much juicier than the chicken breast. Really good recipe thank you so much for sharing.
Lovely recipe to use our lemons! Really easy to follow and absolutely delicious, thank you!
The marinade for these Lemon Chicken thighs is amazing . The thighs turned out tender and flavorful . This is something I will make over and over.
So good! This marinade makes your chicken tender, juicy, and delicious.
Chicken thighs are great for this type of flavoring. I love the marinate, especially with the Dijon and honey. My mouth is watering thinking about how juicy and flavorful this would be. Thanks for sharing!
I had a great number of lemons at home and I decided to try this recipe. It turned out delicious but my favorite part was the ease of preparation and cooking.
The combination of the tart lemon and savory garlic and thyme sounds like the perfect flavor profile for a hearty and healthy meal. I can’t wait to try this recipe! Thank you for sharing.
Lemon chicken has always been such a classic recipe for me and this recipe for it seems very tasty and flavorful.
I could eat lemon flavored chicken everyday. Delicious marinade and the chicken turned out perfectly tender and tasty.
These lemon chicken thighs are so easy and delicious! We enjoyed them with friends for a tasty simple dinner. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
What a fantastic dish, my whole family loved it! It was super easy to make, and I just love the combination of fresh lemon zest and dijon mustard in this marinade! Nice, fragrant and sooo delicious!