If I’ve learned anything about grilling chicken breasts, it’s that the marinade MATTERS! This Balsamic Grilled Chicken Breast recipe gives you the juiciest, most flavor-packed chicken with a perfectly charred crust, and it’s super simple to do thanks to a few essential steps. You won’t believe how easy it is to achieve restaurant-quality chicken right at home!

When it comes to grilling chicken breasts, there’s one thing I know for certain: the marinade MATTERS. And not just WHAT you put into the marinade but HOW you marinate it.

You see, chicken thighs and fattier pieces of steak are all pretty forgiving on the grill. A lot of the flavor comes from the added fat. But chicken breasts?! They’re one of the leanest cuts of meat and therefore one of the trickier ones to make juicy AND flavorful while still getting a crusty sear.

How to Perfectly Grill Chicken Breasts

On my quest to nail down the perfect grilled chicken breast recipe, here are a few things I learned:

  • Marinade time. Give yourself at least 30 minutes for the chicken to soak in the marinade, but no more than 24 hours. Otherwise, the meat can develop an unpleasant mealy texture.
  • Acidity is essential. A bit of acidity is the key to a great marinade! Vinegars and citrus juices break down the proteins, making the chicken tender and juicy while infusing it with flavor. (I love using a mix of balsamic vinegar AND lemon juice!)
  • But, acidity isn’t everything. A bit of oil adds moisture, and sugar helps the outside of the meat get a gorgeous charred crust while balancing out the tangy acidic flavors.
  • Brush and baste for flavor. It’s completely safe to baste while the chicken is grilling during the first 5-6 minutes. Just avoid basting during the last few minutes of cooking so the marinade has enough time to cook off any harmful bacteria.
  • Grilling temperature. Grill until almost cooked through. Chicken breasts will continue to cook another 5-10 degrees once removed from the grill, so pull them off the heat when they reach 160°F.

Chicken Breast Marinating Tip

Using a fork to poke holes into the chicken will speed up how quickly the marinade seeps into the meat if you’re short on time!

Chicken, balsamic vinegar, salt, brown sugar, and seasonings are the main ingredients of this dish.
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Notes about the ingredients needed for this Grilled Balsamic Chicken recipe are below. Jump to recipe for the exact measurements.

  • Chicken Breasts. Choose chicken breasts that are as close to the same size as possible. If they’re really thick, you might want to tenderize them with a meat mallet before starting.
  • Oil. While olive oil works for the most part, I prefer using a higher smoke point oil like avocado oil. This ensures it doesn’t burn off too quickly.
  • Vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is my go-to because it has a naturally sweeter flavor than other vinegars. Apple cider vinegar is a close second. Avoid using distilled white vinegar or other more potent varieties.
  • Citrus Juice. Depending on the dish, I usually swap between lemon and lime juice—lime juice for Mexican foods and lemon juice for American or Italian dishes.
  • Sugar. Brown sugar is by far the best sweetener to use. It caramelizes the best, mixes in easily, is thicker so the marinade sticks to the meat, and has a lovely depth of flavor thanks to the molasses. Honey, pure maple syrup, or regular sugar can be used, but IMO, they simply don’t compare!
  • Spices and Herbs. This is where it gets fun! The recipe here includes a mix of paprika for a little smokiness and dried thyme. However, avoid lighter dried herbs like basil or oregano as they burn very quickly when grilled.
5 Secrets to Healthier Family Dinners
Tips & recipes for getting yummy — and healthy — meals on the table.

How to Make Balsamic Grilled Chicken Breasts

Below you’ll find the simple steps to make this Balsamic Grilled Chicken Breasts recipe. Jump to recipe for the printable instructions.

1. Prepare the chicken.

Place the chicken breasts in a large Ziploc or between two layers of plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken until it’s about ½-inch thick.

Use a fork to poke holes in the chicken, then place the prepared breasts back in the Ziploc bag. Be sure the bag isn’t broken. Alternately, you can put the chicken in a bowl that you’ll cover tightly with plastic wrap.

2. Marinate the chicken.

In a small bowl, stir together the oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic powder, thyme, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Carefully pour the marinade over the prepared chicken in the bag. Let the air out and seal the bag.

Massage the chicken to ensure the marinade covers everything completely. Let the chicken rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

3. Grill the balsamic chicken.

When you’re ready to grill, remove the chicken from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. Preheat the grill to high, then clean the grates and add some oil.

Remove the chicken from the bag, allowing any excess marinade to drip off. Place it on the heated grill smooth-side down. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, then flip. If the chicken is sticking, allow it to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.

After flipping, grill the chicken for another 5 to 8 minutes, until the chicken reaches 160℉ on an internal thermometer. Place the chicken on a plate tented with foil for 5 to 10 minutes. The chicken will continue cooking.

Prep-Ahead and Storage Tips

  • Prep-ahead: Prepare and marinate the chicken the day before cooking.
  • Storage: Keep leftover balsamic chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days.


How long should I marinate chicken breasts?

Grilled chicken should be marinated for at least 30 minutes, but it’s even better overnight.

Can I use other types of chicken, like thighs or drumsticks?

You can definitely use another type of chicken like thighs or drumsticks. Be sure to adjust the cooking time as needed.

Is it okay to freeze chicken in marinade?

While you can freeze chicken in a marinade, it won’t actually flavor the chicken. It’s best to marinate the chicken in the fridge overnight for the most flavor.

Can I bake the marinated chicken instead of grilling it?

Yes, you can bake the marinated chicken in the oven at 400°F (200°C) for about 20-25 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

What side dishes pair well with grilled chicken?

Balsamic grilled chicken has so much flavor and goes with so many things. Try any of these sides for a tasty meal.

For a starchy side, try Coconut Milk Rice or Instant Pot Potato Salad.

Pasta sides, like Italian Dressing Pasta Salad and Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad are so full of flavor.

Stick with veggies, like Crispy Smashed Broccoli, Green Beans Almondine, or Brussels Sprouts au Gratin.

More Chicken Breast Recipes

Be sure to try these other chicken breast recipes soon for a delicious dinner.

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Balsamic Grilled Chicken Breasts

If I’ve learned anything about grilling chicken breasts, it’s that the marinade MATTERS! This Balsamic Grilled Chicken Breast recipe gives you the juiciest, most flavor-packed chicken with a perfectly charred crust, and it’s super simple to do thanks to a few essential steps.
Yield 6 servings
Prep 35 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 50 minutes
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  • 1 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp. black pepper plus more to taste


  • Place chicken in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and pound chicken to about ½-inch thick using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Place on a cutting board and cut into six 4-oz pieces. Poke holes into the chicken with a fork 7-8 times on each piece and then add back into the ziplock bag, making sure it is not broken.
    1 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Whisk together ¼ cup oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic powder, thyme, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Pour marinade over the chicken, zip the bag, leaving a little open to let excess air out, and massage chicken to ensure all of the marinade gets into the meat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
    ¼ cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1 tsp. garlic powder, ½ tsp. dried thyme, ½ tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. black pepper
  • When ready to grill, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for 10 minutes if it's been chilling for more than 1 hour. Preheat the grill to high, clean and oil the grates.
  • Place the chicken on the grill, smooth side-down, shaking off any excess marinade. Close the grill lid and cook for 4-5 minutes on that side before flipping. If the chicken sticks when trying to flip, let cook for another 1-2 minutes more.
  • Once flipped, recover the grill and allow to cook for another 5-8 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the heat, place on a plate, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5-10 minutes while it continues to cook.
  • Serve immediately with additional salt and black pepper to taste.
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  • Nutrition: Nutritional information is based on 1/4 of the marinade remaining unused.
  • Vinegar: Use balsamic vinegar for a naturally sweeter flavor; apple cider vinegar is a good alternative, but avoid distilled white vinegar.
  • Brown Sugar: Brown sugar caramelizes well, adds rich flavor, and helps the marinade stick better than honey or maple syrup.
  • Baking Directions: Bake marinated chicken breasts at 400°F (200°C) for 20-25 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Types of Chicken: This marinade works well with chicken breasts, thighs, drumsticks, and wings but you will need to adjust cooking times accordingly.
  • Marinating Time: Marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 24 hours to avoid a mealy texture.
  • Grilling Temperature: Make sure you remove the chicken when it reaches 160°F as it will continue to cook to 165°F while resting.
  • Storage: Store leftover marinated chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days; freeze the chicken in the marinade for up to 3 months and thaw in the refrigerator before cooking.


Calories: 209kcal, Carbohydrates: 4g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 73mg, Sodium: 452mg, Potassium: 456mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 258IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 14mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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5 Secrets to Healthier Family Dinners
Tips & recipes for getting yummy — and healthy — meals on the table.

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