Grilled lemon pepper chicken is an easy and flavorful grilling recipe that's perfect for summer. Thin sliced chicken breasts are marinated in a lemon zest marinade that's made with just five ingredients.
Grilled lemon pepper chicken is the perfect summer grilling recipe. It's light, easy to prepare with a handful of ingredients, and has a bright citrus flavor.
Thin sliced chicken breasts are marinated in a simple marinade made with oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. You may already have the ingredients you need in your pantry!
This chicken turns out juicy and perfectly cooked, with a bright lemon pepper flavor. Pair this chicken with a light strawberry spinach salad, grilled broccolini, or make lemon pepper chicken sandwiches!
Ingredients and substitutions
- Chicken breasts - You'll need one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe. You'll either need to slice each chicken breast in half lengthwise, two create four thin pieces, or pound your chicken to about 1 inch thickness.
- Oil - I recommend using an oil with a high smoke point, since the chicken is going on the grill. Vegetable oil, avocado oil, or peanut oil are great choices.
- Lemon - You'll need one lemon for this recipe - we're using the zest and juice to make a marinade. Most of the lemon flavor comes from the zest, so I don't recommend omitting it unless you're not looking for that citrusy flavor.
- Dijon mustard - Adds tangy flavor to your marinade. Can be substituted with yellow mustard if needed.
- Salt & pepper
Tips for grilling chicken
- Use oil with a high smoke point - this means an oil can stand up to higher heat (like a grill) without burning.
- Oil the grill grates before placing food on the grill. This ensures your food doesn't stick.
- Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. Chicken needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking for longer will result in dry, tough chicken. Using a meat thermometer guarantees juicy, perfectly cooked chicken.
- Move your chicken as little as possible for nice grill marks. Gently lift up one corner to check the progress of your chicken, then lay it back down in the same spot if it's not ready to be moved yet.
Using other cuts of chicken
Of course, this marinade will work on any cut of chicken, like chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks, or chicken wings. Just know that cooking times will vary depending on the cut of chicken you choose.
Here's a great link on how to grill every cut of of chicken properly: Chicken - Grill Every Cut to Perfection
Making more marinade
If you'd like to grill more than one pound of meat, simply double or triple the amount of marinade listed. You'll need about ½ cup of marinade for every pound of meat you're marinating.
How long to marinate chicken
Since this marinade is made with lemon juice, you don't want to leave your chicken marinating for more than about 2 to 3 hours at most. The acidic properties of this marinade will start breaking down your chicken, changing the texture to make it rubbery or sometimes mushy.
I recommend marinating your chicken anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours for best results.
What to serve with lemon pepper chicken
- Strawberry spinach salad
- Grilled broccolini
- Roasted potato arugula salad
- Grilled vegetable skewers
- Grilled garlic bread
- Southern macaroni salad
Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1 pound
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 lemon
- Carefully slice the chicken breasts in half lengthwise to create four thin pieces (as if you were butterflying them, but continue slicing all the way through). Or, pound thick chicken breasts down to 1 inch thickness.
- In a bowl (or a sealable plastic bag), add oil, salt, and pepper. Zest entire lemon into bowl. Then, slice lemon in half and juice lemon into bowl. Add chicken and toss until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours (do not marinate for more than 3 hours).
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat, about 375 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If needed, clean grill grates.
- Wipe grill grates lightly with oil, then place marinated chicken perpendicular across the grill grate. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes before flipping. Cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Rely less on time and more on the temperature and look of your chicken to determine when they're done. Grill temperatures and conditions can vary greatly.
- Remove from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Chicken should not sit in marinade for more than 3 hours - lemon marinade is very acidic and will begin to break down the chicken, causing it to become mushy.
- Leftover chicken will keep for about 3 to 4 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
- I highly recommend using a meat thermometer to check your chicken for doneness and to prevent overcooked/dry chicken.