Yogurt has become one of the most versatile ingredients in my kitchen. While it’s more common in the U.S. for yogurt to be served sweet, yogurt is just as useful and delicious in savory dishes, like this Yogurt Marinated Chicken. This delicious chicken is tangy, garlicky, full of warm spices, and can be served several different ways. It’s definitely one of my favorite go-to chicken marinades!
Why Yogurt Makes a Great Marinade
Aside from giving the chicken a deliciously tangy flavor, yogurt contains a lot of lactic acid, which works to tenderize the chicken and help keep it moist while it cooks. You’ll find yogurt marinades used a lot in Middle Eastern recipes, like this recipe for Shish-Tawook from my friend, Yumna, at Feelgoodfoodie.net.
What Kind of Yogurt Should I Use?
Make sure you buy plain flavored yogurt, nothing sweetened or with flavors added. I suggest buying regular yogurt, not Greek-style, because Greek is very thick and dry and will not coat the chicken the same way. You can get around this by thinning out the yogurt with a little water, broth, or milk, but plain, regular yogurt works best. You’ll also want to make sure your yogurt has at least some fat, which is important for carrying the fat-soluble flavors in the marinade. Full-fat is best, but you can go down to 2% fat if needed.
Can I Use Chicken Thighs?
Yes, this recipe is also awesome with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Because chicken thighs are already fairly thin and cook quickly, you will not need to slice the thighs into thinner pieces, as I do with the chicken breasts in the recipe below.
Can Yogurt Marinated Chicken be Grilled?
Yes! Yogurt marinated chicken is perfect for grilling! Just cook in the same manner as you would with chicken marinated in any other mixture. You’ll get wonderful browning on the meat when using a grill. You can also use an indoor, countertop style grill, like a George Foreman grill.
How to Serve Yogurt Marinated Chicken
I love, love, LOVE this chicken in so many different dishes. It’s great for adding to bowl meals (pictured above with Spinach Rice with Feta and tomatoes), you can stuff it into a pita, like a chicken schawarma sandwich, use it to top a fresh green salad, or Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad. Or, just serve it up with a couple of sides and make it your main dish! It would go great alongside a marinated white bean salad, Pasta Primavera, Simple Sautéed Vegetables, or a super fresh cucumber salad and maybe some hummus.
Yogurt Marinated Chicken
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt ($0.34)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice ($0.05)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon ($0.05)
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano ($0.05)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg ($0.02)
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves ($0.02)
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.3 lbs.)* ($6.54)
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.04)
- Combine the yogurt, minced garlic, lemon juice, cinnamon, oregano, salt, nutmeg, and cloves in a bowl.
- Slice the chicken breasts into two thinner pieces so they cook quickly and evenly in the skillet. If slicing is too difficult, you can cover the chicken breasts with plastic and use a rolling pin or mallet to pound the chicken into an even thickness (1/2-3/4 inch thick), then slice the breast across into two smaller portions.
- Place the chicken in a shallow dish or zip-top bag and pour the yogurt marinade over top. Make sure all sides of the chicken are coated in yogurt, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
- When you're ready to cook, heat ½ Tbsp cooking oil in a large skillet (preferably some sort of non-stick surface) over medium heat. Once hot, add two pieces of chicken and cook on each side until deeply browned. Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean cutting board and repeat with the rest of the cooking oil and second two pieces of chicken.
- Let the chicken rest for five minutes, then slice and serve!
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How to Make Yogurt Marinated Chicken – Step by Step Photos
Make the yogurt marinade first. Combine ½ cup plain yogurt, 2 cloves of garlic (minced), 1 Tbsp lemon juice, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, and ¼ tsp ground cloves.
Filet two boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.3 lbs. total) into two thinner pieces. This helps it cook quickly and evenly in the skillet. You can also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, thin-cut chicken breasts, or even chicken tenders.
Place the chicken in a shallow dish or a zip top bag and pour the yogurt marinade over top. Make sure the yogurt coats all sides of the chicken, then marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours (refrigerated).
When you’re ready to cook the chicken, heat ½ Tbsp cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat (a non-stick surface works best). Once hot, add two pieces of the chicken and cook on both sides until it is well browned and cooked through. Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean cutting board and repeat with another ½ Tbsp oil and the second two pieces of chicken.
Let the yogurt marinated chicken rest on the cutting board for five minutes before slicing and serving.
Serve over rice, a salad, stuffed into a pita, or just on its own with a couple of sides! (pictured with Spinach Rice with Feta and fresh tomatoes)
I facilitate a cooking class at a local support centre. We made this today and it is absolutely incredible. I’ve used a few of your recipes because I want people to understand that it’s not expensive to cook delicious meals! We had this with your lemony cucumber couscous and it was a perfect pairing..thank you so much!
Could this be baked in the oven instead?
It’s not the best method, but it can be done. When you bake it in the oven you won’t get any of the nice browning and caramelization on the outside of the chicken. It will just look kind of pasty.
Is it a bad idea to let this marinate for more than 24 hours? We can’t stand reheated chicken so whenever we have it I prep the chicken with all of the spices in a ziploc at the beginning of the week and then just pull out what we’re going to eat for the day.
The only concern with that is that the acid in the marinade can start to break down the meat too much and make it mushy. But it’s hard to say exactly at what point will be too much.
Hi! Could you let me know what kind of rice is pictured here with the chicken?
Yes, that’s my Spinach Rice with Feta. :) Thanks for reminding me, I meant to go back and add a link to that after I posed the rice recipe, but forgot!
The first time I made this I used chicken breast and thought it was ok (I skipped nutmeg the first time around because I didnt have any).
However, the next time (and subsequent times) I used chicken thighs (and didn’t skip the nutmeg) and it was OUTSTANDING!
Its flavor profile is somewhere between shish tawook & shawarma.
Don’t skip any of the spices. They are worth purchasing just to make this marinade.
Could I use this marinade recipe to coat tofu instead as I’m vegetarian?
I haven’t tried this one with tofu, so I’m not quite sure how that would turn out.
I used this recipe with tofu instead of chicken.
It worked perfectly, and I surprisingly prefer the way the tofu cooked in the yogurt (crispier outside with an inside that my husband called “not as tofu-y” which I take to mean better). I’ve done it twice now with the same result so it must be something about the yogurt marinade.
I’m comparing it to the Shish-Tawook recipe she mentions which I also tried; the other had more flavor. While I love the idea and it was really pretty good, I would never make it again after the feelgoodfoodie version.
This recipe is literally the same with actually more spices -_- cloves instead of cinnamon which have way more depth. I was expecting a crazy spiced up recipe from your comment lol