Kefir marinated chicken is tender, flavorful and juicy. An easy kefir marinade with Greek flavors tenderizes the chicken so you'll never have to eat dry chicken breasts again!
This recipe is perfect for the grill, oven & stovetop.
This Greek chicken marinade combines kefir with lemon, olive oil, garlic, oregano, dill, rosemary, thyme and a drizzle of honey. This chicken is especially good served cold for lunch the next day, so make enough for leftovers!
For more Greek marinated chicken, try this recipe for Mediterranean grilled chicken with cucumber yogurt sauce.
You can serve this chicken with a green salad or roasted vegetables. You can also add the chicken to recipes like macaroni salad with chicken.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is tangy and slightly sour cultured milk that is similar to a yogurt drink. It's sold in bottles in the refrigerated section. Kefir is usually runnier than yogurt and can be ever-so-slightly fizzy due to fermentation.
Kefir has active probiotic cultures that may provide health benefits. It is made by culturing milk with kefir "grains" which are a mix of bacteria and yeast.
Kefir is sold in many flavors (like berry, vanilla and peach) but for this recipe you should use plain, unflavored kefir. You can enjoy kefir just like you would any other type of smoothie or yogurt drink.
Pound the chicken breasts to ½-inch thickness, or slice large breasts in half lenghthwise.
Whisk together the marinade: kefir, olive oil, lemon, honey, garlic, dried oregano and dill, fresh rosemary & thyme, salt.
Marinate the chicken for a minimum of 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
Grill, bake or pan-sear the chicken.
What to Serve with this Recipe?
Greek chicken pairs well with almost any type of vegetable or salad, including potato salad and slaw. More serving ideas:
- Roasted vegetables
- Instant Pot mashed potatoes
- Instant Pot potatoes and carrots
- Green salad
- Grain bowl
- Make BLT Chicken Salad with creme fraiche dressing
Meal Prep & Freezing Leftovers
Make a whole sheet pan of chicken and you can freeze the leftover cooked chicken for future meals. You can freeze whole breasts or sliced/shredded chicken. The chicken can be frozen in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 6 months.
To defrost frozen chicken, place it in the refrigerator overnight.
The lactic acid and calcium in kefir break down the meat proteins, making the chicken more tender. The same thing happens with yogurt and buttermilk.
To tenderize the chicken, marinate it for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. I usually marinate the chicken the night before or in the morning and then cook it that night for dinner.
After 24 hours the acidity in the kefir will start to over-tenderize the meat, breaking down the protein and making it too soft and almost mushy.
Yes, you can use Greek yogurt instead of kefir.
Yes, you can use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. Note that chicken thighs will have a slightly different cooking time.
Full-fat is preferred because it gives chicken the most flavor.
Kefir is traditionally made by fermenting cow's milk. You might also be able to find non-dairy versions at some grocery stores, or kefir made from goat's milk.
Some brands, like Lifeway, say that their "unique fermentation process and specific kefir cultures ensure Lifeway kefir is 99% lactose free and suitable for most people who are lactose intolerant".
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More Chicken Recipes
Kefir Marinated Greek Chicken Breast Recipe
Kefir marinated chicken is tender and flavorful. The kefir tenderizes the chicken breasts, so they are less likely to be dry. This recipe is perfect for the grill, oven and stovetop.
This chicken is especially good served cold for lunch the next day, so make enough for leftovers!
Marinating Time: A minimum of 3 hours and maximum of 24 hours
This recipe was originally published August 2019 and updated February 2022.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 8 servings 1x
- Category: chicken
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: Greek
- 1 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
- ⅔ cup plain full-fat kefir
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Juice from half a lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried dill
- 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 8 thyme sprigs
- 4 rosemary sprigs
*Chicken breasts are often really large and can weigh around 11 or 12 ounces each. The chicken will cook more evenly and is less likely to dry out if the breasts are smaller/thinner. You can pound each breast to an even thickness, or you can slice chicken breasts in half lengthwise, creating two thinner breasts.
- Set the chicken in a marinating container that’s large enough to fit the chicken in one layer. A glass food storage container or casserole pan works well. You can also use a sealable plastic bag.
- Whisk together the kefir, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, dried oregano, dried dill, salt and garlic. Make sure that the honey gets mixed in and doesn’t settle on the bottom of the bowl.
- Pour the marinade over the chicken. Add the thyme and rosemary. Flip the chicken over a few times in the marinade to make sure both sides are covered.
- Marinate the chicken in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours and maximum of 24 hours. If possible, flip the chicken once while it marinates.
- Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 15 to 20 minutes before cooking, so it start coming up to room temperature.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and let any excess marinade drip off. Choose your method of cooking: grill, stovetop or oven.
No matter how you cook the chicken, it is not done until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reads 165 degrees. After cooking, let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. If you want, you can cover it with foil to keep the meat warm.
Grill: Prepare the grill for high heat. Cleaning and oiling the grates will help prevent the chicken from sticking. Brush the chicken with olive oil. Set the chicken on the hot grill and cover the grill. For breasts around ½-inch thick, grill for about 4 minutes or until the chicken no longer sticks to the grates and can be easily flipped. Flip the chicken breast and grill for 4 to 6 minutes more. Thicker breast will take longer.
Oven: Heat oven to 425F. Place the chicken on an oiled or parchment lined rimmed baking sheet. Brush with olive oil. Baked on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes for thin breasts; thicker breasts can take up to 22 minutes or more.
Stovetop: Thinner chicken breasts (½-inch thick) can be cooked on the stovetop (thicker breasts won’t cook fully). Add a generous drizzle of olive oil to a hot skillet that’s been heated over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until nicely browned on each side, about 6 to 8 minutes a side.
Pounding raw chicken breasts to an even thickness (½ inch) helps the meat cook faster and more evenly. To pound chicken, cover chicken breasts with plastic wrap or parchment. Using a mallet or rolling pin, pound each breast to an even thickness of about ½ inch. Don’t go any thinner than ½ inch, or the meat tends to get dry when it's cooked.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Make a whole sheet pan of chicken and you can freeze the leftover cooked chicken for future meals. You can freeze whole breasts or sliced/shredded chicken. The chicken can be frozen in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 6 months. To defrost frozen chicken, place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Greek yogurt can be substituted for kefir.
Keywords: kefir marinated chicken breasts, Greek marinated chicken