I love this marinade for Sheet-Pan Greek Chicken Breasts because the chicken breasts always come out tender, juicy and flavorful. This Greek inspired marinade uses kefir to tenderize the chicken and infuses flavor with lemon, olive oil, garlic, oregano, dill, rosemary and thyme.
This chicken is especially good over salad for lunch the next day, so make enough for leftovers. I like to make large batches (3 to 4 pounds) of sheet-pan Greek chicken breasts so we have leftovers for lunch, or so I can freeze half of the cooked chicken for dinner the following week. If you’re making 2 pounds of chicken or less, you can halve the marinade ingredients.
- 2 to 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅔ cup plain kefir
- Juice from one small lemon
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the palm of your hand
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried dill
- 8 thyme sprigs
- 6 short sprigs rosemary
Note: For the most tender and flavorful chicken breasts, I like to marinate in a kefir marinade for 8 to 12 hours. Usually, I marinate the chicken in the morning, then cook it that night. When using kefir in the marinade, don't marinate for more than 24 hours or the meat will start getting mushy.
Before whisking together the marinade, I make sure the chicken breasts are close to the same size and not too big. Usually, boneless skinless chicken breasts are quite large. I cut them in half, so each piece is around 6 ounces or less. This helps the meat cooks faster so it isn’t in the oven for too long, which dries it out. See the notes section below for more tips about the size of chicken breasts.
Put the chicken breasts in one or two resealable plastic bags or in a large dish or Tupperware container. The dish should be large enough to lay all the breasts out in one layer.
Whisk together the marinade: Olive oil, kefir, lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt, dried oregano, dried dill, thyme and rosemary. When the marinade is whisked together well, pour it over the chicken.
Refrigerate the marinating chicken for 8 to 24 hours. I flip the chicken once or twice while it marinates, to make sure all sides get in on the flavor.
When ready to cook the chicken, heat oven to 425 F.
The honey and dairy in this marinade will burn on the sheet-pan, so it’s best to cover the sheet pan or baking dish with parchment paper before laying out the chicken. Take the chicken breasts out of the marinade and shake off as much marinade as possible. Evenly space the chicken breasts on the sheet pan.
I find that chicken breasts usually take between 18 to 28 minutes to cook completely to 165 F, depending on the thickness. I check the chicken at 18, 23 and 28 minutes and take out pieces as they are done. Smaller, thinner pieces will be done sooner and really thick pieces (weighing 7 ounces or more) will take closer to 28 or sometimes even 30 minutes.
For this particular chicken breast recipe, the chicken doesn’t brown on the outside and stays quite pale, so don’t use the outside color of the chicken breast as an indicator for when it’s done. I always use a meat thermometer to check chicken breasts so there’s no question if they’re done or not. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. At 165 F the chicken is cooked. Also, the juices should run clear and inside the meat should be opaque, not translucent or pink.
Take the chicken out of the oven and let the meat rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. If you slice too soon, the chicken won’t be as juicy.
Grilling Greek Chicken Breasts: These Greek marinated chicken breasts are also delicious grilled. When grilled, the chicken gets crispier and browned on the outside. If grilling, pound each breast to an even thickness of ½ inch before marinating. Do not make them any thinner or the thicken tends to dry out when cooked. Grill the ½-inch thick chicken breasts for 3 to 6 minutes a side over high heat. This marinade causes the flames to flare up a bit, so be mindful.
Tips About the Size of Chicken Breasts: It’s hard to bake juicy, flavorful boneless, skinless chicken breasts, especially when chicken breasts are enormous in size. Ideally, each chicken breast weighs around 6 ounces. More often than not, chicken breasts weigh twice this amount, so I cut the chicken breasts in half either diagonally or widthwise before marinating and cooking. If small, thin chicken tenders are hanging on to the breasts, I pull these pieces off and cook them separately on the sheet pan. These small pieces will be done after about 15 minutes.
Pounding raw chicken breasts to an even thickness (½ inch) also helps them cook faster and more evenly. I always do this when grilling chicken and pan searing chicken, although I don’t usually bother doing it when baking chicken. To pound chicken, place chicken breasts in the same resealable plastic bag you’re using for the marinade. Using a mallet or rolling pin, pound each breast to an even thickness of about 1/2 inch. Don’t go any thinner than ½ inch, or the meat tends to get dry.
Sliced or shredded cooked chicken can be cooled and then stored in freezer bags so you have a freezer stocked with cooked chicken that’s ready for dinner or lunch. (If I freeze food, I plan to use it the following week, otherwise I usually forget it’s there.) When freezing chicken, make sure to remove as much air as possible from the freezer bag. To defrost, put the chicken in the refrigerator the night before.
- Category: chicken
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: Greek inspired
Keywords: chicken breasts, chicken marinade, baked chicken breasts, sheet pan chicken