Lemon Chicken

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This easy lemon chicken recipe is perfect for a weeknight dinner! Not too lemony, just right. It's made with garlic, butter, lemon, thyme, and rosemary.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Overheard at the market, “I’m a breast girl.” “Really? I’m definitely a thigh girl,” pause…”dark meat, so much more flavor.”

Had to laugh, I’m so so so much a thigh girl myself. What’s the secret to wonderful lemon chicken? Use chicken thighs (or legs, but thighs are easier to eat), bone-in and skin-on.

Baked Lemon Chicken on Plate

Tips For Making Lemon Chicken

Lemon is acidic and helps balance the stronger flavor of the dark meat in thighs and legs, and the fat from the chicken skin.

Of course, you can use chicken breasts if you prefer. Depending on the size of your pieces, you probably won’t need to cook them as long as thighs.

Don’t like the skin? Not everyone does. But do cook with the skin-on if you can. Cooking with the skin on not only protects the meat from drying out, the chicken gets bathed with the flavor from the skin while it cooks.

Lemon Chicken

A Fan Favorite

This recipe has been one of the most popular on Simply Recipes for years. It’s easy to make—just a simple marinade with lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs, and then into the oven it goes.

And the taste is just right! Not so lemony it makes your mouth pucker. Perfect to go with rice, buttered noodlesangel hair pasta, or mashed potatoes.

Want More Easy Chicken Recipes?

How to make lemon chicken

Updated February 5, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.

Lemon Chicken Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Marinating time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 pounds chicken parts (thighs and legs recommended), skin-on, bone-in, trimmed of excess fat
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest (about zest from 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Lemon slices for garnish

Method

1 Marinate chicken: Place lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a large, non-reactive bowl, whisk to combine.

With the tip of a sharp knife, cut into the underside (skinless) of each chicken piece one or two times by about 1/2 an inch. (This will help the marinade penetrate.)

Place the chicken pieces in the bowl and turn to coat with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 1 to 2 hours.

2 Place chicken in baking dish, brush with butter: Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove chicken from marinade and place in a single layer in a large baking dish, skin side up. Reserve the marinade. Use a pastry brush to brush melted butter on each piece of chicken.

3 Bake and baste with marinade: Bake for 20 minutes and baste the chicken pieces generously with the reserved marinade. Continue baking for another 15 to 25 minutes (a total of 35 to 45 minutes), until the skins are crispy brown, and the chicken is cooked through, juices running clear (internal temperature of 165°F).

Depending on the size of the breasts, they may be ready before the thighs, so if you are cooking a mix of chicken parts, keep that in mind, you may have to take them out of the oven before the thighs.

4 Let rest, covered in foil, for 10 minutes before serving.

5 Save meat juices to serve with chicken: Pour the juices from the pan into a serving bowl. Use a tablespoon to skim the fat off the top (save the fat for cooking with later, or discard, but do not discard down the drain or it will solidify and clog your drain).

Serve the chicken with the juices on the side or a little poured over the top of the chicken.

Serve alone, or with steamed rice, buttered noodles, angel hair pasta, or mashed potatoes.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

158 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Linda Quick

    Perfect recipe. So delicious. Juicy, tender and easy to make. Made more marinade the second time for basting. Used this marinade on a whole roast chicken also. Came out great.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Betty Shanks

    Great made for girls get together,we all loved how it tasted

  3. JoeW

    Made this last, night, halved it.

    I used Meyer lemon zest/juice, because we have the tree.

    As someone else mentioned, there wasn’t really enough excess marinade for basting during the baking process. That doesn’t matter a bit. Skin was nicely browned and crispy. Plenty of juices baked out of the chicken for use as sauce.
    Served with rice and cucumber/tomato salad.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Saline Bepsko

    This was absolutely delicious and super moist. I will surely make it again. My only concern is the skin. When I cooked the chicken the skin didn’t brown up/turn crispy lime the way yours does in the photo.

    Is it because it wasn’t dry? I was pouring the liquid marinade on the chicken. Could that have been why I didn’t get crispy brown skin? Although the the chicken was delicious the rubbery skin put me off.

    Any advice as to how to improve it the next time?

    Thanks!
    Saline

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (2)
  5. Paul

    I also added a bit of ginger with the garlic. Hoping this will still work well, but it was so easy and simple to prepare.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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