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Lemon and Herb Chicken (with a cool technique)

Roasted or grilled chicken is smothered in a delicious herb sauce to create an aromatic lemon and herb chicken dish packed with fresh flavors.

Check out the simple technique of mingling the chicken juices with a lemony, garlicky, herb-y sauce – so good! If you’re looking for different ways to try chicken, this is a good one. It’s a simple recipe, but unique and delish.

flattened chicken with herb sauce on cutting board

We’re using an easy ‘board sauce’ technique for this recipe that adds so much flavor. It was developed by Chef Adam Perry Lang, a grilling guru and author of several cookbooks. He used it initially on steak.

I decided to try it with chicken with my own lemon herb sauce made with fresh basil, fresh parsley, oregano, fresh rosemary, garlic, fresh lemon juice and zest, green onions and olive oil – now one of my favorite ways to dress up chicken or meat.

The result is a lemon herb chicken recipe that is deliciously zesty, moist and easy to make. As always, you can adapt the recipe to the flavors you love and the herbs you have on hand.

What to serve with lemon and herb chicken

Try serving it with crispy oven-roasted potatoes, green beans with panko, sweet and tangy grilled eggplant , grilled coleslaw (no mayo) and/or a grilled veggies recipe with potatoes.

It’s also great recipe to serve with a nice salad like citrus salad, panzanella salad with peaches, or peach salad with walnut dressing.

How to do the board sauce technique

Once the chicken is cooked (you can use a simple baked chicken or grilled chicken):

  • Smear a cutting board with the garlic lemon herb sauce and set the cooked chicken on top of it. Add more of the  sauce on top.
  • Cut up the chicken and toss it with the sauce to get well coated.
  • Let the juices and herb board sauce mingle for 10 minutes. That’s it. 

Yum! In fact, I now use the 5-minute fresh herb sauce as a bread and oil dip, on salmon and on our herb shrimp and polenta.

How to make this lemon-herb chicken recipe

chicken, lemon, garlic, herbs, oil, green onions, salt, pepper
Ingredients: chicken, lemon, garlic, herbs, oil, green onions, salt, black pepper
herb sauce in bowl
Combine herbs, garlic, lemon, green onions and oil to make the herb sauce.
herb sauce smeared on cutting board
Spread some herb sauce on cutting board
chicken smeared in herb sauce on cutting board
Place chicken on sauce and add more sauce on top.
cut up chicken on cutting board mingled with herb sauce
Cut up chicken and let juices mingle with herb sauce. Serve with your favorite sides.
two pieces of lemon herb chicken over Chinese broccoli on a plate

Want to step it up another notch?

Use one or more of these options to amp up the flavors even more…

Brine or marinate the chicken first

Brining means bathing raw meat or poultry in a salty solution to add flavor and juiciness before cooking it. I often use kosher chicken which is already brined. To brine a regular or air chilled chicken, check out the instructions in the recipe notes.

Alternatively, double the lemon herb marinade and use half to marinate the chicken for 4-6 hours or overnight. Before grilling or roasting, wipe off (and discard) the herbs as they tend to burn.

Grill the chicken on a cedar plank

To add a mildly smoky flavor to the chicken, try grilling it on a cedar plank. Here’s our recipe for cedar planked chicken. 

Tailor To Your Taste

Some variations and substitutions to try…

Chicken

I like to use a spatchcock or flattened chicken as I find it cooks quickly and comes out very juicy. You can, instead use skinless boneless chicken thighs or boneless chicken breast halves (much quicker) or skin-on bone-in chicken pieces. 

Pretty much any chicken works as long as you adjust the cooking time for the chicken.

Herbs

Use any combination you like for this chicken dish. I suggest including green onions and garlic with the herbs you choose. Herbs that work well with chicken are fresh thyme, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, sage, basil, dill, oregano.

If you don’t have all fresh herbs, substitute a couple with dried herbs, including Italian seasonings, (about 1/3 dried = 1 tablespoon fresh).

Herb sauce

Add some smoked paprika to the herb sauce. Or a splash of quality balsamic vinegar.

Shortcuts

  • Chicken shortcuts:
    • Buy kosher chicken which is already brined. Then you need little to no marinating. If you still want to marinate to build flavor, 30 minutes at room temperature will work great.
    • Use a store-bought pre-seasoned flattened chicken (or get the butcher to flatten a whole chicken for you. 
    • Use chicken pieces or boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs to shorten the cooking time considerably. Perfect for an easy meal on a busy weeknight.
    • And – the ultimate shortcut – buy a hot fresh rotisserie chicken at your local store, cut it up and smear with the herb sauce. My mother calls this “doctoring” the chicken. 
  • Use frozen cubes of garlic or minced garlic in the jar.
  • Make the herb sauce in the food processor in 30 seconds.

Make ahead 

  • The aromatic herb sauce can be made a few hours ahead. Longer is fine too, but the green herbs will turn dull due to the lemon. 
  • This chicken can also be served cold.

How to keep herbs fresh 

So what are you going to do with all the fresh herbs you have in your garden or fridge? We have some tips!

Check out our article on Herbs: The Bare Essentials where we quickly summarize the basics on rules of thumb when cooking with herbs; how to keep herbs fresh; how to substitute dried for fresh herbs; and how to freeze herbs.

flattened chicken with herb sauce on cutting board
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Lemon Herb and Chicken (with a cool technique)

Roasted or grilled chicken is smothered in a delicious herb sauce to create an aromatic lemon and herb chicken dish packed with fresh flavors. Check out the simple technique of mingling the chicken juices with a lemony, garlicky, herb-y sauce – so good!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, 3 1/2-4 pounds (1.6 – 1.8kg) , spatchcocked/flattened (Note 1 and 2) I buy kosher chicken if possible (already brined)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • seasonings (salt, pepper, paprika)

Herb Sauce

  • 1 cup (20 g) fresh herbs Note 3
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 garlic cloves (2 tsp), grated or minced (or 2 frozen cubes)
  • lemon zest from 1 lemon (plus optional 1-2 tablespoon lemon juice)
  • 6 tablespoon olive oil you can use extra-virgin olive oil if you prefer (it has a stronger taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or less (optional)

Instructions

  • PREPARE GRILL OR OVEN: You can grill or roast the chicken.
    °To grill: Clean and oil grill with cooking spray. Heat gas grill to medium high 375-425F(190-218C).
    °To roast: Heat oven to 400F/204C. Line a pan with or parchment sprayed with oil.
  • PREPARE CHICKEN: Optional 4-6 hours before or day before: To add flavor and juiciness to the chicken, brine it Note 4. Or marinate it Note 5.
    To prepare chicken for cooking (even if brined), rub olive oil over chicken and sprinkle on seasonings, front and back.
  • GRILL CHICKEN Place chicken pieces or spatchcock chicken, skin side up, on grill. Turn off burner under chicken. Try to keep temperature of BBQ at 375F-425F (190-218C). Close cover and grill for about 40 minutes or until instant meat thermometer reads 160F/71C in breast. Temperature will rise with resting. Optional: To increase browning on skin, flip chicken over, skin side down, turn on burner and grill for a few more minutes.) To grill on a cedar plank for a mild smoky flavor, here's a recipe for cedar planked chicken. Note 6 to roast chicken instead. 
  • MAKE HERB SAUCE: While chicken is cooking, chop all sauce ingredients finely and combine them in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. It's a good idea to grate garlic or crush it with back of knife since it will be eaten raw. (Alternatively, pulse all ingredients in food processor – that's what I do.)
  • FINISH DISH: Spread 1/3 of aromatic smear on a large cutting board or platter. (If using platter, cut up chicken first). Place chicken on top of smear. Spoon rest of smear on top and sides of chicken. Cut chicken into pieces. Loosely cover with foil and let chicken rest for 10 minutes, allowing chicken juices to mingle with smear. Flip chicken around in the juices and herbs and serve. Garnish with fresh lemon slices if desired.

Notes

  1. Chicken options: instead of a spatchcock chicken, use bone-in chicken pieces or skinless boneless chicken breasts or thighs. These will cook more quickly. 
  2. To spatchcock or flatten chicken: Cut out the backbone by using kitchen scissors to cut down both sides of the back bone. Turn chicken over and press down hard to flatten. (Or ask the butcher to do it for you. Or buy one already flattened)
  3. Herbs that go well with chicken: any combination of fresh basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, dill, chives. If you don’t have all fresh herbs, use some dried (about 1 teaspoon dried = 1 tablespoon fresh)
  4. To brine chicken (optional): place chicken in a container or ziploc bag filled with 4 cups (1 liter) water, 4 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1-2 cloves garlic cut in half, 8-10 peppercorns and a sprig or two of rosemary or thyme. Brine for 4 hours for a flattened chicken or overnight for a whole chicken. Rinse and pat dry.  Lightly season and continue with the recipe.
  5. To marinate chicken ahead of cooking (optional): you will have to double the herb sauce and use half to marinate the chicken for 4-6 hours or overnight. Remove from fridge an hour before cooking to bring to room temperature. Before grilling or roasting, wipe off (and discard) the herbs as they tend to burn.
  6. To roast chicken (instead of grilling): Place chicken, skin side down on pan. Roast chicken for 20 minutes. Flip over and roast for another 20 minutes or until instant thermometer reads 160F/71C. Temperature will rise with resting.
  7. To Make Ahead: The aromatic smear can be made a few hours ahead (or longer if you don’t mind the green colors turning dull). The chicken can be made ahead and warmed in a 350F/176C for 10 minutes. Or served cold. 
Nutritional information is estimated. 

Nutrition

Calories: 637kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 30g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 143mg | Sodium: 438mg | Potassium: 473mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1665IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 3mg
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