Make Better Chicken in 15 Minutes, Thanks to Greek Yogurt

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

In comparison to a hardworking brine, marinades seems like a hard sell when it comes to flavoring and tenderizing meat and poultry. But there’s one option out there that’s a little different. Greek yogurt does more than simply flavor the surface of chicken. Thanks to its acidity — different from the kind you find in citrus or vinegar — it tenderizes the meat, keeping it juicy and never rubbery.

Give yourself 15 minutes, and Greek yogurt will reward you with tastier, more tender chicken. Here’s why it works so well.

How Greek Yogurt Works as a Marinade

Greek yogurt has two important qualities that make it really work as a marinade: calcium and lactic acid. Together they break down the protein in meat and poultry, leaving it super tender and moist. It’s similar to acidic marinades made with citrus juice, vinegar, or wine, with one big catch: Lactic acid is more mild than the acids found in citrus, vinegar, or wine so you don’t run the same risk of a mushy or tough meat. All you get is tangy flavor and bite after tender bite.

How to Do It

Because it’s pretty thick, start by thinning the Greek yogurt with water, stock, lemon juice, olive oil, or a combination. As a rule of thumb, plan to use about 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt for every pound of chicken. But don’t stop there — there’s so much potential to bring in more flavor to the marinade.

Ground spices are a quick and simple way to instantly boost the flavor of a yogurt marinade, as well as minced garlic and ginger. These aromatics become infused in the yogurt, and as it penetrates through the meat the moisture from the yogurt along with any spices or seasonings gets deposited into the pockets created by the lactic acid. You end up with juicy chicken that’s truly seasoned from the inside out!

You really only need 15 minutes to see a difference in your chicken, but since lactic acid doesn’t come with the same risk of making food mushy as other acid-based marinades, you can leave the chicken in the yogurt overnight or up to 24 hours. Give it a try and see what a difference it makes in your chicken breast!

Recipes with Yogurt-Marinated Chicken