A Third – A Third – A Third Chicken

By Ann Fulton

Equal parts of three basic ingredients create the most flavorful, versatile marinade. Make the recipe once and you’ll never forget it!  
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Equal parts of three basic ingredients create the most flavorful, versatile marinade. Make the recipe once and you’ll never forget it!  


Don’t feel like cooking but still want to eat a delicious meal?

Or perhaps company is suddenly coming for dinner? 

This is your recipe! 

This scrumptious chicken recipe has been passed along to countless friends and family members over the years, without the need for a recipe card. (Or text, email, or link, as the case may more often be today!)

It’s that simple.

The chicken is also easy to make for one person or a crowd, and leftovers can be enjoyed in so many ways.

For added value, you can use the marinade for vegetables and grill them at the same time. Suddenly, you have a whole meal! 

The marinade consists of equal parts of three basic ingredients:

  • lemon juice
  • soy sauce
  • olive oil

So simple but everyone always raves and asks for the recipe because the flavors taste complex, betraying the recipe’s utter simplicity.

I’ve mentioned this stellar recipe on the blog under a different name, thanks to a family member assigning it her own name tied to a favorite vacation cookout spot.

The marinade is also mentioned under a name coined by a friend, who claims it to be “the essential marinade.” I’m not arguing that point or the creative names, but somehow, it seemed a like a miss that the recipe as I have referred to it for decades did not have a proper home on this blog.

Until now!

The backstory is short and sweet. After enjoying the most succulent grilled chicken several times at our friends’ house years ago, I asked our host what she put in the marinade.

Given the flavor, I fully expected a long list of ingredients.

“It’s easy,” she replied. “Just remember a third, a third, a third. The marinade is nothing more than equal parts of three ingredients: lemon juice, soy sauce, and olive oil.”

Mind blown!

Equal parts of three basic ingredients create the most flavorful, versatile marinade. Make the recipe once and you’ll never forget it!  

Freshly squeezed lemon juice will deliver the best results. I’ve tried this recipe with lime juice instead of lemon juice, and while it works, I do prefer lemon. In a pinch, I’ve used a mix when I didn’t have quite enough lemon juice on hand.

Equal parts of three basic ingredients create the most flavorful, versatile marinade. Make the recipe once and you’ll never forget it!  

The trick for the best tasting chicken is to let it marinade for at least 4 hours and up to all day. On many occasions, I’ve let the chicken steep all night.

In that case, the lemon juice (which, for best flavor, should be freshly squeezed) may make the chicken look partially cooked, but don’t worry. Simply grill as usual. The chicken will turn out just fine.

Lemon juice tenderizes and adds brightness, while soy sauce balances the sharpness of the lemon and provides salt and color. It also lends a savory umami that makes this chicken extra special.  

The final ingredient, olive oil, moistens the meat and pulls its own weight in the flavor department. That’s because fat is an excellent carrier of other flavors, so it unites all the elements in perfect harmony.

Notably, the marinade is versatile too. Though I most frequently use this foolproof marinade for chicken, it’s delicious on salmon, shrimp, and flank steak as well. When using it for salmon, I often add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.

As mentioned, the simple combination is equally divine used as a marinade for grilled vegetables. For the simplest but most satisfying of meals, I often marinate chicken in one bowl and, for a shorter time, marinate veggies in another. Everything can be grilled when ready to eat…and leftovers are delicious.

What to do with those leftovers?

For easy lunches and dinners later in the week, I cook enough chicken to ensure leftovers, which can be enjoyed cold or reheated. This chicken will level up your favorite chicken salad, from a traditional, mayo-based recipe to a seasonal favorite like Summer Breeze Chicken SaladAsparagus & Chicken Salad With Sesame Ginger Dressing, and Chicken Chip Bake, which is like a warm chicken salad with a crunchy topping. 

(For more chicken salad recipes, simply enter chicken salad in the search bar.)

Similarly, leftover grilled vegetables are delicious cold or reheated, and they make a mean Grilled Veggiewich. Roughly chopped, the grilled veggies will also perk up a green salad and can be stirred into cooked rice.

For an easy but satisfying bowl meal, chop some of the leftover chicken and add to cooked rice or fresh greens (or a combination; and shrimp, salmon, or steak, even tinned fish or tofu will work well in place of the chicken). If you don’t have any leftover cooked vegetables, you could add sliced cucumber, shredded carrots, fresh snow peas, chopped bell pepper, even frozen and thawed broccoli. A drizzle of sriracha mayo offers a flavorful finishing touch.  

As these examples illustrate, eating well is often a matter of cooking enough one night to ensure leftovers, and then repurposing those leftovers with pantry staples, whatever fresh ingredients you may have in your produce drawer, and drizzle of a favorite vinaigrette and/or a sprinkle of something crunchy like nuts or seeds.

Equal parts of three basic ingredients create the most flavorful, versatile marinade. Make the recipe once and you’ll never forget it!  

When grilled, the simplest three-ingredient marinade produces a golden brown exterior that makes the chicken look as good as it tastes!

Equal parts of three basic ingredients create the most flavorful, versatile marinade. Make the recipe once and you’ll never forget it!  

The easy marinade will serve as the foundation for your entire meal.

How much marinade do I need?

As a general rule, plan on ½ cup liquid for every pound of meat. When I grill four chicken breasts, I often use ¼ cup of each, which is more than enough to marinate them in a bowl or zip-top bag.

How long should I marinate chicken?

I like to marinate chicken for at least a few hours and up to all day. I’ve also allowed chicken to steep in this mixture overnight many times with great results.

If you occasionally notice areas of the chicken that appear cooked after extended marinating, do not worry. Acidic ingredients, like lemon juice, can cause this, but you should still have very good results if you simply cook the chicken to temperature, as usual.

How long should I marinate seafood?

I generally marinate shrimp, salmon, tuna, swordfish, and other fish for 30 minutes or up to two hours. 

What about vegetables?

Vegetables should be allowed to steep for 30 minutes or up to several hours.

Do I need to baste when grilling?

With this recipe, I usually don’t bother, but my husband does when he’s at the grill. If you do, you may notice the flavor of the finished chicken (or vegetables and other meats) is a touch bolder. 

Is this recipe gluten-free? 

The marinade will be gluten-free if using a gluten-free soy sauce or tamari. 

More ways to enjoy this easy marinade:

  • Prepare a little extra marinade to steep onions, zucchini, peppers, asparagus, eggplant, and/or mushrooms and grill them alongside the meat for a low-effort way to create a complete meal.
  • For a hearty, super easy side dish, marinate and grill whole portobello mushrooms. Simply scrape out the gills with a spoon before placing in the marinade.
  • For a mouthwateringly “meaty” veggie burger, serve the grilled portobellos in a bun and top with sliced avocado, tomato, lettuce, and slivered onion. I also make an Avocado Lime Sauce (or Sriracha Mayo; see recipe notes of linked post) that tops off this hearty sandwich beautifully.
  • For another filling plant-based option and a great way to repurpose leftovers, grill extra of your favorite vegetables and create a Grilled “Veggiewich” with your favorite pesto and cheese. Tip: Cutting the zucchini, eggplant, etc., in thick strips instead of rounds makes them less likely to slip through the grill grates and creates perfect pieces for layering in a sandwich.
  • My mother-in-law uses the leftover chicken to boost the flavor and make quick work of her standard chicken salad as well as this seasonal Summer Breeze Chicken Salad (one of my personal favorites). 

If you happen to create your own spin-off recipe, please report back!

   Equal parts of three basic ingredients create the most flavorful, versatile marinade. Make the recipe once and you’ll never forget it!  

I’d love to know if you try this recipe. Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @fountainavenuekitchen on Instagram and Facebook. Your feedback is always appreciated.

A Third - A Third - A Third Chicken
Prep Time: 3 minutes + marinating time
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes + marinating time
Yield: 4-6 servings (easy to scale up or down as needed*)
Equal parts of three basic ingredients create the most flavorful, versatile marinade, which has stood the test of time. Make the recipe once and you’ll never forget it!
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
  • ⅓ cup (80ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup (80ml) soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari, as needed)
  • ⅓ cup (75ml) olive oil
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon sesame oil (I use this when grilling salmon or tuna steaks)
  1. Before you start: 1 cup of marinade is a sufficient quantity for 2 pounds of chicken, seafood, pork, or flank steak. The marinade also works beautifully for vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, onions, asparagus, portobello mushrooms, bell peppers, and eggplant. A zip-top bag allows the liquid to flow freely around the food; if using a bowl, flip the pieces around once or twice while marinating to ensure they are all evenly coated.
  2. Make the marinade: Combine the lemon juice, soy sauce, and olive oil in a large bowl or zip-top bag.
  3. Add the chicken and marinate for several hours or up to all day.
  4. Preheat the grill and remove the chicken from the marinade. Tip 1: For more even cooking, let the chicken sit at room temperature for 20 or so minutes before grilling. Tip 2: For little extra flavor, you may baste the chicken a few times while grilling, but it will still taste great if you skip this step. Discard what remains of the marinade when done.
  5. Cook the chicken over medium heat, covered, for 7-8 minutes per side, depending on thickness, or until the chicken is just cooked through (internal temperature should read 160℉ when taken with a quick read thermometer; carryover cooking will take it to the recommended 165℉).
  6. Stovetop option: Very lightly coat a large skillet with oil, and place over medium to medium-high heat. Cook the chicken breast halves for 5 minutes per side, or until the meat is no longer pink in the center (see internal temps noted above). Remove from the heat and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before cutting. Optionally, the chicken may be cut into bite-size pieces and stir-fried.  

*Other chicken parts as well as bone-in, skin-on pieces may be used. Also, feel free to make as little or much chicken as you wish, adjusting the amount of marinade up or down (about ½ cup marinade per pound of meat is sufficient) as needed.

Storage: Leftovers are delicious (plan for them!) and will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Once cooled, the chicken may also be frozen for about 3 months.

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