Soy Sauce Chicken Marinade

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This 4 ingredient soy sauce chicken marinade is about to be your new go-to grilled chicken. With flavors of onion, lemon, soy sauce, and a secret ingredient, you get a flavor packed chicken that’s delicious on the grill or in the oven.

A pile of grilled marinated chicken with grilled onions and lemons on a piece of parchment paper.

I’m gonna make a claim that may sound crazy to you, but I swear it’s true. This is the best, most delicious, super easy chicken you will ever have. Honestly, this ridiculously easy soy sauce marinated chicken is at every family party and summer cookout. Literally everyone in my family requests this, and complain when it doesn’t appear on the menu. Since it’s only 4 ingredients and results in lick your fingers clean grilled chicken, I don’t mind and always make extra for leftovers.

Served up with a refreshing fruit punch lemonade, classic potato salad, grilled summer squash, and an berry kale salad, and you’ll be feasting in style.

Recipe Highlights

  • Perfect for prepping ahead – You can let the chicken marinate in the soy sauce mixture for 3-24 hours.
  • UNBELIEVABLE FLAVOR – I rarely type in all caps, so you know this is serious.
  • Fan Favorite – This is a big hit at every party, and I know it will be for you too.
  • 4 Ingredients – Find the components of the marinade at any grocery store year round.

Ingredients & Substitutions

You might think the ingredients are a strange combo. I doubt I’d have thought of it either (thanks Uncle George!), but trust me, it will not disappoint you.

A soy sauce bottle, lemon, onion, raw chicken, and vinegar.
  • Soy Sauce – Use regular soy sauce. If your diet demands it, you can try coconut aminos or liquid aminos, but the salt in soy sauce is key.
  • White Vinegar – Don’t get fancy. Use white vinegar, trust me.
  • Lemon – Go with regular, tart lemons, not meyer.
  • Onions – We always use sharp red onions, but white onions work as well.
  • Chicken – I recommend bone in chicken, or boneless chicken thighs, but I have successfully used chicken breast before as well.

Step by Step Instructions

Whipping up this super easy grilled chicken marinade is well…easy. The quantities given are enough for one whole chicken broken down, or 8 pieces of chicken.

a large glass bowl full of soy sauce chicken marinade and bone in chicken soaking in it.

Step 1 – Mix the marinade and add chicken

You’ll want a VERY large bowl, or even a big stock pot as long as it’s non reactive metal (Avoid cast iron, carbon steel, or aluminum). The volume of the marinade increases as chicken is added and you don’t want to deal with overflow.

Chop the onions into large chunks, then cut each lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Add the squeezed lemon halves once their juiced as well. Pour the soy sauce and vinegar into it, then add the onion and give it a quick stir.

Add in the chicken and cover. Let it marinate in the soy sauce mixture for 3 hours, or up to 1 day. Halfway through your allotted time, flip it once to make sure the chicken is getting a complete bath.

Pro Tip: Feel free to increase the marinade for parties or larger cooking batches, just remember the simple ratio of 2:3 vinegar to soy sauce. For every 3 cups of soy sauce, you’ll need 2 of vinegar. That’s the typical amount I use for my 8 chicken pieces, and for that I use 2 whole lemons, and one whole large onion.

soy sauce marinated chicken on a grill.

Step 2 – Cook your marinated chicken

I recommend the grill. It caramelizes the surface of the chicken and gives it a smokiness that is really unbeatable. Take your chicken out of the fridge 20-30 minutes before cooking so it’s not so cold.

Heat your grill to between 350-400°F (if you have trouble, check out this guide to knowing grill temperature without a thermometer). Place chicken pieces over direct heat, skin side down, for 5 minutes or until the skin is caramelized. Move pieces over indirect heat for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 160°F.

Let chicken rest for 5-10 minutes and it will finish cooking to 165°F. Then enjoy! (I recommend THIS Instant Read Thermometer and I love it. Works quickly, is waterproof and I can use it in my kitchen or over the grill.)

Oven Directions:

  1. Start by preheating the oven to 350°F. Then place an oven safe pan like cast iron or stainless steel over medium high heat on the stove.
  2. When your pan is hot, add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and sear the chicken on each side until the skin is brown and crispy, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a 350°F oven for 25-30 minutes or until 160°F. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes then serve.

a heap of soy sauce marinated grilled chicken on a white piece of parchment.


Can I use skinless or boneless chicken in a soy sauce marinade?

Absolutely! I’ve used boneless skinless breasts and thighs on numerous occasions. While the skin adds a lovely richness and flavor, it’s not mandatory. Go with bone in, boneless, skin on, or skinless, whatever suits your tastes.

Can I use the marinade after I take out the chicken?

I would never advise consuming something that has come into contact with raw chicken without the precaution of cooking it thoroughly. Add it to a large pan and bring it to a rolling, violent boil for 5 minutes. Let it cool and you can use it. Or, simply remove a cup of marinade before adding your chicken to it, and reserve it for use as a mopping liquid while cooking.

How do I store the chicken while marinating?

Keep it in the fridge or if cooking for a party, use a large cooler so the chicken is kept cool at food-safe temperatures. The acid and salt of a soy sauce marinade makes it very difficult for bacteria to grow, but better safe than sorry.

I hope you enjoy this family favorite. A simple 4 ingredient marinade, a bit of time, and a hot grill is all you need to prepare the best grilled chicken for your next cookout. If you’re wondering what to serve alongside it, check out these recipes!

a pile of grilled soy sauce marinated chicken.

Lemon Soy Chicken

Mikayla M.
A simple 4 ingredient marinade makes the best, easy grilled chicken you've ever had. A family favorite !
5 from 12 votes
Prep Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Rest time 5 minutes
Course dinner, entree, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 18 kcal


  • Grill


  • 3 cups soy sauce
  • 2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 2 medium lemons
  • 1 large red onion*
  • 8 pieces skin on chicken*


  • Combine soy sauce and vinegar in a large bowl. Chop onion into large chunks and add to liquid.
    3 cups soy sauce, 2 cups white distilled vinegar, 1 large red onion*
  • Slice lemons in half and squeeze into liquids. Then add lemon halves into the liquid as well.
    2 medium lemons
  • Gently add chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, up to 1 day, turning the chicken at least once in the marinade.
    8 pieces skin on chicken*

Grill Instructions

  • Remove the marinating chicken and allow to come up to room temperature as you heat your grill. Heat grill to 375°F. (Can hold your hand above it, 5 inches away, for no longer than 5 seconds).
  • Remove chicken from marinade and place skin side down over direct for 5 minutes or until skin is crispy.
  • Move to indirect heat and cook for 25 to 30 more minutes until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 160°F. Remove from grill and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Oven Baked Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Place an oven safe pan over medium high heat and pull chicken from fridge.
  • When pan is hot, add a tablespoon of oil. Remove chicken from marinade and place skin side down in pan. Let the chicken sear until crispy on both sides, 4 minutes per side.
  • Transfer to oven and baked 25-30 minutes or until chicken is 160°F. Allow to rest 5 minutes or so, then enjoy!


*White or yellow onion can also be used, but avoid sweet onions. 
*Can use skinless, or boneless chicken. I usually use 1 whole chicken cut apart, but 8 drumsticks, 8 thighs, or 8 breasts (or any combo of) will also work. 
This recipe can be easily increased to cook for a crowd! Simply increase with the ratio of 2 parts vinegar for every 3 parts soy sauce. (1 cup soy, 2/3 cup vinegar etc) Add 1 lemon and 1/2 an onion for every additional 1 cup of vinegar.


Serving: 1pieceCalories: 18kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 812mgPotassium: 50mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin C: 4.1mgCalcium: 6mgIron: 0.4mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.

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  1. 5 stars
    I just made this tonight alongside some rice pilaf. First of all, my house smells amazing and this chicken is incredible. I used thighs (my favorite part of the chicken) and added the juice of one clementine to go with the 2 lemons. Boy was this good!!!

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed it Robyn! That smell is to die for right?! I love the addition of a clementine, I’ll have to try that myself next time!

  2. 5 stars
    Grilled chicken is one of my favourite things ever! That marinade sounds absolutely delicious!

    1. For us it most often feeds a crowd so I can guarantee it’ll please the masses, but it’s a yummy dinner just for home too. It reheats phenomenally well too.