How Long to Marinate Chicken in Yogurt?

Marinating chicken can be a struggle. You don’t want to marinate it too long and make it turn mushy.

On the other hand, you don’t want to marinate it for too short a time and not have enough flavor or moisture in the meat. 

One great way to both tenderize and add moisture to your chicken is to marinate it in yogurt. The lactic acid helps tenderize the meat while adding moisture. It works very quickly.

Generally speaking, you can marinate chicken breasts in yogurt for as little as 15 minutes or for as long as 3 hours Bone-in chicken breasts need to marinate for at least an hour. Dark meat chicken like thighs or leg quarters can handle a longer marinating time. You can marinate it for between 2 and 18 hours. 

Keep reading for specific marinating times, cuts of chicken, types of yogurt, recipes for marinades, and cooking methods.

Why You Should Marinate Chicken In Yogurt

Marinating meats before you cook them imbues them with flavor and moisture and makes them tender.

Using an acidic element in a marinade helps to tenderize the meat by breaking down the proteins.

Many marinades use vinegar or citric acid to break down the proteins. However, using yogurt provides a very different kind of acid. 

Yogurt contains both calcium and lactic acid. This combination breaks down the proteins in meat but produces a different texture in the process.

The lactic acid is milder than other kinds of acid like vinegar and citric acid, producing meat that is tender without being mushy or rubbery. 

Yogurt also creates a caramelized coating on the outside of the meat that you can’t reproduce with other marinades. 

How Long to Marinate Chicken Breats in Yogurt

Due to their lower fat content, chicken breasts don’t hold up as well in a marinade as thighs do.

Therefore you don’t need to marinate them as long. However, a thick breast will need to marinate longer than a thin breast.

You may want to consider pounding the breast to be thinner or cutting it in half to make it thinner so it marinates and cooks faster.

With any chicken breasts, thin, thick, or bone-in, limit the marinating time to 3-5 hours to prevent it from becoming mushy or mealy.

How Long to Marinate Dark Meat Chicken in Yogurt

Dark meat chicken can handle a longer marinade because it has a higher fat content.

Boneless thighs should be marinated for between 2 and 8 hours. Bone-in thighs or thigh and leg quarters can marinate from 2 hours to 12 hours. 

Dark meat chicken like thighs and leg quarters can benefit from being marinated overnight as long as the only acid is the lactic acid in the yogurt.

If you want lemon juice, add it close to the end of the marinating time. 

Helpful Tips For Marinating in Yogurt

Can you Marinate Chicken in Yogurt for 2 Days?

As mentioned earlier, chicken breasts and thighs handle the marinades differently. However, we all know that our plans don’t always work out.

If you can’t cook the chicken on the day you planned, you can safely marinate the chicken up to 48 hours as long as you keep it in the refrigerator the whole time to prevent it from spoiling.

However, the texture of the chicken, especially white meat, may suffer the longer it sits in the marinade.

Can I Marinate Chicken in Yogurt Too Long?

Generally speaking, you should not marinate chicken longer than 48 hours in anything, even yogurt. The extended time the chicken is in the marinade can lead to an unpleasant mealy texture.

Chicken in Yoghurt

If chicken is left to marinate longer than 48 hours, it may begin to spoil, leaving you will a bowl of chicken and salmonella or e. coli in your fridge.

Greek Yogurt or Regular Yogurt

You can use either Greek or regular yogurt for your marinade. Whichever you choose, make sure to get a plain, unsweetened, and unflavored variety.

In a plain yogurt recipe, you can just add in your seasonings and apply it directly to the chicken.

However, Greek yogurt has a much lower liquid content. You will likely need to add some more liquid to the marinade if you use Greek yogurt.

Add ½ cup of water, chicken broth, milk, or buttermilk to your marinade mix.

You should use ½ cup of yogurt per chicken breast or quarter for the base of your marinade.

Be sure to keep your marinating chicken in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it to reduce the possibility of spoiling.

Cover Chicken Completely While Marinating

You can marinate the chicken in a baking dish or bowl covered with plastic wrap or a lid. Just be sure that the marinade completely covers the chicken.

If it doesn’t, give the mixture a stir while it marinates to ensure that each piece is covered completely. 

Another option is to marinate the chicken in a zip-top bag. Be sure to squeeze the air out of the bag before sealing it.

You can stir the marinade and chicken around by massaging the bag every couple of hours. Using a ziptop bag is convenient for easy clean-up as well. 

Baste With Olive Oil While Cooking

Because the outside of the chicken will cook more quickly than the inside, you may want to baste the chicken with olive oil partway through the cooking to keep the outside moist.

This is an especially good tactic when you are grilling.

Cooking Chicken Marinated in Yogurt

Grilling Yogurt Marinated Chicken

  1. Heat your grill to 400 degrees and set it up for indirect grilling. 
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and scrape off any extra yogurt before grilling. 
  3. Cook the chicken over indirect heat for about 25 minutes. 
  4. Turn the heat down then flip the chicken and cook over direct heat, turning occasionally until the chicken is cooked through. 
  5. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the chicken reaches 160 degrees in the center (about 15 minutes). 
  6. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Baking Yogurt Marinated Chicken in The Oven

  1. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375℉.
  3. Place a baking rack on a parchment-lined baking sheet or roasting pan. 
  4. Lay out the chicken on the baking rack. 
  5. Back for 50-60 minutes until the chicken is done and the meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.
  6. Switch the oven to broil. Broil for 2-3 minutes to crisp up the skin, watching carefully to avoid burning.
  7. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving.

Stove-Top Pan-Seared Yogurt-Marinated Chicken

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. After marinating your chicken in a yogurt blend, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pan. 
  3. Add chicken a few pieces at a time to the pan and brown for 4-5 minutes on each side. 
  4. After browning all the chicken, place it in a baking dish.
  5. Bake the chicken for 40-45 minutes until the chicken has cooked through and reached 165 degrees on the meat thermometer.

Recipes for Yogurt Marinades

When you make your marinade, start with ½ cup of yogurt for each chicken breast or ¼ pound of chicken.

If you use Greek yogurt, add ½ cup of liquid to the marinade. You can use water, broth, milk, or buttermilk in the mix. 

Next, add whatever seasonings make up the flavor profile you are looking for. Then marinate your cuts of chicken and cook them up for a tasty, tender, juicy meal.

Indian Curry Inspired Flavor

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Serve up your Indian Curry chicken with some warm Naan bread and roasted vegetables. 

Tikka Masala Yogurt Marinade Flavor

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (one 3-inch piece) roughly chopped ginger
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • ½ cup whole-fat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Try this tikka masala yogurt marinated chicken with basmati rice and fresh cucumber and olive salad. 

Middle Eastern Yogurt Marinade Flavor

Ingredients

Cut your chicken into cubes and thread them on soaked bamboo skewers before marinating.

Chicken marinade in Yoghurt

Then grill these skewers and serve them up with lettuce leaves, pita bread, and Toum, a Lebanese garlic sauce.

Marinating Other Meats in Yogurt

Yogurt marinades are not only good for chicken. Next time you want a tangy, juicy dish, try it with beef, pork, or lamb instead of chicken. 

Final Thoughts

When you need to freshen up your chicken dishes, try marinating the chicken in yogurt. It adds moisture and a tangy flavor to this mild protein.

You can marinate chicken breasts for as little as 15 minutes up to 5 hours. Dark meat chicken holds up in a marinade better, so try marinating it from 2 hours to 12 hours.

If you are using bone-in chicken or thicker chicken breasts, you should marinate them longer. Thinner and boneless chicken pieces don’t need to marinate as long. 

Be sure to keep the marinating chicken in an airtight container or ziptop bag in the refrigerator to prevent any kind of spoilage.

If you are grilling the chicken, scrape off excess marinade before placing it on the grill. 

Try out a variety of new flavor profiles for your yogurt marinated chicken to brighten up your recipes.

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