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How to Make Chicken Breasts with a Buttermilk Marinade

glass bowl filled with chicken soaking in a buttermilk marinade
This buttermilk marinade will make chicken moist, delicious, tender, and simply irresistible!

The best way I know of to consistently serve a moist and tender chicken breast and is by using this easy buttermilk marinade. It's the perfect way to prepare chicken before grilling and I use it when making my Creamy White Chicken Chili and my family's favorite Chicken Teriyaki.

oven baked chicken after  prepping in a buttermilk chicken marinade

While this does call for prepping so you can marinade in advance the delicious results are well worth the wait.

This is a down-home recipe that I first tried a few years ago after trying this recipe of fried chicken without buttermilk and the results were so good that I wanted to be sure to share this delicious buttermilk marinade chicken recipe with you.

This post contains helpful tips, tricks, and useful information! If you're in a rush, please use the "Jump to Recipe" link at the top of this post.

*This post may contain affiliate links and I’ll earn a commission if you shop through them. You can read my full disclosure here.

The first time I tried it my family raved and asked what I did differently with the chicken. They actually noticed which is huge, trust me. I could walk around with a monkey on my head and they wouldn't take a second look.

Boneless skinless chicken breasts in a fresh buttermilk marinade - the secret to moist and tender chicken every time

The full recipe with instructions are available in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. You can find helpful tips and tricks within the blog post itself.

🍗 Why use a Buttermilk Marinade for Chicken?

From my experience, you can't just cook a chicken breast, chicken tenders, chicken thighs, etc. without first prepping them in some way and expect them to be moist and tender. This is where the buttermilk marinade comes into play.

A buttermilk soak is the secret to soft, tender chicken due to lactic acid. That acidity is what helps to breakdown the protein structures and muscle fibers in chicken, therefore, rendering the meat to be more tender and to retain better moisture.

How long should you marinate the chicken?

This marinade works the best when you allow your meat to marinate between 8 and 24 hours.

Does this recipe work as well with boneless chicken?

Yes, it does. I almost always use boneless skinless chicken breasts in my recipes and when I use this buttermilk marinade first, my chicken always tastes better.

What could I use instead of buttermilk if I don't have any on hand?

You can make your own buttermilk by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar OR fresh lemon juice to a measuring cup. Add enough milk (whole, low-fat, or skim milk will all work well) to equal 1 cup. Allow this buttermilk mixture to sit for 10 to 20 minutes before using.

Can this marinade be used for a southern fried chicken recipe?

Yes, it can.

Can I add seasoning to the buttermilk marinade?

Yes, you can. Flavorful chicken is easy with the simple ingredients of this good marinade that's perfect to season buttermilk. 

  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (regular or coarse salt can be substituted)

Is this a buttermilk brine?

No. A brine contains a large amount salt in the marinade, usually a ⅓ cup of salt to 3 cup buttermilk ratio.

overhead view of chicken teriyaki in a bowl with broccoli and rice

*This post may contain affiliate links and I’ll earn a commission if you shop through them. You can read my full disclosure here.

🐄Basic Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

This basic marinade will make chicken breasts moist, delicious, and simply irresistible!

📝Ingredients

This is an overview of the ingredients. Full instructions and amounts can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

*Note that the pictures show this recipe DOUBLED.  I almost always double everything so I have extras for another meal.

  • 1 cup of Buttermilk
  • Chicken breasts or chicken tenders

*Alternative - Buttermilk Substitutes

  • You can make your own buttermilk by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar OR fresh lemon juice to a measuring cup.
  • Add enough milk (whole regular milk, low-fat milk, or skim milk will all work well) to equal 1 cup of milk. Allow this buttermilk mixture to sit for 10 to 20 minutes at room temperature before using.

📋Instructions

This is an overview of the instructions. The full recipe and instructions as well as nutritional information can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Large glass bowl filled with raw chicken tenders.

For the best results before soaking chicken meat take a few minutes to blot the chicken pieces with a fresh paper towel. 

large glass bowl filled with chicken tenders with a homemade buttermilk marinade being poured over them

Next, add prepared chicken to a large bowl or plastic bag. 

Pour buttermilk mixture over chicken.

This basic marinade will make chicken breasts moist, delicious, and simply irresistible!

Cover, refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 8 hours or overnight (up to 24 hours)  to let the buttermilk work its magic. Discard any excess marinade. 

Use your favorite cooking method - bake, fry, or grill as desired to an internal temperature of 165 degrees using an instant-read thermometer for accuracy and enjoy! 

If you click on the number of servings in the recipe card below ⬇️ you can adjust the measurements up or down for the exact number of servings you need.

If you love this recipe please give it a 5 star rating. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📖 Recipe

Buttermilk Marinade Recipe

This buttermilk marinade will make chicken moist, delicious, tender, and simply irresistible!
Print Recipe Pin Recipe Save Recipe
Chicken Breasts in buttermilk marinade
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:30 minutes
Time to Marinate:8 hours
Total Time:8 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar OR fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup of milk - whole low-fat or skim
  • 1 pound Chicken

Instructions

  • Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice to a measuring cup.  Add enough milk to equal 1 cup.
  • Mix gently and let stand 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature.
  • Add prepared chicken to a glass bowl or plastic bag.
  • Pour buttermilk mixture over chicken.
  • Cover, refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 8 hours or overnight (up to 24 hours)  to let the buttermilk work its magic. Discard any excess marinade. 
  • Cook, bake, fry, or grill as desired.

Notes

*Note that the pictures show this recipe DOUBLED. I almost always double everything so I have extras for another meal.

You could certainly use buttermilk in place of the milk and vinegar combo but if you don't have it in the fridge, no worries, this substitution works just as well.

As with any of my recipes, calorie counts and nutritional information varies greatly depending on which products you choose to use when cooking this dish.

Nutrition

Calories: 167kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 157mg | Potassium: 498mg | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 130IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 1mg
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 167kcal
Author: Mary Beth
Cost: $5.00

That's it! Now wasn't that simple?

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10 Comments

  1. I'll have to try this. We eat a lot of chicken!

    #ThursdayFavoriteThings

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Thank you, Joey! You'll be shocked at how much better chicken tastes with this marinade.

  2. Thanks for sharing the secret. I end up with dried out chicken breasts a lot of the time (kids not happy when that happens) so I appreciate your tips!

  3. Linda galloway says:

    I have just now marinated my chicken tenders

  4. I have been using this tip since I found it! No more dry chicken! 😘Thank you! Ps: works amazingly well with pork chops!! 😋

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Thank you so much for letting me know, Cindy, and thank you for the pork chops tip! I can't wait to give it a try.

  5. AranZalewski123 says:

    Thank you for sharing your details and experience. I think it very good for me.

    1. Mary Beth says:

      You're welcome, Aran.

  6. Emma reynolds says:

    I used apple cider. Not sure how is going to turn out