This Greek yogurt chicken recipe is simple to prepare, perfectly juicy, and infused with delicious saffron, lemon and garlic flavors. Cook it on the grill or in the oven.
Yogurt is one of my favorite ingredients to use in a chicken marinade, as it tenderizes the chicken and infuses with so much flavor at the same time. This curry yogurt chicken marinade is often on the menu, but when we want something a little bit special, we whip out this greek yogurt chicken with saffron and garlic.
Infused with delicate saffron flavors that are complimented by lemon and garlic, this chicken marinade is simple to prepare and delivers big on flavors.
Reasons you'll ♡ Greek yogurt chicken with saffron
- you need a handful of ingredients and just 10 minutes to prep it
- the marinade doubles as sauce you can spoon over veggies and rice
- the chicken is tender and juicy, and infused with beautiful flavor
What is saffron?
Saffron threads are the dried stigmas from crocus sativus, a flower that is grown in Iran, Greece, Morocco and India (1). Saffron is the world's most expensive spice, but don't let that deter you from cooking with it; a little goes a long way! Adding a pinch of saffron threads to this marinade is sufficient to infuse the chicken with a ton of flavor.
It's extremely difficult to describe the flavor of saffron; some say it is floral, but also that it has a slightly pungent flavor. Once you taste saffron, you will understand why the flavor is so difficult to describe!
Do not buy cheap saffron- I myself have been tricked into this in the past and was disappointed to find out it was not actually saffron at all. Purchase a brand you know! I use McKormick brand.
Simple ingredients for great flavor
Yogurt is the perfect base for this marinade and serves two purposes: to diffuse the spice flavors, and to tenderize the chicken. Since yogurt is acidic, it helps break down structural proteins within the chicken breast, helping it absorb more liquid.
In addition to yogurt, we are adding saffron, garlic and lemon zest to add flavor depth and dimension, lemon juice for extra tangy flavor and salt to enhance all the flavors.
How to marinate your chicken
The best way to get complete coverage of your greek yogurt chicken with the marinade is to use a bag; meal prep containers or bowls just done have the same surface coverage.
Over the years, I’ve phased out plastic bags in favor of reusable silicone bags. Here are my faves:
- use the sandwich Stasher bags for 1 lb (2 chicken breasts)
- use the ½ gallon Stasher bags for 2 lbs (4 chicken breasts)
*even after freezing this yogurt curry chicken marinade, the stasher bags washed clean and did not stain with the marinade!
Plan for at least 2 hours
My research tells me that yogurt can have a tenderizing effect on chicken in as little as 15 minutes, but for the full flavor effect, I recommend marinating for at least 2 hours.
On the other hand, I do not recommend marinating chicken breast for longer than 24 hours as marinade ingredients can sometimes make the chicken mealy in texture.
A note about freezing
Yogurt does not maintain it’s creamy texture after freezing and will break into small flakes. With that being said, the yogurt still does an amazing job at tenderizing the chicken and infusing the marinade flavors into it, so we simply scrape the flakes off and enjoy.
Coconut yogurt freeze/thaws great, and may work in place of the dairy yogurt, however I have not tested this yet.
Cooking your chicken
This greek yogurt chicken recipe is written to bake in the oven, however you can cook it using any number or methods:
- oven– Cook uncovered in a baking dish at 425°F for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through
- grill– I recommend pounding the chicken flat before marinating to ensure it cooks through evenly. See my perfect grilled chicken breast recipe for full details.
- frying pan– here’s a good tutorial
- air fryer– again I do recommend pounding the chicken before marinating. We cook 4 minutes + 2 minutes (flipping half way). Full details here.
For pounded chicken, I make sure it cooks to 155°F before allowing to rest (carryover cooking helps it reach 165°F). For un-pounded chicken, cook to 165°F. Always allow chicken to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing into it.
This is my favorite digital thermometer!
More tasty chicken marinades
- 7 Freezer Chicken Marinades
- 7 More Freezer Chicken Breast Marinades
- Greek Chicken Marinade
- Jamaican Jerk Marinade (shortcut)
- Lemon Ginger Chicken Marinade
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice fresh
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts roughly 2 large breasts
- In a small measuring cup or bowl, stir together the lemon juice and saffron threads. Let sit for 5 minutes.
- Combine the lemon zest, garlic, salt, pepper and yogurt in a medium bowl. Add the saffron/lemon juice and mix together.
- *Remove ¼ cup of the yogurt and save to serve over chicken.
- Add the chicken to the yogurt mixture and allow to sit for 2-24 hours to marinate.
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Place chicken in a shallow baking dish or lined baking sheet, discarding excess yogurt.
- Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for 10-15 more minutes (15 minutes for large chicken breasts, 10 for smaller), or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the chicken reads 165°F.
- Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving with reserved yogurt sauce.
- grill– pound the chicken flat; marinate as directed. See my perfect grilled chicken breast recipe for full details/cook times for grilling.
- air fryer– pound the chicken flat; marinate as directed. Cook at 390°F for 4 minutes + 2 minutes (flipping half way). Full details here.
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