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Healthy Chicken Brine for your best chicken yet!

Chicken is my absolute favorite protein! It’s inexpensive, super-versatile and ridiculously delicious when you know how to cook it. So I wanted to create a brine that would be easy to mix-up and add maximum flavor to my chicken. Of course, it had to pass my ‘re-heating yumminess test’ (which is not the easiest test to pass, let me tell you! We lost a lot of good birds! Just kidding). So after a lot of testing…this is it! Traditional brines incorporate sugar as well as salt, but I wanted to remove the sugar to make it healthier. With this recipe, I don’t miss the sugar in the brine at all! This is now my all-time favorite way to make chicken thighs.

Juicy Chicken Brine = Yummy & Easy Leftovers

We cook up a big batch pretty much every week (I am not ashamed of that fact at all, even with the endless jokes about me being the chicken lady and all). It makes for easy dinners later in the week, since they are perfect for leftovers. Just pop them in the oven on broil (or the toaster oven), the skin gets crispy all over again, and they are still juicy and flavorful. It allows us to have healthy easy dinners throughout the week that are also versatile. I might cut the chicken into small bite size pieces and add them to my Kale Lemon Salad one night. The next night I’ll enjoy it with a big side of steamed veggies and some hot sauce. Or I might have a piece next to a big bowl of Butternut Squash Soup. You get the point here…with these babies in the fridge I can focus on a yummy, healthy side of veggies or salads and pop them in the oven for 6-8 minutes on broil and viola! Dinner is served.

Alterations + How to Cook it

I created this brine recipe because it adds flavor and softens the meat without adding any sweeteners, unnecessary ingredients or other sauces. I do switch it up here and there; like adding some curry powder or adding smoked paprika and cumin for a deeper, richer, smoky flavor. You can see my additions in the recipe notes below. As for how to cook it, my favorite way to cook bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs is to oven roast them. Check out my recipe for the Best Oven Roasted Chicken thighs ever!  I have also used this brine for boneless, skinless chicken breasts to get them a little more juicy and flavorful before sautéing. Just keep in mind that you do not need to brine them as long if they’re boneless. Just remember the skinnier, the shorter the brine time. For boneless, skinless chicken breasts I might brine anywhere from 6-12 hours, after that they get too salty and too soft. 

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Healthy Chicken Brine for Juicy Flavorful Chicken

Created by TasteofGood.com
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I call this my healthy chicken brine because I omit the sugar or sweetener component to the brine and I think it is just as delicious without it. By all means the recipe can also be made with it just add the same amount of sugar as you do salt.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Water (boiling)
  • 1/4 cup Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed (about 1-2 Lemons)
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Whole Peppercorns, You can leave these out if you don't want to go digging for peppercorns before cooking.
  • 2 whole Bay Leaves
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder, or 2 whole smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp Dried Thyme Leaves
  • 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 3 cups Water (cold)

Instructions

  • Start with 1 cup boiling water and add you salt stir until you see it starting to dissolve.
  • The add all the other ingredients, finishing with the cold water. Be sure that the mixture is cold at this point. If it isn't, set it in the fridge for a bit. You just don't want to add hot or warm brine to chicken that you will then put in the fridge again. It all has to be cool.
  • Once your brine has cooled add it to your chicken in a glass dish. Cover and set the glass dish in your fridge until ready to cook.
  • Timing: I like to brine bone-in chicken from 24 to 48 hours. Boneless chicken 4-12 hours, (especially if it is a thin breast or tenders). Basically, the thinner your cut the less brining time.
  • Once you are ready to cook remove chicken from the brine, pat dry with paper towels, and be sure to remove all peppercorns (they're not so fun to bite down on).
  • Cook the chicken according to the recipe instructions. Note: Do not season the chicken with additional salt as the brine already seasoned the chicken for you through and through.
  • For my favorite way to cook up Chicken thighs check out my recipe on those...link in notes.

Notes

I make this for about 12 bone-in, Skin-on Chicken Thighs. If you're cooking less or have a smaller bowl for brining just reduce the ingredients. With a brine what is most important is that you reduce the spices by the same amount as you do the water...otherwise your brine will be over-seasoned and salty which leads to over seasoned Chicken = No good!
Variations:
  • Curry: Add 2 tablespoons Madras Curry Powder
  • Smoky Paprika: Add 1 tablespoon Paprika Powder & 1 tablespoon Cumin Powder

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