Marinating Chicken in Buttermilk

Chicken marinated in buttermilk is a tangy and creamy, classic Southern dish that makes use of buttermilk loaded with spices to tenderize and flavor the chicken.

In this recipe, the chicken pieces are soaked in a mixture of buttermilk and spices for anything from a few hours to overnight. This ensures that the chicken remains moist, juicy, and tender as it cooks.

The buttermilk marinade can be flavored with a blend of spices, such as garlic, onion powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper, to enhance the flavor of the dish.

Once cooked, the chicken will have a slightly tangy and savory flavor, thanks to the buttermilk.

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Ingredient Notes for Buttermilk Marinade for Chicken

Chicken: You can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts as mentioned in the recipe, but you can also use bone-in chicken pieces like thighs or drumsticks for added flavor. Adjust the cooking time accordingly for different cuts of chicken.

Buttermilk: Use real buttermilk for the marinade. It’s not recommended to substitute with regular milk or a milk and vinegar mixture, as buttermilk’s tangy flavor is a key component of this recipe.

Garlic: Fresh minced garlic provides the best flavor, but you can also use garlic powder as a substitute. Adjust the amount to your taste.

Onion powder: Onion powder adds a subtle onion flavor. You can use finely minced fresh onions as an alternative, but they may have a slightly different texture.

Paprika: Sweet paprika or smoked paprika can be used depending on your preference. Sweet paprika provides a mild flavor, while smoked paprika adds a smoky element to the dish.

Cayenne pepper: Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to control the spiciness. If you prefer a milder flavor, reduce the amount or omit it entirely.

Salt and black pepper: Adjust the salt and black pepper to your taste. Remember that the chicken will absorb some salt from the marinade, so be mindful not to oversalt.

Other optional ingredients that can be added to the marinade include:

  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh herbs (such as thyme or rosemary)
  • Hot sauce or chili flakes
  • Dijon mustard
  • Honey

How to make Buttermilk Chicken

Step 1: Prepare the Buttermilk Marinade
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of buttermilk, minced garlic, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper (adjust to taste), salt (adjust to taste), and black pepper (adjust to taste). Thoroughly whisk the ingredients until they form a well-blended marinade.

Step 2: Coat the Chicken
Add boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the bowl with the buttermilk marinade. Ensure that each piece of chicken is fully coated with the marinade, either by using a spoon or your hands.

Step 3: Marinate the Chicken
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a secure lid. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for marinating. For the most flavorful results, allow the chicken to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours, or better yet, overnight.

Step 4: Preheat the Oven
Before cooking the chicken, preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). While the oven is warming up, prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil to ease cleanup.

Step 5: Remove and Prepare the Chicken
Take the chicken pieces out of the buttermilk marinade and gently shake off any excess liquid. Place the marinated chicken onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving some space between each piece.

Step 6: Bake the Chicken
Put the baking sheet with the chicken into the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). The exact cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts.

Step 7: Rest the Chicken
Once the chicken is fully cooked and has developed a golden-brown crust, remove it from the oven. Allow the chicken to rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute within the meat, ensuring it stays moist and flavorful.

Step 8: Slice and Serve
After the resting period, slice the chicken into portions. Serve it alongside your preferred side dishes, and savor your delectable buttermilk-marinated chicken!

Recipe Tips and Tricks

Use fresh ingredients: Whenever possible, use fresh herbs and spices for the marinade. Freshly minced garlic and herbs will provide the most robust flavors.

Proper marinating time: For the best results, marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight in the refrigerator. Longer marinating times allow the flavors to penetrate the meat deeply for more tender, juicier chicken.

Secure marinating container: Fully submerge the chicken in the buttermilk marinade, and use an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag to prevent leaks and maintain freshness.

Preheat the oven: Make sure your oven is fully preheated to the recommended temperature. Consistent heat is crucial for even cooking.

Rest the chicken: Allow the cooked chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing or serving. This allows the juices to be redistributed, keeping the meat moist and flavorful.

Customize the seasonings: Feel free to adjust the seasonings in the marinade to suit your taste. Add more or less spice, herbs, or other seasonings to create a flavor profile you love.

Breading option: If you want an extra crispy crust, you can dip the marinated chicken pieces in flour or breadcrumbs before cooking. This creates a crispy coating when fried or baked.

Side dishes: Consider serving the chicken with complementary side dishes like coleslaw, mashed potatoes, or a fresh salad for a complete and well-balanced meal.

Experiment with cooking methods: While baking is the method mentioned in the recipe, you can also grill or pan-fry the marinated chicken for different textures and flavors.

How to store Chicken Marinated With Buttermilk

To store chicken marinated with buttermilk, follow these simple steps:

Refrigeration: After soaking the chicken in buttermilk, keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it. Place the chicken in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag, and seal it tightly.

Marinating time: If you’ve marinated the chicken but haven’t cooked it yet, the maximum safe time in the refrigerator is usually 2 days. Beyond that, the chicken may start to break down excessively due to the acidity of the buttermilk.

Freezing: If you want to store buttermilk chicken for an extended period, it’s best to freeze it. Place the marinated chicken in an airtight container or a freezer-safe bag. The chicken can be stored for up to 2-3 months.

Thawing: When you’re ready to cook frozen buttermilk chicken, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Avoid thawing at room temperature to prevent bacterial growth.

Cook thoroughly: Whether you’re cooking fresh or thawed buttermilk chicken, ensure it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure it’s safe to eat.

Buttermilk Chicken FAQs

Can I use bone-in chicken instead of boneless chicken breasts?

You can use bone-in chicken pieces like thighs or drumsticks. Adjust the cooking time to ensure they cook through.

Can I substitute regular milk for buttermilk?

It’s best to use real buttermilk for the authentic flavor and tenderizing effect. Substituting with regular milk won’t yield the same results.

Can I use different spices in the marinade?

Absolutely! Feel free to experiment with herbs, spices, or additional flavorings.

Can I use this recipe for chicken tenders or nuggets?

Certainly! This marinade works well for chicken tenders or nuggets. Just adjust the cooking time based on their size.

What are some suggested side dishes to serve with this chicken?

Popular side dishes include coleslaw, mashed potatoes, cornbread, roasted vegetables, or a fresh salad.

Can I use this recipe for fried chicken?

While this recipe is for baked chicken, you can adapt it for frying by dipping the marinated chicken in flour or breadcrumbs before frying.

Chicken Marinated With Buttermilk

Chicken marinated with buttermilk is a tangy and creamy, classic Southern dish that makes use of buttermilk not only to tenderize the chicken but to flavor it too.


  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  • In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, garlic, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper until well combined.
  • Add the chicken breasts to the bowl and stir until the chicken is fully coated in the buttermilk mixture.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess.
  • Place the chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F (74°C).
  • Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
  • Optional: Garnish with chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, or chives.

This buttermilk brine recipe results in the juiciest, tender chicken, no matter which part of the chicken you use. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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