Whole Lemon Chicken

5 from 1 vote

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Introducing the whole lemon grilled chicken dish of the summer. 🍗 A zesty marinade comes together in seconds in a food processor, and superstar ingredients like yogurt and lemon, yield incredibly tender, succulent chicken. This recipe is inspired by the souvlaki (small pieces of grilled, skewered meat) I grew up eating during my childhood in Greece. 🇬🇷 Go ahead and double this recipe; everyone will want second helpings, and leftovers are fantastic. ⭐️

Why You’ll Love Whole Lemon Chicken

Would you believe me if I told you this chicken contains an entire lemon—peel, flesh, juice, and all? 🍋 You’ve got to try it to experience the most tender grilled chicken ever! The acid in lemon helps break down the chicken’s protein, which produces soft, juicy meat with a lovely lemon flavor. Yogurt is another tenderizing ingredient, that is key in the marinades of Balkan-style chicken dishes I grew up eating. Together, this powerful marinade creates chicken that practically falls apart. 🤤 This easy skewered chicken recipe can be made on a gas or charcoal grill, or even in the air fryer or oven.

Whole Lemon Chicken

How to Prepare Whole Lemon Chicken

🔪 Use a knife to cut each chicken thigh into quarters. Place in a bowl and set aside.

🧅 In a food processor (or blender), add chopped onion, whole garlic, and cut jalapeno. Pulse until finely diced.

🍋 Open the food processor and add yogurt, sliced lemon, and spices.

🌶️ Blend until smooth and creamy, being careful not to over-blend to avoid bitterness.

🧊 Pour marinade over chicken thighs and refrigerate, covered, for at least one hour.

🐔 Once marinated, thread chicken pieces onto metal skewers.

🔥 Preheat the BBQ and then grill the chicken skewers, flipping every 5 minutes, until the Whole Lemon Chicken is fully cooked or reaches an internal temperature of 165F (75C).

🥗 Serve over rice, on pita, with tzatziki, vegetables, or a salad. Enjoy!

Nonna’s Tip 🍋

Let the chicken sit in the marinade for at least 1 hour. If you’re using wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in cold water prior to placing them on the grill.

Whole Lemon Chicken

Variations and Substitutions for Whole Lemon Chicken

Remember if you are changing or adding ingredients you may have to experiment and adjust the quantities or cooking times.

  1. Use chicken breast 🐔 instead of thighs for a leaner option. You may need to adjust the cooking time to avoid dryness.
  2. Add fresh or dried herbs 🌿 such as rosemary, thyme, or parsley to the marinade for extra flavor.
  3. Instead of yogurt, use 🥥 coconut milk or sour cream depending on what you have available or your dietary preferences.
  4. Feel free to use wooden skewers if metal ones are not available. Soak them in cold water for at least 30 minutes before grilling to prevent burning.
  5. Instead of using the BBQ, cook the marinated chicken in the 🔥 oven at 375F (190C) for about 25-30 minutes, or until fully cooked (meat has an internal temperature of 165F (75C).

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Common Questions

What type of Salt do you use?

I use Redmond Real Salt, please note that depending on the salt you use, your dish may be less or more salty. Salt is to taste so please always taste and adjust as you cook.

What type of skewers do you use for your Whole Lemon Chicken?

I used metal skewers for this recipe, but you can also use wooden skewers if you have those.

How long should the chicken marinate in the fridge?

The chicken should marinate, covered, in the fridge for at least one hour. If you want to marinate longer, you could marinate the chicken overnight. Do not marinate the chicken for more than 48 hours.

How can I make sure my Whole Lemon Chicken is fully cooked?

If you don’t feel confident, you can most definitely use a meat thermometer to check and ensure that your meat has reached the correct internal temperature. Chicken is fully cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F (75C).

Can I make this recipe in the air-fryer?

Yes, absolutely, but check your air fryer settings and cook times. Almost anything that can be made on the BBQ can be made in the air fryer because the air fryer is just a mini convection oven that circulates air.

Whole Lemon Chicken

Whole Lemon Chicken

5 from 1 vote
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Servings: 4
Author: The Modern Nonna
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 17 minutes
Total Time: 27 minutes


  • 2 lbs chicken thighs (12 small thighs), boneless, skinless, and cut
  • 1 whole lemon, sliced
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1 jalapeno, optional
  • cup yogurt, plain
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt, to taste
  • 1.5 teaspoons oregano, to taste


  • Cut each chicken thigh in half and cut those halves in half. Place it in a bowl and set aside.
  • To a food processor (or blender), add the chopped onion, whole garlic, and cut jalapeno. If using a food processor, pulse it until finely diced.
  • Open the food processor and add in the yogurt, sliced lemon, and the spices.
  • Blend until you have a smooth and creamy marinade. Be careful not to over-blend as the lemon can become bitter.
  • Pour the marinade over the chicken thighs and let it sit covered in the fridge for at least one hour.
  • Once the chicken is tender, take each piece and thread it onto the metal skewers.
  • Get the BBQ hot and ready, place the skewers on the grill making sure to check on them every few minutes. I like to flip mine every 5 minutes on each side until the chicken is fully cooked or reaches an internal temperature of 165F (75C).
  • Serve over rice, on pita, with tzatziki, vegetables, or a nice salad! Enjoy!



Calories: 447kcal, Carbohydrates: 4g, Protein: 32g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g, Monounsaturated Fat: 13g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 192mg, Sodium: 1096mg, Potassium: 477mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 249IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 62mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
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Hi! I'm Sneji. Nice to meet you!

I am more commonly known as “The Modern Nonna” on social media where I create easy home cooked meals with a modern twist. I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria and learned how to cook at the best culinary school in the world – my grandma’s kitchen. I lived in Greece on the Island of Crete with my parents for a while and then moved to Toronto, Canada when I was in grade 5. I started to really cook and experiment with food 11 years ago when I was 21 years old. Everything I currently know is a reflection of some part of my life…

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  1. 5 stars
    I couldn’t get the marinade creamy.as I wasn’t sure how long to blend due to warning not to blend too long
    But it was still delicious on the grill.
    I am learning to cook more as I am retired but my wife still works. Having trouble making sauces creamy.