Easy, Paleo-Friendly Grilled Chicken Marinade

grilled chicken

The superior taste of grilled chicken is undeniable.  While hamburgers and hot dogs are the iconic summer cook-out items, any real grillmaster has a go-to chicken technique for those days when we need to kick it up a notch.

For my most recent grilling adventure, I wanted to find a grilled chicken recipe that would be a hit with everyone in attendance, while still complying with my mostly-paleo lifestyle. Instead of using sugar-laden BBQ sauces that get applied and quickly burned-off during the grilling process, I knew this would be a job for a flavor-packed marinade.  I consulted Michelle Tam’s nomnompaleo.com for a big helping of inspiration, then adapted the recipe to feature some of my own favorite flavors.

Green Grilled Chicken Marinade

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Marinade Time: 1 hour to Overnight
Amount: 15-20 drumsticks or thighs

grilled chicken marinade ingredients


  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 bunch cilantro (roughly 1 cup packed)
  • 1 cup basil
  • 1/4 cup mint
  • 2 bulbs of spring garlic (or 3 garlic cloves if you prefer)
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple juice*
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1-2 tsp of your favorite peppery spices
  • salt & black pepper to taste

How much heat you bring to the party is entirely up to you.  As you can see in the picture above, I used Tandoori seasoning and ginger, but you could easily use cumin, paprika, or any other spices you and your company prefer.  With mint, cilantro and basil already in the mix, this is going to be flavorful, so play around with a teaspoon or two of your favorite smokey spices to add a nice base-layer to the proceedings.  You could always keep the marinade on the mild side for most people, and add some pepper flakes or hot sauce after grilling for the truly adventurous.

Fish sauce on chicken? I know, this might give some people pause, especially if fish sauce isn’t a normal part of your pantry.  It’s probably not a deal-breaker to leave this out, but I highly encourage you to give it a try.  You’ll appreciate the umami punch it brings to the party, and nobody will ever guess what your secret ingredient is.

The portions above made enough marinade for us to do 9 legs and 6 thighs, with plenty left over.

* You’ll notice an apple in the picture because I forgot to buy apple juice, but luckily had a couple apples left from our trip to the farmers market, and a too-often neglected juicer on hand. Grilling pros are masters at problem-solving, right?

marinade ingredients in blender


  1. Roughly chop your onion, garlic and cilantro (stems and leafs, it’s a marinade, you can use the whole thing)
  2. Toss all the ingredients into a high-powered blender and puree until smooth
  3. Arrange your chicken in a pan, and hit both sides of the meat with salt and pepper
  4. Pour on the marinade and put the chicken in your fridge for at least an hour before grilling. Good flavor needs time to develop.
  5. Now’s a great time to check and make sure you have enough propane for the grill. If you have to run out for a tank refill, be sure to follow our propane safety tips, including using your TankFoot propane tank stabilizer to make transporting a breeze.
  6. Remove the chicken from the fridge and let it get close to room temperature before putting on the grill.  This will ensure more even cooking and a juicier bird when you’re done.


chicken in marinade

On the grill, you should notice less sticking and burning that with traditional bbq sauces out of the bottle.  If the skin still sticks to the grates, be sure you’re giving the meat enough time to cook before flipping.  Using tongs, especially for these drumsticks was key. Tip: It helped me to have one side of the grill cooler than the other.  I started the chicken on the cool side before finishing on the higher heat for a nice sear and sizzle.  Everyone likes a good show when it hits the plate.

My experience with this recipe was a hit, and I’m pretty sure nobody who was there knew how easy, or healthy, this grilled chicken preparation was.  At least not until they read this post! Make sure your propane tanks are filled, grill is cleaned and you’re ready to go!