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Take a look in your pantry (go ahead—we’ll wait!): If you have ingredients like soy sauce, garlic powder, paprika, balsamic vinegar and garlic, you can throw together a flavorful rub or marinade in minutes. That’s all you need to take chicken breast from flat to bodacious, upping its juiciness without sacrificing its lean profile. Even better, when you opt for homemade over store-bought, you’re in charge of the ingredients. You can skip the preservatives, colorings and additives, keep sodium and sugar in check and choose olive oil (high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats) over the less-healthy oils used in many commercial marinades. Want a break from chicken? Try other meats, fish or tofu.
Boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1 to 1 1/4 pounds for 4 servings. Choose one of the rubs or marinades (below). Each makes enough for 1 1/4 pounds chicken.
For marinated chicken: Place chicken in a shallow dish or 1-gallon sealable plastic bag. Add the marinade of your choice and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours. (The longer it marinates, the more intense the flavor, but it’ll get mushy if you leave it in there too long.) Remove from the marinade and pat dry before grilling or broiling.
For dry-rubbed chicken: Coat chicken with the dry rub of your choice up to 30 minutes before grilling or broiling.
To grill: Preheat grill to medium-high. Oil the grill rack. Grill the chicken, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F, 4 to 8 minutes per side.
To broil: Position a rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Line a broiler pan (or baking sheet) with foil and coat with cooking spray. Place the chicken on the foil. Broil, watching carefully and turning at least once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F, 10 to 15 minutes total.
Whisk 1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce, 1/4 cup sake (or mirin), 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger. Makes: scant 1 cup. Per serving*: 135 calories; 3 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 263 mg sodium.
Combine 2 teaspoons each light brown sugar and dry mustard, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon white (or black) pepper. Makes: about 2 tablespoons. Per serving*: 140 calories; 3 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 196 mg sodium.
Whisk 1/4 cup each olive oil and balsamic vinegar, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Makes: about 1/2 cup. Per serving*: 169 calories; 7 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 250 mg sodium.
Combine 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence (see Note, below), 2 teaspoons paprika, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Makes: about 2 tablespoons. Per serving*: 127 calories; 3 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 196 mg sodium.
Ingredient Note: Herbes de Provence is a mixture of dried herbs commonly used in the south of France. You can find commercial mixtures in well-stocked supermarkets and in the bulk spice section at some natural-foods stores and gourmet markets. To make your own, mix equal proportions dried thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram and savory in a small jar. If desired, add a pinch of dried lavender and crushed aniseed.
Whisk 1/2 cup grated (or minced) onion, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons each olive oil and garam masala (see Note, below) and 1 teaspoon salt. Makes: about 3/4 cup. Per serving*: 136 calories; 4 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 152 mg sodium.
Ingredient Note: Garam masala, an Indian spice blend of cardamom, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, fennel, cumin and coriander, is available in the spice section of most supermarkets.
Grind 2 teaspoons each coriander seeds and caraway seeds and 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper in a spice grinder (or mortar and pestle) until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Makes: about 2 tablespoons. Per serving*: 131 calories; 3 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 195 mg sodium.
*analyses are for 3 ounces marinated or rubbed cooked chicken.