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Yogurt is ideal to use in a marinade for both its flavor and ability to tenderize meat. It contains lactic acid, which tenderizes more slowly and gently than a citrus juice or vinegar-based marinade, so you can leave your meat to soak overnight without it becoming tough or rubbery. In this recipe, the resulting yogurt-marinated grilled chicken is full of flavor from the garlic, cumin, and cayenne, and it’s juicy — even if it happens to get a bit overcooked. The marinade works well with skin-on boneless breasts or thighs; be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly. (Photo above: Marcus Nilsson)
Active Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 5 hrs 10 mins
Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup lightly packed cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to season
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to season
  • 1 (3½-pound) chicken, halved, breast and rib bones removed, leg bones left intact
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing grill


Step 1 In a large bowl, mix yogurt, cilantro, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne, cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Transfer marinade to a large, resealable plastic bag. Add chicken halves and turn to coat. Seal bag and transfer to a baking dish. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Bring chicken to room temperature before grilling. Step 2 Set up a gas grill for indirect grilling, then oil grate and heat to medium-high (400°F). Step 3 Remove chicken from marinade, scraping off any excess; discard marinade. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Step 4 Set chicken skin-side up on grate over indirect heat. Close grill and cook, turning once, until chicken is browned and nearly cooked through, about 25 minutes. Use a spray bottle filled with water to stop flare-ups. Step 5 Reduce grill heat to moderately low. Flip chicken and grill over direct heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and an instant-read thermometer inserted in inner thighs registers 160°F, about 15 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

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