Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich. A flavorful marinade of OJ and soy sauce, plus sweet roasted garlic combine for a delicious, tender and juicy sandwich
This summer I was blessed to begin a partnership with Stillwater Living Magazine, a local lifestyle magazine in Stillwater OK. Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich is my second featured recipe.
I’ve always been a dark meat girl when it comes to chicken. My parents always cooked dark meat, so it’s what I ate. Dark meat is more tender, and has more flavor than white meat. Yes, dark meat has a higher fat content, but that equals more flavor. And to me, it’s worth it.
I’ve tried to cook chicken breast a couple of times over the years, but it always gets so dry. And once its dry, it’s almost impossible to salvage. I rarely order chicken breast at a restaurant, for the same reasons. But there are so many chicken breast recipes out there, so I’ve recently been on a mission to take on the challenge of a tender and juicy result.
In January I went to Austin to visit Mary, and on the way I stopped to see Joni. We had lunch in Grapevine at Main Street Bistro, one of our favorite restaurants. I ordered the Santa Monica Burger, primarily because the bartender raved about it. I decided to trust him, even though they use a chicken breast. He was right…it was delicious, and the chicken was incredibly tender. I learned they marinate the chicken overnight in pineapple and orange juice. Last summer I had amazing fajitas at Mama Roja in OKC, and they marinate the steak in soy sauce and orange juice.
Clearly I hit a theme, and I wanted to replicate that. Right after I had the fajitas, I bought skirt steak and orange juice. Of course, they just sat there, I procrastinated on making it, and eventually totally forgot my plan. After my trip to Austin I remembered the plan again…for about a week.
A couple of weeks ago I bought hamburger buns for another recipe. I hate buying the 8-pack of buns because I never use them all, but that’s the only option in my local grocery stores. This was the perfect opportunity to try the marinade and make a sandwich, and that’s how Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich was born.
This Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich is outstanding. I love all the flavors, and you can be creative to make it your own specialty.
Seasoning and Marinade Options for Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich
I season the chicken breast liberally with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. I always use low sodium soy sauce. I’m so glad restaurants offer it as well, because there’s such a big difference between regular and low sodium.
For the citrus, there are several options:
- I typically use a bottled Orange/Pineapple/Banana juice combination, because that’s what I normally buy. I add extra orange juice–or even a few orange slices–for more citrus punch
- If you don’t have the juice blend, then plain orange juice will be perfect. Then you also won’t need to add orange juice slices
- Pineapple juice is too harsh a citrus to use on its own, but a mix of orange and pineapple juice will create a very nice marinade blend
The first time I made Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich I only marinated it for an hour, because I totally forgot to do it earlier. The result was good, but it didn’t have enough flavor for me. The next time, I marinated it for 4 hours, discarded the marinade, smeared the chicken breast with roasted garlic, and let it sit for 30 minutes before grilling. If you’ve never tried roasted garlic, you are missing out. The depth of flavor is incredible, and you could almost eat it plain. Almost. If you don’t like garlic, then you can skip this step. But I’m telling you, garlic does wonderful things to the chicken breast.
To me, the best option is to marinate the chicken overnight, up to 16 hours. The chicken breast absorbs even more of the marinade, and results in a very tender and juicy chicken.
I heat the grill to medium, and put the chicken over direct heat. Because I use a thicker chicken breast, I grill it for about 8 minutes per side. I was concerned it might be dry, but the thick cut of chicken helped retain moisture. For a thinner cut breast, reduce the cooking time. The most important thing is that the chicken cooks all the way through, to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Pineapple rings and red onion both work great on the grill, so I add those as well. I grill the pineapple over direct heat, and the onions over indirect heat. Before adding them to the grill, I drizzle all sides with avocado oil (or canola oil) to prevent them from sticking to the grates.
Pineapple has a tart and sweet bite, but sometimes it can be a little too tart. Grilling pineapple releases more sweetness, and mellows the tart bite. It doesn’t take long for the pineapple to develop the beautiful char marks. I like both red and yellow onion, and tend to use red onions on the grill. Whichever onion you use, they will soften and become very nice and sweet.
Bacon makes everything better…I think everyone knows that. I don’t eat bacon often, so I look for unique opportunities to include it in my recipes. So I add 2 pieces of thick-cut bacon to the Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich. I use either baby spinach or green leaf lettuce, whichever one I have on hand. The choice is completely up to you, or you could even use another type of lettuce. Finally, I toast the burger buns and dress them with avocado oil mayonnaise and mustard. I love avocado, but by the time I get everything else on the sandwich I don’t have much more room for anything else. However, I think creamy avocado would add fabulous flavor.
Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich is a definite winner, and will stay on my regular meal rotation.
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Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich
- 2 each 6-ounce chicken breast
- 1 1/2 cups juice (I use either orange/pineapple/banana or plain orange)
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 4 cloves roasted garlic, smashed
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon
- red onion, cut into 2 thick slices
- 4 pineapple rings
- 4 slices tomato
- 2 hamburger buns
- lettuce or baby spinach, rinsed and dried
- mustard and mayonnaise (optional, to taste)
Season chicken with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Add juice(s) and soy sauce. Cover and marinade in fridge for at least 4 hours, up to overnight. The longer you marinate, the more intense the flavor and the more tender the chicken breast
Discard marinade, smear both sides of chicken with roasted garlic. Let chicken rest for 30 minutes
Add bacon strips to dry skillet. Cook over medium heat, until it reaches desired doneness. Drain on paper towels and cut each strip into 2
Heat grill to medium-high heat (or 350 degrees on gas grill). Drizzle pineapple and red onion with avocado oil or canola oil.
Add pineapple over direct heat, and red onion over non-direct heat. Cook on one side until char marks develop, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add chicken to grill, over direct heat. Cook for 8 minutes, flip, and cook for another 8 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken, but the most important thing is to make sure the chicken cooks all the way through until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.
Lightly butter inside of buns. Place butter side down on indirect heat on grill and lightly brown, for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. When cool, dress with mayonnaise, mustard, or your choice of condiment
Prepare sandwiches: lettuce/baby spinach, red onion, chicken breast, bacon, tomato, pineapple
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