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Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich gets a bold infusion of flavor from a marinade of fruit juice and soy sauce, plus sweet roasted garlic. Grilled veggies and salty bacon perfectly complement the chicken for a mouthwatering sandwich

This post and recipe card updated June 17, 2020
close up shot of finished grilled chicken sandwich on a piece of brown paper with tater tots and ketchup on the side

I’ve always been a dark meat girl when it comes to chicken…give me the legs and thighs all day long. Over the years I tried to cook chicken breast a few times, but it always gets so dry. And once it’s dry, it’s almost impossible to salvage.

Then, after having fabulous and tender chicken breast twice in a few months at restaurants, I learned that a marinade is the key to retaining that moisture.

So of course I decided to tackle it myself…and since I had extra hamburger buns from another recipe, I created the Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
  • The longer you marinate, the more flavorful and tender the results
  • The chicken is great for leftovers
  • This is a great recipe for a crowd, and you can serve the the toppings family style
overhead angled shot of finished grilled chicken sandwich with the top bun off. Tater tots and ketchup on the side

This Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich is outstanding. I love all the flavors, and you can be creative to make it your own specialty.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MARINADE

Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours, preferably 12 hours to overnight. I can’t stress enough how much of a difference the marinade makes.

Can I marinate the chicken from frozen? Absolutely! That’s what I do with Grilled Thai Chicken Thighs and Pickle Brined Chicken Wings. That way you don’t have to remember to thaw the chicken first.

Key Marinade Ingredients

Citrus adds great flavor, and the acidity helps to tenderize the chicken. My favorite is an Orange/Pineapple/Banana combination, and sometimes I’ll add extra orange juice. Plain orange juice is another great option. I don’t recommend plain pineapple juice, because it’s too harsh.

Low Sodium Soy Sauce is a really nice balance to the citrus juice. Salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder round out the marinade.

Roasted garlic isn’t part of the marinade, but it’s a key step in the process. I discard the marinade, smear the chicken with roasted garlic, and let it rest for 30 minutes. The garlic adds the most incredible flavor, and it practically melts into the chicken as it grills.

How much garlic should I use? It’s a personal preference, but the recipe calls for 4 cloves for 2 chicken breasts.

What if I don’t have roasted garlic? You can easily roast the garlic while the chicken marinates. And then you can use the extra in Chicken Chickpea Salad, Peppercorn Garlic Pork Chops, or Corn Tomato Avocado Salad.

TOPPINGS FOR CITRUS MARINATED GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWICH

I mentioned earlier that straight pineapple juice is too harsh for the marinade. But grilling pineapple slices and adding them to the sandwich adds a fabulous pop of flavor. I add grilled red onion as well, for another layer of sweetness.

Thick-cut bacon, tomatoes, and lettuce are my must-haves on this sandwich as well.

The great thing about this sandwich is that you can top it with your favorites. So if you’re feeding a crowd I recommend serving the toppings family-style and let your guests make them to their preference.

front shot of finished grilled chicken sandwich on a piece of brown paper with tater tots and ketchup on the side
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Place chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Use a meat tenderizer to flatten the chicken to an even thickness. Transfer chicken to a shallow bowl.

Add juice, soy sauce, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to a measuring cup. Whisk to fully combine, and pour over chicken.

overhead process shot: chicken in marinade in a glass bowl

Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.

Discard marinade, and smear both sides of chicken with smashed garlic. Let chicken rest another 30 minutes.

overhead process shot: chicken smeared with garlic in a glass plate

Cook bacon in a skillet until done. Transfer to paper towels to drain and cool.

Heat grill to 350 degrees. Drizzle pineapple and red onion with a little bit of oil. Add to grill and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

Add chicken to grill over direct heat. Cook for 8 minutes, flip and cook for another 8 minutes.

process shot: chicken cooking on the grill

While chicken cooks, lightly butter the inside of the burger buns. Place face-down on the grill and toast for 5 minutes.

process shot: sandwich ingredients on a wood board

PREPARE THE SANDWICHES

Dress the buns with a little bit of mayonnaise. Top with lettuce or spinach, onion, chicken, tomato, and pineapple.

front shot of finished grilled chicken sandwich with tater tots and ketchup on the side and a glass of juice in the background
SERVINGS AND LEFTOVERS

If you’re trying to go lower carb, skip the bun! Or, if you just don’t want a whole bun, slice the chicken and pineapple and roll the ingredients into a wrap.

If you’re making enough chicken for leftovers, grill extra pineapple as well, and store both in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

MORE DELICIOUS RECIPES WITH GRILLED CHICKEN
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front shot of finished grilled chicken sandwich with tater tots and ketchup on the side and a glass of juice in the background

Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Yield: 2 sandwiches
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours

Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich gets a bold infusion of flavor from a marinade of fruit juice and soy sauce, plus sweet roasted garlic. Grilled veggies and salty bacon perfectly complement the chicken for a mouthwatering sandwich

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED: Place chicken breasts between pieces of plastic wrap. Lightly pound chicken with a meat tenderizer to even out chicken. Place chicken into a shallow plate
  2. Combine citrus juice, soy sauce, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder in a large measuring cup or another cup. Pour marinade over chicken. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours
  3. Discard the marinade. Smash the roasted garlic and brush it on both sides of the chicken. Let chicken rest for 30 minutes while you prepare the toppings
  4. Preheat grill to 350 degrees
  5. Add bacon strips to dry skillet. Cook over medium heat, until it reaches desired doneness. Transfer to paper towels to cool and drain
  6. Drizzle pineapple and red onion with avocado oil or canola oil.  Add vegetables to the grill and cook for 5 minutes per side. Remove from heat.
  7. Add chicken to the 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.
  8. OPTIONAL: Lightly butter inside of buns. Place butter side down on indirect heat on grill and toast for 3-4 minutes
  9. PREPARE SANDWICHES: Dress buns with mayonnaise or mustard. Top with lettuce/baby spinach, red onion, chicken breast, tomato, pineapple, and bacon

Notes

Do you have to tenderize the chicken? It's not required but I highly recommend it because it helps the chicken cook more evenly.

Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours, preferably 12 hours to overnight. The longer you marinate, the more flavor it adds, and the more tender the chicken.

Yes, you can marinate the chicken from frozen. That way you don't have to remember to thaw the chicken first. If you do this, you can still use the meat tenderizer before adding the roasted garlic.

Citrus juice options:

  • I use an orange/pineapple/banana combination because I love the flavor
  • Plain orange juice or orange/pineapple is a great substitute
  • Pineapple juice on its own is too harsh for my tastes


How much garlic should I use? It’s a personal preference, but the recipe calls for 4 cloves for 2 chicken breasts.

What if I don’t have roasted garlic? You can easily roast the garlic while the chicken marinates. 

SERVINGS AND LEFTOVERS

If you’re trying to go lower carb, skip the bun! Or, if you just don’t want a whole bun, slice the chicken and pineapple and roll the ingredients into a wrap.

If you’re making enough chicken for leftovers, grill extra pineapple as well, and store both in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 913Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 171mgSodium: 4236mgCarbohydrates: 106gFiber: 11gSugar: 61gProtein: 73g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, etc

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