Turkish Inspired Grilled Chicken in Yogurt-Marinade

I found this recipe in Bon Appétit Magazine years ago (July 2009), and it has become my go-to grilled chicken recipe.  Both delicious and nearly impossible to over-cook (chicken once it is marinated in yogurt remains tender and moist), which is a big bonus when I am hosting a party and not giving the grill all of my attention.  All this said, the flavors imparted to the chicken are amazing and every time I serve it someone requests the recipe.

chickenAleppo (1)     Serves 6


  • 2 unpeeled lemons
  • 2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp. paprika, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 7-8 oz. plain whole milk Greek yogurt (+1 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 lbs. skinless and boneless chicken thighs

Place the crushed red pepper and the paprika in large bowl, stir in 2 Tbsp. warm water and let stand until paste forms, about 5 minutes.  Peel the garlic cloves and flatten by crushing with the side of a large knife. Cut one lemon into thin slices and put aside the other lemon for later.

Add yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, tomato paste, salt, and black pepper to the bowl of spice paste; whisk until well blended. Stir in garlic and the thin lemon slices.  Add the chicken and mix until all chicken pieces are well coated. Cover and chill overnight.  Minimum marinating time is 3 hours.

Prepare grill (medium-high heat). Remove marinated chicken to large plate, letting excess marinade drain off each piece as it is removed. Dispose of marinade safely, as you would dispose of any product exposed to raw chicken.chickenAleppo (7)

Sprinkle chicken with salt, black pepper, and paprika. Brush grill rack with oil.  Grill chicken until golden brown and cooked through (165° minimum on instant read thermometer), turning once, 15 to 20 minutes total.  Again, I have found that it is very difficult to over cook the chicken so if in doubt leave the chicken on the grill longer. Should the weather turn unpleasant, the chicken cooks well indoors under the broiler.

Transfer to clean plate and let stand for 5 minutes. Cut the second lemon into wedges.  Slice chicken and squeeze the juice of two the lemon wedges over the chicken.  Transfer to serving platter, surround with remaining lemon wedges and serve.  Can also be serve as whole chicken pieces.


The chicken has a bit of spice but is by no means hot; so do not spare the red pepper or the garlic when making the marinade.  The yogurt, vinegar and lemon counteract the strength of the spice to give a remarkable blended flavor.

The original recipe calls for cutting the chicken into cubes and threading onto metal skewers for kebabs; I find this options works best using chicken breasts instead of thighs.

This dish goes well with a side of rice or potato salad, grilled vegetables, and a green salad; all potential gluten free options.  Avoid couscous which is great middle eastern fair but it is made from wheat (not gluten free).

If you are looking for more than 6 servings, just increase the amount of chicken, as the quantity of marinade is generous.

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