Food & Drink

Got herbs? Make a simple sauce for grilled chicken breasts

To make sure the chicken breasts cook evenly, pound them out using a rolling pin, meat pounder or even the bottom of a heavy pot.
To make sure the chicken breasts cook evenly, pound them out using a rolling pin, meat pounder or even the bottom of a heavy pot. Noel Barnhurst

I love grilled chicken breasts, but they can turn out dry and flavorless. To avoid these pitfalls, I use several techniques.

First, grill the chicken on medium-high heat quickly so it doesn’t have time to dry out. If you can, cook the breasts with the skin on for a juicier result.

You can also marinate the chicken for up to two hours before cooking to add flavor without changing the texture. If you’re using a sticky-sweet barbecue sauce, just season the breasts and rub them with oil before cooking. Wait until 5 minutes before the chicken is done to brush on the sweet sauce so it doesn’t burn.

Finally, make sure the breasts are of uniform thickness for even cooking by pounding them between sheets of waxed paper.

This recipe works perfectly with lean chicken breasts, and the sauce is a classic that I serve often. It is a variation on the popular chimichurri sauce that appears on grilled meats in Argentina. It is as common there as ketchup is here. I added sweet white balsamic vinegar to the mixture, but you could also use sherry vinegar or champagne vinegar.

The basics of chimichurri sauce are parsley, lots of garlic, vinegar and olive oil. You can make your own signature variety by adding compatible ingredients. Some ideas include adding capers, shredded carrots, celery, red bell pepper and even anchovies. Some ingredients remain uncooked while others meld together when left simmering for a few minutes.

Contact Diane Rossen Worthington at

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Herbed Green Sauce

Herbed Green Sauce:

5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and dark ends removed

1 small bunch Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, stems removed

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup fresh dill

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white balsamic, sherry or other vinegar

1/4 cup water or chicken stock

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes, or to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


3 tablespoons Herbed Green Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 whole medium chicken breasts, halved, boned and flattened

Drop the garlic in a food processor with the motor running. Stop the motor and add parsley, basil, dill and oregano. Process until finely chopped. Add the oil, vinegar, water, lemon zest and seasonings, and process. Taste for seasoning. It should be very flavorful and spicy. Adjust if necessary, and set aside.

Combine 3 tablespoons of the sauce and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Place the chicken breasts in a resealable bag and pour in the marinade. Make sure the marinade is evenly distributed. Close the bag and refrigerate for 1/2 to 4 hours.

Prepare the grill for medium-heat grilling. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill about 3 inches from the flame for 7 to 10 minutes on each side or until no pink color is showing.

Place on a platter and serve with the sauce on the side.

Note: The sauce can be made up to five days ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove it from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.