Grilled Marinated Chicken

The complete name of this recipe is Grilled Chicken Marinated in Cumin, Lemon, and Garlic, and it’s an Alfred Portale recipe from his cookbook The 12 Seasons Cookbook, published in 2000. The combination of cumin, lemon, and garlic isn’t that unique – sort of a Middle Eastern combo – but to it does scream “summer barbeque” to me!

So, who is Alfred Portale? He’s an American chef, author, and restauranteur, known as the pioneer of the New American Cuisine movement.

I’ve owned this cookbook for a while, and I really like the way he divided the chapters into 12 months, not 4 seasons. For each month there is a “seasonal” description, like January – A Fresh Start, and July – Birthdays and Barbecues, and October – Sweater Weather!

If you need more information on this chef, his bio is here. For me, his biggest claim to fame early in his career, is becoming the chef and co-owner of the Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City, also receiving the James Beard Awards for Best Chef, in 1993, Outstanding Chef in 2006, and Outstanding restaurant in 2002.

He must be well respected; famous chefs including Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Alice Waters have given their wholehearted approval of Chef Portale’s cookbook. There are also two other cookbooks by Portale – Simple Pleasures, and Gothem Bar and Grill Cookbook.

Instead of quartered chickens, I used chicken breasts. My husband will not eat any dark meat, and I didn’t want to test out this recipe and “waste” 3 beautiful chickens. I cooked the breasts to temperature (155 degrees F) but I do think that even using thighs would have been an improvement. Heck, they’re always an improvement!

Grilled Chicken Marinated in Cumin, Lemon, and Garlic

1 1/2 tablespoons cracked white or black peppercorn
2 teaspoons coarsely ground cumin
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup canola oil
4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
12 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed to a paste and sprinkled with coarse salt
2 3-pound free-range chickens, quartered
Coarse salt to taste

In a sauté pan, combine the peppercorns, cumin, coriander seeds and cinnamon. Toast the spices by shaking the pan gently over medium heat for about one minute, until fragrant. Take care not to burst them. Transfer to a food processor or spice grinder and pulse to blend. (I used my spice toaster to toast the spices.)

In a stainless-steel mixing bowl combine onion, lemon juice, canola oil, parsley, lemon zest and garlic.

Season the chicken with the ground spices, then add the chicken pieces to the bowl with the marinade. Mix well. Put the chicken in a dish, cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours.

Halfway through the marinating time, I turned the breasts over and used the remaining spice mixture left over on the chicken.

Build a charcoal fire on a grill and let the coals burn until covered with white ash. Spread them out in the grill. Lightly oil the grill grate.

Lift the chicken from the dish and scrape off the excess marinade. Season the chicken with salt, and grill it, turning it several times for 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the thigh juices run clear when pricked with a small sharp knife. (I checked the temperature with a thermometer.)

Sadly, this bit of tedious marinating did not really end that well. I could taste the garlic and coriander, and the lemon was an aftertaste. None of the other flavors really came through..

I’m quite disappointed in these results. The smells of the spice mixture and the marinade got me very excited! I might throw all of the marinade ingredients in a blender next time and get better results.

By Published On: August 8th, 202338 Comments on Grilled Marinated Chicken

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. David @ Spiced August 8, 2023 at 6:13 AM - Reply

    I’m surprised that the flavors of the marinade didn’t come through as well. Sometimes I poke chicken breasts all over with a fork when putting them in a marinade – not sure if it actually helps, but I like to think it does. Marinated chicken is an easy way to take something boring and turn it into something great…especially in the summer months!

    • Chef Mimi August 8, 2023 at 7:41 AM - Reply

      I agree. I just wish I’d pureed the marinade. I think that would have produced a better outcome.

  2. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen August 8, 2023 at 6:57 AM - Reply

    Would have thought this would have been really flavorful, the spices sound lovely. The thighs might have made a difference because they are juicier and have so much more flavor. But we can’t just please ourselves!

    • Chef Mimi August 8, 2023 at 7:42 AM - Reply

      I think the marinade looked really pretty, all chunky like it was, but a pureed mixture would have produced better results.

  3. BERNADETTE August 8, 2023 at 11:53 AM - Reply

    I am not a fan of chicken breasts but my hubby is. This sounds like a delicious compromise.

    • Chef Mimi August 8, 2023 at 3:12 PM - Reply

      Same here. Even cooked probably they’re just not that good!

  4. Charlie DeSando August 8, 2023 at 6:56 PM - Reply

    Looks perfectly done, Chef Mimi

    • Chef Mimi August 9, 2023 at 7:52 AM - Reply

      Thanks, Charlie!

  5. Sherry Mackay August 8, 2023 at 7:53 PM - Reply

    the flavours here sound great Mimi. what a shame it didn’t work out as you hoped. I really like chicken thighs but hubby is a breast man. What is it with men and breasts? :=)

    • Chef Mimi August 9, 2023 at 7:51 AM - Reply

      Exactly. At least I get all of the dark meat at Thanksgiving!!!

  6. Mary August 8, 2023 at 10:23 PM - Reply

    I just don’t use chicken breasts at all. They aren’t a working muscle and are mostly sold skinless. There is just no flavour and they just don’t seem to absorb flavour. A couple of nice thighs would have been so much more flavoursome. All that lovely marinade had nowhere to go. 🙁

    • Chef Mimi August 9, 2023 at 7:51 AM - Reply

      Right. As I just told Frank, my husband is strict about what he eats, and he has 4% body fat. He just left for the YMCA where he’ll be for four hours. Nothing I can do about it. But that’s why I love to blog!

  7. Tandy | Lavender and Lime August 9, 2023 at 12:30 AM - Reply

    I think I would use these in a tagine with some stock as the flavour combination sounds great.

    • Chef Mimi August 9, 2023 at 7:50 AM - Reply

      Oh yes. That sounds wonderful!

  8. Frank Fariello August 9, 2023 at 6:54 AM - Reply

    Looks nice! Though I’d prefer this with chicken legs and thighs. If you don’t mind my saying so, your husband must be crazy. The dark meat is a million times more flavorful than the breast! That said, if you’re doing to eat chicken breast it does benefit from a tasty marinade like this.

    • Chef Mimi August 9, 2023 at 7:49 AM - Reply

      He’s crazy, but he also has 4% body fat. 🙄 So that’s what controls what he eats/what I cook for him. This is why I continue to blog and cook good food for myself!

  9. thatskinnychickcanbake August 9, 2023 at 6:20 PM - Reply

    Oh, I was hoping for a new chicken marinade to try. So sorry this one was lacking….it sure sounded tasty, though!

    • Chef Mimi August 9, 2023 at 6:55 PM - Reply

      Right! Well it smelled wonderful. I seriously think the whole thing should have been blended.

  10. 2pots2cook August 10, 2023 at 3:37 AM - Reply

    The first thing I spotted are his fingers. Must be a great chef! Thank you for pointing me in new direction to discover more beauties Mimi!

    • Chef Mimi August 10, 2023 at 12:00 PM - Reply

      You are so welcome!

  11. Healthy World Cuisine August 12, 2023 at 8:41 AM - Reply

    Your chicken looks perfectly grilled. I wonder if you put the onions and spices in the food processor to get it like a paste and then marinate it overnight, maybe the flavors would have penetrated the chicken better. Glad you did the test for us. The spices and additions sound like it would be really good. Hope you are doing well. Take Care

    • Chef Mimi August 12, 2023 at 9:02 AM - Reply

      Yes, I think a paste would work well also. The smell of the marinade was fabulous! It just didn’t work!

  12. Thao @ In Good Flavor August 12, 2023 at 1:58 PM - Reply

    Too bad the you were underwhelmed by the chicken. By the sound of the marinade ingredients, I thought that the smell would be wonderful. It’s unfortunate that the taste wasn’t the same.

    • Chef Mimi August 13, 2023 at 1:11 PM - Reply

      The smell was definitely wonderful! Chopped onions just don’t work as a marinade.

  13. Jeff the Chef August 13, 2023 at 7:50 AM - Reply

    I’m sorry it didn’t work out. It’s hard to imagine why, because it all sounds so perfect. I was suprised to see that you take the chicken off the grill at 155. I usually go a bit higher, but I wonder if I should try that. What a shame about your husband not liking dark meat! I’d die without the occasional chicken thigh or drumstick!

    • Chef Mimi August 13, 2023 at 1:13 PM - Reply

      I know. At least at Thanksgiving I’m happy! I’ve always ended grilling chicken at 155. I don’t like overcooked meat – especially chicken!

  14. August 13, 2023 at 11:11 AM - Reply

    I love making my own marinade. Sorry ths one didn’t work out for you. Looks delicious though!

    • Chef Mimi August 13, 2023 at 1:14 PM - Reply

      It was definitely pretty. I would make it exactly the same way next time but blender it up.

  15. Ronit Penso August 13, 2023 at 3:08 PM - Reply

    From the list of spices, I was sure this would be so tasty and aromatic, but I guess it’s just a too dry mixture. It definitely as potential. I think you’re right regarding blending it all together. I would probably also use olive oil instead of canola, which is too bland to my taste.
    Thanks for the honest review! :)

    • Chef Mimi August 13, 2023 at 3:23 PM - Reply

      I think the canola oil was supposed to be bland to allow the important marinade ingredients to shine. But it just didn’t work at all.

  16. Elena Bourke August 13, 2023 at 9:18 PM - Reply

    Yeh, baby. 12 cloves of garlic. This sounds wonderful. Parley and lemon. I look forward to making this.

    • Chef Mimi August 14, 2023 at 6:47 AM - Reply

      I know! I love garlic.

  17. David Scott Allen August 17, 2023 at 9:59 AM - Reply

    I’m sorry this was disappointing. I am going to try this cooking them sous-vide and finishing them on the grill. Of course, horrifying to you, I will leave out the garlic and imagine the other flavors might stand a chance of coming through.

    • Chef Mimi August 17, 2023 at 10:22 AM - Reply

      Not horrifying, I just happen to LOVE garlic! But I love onions, too.

  18. Raymund August 17, 2023 at 4:58 PM - Reply

    Those chicken breasts must have been delicious, even though you missed out on the dark meat it sounds fantastic, especially with the cumin, lemon, and garlic combo

    • Chef Mimi August 18, 2023 at 6:58 AM - Reply

      The ingredients were really fabulous, and the smell was wonderful. The marinade just didn’t permeate the chicken breasts.

  19. carrietalkingmeals August 23, 2023 at 10:25 AM - Reply

    Maybe blending the spices with the marinade ingredients so that it’s more of a paste that sticks to the chicken would help to infuse it with flavor :)

    • Chef Mimi August 23, 2023 at 10:36 AM - Reply

      That would work better for sure!

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