Olive-Brined Chicken Thighs

46 Comments

My girlfriend recently told me about her tried-and-true recipe for fried chicken, which begins with marinating chicken in pickle juice. I have been so intrigued by that and curious about the flavor the juice imparts. She’s promised me to make it when I visit next time, and I can’t wait.

I started thinking about pickle juice when I was perusing my jarred items in my refrigerator the other day (doesn’t everyone do that?!!) and I saw a jar of brine saved from olives. I do this for my son-in-law, who is the dirty martini drinker of the family.

My mind went from olive juice to chicken, as in, marinate chicken in the brine, and then follow my friend’s second step which is to marinate with buttermilk.

I have 3 friends who swear by marinating chicken in buttermilk, and it’s a popular Samin Nosrat recipe as well. There’s something about the acid in the buttermilk that tenderizes the chicken, whether you’re planning on frying or roasting or whatever.

So, this is what happened with my olive brine and buttermilk experiment.

Olive Brine, and Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Thighs

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 2 1/2 pounds total
Salt and pepper
12 ounces olive brine
12 ounces buttermilk
Garlic pepper
Olive oil


Place the thighs in a baking dish or ziploc bag. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the olive brine and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Remove from the brine and pat dry on paper towels. Place in another baking dish or ziploc bag, and fill with buttermilk. Refrigerate for another 24 hours.

Remove the chicken thighs to paper towels to drain.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F while the thighs warm up a bit.

Drizzle a little olive oil in a baking dish that will comfortably fit the thighs. Season them with garlic pepper. Right before baking, drizzle some olive oil over the chicken thighs.

Bake until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees F. This took my oven approximately 25 minutes. If you want more browning, use the broiler for a few minutes.


Remove the baking dish from the oven, and place the chicken on a serving platter. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic pepper, if desired.


I made some carrot and pea fritters to pair with the chicken, mostly for some color and texture.

I mixed together 75% crème fraiche and 25% Kewpie mayonnaise for a creamy condiment. A little Sriracha was tempting, but I decided to keep everything mild in order to highlight the chicken.

Have you ever tried Remoulade in a tube? It is excellent.

No condiment is really necessary. I just like condiments.

The chicken was super moist, and tasted just like olives. It doesn’t look like much, but wow.

I didn’t realize the olive brine would impart so much flavor!

The marinated chicken could have also been grilled.

I’m certainly convinced about what buttermilk does for chicken as a marinade. But I also like olive brine’s part in this chicken. Next time? Pickle juice!

46 thoughts on “Olive-Brined Chicken Thighs

    • That is fun, right?!! Although I already had the pickle juice idea in my head. Good good chicken.

      • I actually use pickle juice a lot! I use it in vinaigrettes for salads and to make quick pickles for dinner. I love slicing a purple a really thin and letting it steep for a day in pickle juice. I will have to experiment with my olive brine now!

  1. How interesting Mimi. I am regretting all that Olive juice I have poured away down the sink!! Never knew I could do wonderful things with it.
    What about pickled onion juice? Would that be a possibility as well?
    I shall look at pickle juice in a whole different way in the future.
    Thanks Mimi, my husband is groaning at the thought of future half empty jars of pickle juice lining up in the fridge!!! :))

    • I have pickled cornichons that come with onions, so that would be fun to try. Husband who don’t cook need to stop groaning!!!

  2. I just noticed the olive juice you showed us in your article were marinated in Dry Vermouth. I now understand why your chicken tasted so good. I am going to get some bulk olives and do some marinating of my own. They sound wonderful!!! :))

    • You know, I just noticed that on the label after I took the photo. Do you think it made a difference?!! Whatever it was in the brine, it was so good.

  3. I love the way your mind works, Mimi! I use buttermilk a lot to marinate chicken — have been doing it since college! A waiter at one of my favorite restaurants told me (under duress) that was how they did their chicken, which was fabulous (coated in sesame seeds). I’ve always said it pays to flirt with one’s server!

    • Good to know! Except that I’m beyond the flirtatious stage!!! I’d probably scare them 😬

  4. Love the idea of marinating in the olive brine and I’ve heard of using buttermilk for chicken but normally use plain yogurt, as it’s easier to get hold of. The flavour sound amazing Mimi!

    • Thanks! I wonder if buttermilk and yogurt have the same acidity? I have no idea…. but it sure works well!

  5. I love marinating chicken in buttermilk plus hot sauce! This seems like a great idea! I love the idea of pickle juice! I may give that a try! Love your recipe, Mimi! I’d have never considered olive brine!

  6. A double marinate, brilliant Mimi. I used to use buttermilk for marinating and baking a lot, but we can’t get cultured buttermilk here. But, when it comes to olive brine that’s no problem, I always have some lurking around in the fridge. This sounds to be a great way to add flavor to chicken thighs.

    • Thanks! I couldn’t believe how much the chicken tasted like olives, so I might try doing the brine marinade only!

  7. Love this idea of using the olive liquid as a brine for your chicken. I bet it made you chicken thighs taste amazing. We love kewpie mayo too. After living in Japan, nothing else comes close… LOL How’s your arm healing coming along?

  8. Mimi, I can’t wait to try this! I’m going to make it later this week. :-) ~Valentina

  9. So clever! And creative. Love olives and chicken, and you’ve taken that pairing to a new (and different!) level. Good stuff — thanks/

    • It worked out so well! Next time I’ll just use buttermilk, since the Queen has made it so popular. (Samin Nosrat.)

  10. What a fun idea…and a great way to avoid pouring out the extra olive brine! I personally use buttermilk, but this is a fun twist for sure. The only difference is I might have to put these on the grill!

    • Yeah, and they’d definitely have a bit more color. When I made this recipe it was too cold out! We’ve had a weird spring, but summer is definitely arrived.

    • Oh good! And don’t forget dirty martinis… (I don’t like martinis personally.) I wonder if the brine would quickly cook the fish? A good experiment!

  11. I definitely swear by a buttermilk brine for chicken as well. And now you have me curious about the olive brine. I can’t imagine how flavorful and tender this chicken must have turned out. Such a wonderful post. Thanks!

    • The chicken looked pretty anemic, but i just wanted to see what the marinades would do. Pretty interesting!

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