This chicken brine recipe is made with lemons, honey, fresh herbs and spices, and produces a juicy tender chicken every time! A foolproof way for succulent and flavorful roasted, smoked or fried chicken.

If you’ve never had a brined chicken before, you’re missing out! It takes just minutes to make a chicken brine, but the end result is nothing short of fabulous. Serve your brined chicken with glazed carrots and rice pilaf for a complete meal.

This chicken brine recipe is made with lemons, honey, fresh herbs and spices, and produces a juicy tender chicken every time! A foolproof way for succulent and flavorful roasted, smoked or fried chicken. This chicken brine recipe is made with lemons, honey, fresh herbs and spices, and produces a juicy tender chicken every time! A foolproof way for succulent and flavorful roasted, smoked or fried chicken.

Chicken brine in a pot with a whole chicken, lemons, herbs and spices.

I always get anxious about cooking large items of poultry like whole chickens and turkeys. It’s just so easy to either overcook the birds until they’re dry as a bone, or undercook them so they’re raw in the middle. This chicken brine infuses a whole bird with tons of flavor and helps to keep it from drying out in the oven. Brined chicken is the best chicken you’ll ever eat!

How do you make chicken brine?

To make this recipe, you’ll need salt, honey, lemons, herbs, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. Everything goes into a large pot with water and is simmered until the salt has dissolved. After the mixture has cooled to room temperature, you can add your chicken to the pot, then refrigerate it until you’re ready to make dinner.

Ingredients including honey, lemon, herbs, spices and garlic.

Why do you brine chicken?

Chicken is a naturally lean type of meat which mean it’s prone to drying out. When a chicken is placed into brine, it absorbs some of the brine which helps to both keep it moist and also to season it all the way through. When you’re working with a brined chicken, even if you overcook it a bit, it should still come out tender and juicy.

How long do you brine chicken?

A whole chicken should be submerged in brine for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours. Do not go past the 24 hour mark, as your chicken may be overly salty if it sits in the brine for too long. If you’re looking to brine bone-in chicken pieces such as chicken thighs, drumsticks or breasts, you’ll want to soak them for about 4 hours. If you’re working with boneless chicken pieces, you can brine them for about 2 hours.

Salt, water, lemons, herbs and peppercorns in a pot.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

  • This recipe tends to work well with smaller chickens in the 3-5 pound range. This is simply because you’re more likely to have a deep pot to brine a smaller chicken in. If your chicken is larger than the biggest pot in your house, you can use a brining bag.
  • Be sure to use kosher salt, do not use table salt in this recipe. Table salt measures differently than kosher salt and your chicken will be too salty with table salt. I typically use Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
  • Feel free to mix up the flavorings to fit your preferences. You can try orange instead of lemon, brown sugar instead of honey, add dried chiles for a little spice, or use fresh sage instead of thyme.
  • Make sure the liquid is completely cooled before you add the chicken for food safety reasons. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry, I add a cup of ice cubes to help speed the process along.

How do you cook brined chicken?

You can cook this type of chicken in any way that you would normally cook a whole chicken. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Sometimes I like to add a few teaspoons of chicken seasoning to the outside of the bird before I cook it.

A brined roasted whole chicken.

Once you try a brined chicken, you’ll be hooked! Everyone will think you’re a gourmet chef when they get a taste of your perfectly cooked chicken. While making a this brining solution is an extra step in the cooking process, it’s totally worth it in my opinion.

Sliced chicken garnished with fresh herbs.

Chicken Brine Video

4.99 from 56 votes

Chicken Brine Recipe

AuthorSara Welch
Chicken brine in a pot with a whole chicken, lemons, herbs and spices.
This chicken brine recipe is made with lemons, honey, fresh herbs and spices, and produces a juicy tender chicken every time! A foolproof way for succulent and flavorful roasted, smoked or fried chicken.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Cool Time30 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 12


  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt do not use table salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 5 cloves of garlic smashed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 lemons sliced
  • 4 lb whole chicken


  • Place the water, salt, honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, parsley and lemons in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes or until salt has dissolved.
  • Turn off the heat and cool completely.
  • Add the chicken to the cooled brine. Make sure the chicken is completely submerged.
  • Cover the pot and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.
  • Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse with cool water; pat dry with paper towels. Proceed with roasting, smoking or frying the chicken.


Nutritional information includes the whole chicken.


Calories: 185kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 775mg | Potassium: 176mg | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 140IU | Vitamin C: 11.5mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg

This post was originally published on January 2, 2019 and was updated with new content on January 13, 2022.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Would it be worth it to brine a chicken for three hours? I’d really like to try this for dinner, but it’s too late in the day for 8 hours…

  2. I used this brining recipe for a hen. This was a big hit with my 80 year old Dad. Many thanks to you from my family.

  3. Sara, your recipes never fail me! I used your turkey brine for Thanksgiving and have never had a more moist and juicy turkey. I was a star for sure.

    This recipe is a keeper as well. This is great! My family lived this. Thank you so much for sharing with us!

      1. The flavor soaks into the meat, the rinsing simply removes any excess salt or large pieces of herbs and spices from the surface. Do you mean cover it with foil when baking? I don’t cover mine unless it seems like it’s getting overly browned before the inside has cooked through.

  4. I did this brine 2 months ago and wow it was amazing and you’re so right I’m hooked. Today I’m using it again and the water didnt quite cover the hen I’ve chosen to you use I plan to turn it a few times during the night I hope that works, it’s not much left un-submerged . I dont remember if I seasoned it after it comes out of the brine if possible could you let me know.

    1. You can add more water to cover the chicken, it’ll still come out great! You can add other seasonings to the chicken, just use any added salt sparingly.

    1. So I forgot to finish reading the instructions and I didn’t boil the ingredients and the chicken has been soaking for about 2 hours. Will this still work the same or have I just waterlogged my chicken?

      1. It should be fine, you boil the brine to dissolve the salt, so you may want to stir it well to make sure the salt is all dissolved.

  5. 5 stars
    After many brine recipes, this one was amazing!! It made our chicken so tasty!!! Best brine we’ve had! I didnt have fresh herbs so just used extra dried but it still turned out awesome! I am doing our turkey for Thanksgiving in it and hoping it turns out just as good!

  6. 5 stars
    Wow…what a difference a brine makes!!
    A 24 hr soak passed on a hint of salt and lemon
    flavor to the very tender white meat, maybe a 12 hr soak is adequate.
    Cooked on a spit on gas grill, stuffed a potato
    inside the bird so it did not flop around
    as it spun. I am now a born again briner!

  7. Question: I am a type 1 diabetic. Adding honey, sugar, etc. would be a bad idea for me–could never figure out how much insulin I would have to take for a meal. I don’t like smoked flavor. Can I brine without sugar, honey , fruit, etc in the recipe for a baked chicken?

    1. My son is type 1 so I completely understand what you’re asking. I can tell you that unless you plan on eating more than one whole chicken or have a really low carb/insulin ratio, you should be fine. My son takes 10:1 ratio and didn’t even have to take any insulin for it and he eat half the bird. (We were not sure how to even begin to count the carbs since it only sits in the brine. He waited till after he eat it and watched his reading). I hope this helps.

  8. 5 stars
    Hi Sara! Funny coincidence that I was looking for a brine recipe for chicken and came across your recipe. I saw your picture and immediately realized we used to work together at CDD. I worked in Accounting. I’m so happy to have come across your website and can’t wait to try out this recipe. Will let you know how it turns out.

    1. Hi Becky, I totally remember you!! I’m so glad you found my site. I stopped being a planner when my first kids were born 8 years ago and this is my job now. Good to hear from you!

  9. I made a chicken with this brine recipe and the BBQ rub recipe OH MY GOD what an awesome the lemon in the brine complemented the chicken wonderfully the chicken it was Soo delish 😋 this recipe is a definite keeper….the brine I didn’t have fresh herbs so I did use 1tsp of each dry and I didn’t have peppercorns so I use almost a full Tbsp black pepper… and for the Rub I used 3/4Tbsp pepper and kosher salt and I didn’t use the cayenne pepper I don’t like hot but it was awesome…. THANK YOU WONDERFUL RECIPES 😆👍👍✌️ I can’t wait to make another one 😋

  10. 5 stars
    I don’t typically leave reviews on recipes but felt as though I had to here. I used this on smoked chicken breasts for a family party and got a massive amount of praise for how good the chicken was. Thank you for putting this recipe out there.