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.
  • If you’re making a smoked chicken, you can use a half batch of my smoked turkey brine before you put the chicken in the smoker.

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 57 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. Hi,

    Great brine recipe! Would the chicken maintain its juiciness if I grill it in an oven rotisserie after brining it?

  2. 5 stars
    Dear Sara,
    Thank you for this. The chicken is truly juicy and tender and sooooo delicious. I will definitely keep this brining recipe. And your potato au gratin is a winner. I did bothbrecipes today and my husband gave me a two thumbs up.

    1. I’d be hesitant to recommend that simply because I’m not sure if it would be a food safety hazard.

  3. Hi,
    If I don’t have lemons can I use lime juice as a replacement? In a pre-quarantine world I could have just run out to get it but who knows when those days will come back!

  4. Hi there, what is the minimum time for brining in order to produce the effect? Just could your recipe for tonight and I’d say I only have like 30 min to an hour before my birdie needs to be in the oven..🍗

  5. 5 stars
    The best chicken I ever made! And I have been cooking for 50 years. It’s flavorful and tender. I fried chicken breasts for guests.

  6. Can you leave the salt out of the brine or cut it in half? My hubby is on a very low sodium diet, but I’m wanting to smoke some bonless, skinless chicken breasts I have as something special for him.

    1. You could try cutting down the amount of salt but it cannot be omitted, it is the basis of the recipe.

  7. Hi Sarah.. in your recipe you mention 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup of honey, etc.. what standard of measure is this? In terms of millilitres (ml) how much would 1/4, 1/2 cup be? Thanks

    1. You can use a convertor on Google. Just Google ml to cup or cup to ml and put in the amount you want converted. It will tell you the conversion .

  8. Hi Sarah, I plan to try the brine a whole chicken next weekend. Once done with brining, can I use the brine again for chicken pieces, drumsticks, etc.. what needs to be done?

  9. 5 stars
    5 Stars!!! The best brine recipe…My chicken turned out so delicious and flavorful, it’s definitely the best roasted chicken I’ve ever made. I will never skip this step again, so worth the extra time. I’m looking forward to brining my turkey for Thanksgiving this year with this recipe.

  10. 5 stars
    AMAZING…. I left my chicken drumsticks in the brine for a day and a half. Unintentional. I smelled so aromatic and after I baked it, it turned out so delicious. Thank you for sharing.

    1. can you make the brine ahead and keep it in the fridge for, say, a week so that you can portion it for brining chicken breasts throughout the week? or do you have to use it up the same day?

  11. Followed the brine recipe exactly, let brine for about 20hrs then smoked the chicken. The most tender and delicious chicken ever according to myself and everyone else that ate it!!!

    1. Okay I have a billion questions but I will ONLY ask one. I completed your brine suggestion. Now do I need to add any flavors under the skin before grilling???? Oh wait, how long do I grill?? That was two, ooops.

      1. You can add more seasonings if you want, just go easy on the salt. Are you trying to grill a whole chicken?

        1. I smoked the bird last time, gave it a nice rub and was so awesome!!!

          Today I want to throw it in the oven. And rub suggestions ???

          Great brine btw

  12. Hi Sarah,
    Can you use the brine for soup stock or anything else after the chicken is removed for roasting or must it simply be discarded?
    Of course it would have to be seriously heated through because of the raw poultry sitting in it for a few hours… but there is a lot of good stuff in there!
    Thanks – haven’t tried recipe yet. Will do.

  13. Used this for the roasted garlic herb chicken! It’s a must! And I didn’t even get to brine for the full 8 hrs. Sarah has it going on!

  14. 5 stars
    Wow, I used this for the roasted chicken recipe on this site, & oh my gosh, this made the chicken soooo tender! Now I totally get why people brine their chicken or turkey!

  15. Hi Sarah,
    Can you suggest measurements for using dry herbs, instead of fresh, as that’s all I have in the pantry. Thanks!