Easy and delicious baked lemon pepper chicken thighs made with juicy chicken thighs that are marinated in an easy homemade citrus and peppery spice marinade. Chicken thighs are oven baked and finished with vibrant fresh squeezed lemon to add a refreshing pop of zest. Simple and delicious chicken dinner for a later summer evening!
We used bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs for this recipe. To learn more about chicken thighs read our article on What to Make with Chicken Thighs.
Baked lemon pepper chicken thighs without lemon pepper seasoning
This lemon pepper chick thighs recipe is made with all natural ingredients. Fresh lemon juice and lemon zest gives the marinade a natural refreshing lemon flavor that you want to shine though in this dish. I decided to flavor the chicken thighs by marinating them in an all-natural homemade marinade rather than using common lemon pepper seasoning.
Why? Firstly, most lemon pepper chicken recipes are made with a store-bought lemon pepper seasoning. And secondly, almost all lemon pepper seasonings on the market contain citric acid and/or artificial ingredients. Citric acid is a natural component in citrus fruits such as lemons and limes and it is the ingredient that gives these fruits their sour flavor. However, manufactured citric acid is not the same.
Manufactured citric acid produced from a specific type of mold and is used in various ways. Most commonly as flavoring and preserving agent. It still has the sour tasting flavor and that’s why most lemon pepper seasonings have a sour taste. Citric acid is also used as a preservative and as a cleaning agent. Also, a lot of lemon pepper seasonings have other ingredients that you may want to avoid such as tricalcium phosphate and silicone dioxide which is used to keep the seasoning from sticking together and/or yellow #5 which is an artificial food coloring.
Homemade Lemon pepper seasoning
Try this all-natural lemon pepper marinade instead of store-bought lemon pepper seasoning. These are the few ingredients for this simple lemon pepper marinade:
Light olive oil – or any other vegetable oil you have on hand.
Lemon juice – fresh squeezed works best.
Vinegar – white wine vinegar such as white balsamic. You can substitute red wine vinegar if that’s what you have.
Lemon zest – freshly grated.
Garlic – fresh minced garlic, however you can substitute garlic powder if you don’t have fresh garlic.
Parsley – fresh or dried will work just fine.
Honey – used a sweetener to balance the acidity for the lemons and vinegar. You can use agave nectar, maple syrup or simple syrup if you don’t have honey
Black pepper – fresh ground coarsely.
Paprika – added for a sweet peppery flavor. You can use ground cayenne pepper if you prefer a little spice.
Sea salt – to taste.
Oregano – we used dried oregano for a touch of herby flavor. You can omit it if you don’t have it or just simply don’t like oregano.
You will also need chicken thighs. This recipe calls for three pounds of bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs, about six pieces.
Directions for baked lemon pepper chicken thighs
For the marinade- place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix together.
Place chicken thighs in a small but deep dish and pour the marinade all over the chicken thighs. For optimal flavor, lift the skin from the meat and brush the meat with the marinade. Cut off any extra skin.
Cover and refrigerate for at least a half hour, preferably an hour.
When ready to bake - pre-heat oven to 375°.
Place chicken thighs in a pan. Optional: line the pan with a cooling rack so as the chicken thighs bake, the fat has someplace to drip rather than the thighs just sitting in it as they bake.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the largest thigh temperature is at least 165°-170°. I recommend using a food thermometer.
Check the thighs at 25 -30 minutes, they should be fully cooked. Turn the oven to broil and leave in for about 5 minutes or until the skin becomes nice and crispy with a vibrant brown color. Keep an eye on them, broil can turn to burned quickly!
What to serve with lemon pepper chicken
There are so many sides for chicken, but you should try our roasted cauliflower mash with these lemon pepper chicken thighs. Roasted cauliflower mash is a perfect side for chicken, really a fantastic combination. And the whole dinner plate is gluten free and keto friendly. Get the recipe for our easy, five ingredient Roasted Cauliflower Mash.