Grilled Herb Chicken with Caramelized Lemon Sauce

Sage, thyme, and yogurt come together with spatchcocked grilled chicken and lemon to create an evergreen recipe.

By Marissa Lippert

Get your grill ready for this crowd-pleasing recipe that’s a hit at group dinners. Sage and thyme come together with lemon and yogurt in this spatchcocked grilled chicken to create an evergreen recipe that you can keep coming back to all year round.

Dry brining the chicken overnight in open air allows moisture to release and lock back into the meat. This draws moisture in, away from the skin, so that the skin can become perfectly crispy when grilled. That makes for juicier bites, intense flavor, and the perfect texture. Serve up some wows when you offer guests this complex poultry dish.

Ingredients for Chicken:

  • 3 ½ pound whole chicken, spatchcocked (instructions for that, below)
  • ½ cup full fat plain yogurt
  • Leaves from 3 to 4 sage sprigs, about 12 to 15 leaves
  • 10 to 12 thyme sprigs
  • 6 garlic cloves, gently smashed
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika or red chili flake
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Juice from ½ lemon ½ lemon, thinly sliced
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ⅓ tablespoon kosher salt
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Ingredients for Caramelized Lemon Sauce:

  • 1 medium red onion, quartered
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, halved and seeded
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 sage leaf, finely minced
  • Leaves from 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste


Prep Time:

20 to 25 minutes

Cook Time:

35 to 40 minutes


4 to 6

Grill the Chicken With Sage & Thyme

Step 1:

Spatchcock a whole chicken by removing the backbone (spine) with a knife or kitchen shears. Lay the spatchcocked chicken on a baking sheet and pat dry. Season the cavity generously with salt and pepper. Then flip the bird and season the breast, legs, and thighs generously with salt and pepper.

Step 2:

In a bowl, mix together yogurt, sage, thyme, garlic, smoked paprika, honey, and lemon juice. Rub the chicken thoroughly with the mixture. Place the chicken on a clean baking rack, and then set the rack on a clean baking sheet. Top chicken with lemon slices and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Tip: If your fridge can’t fit a full baking sheet, marinate chicken in a glass baking dish, or storage container, ideally uncovered.

Step 3:

When ready to cook, prepare a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat, between 350-425°F. Brush grill grates with oil. Drizzle oil all over the chicken, and place the bird on the grill cavity-side down. Close the grill top and cook for about 10 minutes.

Step 4:

Flip chicken and close grill top to cook for another 20-30 minutes until skin is crisp and golden brown, and chicken juices run clear. Internal temperature should reach 165°F.

Create the Caramelized Lemon Sauce

Step 1:

While the chicken is finishing grilling, gently toss red onion quarters with 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill until softly charred, about 6-8 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Step 2:

Dip lemon halves into sugar and place face down on the grill. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until the sugar, is nicely caramelized and almost blackened on the lemon.

Step 3:

To prepare sauce, finely chop 2 red onion quarters and one of the lemon halves. In a bowl, whisk the minced red onion and lemon half together with sage, thyme, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Serve remaining grilled red onion and caramelized lemon with chicken if desired.

I wanted to create a classic summer grilling recipe that can be used as a go-to for impressing at family or group dinners.

More Tips from Chef Marissa Lippert

What is dry brining?

Dry brining is done by rubbing meat with salt and setting it in the refrigerator to marinate for several hours. Brining, wet or dry, helps release flavor and moisture. With brining, moisture is locked in during the cooking process, resulting in a more tender and juicy taste. That’s because brining essentially seasons from the inside out. This works to denature, or breakdown, the meat’s protein structures to prevent moisture loss when cooking. You can use this method for other types of animal protein, like turkey, lamb, pork, fish, and shellfish.

How long should the meat marinate?

Anywhere from 4 hours to overnight. The longer the chicken has to interact with the yogurt, the more tender and flavorful it will be.

What does spatchcocked mean?

Spatchcock (or butterflying) is a method for removing the backbone (spine) of the chicken or any other poultry. This allows the bird to be easily flattened to grill over the fire.

How does the yogurt sauce enhance the meat?

The yogurt’s natural acidity helps tenderize the meat and denature the chicken’s protein structure. What does that mean? Basically, it unlocks extra tenderness and a flavorful “tang” from the meat.