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Lemon Rosemary Balsamic Roast Chicken

Scott Phillips

Servings: 4

In this perfect-for-Sunday-dinner, a savory marinade poured into the roasting pan along with the chicken cooks down to a delicious sauce.


For the marinade:

  • 5 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. packed finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

For the chicken:

  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 to 8 2-inch sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 large lemon, thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish (optional)

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 680
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 370
  • Fat (g): 41
  • Saturated Fat (g): 10
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 8
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 22
  • Cholesterol (mg): 170
  • Sodium (mg): 1610
  • Carbohydrates (g): 28
  • Fiber (g): 1
  • Protein (g): 48


Make the marinade:

  • Crush the garlic cloves, sprinkle with a little salt, and mince finely into a paste; you should have 1-1/2 to 2 Tbs. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, brown sugar, vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and chopped rosemary and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Marinate the chicken:

  • Wash and dry the chicken pieces thoroughly. Press down on the chicken breasts with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly (allowing rib cartilage to pop away or break in half). With a sharp knife, poke three or four slits in both sides of each piece of chicken to help the marinade penetrate. Put the chicken in a large nonreactive bowl. Add the garlic paste to the bowl and toss to coat the chicken. Scrape the marinade into the bowl of chicken and toss to coat (use your hands to distribute evenly). Add the rosemary sprigs and lemon slices, and toss to combine. Wrap the bowl well with plastic and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.

Roast the chicken

  • Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and pour the chicken and marinade (scraping the bowl) into one 10×15-inch or two 7×11-inch Pyrex baking dishes. Adjust the chicken so it’s skin side up and the pieces are evenly spaced. Tuck the marinated rosemary sprigs and lemon slices under and around the chicken pieces. Sprinkle each piece of chicken with a pinch of salt. Let the chicken sit for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour to warm up a bit so it will cook more evenly. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400°F.
  • Put the chicken in the oven to roast. As it cooks, the marinade will bubble and begin to reduce. After 30 minutes, baste occasionally with the pan juices to help brown the skin and keep the chicken moist. The chicken is done when it turns deep brown and the pan juices have reduced (the sides of the pan will be very dark brown and look almost burned, and a paring knife will slide easily into a thigh), about 1 hour. The pan juices may separate, meaning the fat will be floating on top of the juices, which will be very thick.

Make the pan sauce.

  • Transfer the chicken pieces to a cutting board and tent with foil. Discard the rosemary sprigs but transfer the lemon slices to a small bowl and reserve.
  • Hold one end of the pan with a potholder and gently tilt the pan to let the juices run into one corner. With a large, shallow spoon, spoon off as much fat as possible but leave any savory juices and pan drippings behind (they may look clumpy). Add 2 Tbs. water to the pan (or 1 Tbs. to each of the two pans) and use a wooden spoon to scrape off enough of the baked-on pan drippings from the sides and bottom of the pan to form a slightly thickened, deeply colored, rich-looking sauce (you won’t need to scrape the whole pan). Taste the sauce— if it’s too intense, add a little more water; if it isn’t flavorful enough, keep scraping and stirring.
  • Cut each chicken breast in half by centering a large chef’s knife over it and then pushing down and slicing at the same time (the knife will cut right through the cartilage). Serve a thigh and half of a breast per portion, with a few spoonfuls of sauce. Garnish each serving with some of the roasted lemon slices and a fresh sprig of rosemary, if you like. 

Serve with creamy polenta, a hash of red potatoes, or a simple risotto with Parmesan.

A bright, zippy red wine, like a young, fruity Barbera or a Côtes du Rhône, goes best with these assertive flavors.


Make the pan sauce while the pan is still hot; if you get delayed, use hot water to make the sauce, or put the pan back in the oven briefly to warm it.


Rate or Review

Reviews (6 reviews)

  • user-474627 | 01/26/2021

    So delicious!

  • user-2445160 | 03/23/2015

    The star function is not working but i give this FIVE STARS PLUS! I have made this recipe a number of times and each time it has been delicious. Most of the prep work is in advance which is useful. The marinade makes a tasty sauce and the chicken is moist and tender. I have made double quantities of it, and used two Pyrex casserole pans. Just watch to see that the sauce does not dry out and burn in the corners. Add more water in that case. Maybe test for readiness just before the hour is up to make sure the meat does not overcook.

  • CaptDink | 12/26/2014

    I altered this recipe necessarily, and used dark brown instead of light brown sugar. I applied the marinade under the skin of a roasting hen, and topically to it and two Cornish hens, all together 10 lbs. Placed in a large plastic zip lock, turning occasionally for three hours, they were then deep fried in 375 degree peanut oil. Here, the marinade is the star, and I only wish this particular application were mentioned, or it could be overlooked. It is really good and made a Christmas dinner even more memorable.

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