Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Story and photos by Karyl Henry,

I have always been a darkmeat girl when it comes to chicken. My parents cooked dark meat, so that is what I ate. Dark meat is more tender, and has more flavor than white meat. Yes, dark meat has a higher fat content, but that equals more flavor. And to me, it’s worth it.

I’ve tried to cook chicken breast a couple of times over the years, but it always gets so dry. And once it is dry, it’s almost impossible to salvage. I rarely order chicken breast at a restaurant, for the same reasons. But there are so many chicken breast recipes out there, so I’ve recently been on a mission to take on the challenge of a tender and juicy result.

In January I had lunch in Grapevine, TX at Main Street Bistro. I ordered the Santa Monica Burger, primarily because the bartender raved about it, even though they use a chicken breast. He was right…it was delicious, and incredibly tender. I learned they marinate the chicken overnight in pineapple and orange juice. Last summer I had amazing fajitas at Mama Roja in OKC, and they marinate the steak in soy sauce and orange juice.

Clearly I hit a theme, and I wanted to replicate it, that’s how this Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich was born.

I seasoned the chicken breast liberally with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. For the citrus, I use a bottled Orange/Pineapple/Banana juice. I really like the combination, and I usually have it in the fridge. I add extra orange juice–or even a few orange slices–for more citrus punch, plus soy sauce. The marinade combination is really up to you. Orange juice and soy sauce would be great on its own, but plain pineapple juice would be too harsh on the chicken.

The first time I made Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich I only marinated it for an hour, because I totally forgot to do it earlier. The result was good, but it didn’t have enough flavor for me. The next time, I marinated it for 4 hours, dumped the marinade, smeared the chicken breast with roasted garlic, and let it sit for 30 minutes before grilling. If you’ve never tried roasted garlic, you are missing out. The depth of flavor is incredible, and you could almost eat it plain. Almost.

I heated the grill to medium, and put the chicken over direct heat. Because I used a thicker chicken breast, I grilled it for about 8 minutes per side. I was concerned it might be dry, but the thick cut of chicken helped keep it quite tender. I did make a mistake though, because I left the roasted garlic skin on the chicken while it cooked…and then forgot to remove it before I took a bite. While I love roasted, garlic, that bite was much too intense. Thankfully that was the only piece.

Pineapple rings and red onion both work great on the grill, so I added those as well. I grilled the pineapple over direct heat, and the onions over indirect heat. Before adding them to the grill, I drizzle all sides with avocado oil (or canola oil) to prevent them from sticking to the grates.

The tart bite of pineapple can be overwhelming. Grilling pineapple releases more sweetness, and mellows the bite. It doesn’t take long for the pineapple to develop the beautiful char marks. I like both red and yellow onion, and tend to use red onions on the grill. Whichever onion you use, they will soften and become nice and sweet.

Bacon makes everything better…I think everyone knows that! I don’t eat bacon often, so I look for unique opportunities to include it in my recipes. Of course, the bacon is optional. I didn’t have lettuce, so I used baby spinach instead. Finally, I toasted the burger buns and dressed them with avocado oil mayonnaise and mustard.

Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich is a definite winner, and will stay on my regular meal rotation.

Editor’s Note: For more great recipes as well as restaurant reviews, be sure to visit Karyl Henry’s website at


Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken Sandwich from


2 6-ounce chicken breasts
1 1/4 cups Orange/Pineapple/Banana juice
1/4 cup Orange juice
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
4 cloves roasted garlic, smashed
4 slices thick-cut bacon
Red onion, cut into thick slices
4 pineapple rings
4 slices tomato
2 hamburger buns
Lettuce or baby spinach
Mustard, to taste
Mayonnaise, to taste

Season chicken with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Add juices and soy sauce. Cover and marinate in fridge for minimum of 4 hours or overnight.

Discard marinade, smear both sides of chicken with roasted garlic. Let chicken rest for 30 minutes

Heat grill to medium heat (or 350 degrees on gas grill). Drizzle pineapple and red onion with avocado oil or canola oil. Add pineapple over direct heat, and red onion over non-direct heat. Cook on one side until char marks develop, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add chicken to grill, over direct heat. Cook for 8 minutes, flip, and cook for another 8 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken, but the most important thing is to make sure the chicken cooks all the way through until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.

While the chicken cooks, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. When the bacon reaches your desired level of doneness, remove and drain on paper towels.

Toast hamburger buns. I prefer to do it in the toaster, because the result is the most even. But you can do it on the grill as well.

Assemble sandwiches:

  • Dress buns with mayonnaise and mustard
  • Add baby spinach or lettuce to bottom buns
  • Top with red onion
  • Place chicken breast
  • Top with bacon, pineapple, and tomato