Chicken is a versatile protein that can be seasoned in many different ways. The key is to choose seasonings that will complement the flavor of the chicken rather than overpower it. Some of the most popular seasonings to use with chicken include salt, pepper, garlic, lemon, thyme, rosemary, oregano, paprika, cumin, curry powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, mustard, and parsley.
Salt and Pepper
Salt and pepper are basic seasonings that work well with just about anything, including chicken. Salt enhances the natural flavor of the chicken while pepper adds a touch of spiciness. When seasoning chicken, salt and pepper are typically used in conjunction with other herbs and spices.
Garlic is an extremely versatile seasoning that pairs well with chicken. It adds a robust, savory flavor that complements the mild flavor of chicken nicely. Garlic can be used in many forms when seasoning chicken – minced garlic, garlic powder, or garlic salt are all great options. It can be combined with other herbs and spices or used on its own to give chicken a tasty garlic punch.
Lemon juice and zest add a bright, refreshing flavor to chicken. The acidity of lemon lightly tenderizes the chicken and helps the seasoning blend together. Lemon chicken is popular in many cuisines around the world. Lemon also pairs well with other seasonings like garlic, thyme, rosemary and parsley.
Thyme is an herb that brings an earthy, woodsy flavor to chicken. It is often used in Mediterranean or French-style chicken dishes. Thyme combines especially well with lemon, garlic and parsley for a flavorful chicken dish. It also pairs nicely with spices like paprika and cumin.
Rosemary is another herb that really complements the taste of chicken. It has a pine-like, slightly peppery flavor that enhances the savory nature of chicken. Rosemary goes great with roasted chicken, giving it a nice aromatic flavor. It also combines well with garlic, lemon and pepper.
Oregano is a zesty, aromatic herb that tastes great with chicken. It has a distinctive peppery, mint-like flavor. Oregano really brings out the flavor in dishes like chicken soup, grilled chicken, chicken casseroles and roasted chicken. It combines particularly well with garlic, parsley, pepper, paprika and olive oil.
Paprika is a spice made from ground dried red peppers. It adds a touch of heat and a rich, smoky taste to chicken. Paprika nicely complements the mild flavor of chicken without overpowering it. It’s excellent combined with other seasonings like garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, thyme and oregano.
Cumin is a spice popular in Latin American, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. It has an earthy, nutty and peppery flavor that enhances the natural taste of chicken. Cumin is commonly used in dishes like fajitas, tacos and curries along with chili powder, garlic and onion.
Curry powder is a blend of spices including turmeric, coriander, ginger and cumin. It adds a complex, slightly spicy flavor to chicken dishes. Curry powder is the basis for classic Indian chicken curries. It also combines well with garlic, onions and yogurt to make a flavorful chicken marinade.
Chili powder brings smoky, spicy flavor to chicken. It contains dried chili peppers along with other spices like cumin, garlic powder and oregano. Chili powder nicely balances the mildness of chicken, adding some heat and robust flavor. It’s commonly used in spicy chicken tacos, fajitas, chilis, and curries.
Cayenne pepper is a hot chili pepper in ground form. Just a dash of cayenne pepper adds spicy heat and smokiness to chicken. It pairs well with other robust seasonings like garlic, paprika and cumin. Cayenne can be used to make spicy chicken wings, chili, tacos and more.
Mustard can be used to add tangy flavor to chicken. Yellow mustard, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard and honey mustard all work well as ingredients in chicken marinades and sauces. Mustard’s acidity tenderizes the chicken, while also allowing the other seasoning flavors to come through.
Parsley is a fresh, versatile herb that brightens up chicken dishes. Its mild green flavor offsets the richness of chicken nicely. Parsley also combines well with spices like garlic, lemon, pepper and paprika. Use it to add freshness and color to salads, rice dishes and roasted chicken.
Other Good Options
In addition to the popular seasonings listed above, here are some other good options that pair well with chicken:
- Onion powder
- Celery salt
- Smoked paprika
- Five spice powder
Seasoning Blends for Chicken
Using pre-made seasoning blends is an easy way to add lots of flavor to chicken without much effort. Here are some tasty store-bought or homemade blends that are excellent with chicken:
- Italian seasoning
- Herbes de Provence
- Ranch seasoning
- Lemon pepper
- Jamaican jerk seasoning
- Taco seasoning
- Greek seasoning
- Poultry seasoning
- Cajun seasoning
- Barbecue rub
- Moroccan spice blend
Best Seasonings for Popular Chicken Dishes
Here are some suggestions for the best seasonings to use with some of the most popular chicken dishes:
For baked chicken breast or thighs, try a simple blend of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and thyme. Poultry seasoning also adds great flavor to baked chicken.
Make a zesty marinade for grilled chicken using olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, thyme and parsley. A store-bought Mediterranean seasoning blend also works well.
Season crispy fried chicken with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, dried thyme, salt, pepper and just a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Flavor chicken soup with onion powder, garlic powder, celery seed, sage, thyme, salt, pepper and dried parsley.
Mix up chicken salad with mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, celery, onion and herbs like tarragon, chives, dill or basil.
For crispy, flavorsome chicken wings, use a blend of smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.
Season chicken for tacos with a blend of chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, onion powder, salt and pepper. Sprinkle on some lime juice before serving.
Marinades and Rubs for Chicken
Marinades and rubs allow you to infuse chicken with lots of flavor. Here are a few tasty homemade blends:
Easy Lemon Garlic Marinade
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
Jamaican Jerk Marinade
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 jalapeño, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Easy Greek Yogurt Ranch Rub
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 packet ranch seasoning
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried parsley
Simple Dry Rub
- 2 Tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp pepper
Tips for Seasoning Chicken
Follow these tips to get the most flavor out of seasoning chicken:
- Season chicken at least 15-30 minutes before cooking to let flavors soak in.
- Dry chicken thoroughly before seasoning so seasonings will stick.
- Use enough oil or fat when cooking to help distribute seasoning flavor.
- Sprinkle seasonings over both sides of chicken pieces.
- Toss chicken wings and tenders in seasoning blend to evenly coat.
- Use 1-2 tsp of most dry herb/spice blends per 1 lb of chicken.
- Add salt gradually and taste as you go to prevent over-salting.
- Combine complementary flavors like lemon+thyme, garlic+onion+paprika.
- Re-season after cooking if needed to freshen up flavors.
Storing and Freezing Seasoned Chicken
Follow proper storage methods to keep seasoned chicken safe to eat:
- Refrigerate raw chicken within 2 hours of seasoning.
- Freeze seasoned raw chicken up to 9 months if not cooking right away.
- Store cooked chicken seasoned with fresh herbs up to 4 days.
- Keep cooked chicken seasoned with spices 3-6 months in freezer.
- Wrap chicken tightly or place in sealed containers before freezing.
- Label packages with contents and freeze date.
- Defrost frozen chicken in fridge overnight before cooking.
- Avoid defrosting chicken at room temperature.
- Use defrosted chicken within 2 more days.
Chicken is so versatile that it pairs well with a huge variety of seasonings. Play around with different spice blends to find new flavor combinations you love. Keep seasoning amounts moderate to let the chicken flavor come through. Marinate chicken or use a dry rub to infuse it with lots of flavor before cooking. With the endless seasoning options for chicken, you could easily eat chicken every day and never get bored!