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Vinegar BBQ Chicken

The secret to juicy chicken? Is in the sauce. But this isn’t Fried Green Tomatoes honey–it’s vinegar BBQ chicken you can count on to turn out juicy and flavorful. And no matter how picky the eaters, it’s sure to please. 

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four chicken breasts on the grill

Well that’s exciting. Another picture of grilled chicken. Yeah…no.

I hear you. Stop that.

Because this chicken is 1: juicy 2: full of flavor 3: good 4: juicy 5: really good

It’s marinated in what we call a “Carolina barbecue sauce” which has a vinegar based sauce instead of a traditional tomato-base and I’d take it 10 times over the traditional.

a bowl of vinegar brine with chicken soaking

The secret here is in the brining process. Anytime you soak a meat in a salt mixture it allows the proteins to hang on to the moisture better (I’m saving you a big science lesson here so go with it) and keeps the meat from drying out.

Every time I serve this it gets tons of compliments and it’s my go-to for times when we have picky guests coming for dinner and I don’t know what to make. It’s always safe and fantastic.

a grilled chicken breast on a cookie sheet

Vinegar BBQ Chicken

The best vinegar based brine for juicy flavor-packed grilled chicken. It's true!
Prep Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours
Servings 5 people
Author Rachel Ballard


  • 4 split chicken breasts bone and skin on
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional


  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Add the chicken and cover. Marinate in the refrigerator 4-6 hours if possible and up to 16 hours. Grill it to awesome perfection.


Calories: 600kcal
Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
Course Main Course
Cuisine American

Note: You must really should use bone-in, skin on split chicken breasts for this for the best result. It takes a bit longer to cook but it’s worth it. You can peel the skin off when it’s done cooking but the fat helps protect the meat even more. No hacking on dry chicken in this house. Mix your sauce in the morning and drop in your chicken before you head out for the day and grill it when you get home. Several hours in the brine is fine.

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    1. Hey Carl, well…this is meant to be a recipe for the barbecue and while the flavor would probably be okay, you wouldn’t get the nice charred skin that comes from the grill. I’d say you had better wait for the grill. –Rachel

    1. Hey Barbara, It really depends on what kind of chicken you use but I always recommend bone-in, skin-on split breasts for this. If you do use those then about 35-40 minutes depending on the heat of your grill and the size of the breasts. It’s fine for the skin to get really good and dark as it grills. I usually just pull that off when we are ready to eat anyway. I hope you enjoy it! –Rachel

  1. 5 stars
    I tried numerous other chicken marinades before finding this one. After trying this one, I threw all the other recipes away. It gives the delicious flavor that I was looking for. Thanks for posting this recipe.

    1. You are so welcome Doug! I laughed the other day–a guy told me this was a “terrible recipe and had no flavor”. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have any taste buds. 😉 It’s such a fantastic brine and marinade–we don’t use anything else either! I hope you’ll come back for this recipe time and time again. –Rachel

    1. Hey Al–well I’m sorry you feel that way. Of course I would say I feel differently and would recommend that if you want a stronger flavor in your chicken that you taste your marinade before you add your chicken and see if it’s salty enough and that you’ve used a vinegar that gives you the punch you want. I also soak mine overnight and it’s always great. It isn’t meant to be overwhelmingly vinegar–that would ruin it but the chicken is always juicy and has a little zing. Every recipe is a starting place for tweaking according to your own preferences. –Rachel

  2. 5 stars
    I had a version of vinegar grilled chicken in 1981, cooked by a friend’s father who was in fact, from N.C….have always thought it was the BEST grilled chicken I’d ever had until I tried this recipe. Incredible! Thank you for helping me find that lost, wonderful memory of great chicken!

    1. Kim it makes me so happy to hear that a recipe brings back good memories for you! And yes you’re right–it is the BEST grilled chicken ever. Ever. Ever. 😉 It’s the only way we grill it here at our house. I hope you’ll make it over and over again. Come back and see me again soon, okay? –Rachel

  3. 5 stars
    I was looking to whip up an Eastern Carolina style vinegar-based BBQ marinade since I ran out of my usual, and this was just the thing! I followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfectly. I’ll be holding on to this and using it all summer!

  4. Well, I’m a North Carolina girl and this sounds really good. My husband does the grilling, I’ll show him this. Thanks! Pinning it!

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.