Buttermilk Barbecue Chicken


Buttermilk is a very popular marinade for fried chicken, but for whatever reason, it isn't often used with other chicken cooking methods. Which is kind of surprising, especially when you taste just how effective it is for something like this beautiful barbecued chicken. Yogurt, a very similar product, is quite popular in grilled chicken marinades. So, why not use buttermilk? This goes great with coleslaw, potato salad, and a squeeze of lemon.

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
45 mins
Additional Time:
6 hrs
Total Time:
7 hrs 5 mins
1 whole chicken


For the Marinade:

  • 2 cups buttermilk

  • ¼ cup brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 (3 pound) whole chicken


  1. Whisk buttermilk, brown sugar, cider vinegar, garlic, thyme, pepper, paprika, cumin, cayenne, and salt together in a bowl.

  2. Trim wing flats from the chicken. Cut along both sides of the backbone from the tail to the neck; remove backbone. Make a 1/4-inch-deep cut through the piece of cartilage in the center. Open up both sides to reveal breastbone; lift out. Cut chicken in half through the center line.

  3. Place both halves in a resealable zip-top bag and pour in the buttermilk marinade. Place the bag in a bowl to catch any leaks. Press air out and seal. Marinate in the fridge for 6 to 18 hours.

  4. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate. Remove chicken from marinade and transfer onto a paper towel-lined plate. Blot off excess marinade.

  5. Place chicken on the grill cut-side down, skin-side up; cover and cook for 20 minutes.

  6. Flip chicken over and continue grilling for 7 to 10 minutes. Flip once more and grill until no longer pink in the center, about 15 minutes more. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone, should read 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).

    close up view of Buttermilk Barbecue Chicken and potatoes with herbs on a black plate
    Chef John

Chef's Note:

If you can't find buttermilk, just used some thinned-out yogurt.

Editor's Note:

Nutrition data for this recipe includes the full amount of marinade ingredients. The actual amount of marinade consumed will vary.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

323 Calories
11g Fat
15g Carbs
40g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 6
Calories 323
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 11g 13%
Saturated Fat 3g 16%
Cholesterol 117mg 39%
Sodium 2120mg 92%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 40g
Vitamin C 3mg 15%
Calcium 140mg 11%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 510mg 11%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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