This California Grilled Chicken is loaded with fresh flavor and is super easy to make! The chicken is marinated in a rich, tangy, and sweet sauce, grilled until charred and smokey, and topped with mozzarella, avocado, and tomatoes — perfect for a summer cookout!

What’s in California Chicken?

The highlight of this California chicken recipe is the flavorful marinade. It’s a delicious blend of balsamic vinegar, honey, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and spices.

Top the chicken with fresh mozzarella, mashed avocado, and sliced tomatoes, and you’ve got yourself a vibrant, bright, grilled chicken that checks all of the boxes.

  • Marinade: A medley of balsamic, honey, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper is like a firework show for your tastebuds!
  • Chicken: We used boneless skinless chicken breasts, but feel free to use chicken thighs if you’d like! Just keep in mind the cooking time will vary.
  • Avocado: Avocado adds a lovely layer of texture and flavor to the dish. Be sure to use ripe avocados that are mostly green inside.
  • Tomato: Like a sweet and savory bruschetta, diced tomatoes taste excellent with the balsamic marinade!
  • Cheese: Be sure to use fresh mozzarella for this recipe. It just isn’t the same with other processed cheeses.
  • Basil: You can’t have tomato, balsamic, and mozzarella together without adding basil. It’s a crime!
  • Balsamic Glaze: The “icing on the cake,” the balsamic glaze adds a flavorful finishing touch that perfects the dish.

Variations on Chicken California

You can easily change up this chicken recipe to suit your individual tastes. Try it with lemon pepper balsamic marinade for a bit of a kick or cilantro lime marinade for a southwest take. Top it with a different kind of cheese, like pepper jack or Mexican cheese, and salsa, cilantro, and hot sauce!

step by step photos for how to make california grilled chicken.
Can I use chicken thighs instead of breasts?

You sure can! I recommend using boneless, skinless chicken thighs for the easiest swap. They may take slightly longer to cook.

What does lime juice do to chicken?

Lime juice, like any acid, makes the meat tender and locks in moisture as it cooks.

How long should I marinate the chicken for?

Marinate this chicken for at least 20 minutes or up to overnight for the juiciest grilled chicken.

Should I pierce the chicken before marinating it?

While it’s not required, piercing chicken pieces a few times with a fork, knife, or skewer can help the marinade to sink in further.

Do I need to pat the chicken dry before grilling it?

To get the best sear, pat the excess marinade off of the chicken. Too much moisture will cause the chicken to steam.

How do I grill chicken so it’s not dry?

Marinating the chicken for at least 20 minutes before grilling it will help to infuse it with moisture and flavor, which will keep it from drying out on the grill. Make sure to start the chicken over direct heat to get those grill marks, then transfer it to an area of indirect heat to finish cooking through.

Can I make this chicken without a grill?

If you don’t have an outdoor grill, you can cook this chicken in a grill pan on the stovetop. You can also bake the chicken in a preheated oven at 400°F for around 20-25 minutes. Add the cheese in the last few minutes.

close up three-quarters view of a california grilled chicken breast on a white plate.

How to Store and Reheat Grilled Chicken with Avocado

Store leftover California grilled chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently in a microwave, on the grill, or on the stovetop.

How to Freeze Grilled California Chicken

Freeze California grilled chicken (without the mozzarella) in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

What to Serve with California Grilled Avocado Chicken

Although bright and vibrant in taste, this California grilled chicken will pair wonderfully with many different sides. Our favorites are Cilantro Lime Rice, Herb Roasted Potatoes, Air Fryer Roasted Vegetables, and this tasty Waldorf Salad!

three-quarters view of a sliced california grilled chicken breast on a white plate with a salad and a fork.
overhead view of a sliced california grilled chicken breast on a white plate with a salad and a fork.

California Grilled Chicken Recipe

This California grilled chicken is tasty, refreshing, and delicious! Serve with a side salad, over a bed of white rice, or roasted veggies for a more substantial meal.


  • In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, honey, 2 tablespoons lime juice, olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.

    ⅔ cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, ¼ cup lime juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, Freshly ground black pepper

  • Add the chicken and roll to coat, then marinate for 20-30 minutes, flipping once halfway through.

    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  • While the chicken marinates, mash the avocado in a small bowl with the remaining lime juice and a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, toss the diced tomatoes with a bit of salt and pepper. Set both aside in the fridge.

    2 avocados, 1-2 tomatoes

  • Heat the grill to medium-high. Oil the grates and grill the chicken 6-8 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Discard the marinade.

  • In the last minute of grilling, top the chicken with the mozzarella. Remove from the heat and top with the mashed avocado and tomatoes.

    4 slices fresh mozzarella

  • Serve garnished with basil and balsamic glaze.

    ¼ cup fresh basil, Balsamic glaze


  • Make sure you don’t marinade your chicken for too long. After 48 hours, the acidity of the lime juice in the marinade will break down the chicken. 
  • The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your breasts. The best way to check that the chicken is done is to use an instant-read thermometer which should register at 165°F.
  • Clean the grill and oil it before adding the chicken. This will prevent sticking.
  • Cook the chicken on medium-high heat. If the grill is too hot, the outside of the chicken will burn and the middle won’t be cooked through.
  • Heat one side of the grill to high and the other to medium-high. Sear the chicken on the high heat side of the grill first to form char marks, then flip it onto the lower heat to finish cooking.
  • Keep the grill closed to reduce drying out.
  • Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes after grilling to lock in the juices.
  • If freezing, do not add the mozzarella until after the chicken has been thawed and reheated.

Storage: Store California grilled chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Facts

California Grilled Chicken Recipe

Amount Per Serving (1 chicken breast)

Calories 534
Calories from Fat 279

% Daily Value*

Fat 31g48%

Saturated Fat 8g50%

Trans Fat 0.01g

Polyunsaturated Fat 3g

Monounsaturated Fat 18g

Cholesterol 95mg32%

Sodium 619mg27%

Potassium 1097mg31%

Carbohydrates 32g11%

Fiber 8g33%

Sugar 19g21%

Protein 33g66%

Vitamin A 734IU15%

Vitamin C 21mg25%

Calcium 201mg20%

Iron 2mg11%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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