This golden, juicy roast chicken, infused with the vibrant, citrusy notes of limoncello, paired with the subtle licorice hints of fennel is like a sunny day in Capri, right there on your dinner plate. Limoncello is a secret ingredient that helps liven up some of my favorite recipes, from appetizers and entrees to desserts and, of course, cocktails! I use my brother Erik and sister-in-law Tracy’s homemade limoncello recipe, so I highly recommend planning ahead a little bit and making your own—it’s super easy.

Now, who would've thought that this sweet, zesty liqueur could turn a humble chicken dinner into something extraordinary? I was a little skeptical at first myself, but, oh boy, was I in for a delightful surprise! My husband, Billy, isn’t one to fuss about food, but he couldn’t stop talking about this particular dish!

Using Limoncello in a Savory Marinade Recipe

Limoncello might seem like a cocktail ingredient or a simple digestif, but it adds an incredible burst of flavor to an otherwise-standard roasted chicken recipe. The marinade I use is so delicious, you might start basting everything—it’s a perfectly harmonized blend of tart limoncello, sweet orange juice, and tangy Dijon mustard. For a little extra sweetness, I add a few tablespoons of orange marmalade. Thinly sliced fennel marries its flavor with the chicken as it marinates—you’ll want to leave it for at least a few hours and ideally overnight.

Mary’s Limoncello Roast Chicken with Fennel
Mary’s Limoncello Roast Chicken with Fennel

How to Make Perfect Limoncello Roast Chicken

When you’re ready to roast it, you’ll pop the chicken into a high-heat oven. The marinade will cook down to a sauce in the end—make sure to read until the end for some safety tips on marinades. Overall, this is an easy roast chicken recipe, but here are a couple of tips and tricks from my kitchen to yours.

  1. Place a lemon on top of each chicken piece to keep the skin from browning too quickly. The fresh lemon slices will prevent your chicken from browning too quickly, and they will caramelize in the oven, too. They’re like little jewels of flavor, and I highly recommend sneaking a slice or two into every helping when you plate this entree.
  2. Keep an eye on your chicken as it roasts, and if it's getting too much color, a little foil tent will do the trick. 
  3. I used 2 medium fennel bulbs for this recipe. To get those even, thin slices, I use a mandoline slicer. It will look like a lot of fennel but it cooks down a lot during roasting. If you can only find one large fennel bulb, that works, too. Two medium or one large—but trust me, don’t use less than that!

Which is better: Skin-on or skinless chicken breasts?

Whether you're a skin-on or skin-off kind of person, this recipe is for you. Both types of chicken will work! I like skin-on chicken breasts and I don’t mind deboning them myself, since skin-on deboned chicken breasts can be difficult to find. I personally love the crispy skin. The high-temp roast gives it an absolutely divine texture! Feel free to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts if you prefer—it’s still going to be delicious.

How to Debone a Chicken Breast

It’s pretty easy to remove the bone from a skin-on chicken breast. Make sure to use a very sharp knife and follow the bone, carefully separating it from the main chicken breast.

Making sauce from a marinade: Is it safe?

Yes, it is safe to make a sauce out of a marinade that has been used for poultry or meat. Here’s the trick: Always bring it to a boil and let it simmer for at least 5 minutes to kill any potentially harmful bacteria from the raw ingredients. Bringing the marinade to a boil and then cooking for 5 minutes will make your marinade safe to use. Make sure to use clean utensils that haven’t touched the uncooked marinade when serving the sauce.

Mary’s Limoncello Roast Chicken with Fennel
Mary’s Limoncello Roast Chicken with Fennel

How to Serve Limoncello Roast Chicken with Fennel

We love to indulge at the DiSomma dinner table. I like to serve this dish with something equally tantalizing: lay one of these chicken breasts, hot from the oven, on a bed of my It’s So Good Limoncello Fettuccine recipe and top with the fennel slices and roasted lemon for a complete meal. Not feeling the pasta? A fresh salad and some hearty roasted potatoes make great sides too.

This dish isn't just about feeding the belly, it’s one of those treats that brings an element of surprise and truly comforts at the same time. Enjoy!

More Limoncello Recipes

Limoncello Cocktail Recipes

Yield: 4
Mary’s Limoncello Roast Chicken with Fennel Recipe

Mary’s Limoncello Roast Chicken with Fennel Recipe

Prep time: 30 MinCook time: 45 MinInactive time: 2 HourTotal time: 3 H & 15 M
Learn how to use limoncello in savory dishes and how to safely turn a marinade into a sauce with this roasted chicken recipe. It’s a classic with a delicious twist!


  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup Erik and Tracy’s Easy Homemade Limoncello
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • A few grinds of fresh black pepper
Roast Chicken
  • 1 large fennel bulb or 2 medium fennel bulbs, core removed, thinly sliced
  • 2 lemons, seeds and ends removed, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts (6 to 8 ounces) with or without skin
  • 1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon orange marmalade, for sauce


  1. In a large, wide oven proof dish, combine all of the marinade ingredients. Use a small whisk to combine.
  2. Add the thinly sliced fennel and lemon slices. Toss gently to combine.
  3. Place the chicken breasts in the dish with the marinade. Using tongs, turn to coat the chicken. Cover the dish loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours and up to overnight. Turn the chicken a few times during its rest in the marinade.
  4. When you are ready to roast the chicken, remove the dish from the refrigerator so it sits for 30 minutes before placing it in the oven. This will help the chicken pieces roast evenly. Sprinkle the fennel seeds evenly on top of the chicken. While the chicken is resting on your counter, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  5. Remove the plastic wrap and place the dish with the chicken and marinade into the hot oven. If using skin-on chicken, make sure the skin side is facing up. You can place a slice of lemon on top of each piece of chicken if you like—this adds more flavor and prevents them from browning too quickly.
  6. Roast the chicken for 35 to 45 minutes or until the chicken is nicely browned and it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Use an instant read thermometer to check the temperature. You may want to keep an eye on it and check the temperature a couple of times, since chicken breasts of different sizes take different amounts of time to cook.
  7. Remove the dish from the oven. Using metal tongs, remove the chicken, fennel, and lemon and place on a platter. Transfer the remaining marinade from the roasting dish to a saucepan along with the remaining 1 tablespoon orange marmalade. It is okay if some shreds of fennel remain in the marinade. Bring the mixture to a full boil then simmer for 5 minutes. The sauce should thicken as it reduces. Add the chopped Italian parsley.
  8. To serve, place the chicken, fennel and lemons on a serving platter and drizzle with the sauce. It’s up to you if you want to serve the roasted lemon slices. The roasting makes them soft and quite delicious, but it’s your personal choice to use them or not. I like to place the roasted lemons on top of the chicken for a fun presentation. I serve the chicken with my limoncello fettuccine or colcannon potatoes.
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