by Olena

5 Easy Chicken Marinade Recipes

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Olena Osipov
5 from 28 votes

5 Easy Chicken Marinade Recipes made healthy, with simple ingredients you have on hand right now and without a food processor. Say good-bye to dry and boring chicken and hello to juicy and flavorful healthy and lean chicken meat!

5 easy chicken marinade recipes

You will use these 5 easy chicken marinade recipes over and over again. So, bookmark the page! Whether for quick dinner or a Saturday night party, one of these healthy chicken marinades is guaranteed to work for you. The problem with many other chicken recipes is ingredients I never have. That is why I like to keep things simple, flavorful and healthy.

Then you can grill, bake, or pan fry or even air fry marinated chicken. I also included tips on how long to marinate, what cuts of chicken to use, best dish to marinate in and how to freeze marinated chicken.

Now please enjoy my go-to 5 easy chicken marinade recipes!

What Is a Chicken Marinade?

Chicken marinade is liquid and flavorful sauce that infuses its flavors into solid ingredients like meat by opening up tightly wound proteins. Its active ingredient is acid rather than salt. Acid can be anything – vinegar, citrus, fruit juice, wine, buttermilk, yogurt, tea or coffee. And although each brings a different flavor to the mix, they all work in the same way.

greek chicken marinade in black container

Why Do You Marinate Chicken?

  • To make meat tender as commercial poultry in North America is raised at lightning speed on minimum feed, packed in cages with minimum exercise; which leads to tough meat.
  • To infuse flavor into chicken as poultry is quite bland, making it juicy at same time. Chicken submerged into marinade begins to break apart – its fibers tenderize, absorb moisture and forms bond with flavors.

How Long to Marinate Chicken?

Any of the marinades takes from 30 minutes to 24 hours. It is not recommended to marinate chicken for longer than 24 hours. And the reason is because chicken marinade active ingredient is acid which starts to break meat submerged into marinade immediately. Your marinated chicken for 2 days will end up with unpleasant texture and flavor.

lemon rosemary chicken breast marinated in a bowl

What Cuts Can I Marinate?

You can marinate any chicken pieces:

  • Boneless and skinless/skin on chicken thighs and breasts.
  • Bone-in pieces like wings, drumsticks and even cut up whole chicken.

Tip: Pierce chicken pieces, especially with the skin on, with a knife before marinating for deeper infusion with the flavor.

cut up whole chicken into pieces

How Much Marinade Do I Need per Each 1 lb of Chicken?

Amount of any chicken marinade recipe listed here is enough to marinade up to 2 lbs of chicken well. Roughly, you need about 3 tbsp of marinade per 1 lb of chicken without wasting extra.

How to Marinate Chicken

  • Make marinade: To make marinade, just whisk all ingredients in a small bowl or right in the dish you will be marinating chicken in.
  • Pick the best dish to marinate in: Pick large and flat baking dish, large bowl, container with a lid or reusable silicone bags so chicken can lay flat. It ensures the most flavor in every bite. I try to avoid plastic Ziploc bags these days but you can.
  • Marinate chicken for up to a day: Chicken marinating time is anywhere from 30 minutes – 24 hours depending on your schedule.

Fajita Chicken Marinade

Chicken Fajita Marinade is Tex Mex marinade made with simple pantry staples. Everyone loves it and you can control amount of heat.

Serve with other traditional fajita ingredients like sauteed white or yellow onions, green and colourful bell peppers, salsa fresca and tortillas.

fajita chicken marinade ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 lime, juice of
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Greek Chicken Marinade

Greek Chicken Marinade brings pricey Greek restaurant into your kitchen – absolutely delicious and easy!  All you need is lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and pantry dried herbs. Serve with quinoa or rice and a side of Greek salad.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large lemon, juice of
  • 1 tbsp oregano, dried
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, dried or fresh
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
greek chicken marinade ingredients

Lemon Chicken Marinade

Lemon Chicken Marinade is universal and versatile king of all marinades. Basic, lemon-y and extra easy. I use it to make grilled chicken breast that goes with everything.

  • 1 large lemon, zest and juice of
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
lemon chicken marinade ingredients

Teriyaki Chicken Marinade

Teriyaki Chicken Marinade is Asian infused. It would go very well with rice and a simple broccoli side dish like sauteed broccoli.

  • 3 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (I used Bragg’s liquid aminos)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
teriyaki chicken marinade ingredients

Ranch Chicken Marinade

Ranch Chicken Marinade made with healthy ranch and without a packet of dry ranch mix but rather with yogurt or buttermilk. Unlike vinegar and citrus juice, yogurt has fat to help prevent chicken from dehydrating. Making it a good “for tomorrow” marinade.

  • 3/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
ranch chicken marinade ingredients

How to Freeze Marinated Chicken

Place your pieces of chicken into the plastic/glass container with a tight lid or resealable silicone bag, add marinade and swoosh chicken around (with excess air removed if necessary). You can freeze marinated chicken right away for up to 3 months. And no need to let your chicken marinate before freezing.

When ready to cook, thaw in the fridge for 24 hours or overnight and cook as per recipe.

How to Cook Frozen Marinated Chicken?

The best way to cook chicken from frozen is to use my favorite Instant Pot! Just follow my Instant Pot frozen chicken recipe and you are golden. Make sure chicken pieces are separated though otherwise meat will not cook through. You can also cook oven baked chicken breasts from frozen.

I do not recommend to cook frozen chicken in slow cooker to avoid food born illness from meat slowly thawing in warm environment.

Tip: To defrost frozen marinated chicken in plastic bag quickly, place entire bag into warm/hot water and try to separate pieces after 15 minutes.

grilled chicken breasts in a baking dish

More FAQs

Can chicken marinade be reused?

No. It is not recommended to reuse chicken marinade for marinating next batch of chicken for food safety reason. Used marinade contains harmful bacteria and should be discarded. If you are basting with marinade during cooking, stop doing so well before chicken is ready to allow marinade to cook fully.

Can chicken marinade be used as sauce?

Yes. But only if it was refrigerated entire time and you bring it to a rolling boil. Also keep in mind, it might not look as pretty because of meat sitting in it for a while. It happened to me with teriyaki salmon, which is still OK to consume.

Why marinate chicken in milk or yogurt?

Milk, yogurt or buttermilk contain enzymes and acid. Unlike other acids, dairy tenderizes chicken more gently and slower resulting in super soft and tender chicken.

Can I marinate frozen chicken?

Yes. Just combine frozen chicken pieces with marinade and refrigerate. No need to thaw your chicken first.

What if I marinated chicken for 2 days by accident?

If “oops” happened and you didn’t have time to cook chicken after 24 hours, remove meat from its marinade, wipe excess, transfer to another container and refrigerate for up to another 24 hours.

What chicken marinades are gluten free?

All 5 chicken marinade recipes listed here are gluten free with a condition that you use gluten free soy sauce, liquid aminos or coconut aminos.

Chicken marinade vs. brine vs. dry rub. Which is better?

Chicken marinades are similar to brine except that active ingredient is acid. Although marinades have a reputation for tenderizing as well as flavoring, they really affect only the surface of meat.

Brines are a mixture of salt, water and flavoring that use the power of salt to open up the physical structure of meat, allowing it to form chemical bonds that infuse its fibers with moisture and flavor.

Rubs are a way to flavor the outside of chicken by literally rubbing a dry seasoning mixture into its surface.

a bowl with chickpea salad, grilled chicken and pita bread

Fajita chicken served with chickpea salad and pita bread.

How to Cook Marinated Chicken

You can bake, grill, pressure cook, slow cook or fry marinated chicken. Here are basic chicken recipes with instructions how to cook boneless chicken breasts or thighs using most popular cooking methods:

grilled chicken on a skillet

Which marinade is your favorite? Mine is Fajita and kids picked Ranch. It was hard to pick one! They all are so-so good!

More Easy Chicken Recipes

5 Easy Chicken Marinade Recipes

5 Easy Chicken Marinade Recipes

5 Easy Chicken Marinade Recipes made healthy, with simple ingredients you have on hand right now and without a food processor. Say good-bye to dry and boring chicken and hello to juicy and flavorful healthy and lean chicken meat!
4.97 from 28 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: North American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Marinating Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Calories: 402kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

Fajita Chicken Marinade

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 lime juice of
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Greek Chicken Marinade

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large lemon juice of
  • 1 tbsp oregano dried
  • 1 tbsp rosemary dried or fresh
  • 2 garlic cloves grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Lemon Chicken Marinade

  • 1 large lemon zest and juice of
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves grated
  • 2 tsp oregano dried
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Teriyaki Chicken Marinade

  • 3 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce I used Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove grated
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger grated

Ranch Chicken Marinade

  • 3/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk
  • 2 garlic cloves grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl and stir.
  • Pick flat container, baking dish or reusable silicone bag so chicken can lay flat for maximum flavor penetration.
  • Place chicken in a container, pour marinade over and mix to coat well.
  • Marinating time is anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours. Longer marinating time means more flavor but I wouldn't marinate past 24 hours because acid will cause flesh to break down.
  • When ready to cook, remove chicken from marinade and cook as per recipes.

Video

Notes

  • How much chicken? Amount of any marinade is enough to marinade up to 2 lbs of chicken well.
  • Past 24 hours: If meat is done marianting but you are not ready to cook, remove it from marinade, wipe off any excess and refrigerate in a container for another 24 hours.
  • Freezing: You can freeze marinated chicken with excess air removed from the container for up to 3 months. When ready to cook, thaw in the fridge for 24 hours and cook as per recipe.
How to Cook Marinated Chicken
You can bake, grill, pressure cook, slow cook or fry marinated chicken. Here are basic chicken recipes with instructions how to cook boneless chicken breasts or thighs using most popular cooking methods:
See Recipe Post for more FAQs.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cup (nutritional info for Fajita chicken marinade | Calories: 402kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 1260mg | Potassium: 269mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 25g | Vitamin A: 1678IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 1mg
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Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

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