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!

Use these for healthy grill recipes, healthy chicken recipes, or healthy dinner ideas!

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 clean eating chicken recipes is ingredients I never have. That is why I like to keep things simple, flavorful and healthy.

Then you can grill, bake, pan fry or even air fry 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.

  • 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 a healthy 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 dressing 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 breast recipe and you are golden. Make sure chicken pieces are separated though otherwise meat will not cook through.

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 baked 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 with avocado 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

You may also enjoy browsing all my healthy grill recipes or healthy chicken recipes!

easy chicken marinades

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 31 votes
Servings 1 .5 cup each marinade
Calories 402
Prep Time 5 minutes
Marinating Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes



Fajita Chicken Marinade

Greek Chicken Marinade

Lemon Chicken Marinade

Teriyaki Chicken Marinade

Ranch Chicken Marinade


  • 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.



  • 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, or pressure cook marinated chicken:


Serving: 0.5cup (nutritional info for Fajita chicken marinade | Calories: 402kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 1260mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 25g
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: North American
Author: Olena Osipov
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ifoodreal or tag #ifoodreal!

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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  1. 5 stars
    I have done both the teriyaki and the fajita marinade. I love both of them, and they are so simple. I personally like to double the recipe for the amount of chicken I use though. Otherwise I follow the recipes exactly.😋

  2. Hi Olena, thank you for all these trustworthy recipes! I have mixed the ranch marinade in a bag with chicken but I’m not sure how to cook it? If I put it in the pressure cooker I will lose much of the yogurt dressing. Is this one better dropped into a frying pan? Thank you!

    1. Thank you again for the kind words! You should remove the chicken from the marinade before cooking (no matter the method). If you are worried the the Instant Pot might steam it too much, frying or even using oven baked chicken breast method would work. Definitely keep us updated!

      1. 5 stars
        Olena thanks for your quick reply. I didn’t realise meat should be removed from marinade before cooking- that makes sense! So I did the ranch chicken pressure cooked in the ninja. It didn’t look beautiful but it tasted SO GOOD! Even my fussy 3 year old asked for seconds! It will be going on the regular rotation. Looking forward to trying the other marinades. Much love to you and thanks again.

  3. 5 stars
    Love the Ranch & Lemon Chicken Marinades!! Making the Greek Marinade today for lunch/dinner… chicken breasts are in the fridge marinating now!
    Thanks for some of the most delicious & healthy recipes I’ve tried thus far! Love your site – STILL!!

      1. 5 stars
        Love the Greek Marinade I made yesterday… flavor in the chicken was really good. I made a Greek Pasta Salad to go along with it. Hubby enjoyed it very much – as did I. Thank you for all you do to make such healthy & wonderful recipes!
        I can’t tell you enough just how much I love your recipes which I’ve tried more than once I might add!! And, the funny thing is I never get tired of using the same ones over… they’re that good.
        May God continue to bless you & your family!

        1. Thank you so much for your kind words and amazing feedback Tricia! I love that you are enjoying my recipes. Made my day 🙂

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