5 Simple Chicken Marinades
There are three main reasons to marinate chicken:
- To tenderize the meat
- To add flavor
- To add moisture
Larger cuts of meat such as chicken breasts can particularly benefit from marinating, because they are lower in fat (and thus more prone to drying out during cooking) and require longer cook times due to their size. Tenderizing the breasts and adding moisture prior to cooking ensures that your final product is a juicy, tender, flavorful cut of meat.
Marinating chicken prior to cooking it on a grill is particularly important, and since it’s grilling season we want you to be prepared. Here are 5 simple chicken marinades for you to try this summer - let us know what you think!
Citrusy Mojo Chicken Marinade
This mojo chicken marinade is quick, simple, and flavorful. It also adds a refreshing summer taste to your grilled chicken, as most recipes that incorporate citrus do. For this recipe you’ll need:
- Equal parts lime juice, lemon juice, and orange juice (we suggest about ¼ cup, but as with most marinades, you can tweak the ingredients to suit your tastes)
- 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 tsp cumin
- Fresh herbs such as oregano or cilantro, finely chopped
- ½ cup mild salsa (if you like spicy, feel free to kick it up a notch - you do you!)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Place 1-2 lbs of chicken breasts in a glass casserole dish and pour the marinade overtop. Marinate in the fridge for about 2 hours and then grill on medium heat until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Lemon Garlic Chicken Marinade
It really doesn’t get any simpler than this one. Lemon, garlic, and olive oil are staples in our kitchen, because they can make anything taste good with minimal effort! That’s definitely true when it comes to this easy marinade. Lemon, garlic, and olive oil provide the base, and you can jazz it up with other ingredients if you want to, or just keep it simple!
- Combine equal parts lemon juice and olive oil (we suggest about ⅓ cup of each for 1 pound of chicken)
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
And voila! That’s it! You can also add some other ingredients if you want a different taste, such as coconut aminos to add a bit of an umami flavor, or fresh herbs like oregano, thyme, or basil for a savory taste. It’s your call - this marinade is so easy, versatile, and delicious that you can really make it your own, or just choose to keep it simple.
Paleo Garlic “Soy” Marinade
We love this grilled chicken marinade recipe from The Pioneer Woman, but it had some not-so-paleo ingredients in it, so we made it our own with just a few simple adjustments. We’ll list the original recipe here, and give you some paleo friendly options in parentheses:
- 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 c. soy sauce (use coconut aminos for paleo)
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped (we always use a little more garlic than the recipe calls for, so feel free to add a couple of extra cloves if that’s your thing too)
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar (use coconut sugar for paleo)
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
This recipe lends itself well to drumsticks, thighs, or breasts. As always, marinate for about 2 hours (make sure you flip your chicken a few times if using a casserole dish) and grill until the chicken reaches 165 degrees F.
Citrusy Ginger Chicken Marinade
We based this recipe off of a recipe in Bon Appetit, but tweaked it a bit to make it both simpler and paleo friendly. Chicken thighs are called for in this recipe, likely because the higher fat content of chicken thighs lends itself so well to the bold flavors in this marinade.
- 2 tbsp minced ginger - if you’re an overachiever you can mince it yourself, but we keep it simple with pre-minced ginger from the grocery store
- 5 garlic cloves (this is a recipe after our own hearts…)
- ¾ cup full fat coconut milk
- ¼ cup hot chili paste like sambal oelek (it isn’t as spicy as you might think, but adjust accordingly, especially if you’re sharing this meal with kids or those sensitive to spice)
- ¼ fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 to 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
Whisk all ingredients until combined, and then add 2 pounds of chicken thighs and let sit, refrigerated for about 2 hours. This marinade is so flavorful that you will want to use as much of it as possible. By boiling the excess marinade for a few minutes, it will be safe to use for basting the chicken during grilling and topping it off after cooking. As always, grill to an internal temperature of 165 F.l
We know cilantro is one of those herbs you either love or hate, but if you love it, you can add a sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro and squeeze of lime to the chicken once it’s been served.
Thyme, Chili and Orange Marinade
This combination of flavors may sound a bit funky, but we promise you the end result is a delicious and flavorful chicken. This recipe is best made with fresh-squeezed oranges, but can be made simpler with regular old OJ from a carton.
Mix ½ cup orange juice with ⅛ cup olive oil, ⅛ cup finely chopped onion or shallot, and ⅛ cup fresh thyme leaves (if using dried herbs, a ½ tbsp should do it.) Add 1 tbsp chili sauce such as sriracha or sambal oelek, and salt and pepper to taste, and marinate with 2 pounds of chicken for about 2 hours.
The great thing about these 5 simple chicken marinades, besides how easy they are, is that they can all be made ahead of time! If you’re into meal prepping, you can even make them over the weekend to have at the ready during the week for a couple of quick weeknight dinners. Or, grill the chicken on the weekend and have leftovers at hand during the week. Pre-cooking chicken is one of our favorite ways to meal prep because leftover chicken lends itself well to so many recipes, from chicken salad to chicken on a salad, to fajitas, soups, or more.
We’d love to hear your feedback on these recipes, if you have a chance to try them this summer. Happy Grilling!