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Best Chicken Marinades

Best Chicken Marinades

We’re excited to share some of our favorite paleo chicken marinades with you, but first, let’s talk about why you should marinate your pasture raised chicken prior to cooking.

Chicken is such a versatile meat, and is so easily incorporated into a variety of recipes. Pasture raised chicken is an especially handy source of protein for those following a paleo diet, since paleo diets are generally higher in animal products, and chicken has less calories and less saturated fat than red meat. Because of this, chicken is also a lighter meal option, and is better suited than other meats for a quick lunch or meal on the go.

As versatile and easy as chicken is, there are a few tricks for cooking it just right. One of the best ways to make sure you get the perfect tenderness and taste to your chicken is to marinate it beforehand. 

Marinating Elevates Your Chicken to the Next Level

When you marinate chicken prior to cooking, it helps to break down the proteins in the meat, resulting in a more tender final product. Since this tenderizing happens on the surface but generally doesn’t penetrate deep into the meat, it is best used on chicken that has been cubed or sliced to a thinner cut. The acids in the marinade penetrate the surface of the chicken while also allowing flavors to soak in, resulting in a perfectly textured, flavorful meal. Just make sure not to marinate your pasture raised chicken for too long, since too much tenderizing can make the final product mushy and overcooked. 

Marinating also helps lock in moisture. Certain cuts of chicken, such as thicker breasts that must be cooked for longer periods of time, run the risk of drying out during the cooking process. Marinating your pasture raised chicken breasts before cooking them ensures that the chicken is extra moist and flavorful. 

Our Favorite Marinades for Pasture Raised Chicken

We like to think that our pasture raised chicken is so flavorful, you don’t need anything else to make it taste good. But as good as our chicken is, realistically we know that any cut of meat can benefit from a little extra flavor infusion. Since we follow a predominantly paleo diet, we like our marinades to follow these principles as well. That means we generally make them from scratch, and make sure they’re free of ingredients such as sugar, dairy, vegetable oils, and trans fats. If you’re short on time or just prefer a ready made marinade, you can find plenty of paleo-friendly options in the grocery store. Just make sure they’re labeled paleo-friendly, or Whole30 compliant (these diets are not the same but share many similarities, and Whole30 foods are paleo compliant.)

For homemade marinades, we LOVE this collection from Cook at Home Mom. Here are a few of our favorites - as an added bonus, you can combine the chicken and marinade in a freezer bag ahead of time, and then defrost as needed. 

Orange Cumin Chicken Marinade

This has all of the required elements of an effective marinade - acid, fat, and seasoning - but it’s an interesting spin on the regular lemon juice-garlic-olive oil trio. We love that combination as much as the next person, but it’s fun to switch things up from time to time. 

For this one, you’ll need:

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons orange juice, squeezed from about 1 orange
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 clove garlic
  • pinch salt & pepper

Add all ingredients together, and then add your pasture raised chicken. For immediate use, marinate in a covered casserole dish or tupperware and let it rest for about 30 minutes. If you’re planning to freeze this recipe for later use, pour the marinade in a freezer bag, and then add your chicken and shake the bag to evenly distribute the marinade. Make sure the marinade is evenly distributed prior to freezing. 


Buffalo Ranch Marinade


  • 2 Tablespoons ranch seasoning - make your own, or use a paleo store-bought mix
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup buffalo sauce

    There are lots of pre-made paleo options for buffalo sauce (like Primal Kitchen's - which is one of our personal favorites), but it’s also incredibly easy to make your own. Simply combine 3.5 Tablespoons melted ghee, 4.5 Tablespoons hot sauce, and a pinch of garlic powder and onion powder. This combination gives your pasture raised chicken a vibrant flavor with a little zip, and is just as delicious on wings as it is thicker cuts of meat like chicken breasts.

    Spicy Mango Chicken Marinade

    This marinade definitely has a kick to it, but it’s tempered by the sweetness of the mango, and the end result is deliciously spicy and sweet, and full of flavor. This one is a bit more labor intensive than our other favorites since it requires chopping the jalapeno and cilantro and pureeing the mango, but we promise the extra work is worth it!

    For this recipe, you’ll need:

    • 1 mango, pureed (a blender or food processor works great for this)
    • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 Tablespoon minced jalapeno (wear gloves or wash your hands well after mincing the jalapeno)
    • 1 Tablespoon lime juice squeezed from about 1/2 lime
    • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

    We love this marinade in particular for a cook out - the flavors of the mango and jalapeno are perfect when the chicken has that fresh-off-the-grill flavor worked in. Some great side dish ideas are crispy sweet potato fries with paleo barbeque sauce for dipping, and a simple kale salad like this Paleo Triple Green Kale Salad from PunchFork.

    Now that you know more about the reasons you should add a marinade to your pasture raised chicken, we hope you’ll try some of our suggested recipes above (and check out the original post for even more inspiration!) The right marinade really does add so much flavor and a more tender texture to your chicken, whether you cook it in the oven, slow cooker, air fryer, or on the grill. If you’ve found a favorite marinade for your Pasturebird chicken, we’d love for you to share it in the comments!

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