Make perfectly juicy and delicious chicken when you start with one of these simple and healthy chicken marinade recipes. These quick marinades can be used on chicken breasts, chicken thighs, or chicken legs. Each one calls for simple, everyday pantry staples so you can enjoy healthy budget-friendly dinners and fool-proof chicken recipes every time.
Be A Meal Prep Pro with the Best Chicken Marinade
We get it, meal prepping isn’t the most fun thing you can do on the weekend or mid-week. But it sure is an awesome task to accomplish and get out of the way to help you with the pain point of weeknight dinners and making sure you’re eating healthfully. And we also know that our future selves never says to our past selves, “Dang girl, I wish you hadn’t spent that time in the kitchen earlier in the week to make life easier today.”
Whether you’re a devoted meal prepper or new to the make-ahead meal game, we know that these five Easy Chicken Marinades can help you:
- Improve and speed up your meal prep
- Help you finally get ahead of healthy weeknight meals
- Save money
- And always have a delicious ready to go on hand or in the freezer
That’s a lot to promise, but we swear that these 5 Easy, Make-Ahead Chicken Marinades are going to be a game-changer for you.
Light, Flavorful, and Clean Chicken Marinade Recipes
We know that there are lots of folks out there who say the perfect marinade has to be X parts oil to X parts acid to X parts aromatics or sweeteners and that salt or yogurt should or should not be added to the marinade, and, and … so many ands.
But here at The Real Food Dietitians, we are less concerned with perfect ratios and more concerned about making things that are really good and really easy for you. And that’s exactly what these 5 easy chicken marinades can accomplish.
What’s the The Best Oil to Use for Chicken Marinade?
Let’s talk marinade basics: the oil. Since oil makes up the largest proportion of total ingredients in a marinade, you want to be sure that you’re starting out with the best quality, best-tasting oil you can get your hands on. For us, that’s our go-to avocado oil or olive oil.
Cold pressed and centrifuge extracted without heat, we especially like the Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil since it’s ideal for high-heat cooking (like marinated grilled chicken), is non-GMO Project verified, certified Paleo, and Whole30-approved. And it has light, neutral flavor that makes it perfect for marinades because it lets the other flavors of the marinade shine through.
Marinades for a New Chicken Dinner Every Night
Give yourself some delicious dinner options at the ready. With these 5 easy chicken marinades, it’s easy to always have an easy chicken dinner ready that tastes different and new from last night.
You can either pick and choose which marinade to make, or you can make all five at once and have plenty of variety ready to go. If you’re doing a big meal prep, you may want to double or triple the quantities and create your own little stockpile of ready-to-cook marinated chicken in the freezer.
5 Fast, Fresh, Easy Chicken Marinades
Click on each marinade recipe title below or the image to quickly take you each chicken marinade that you can read through or print.
Here’s what you need for this Honey Garlic Chicken Marinade: avocado oil or olive oil, lemon juice, coconut aminos (or sub in soy sauce), minced garlic cloves, honey, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. You could easily make this a Honey Mustard Chicken Marinade by subbing in 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard for the coconut aminos.
Grab these ingredients to make a simple Basil Pesto Chicken Marinade tonight: fresh basil leaves, avocado oil or olive oil, lemon juice (or sub vinegar) one large clove garlic, salt, and black pepper or red pepper flakes.
Gather these marinade ingredients to make delicious, homemade Chicken Fajitas: lime juice, avocado or olive oil, and our Homemade Taco Seasoning (chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, dried oregano, paprika, sea salt, and optional cayenne pepper).
Here are the marinade ingredients you need to make tender Lemon Chicken: fresh herbs (such as thyme, rosemary, tarragon, cilantro, and/or sage), lemon juice, lemon zest, minced garlic, avocado oil or olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
This is what you’ll need to make so-good Teriyaki Chicken Marinade at home tonight: coconut aminos (or soy sauce) avocado oil or olive oil, toasted sesame oil, garlic powder, and dried ginger.
How Do You Marinate Chicken Quickly? And How long do you Need to Marinate Chicken?
You can use these Easy Chicken Marinades to marinate poultry in the refrigerator or to freeze it in the freezer. Here are the two basic methods:
- How long to marinate chicken in the refrigerator: When the chicken is covered with the marinade, whether in a bowl or a bag, place it in the refrigerator. Marinate the chicken for a minimum of 4 hours to allow the acid to tenderize the chicken and the flavors to penetrate the meat. On the long end, you can safely leave the marinated chicken in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, covered or sealed in the bag, before cooking. We recommend that you turn the bag over every 12-24 hours (or toss the chicken, if it’s in a bowl).
- How long to marinate chicken in the freezer: You can also prep this chicken marinade and place the whole thing (bag, chicken, and marinade) in the freezer for up to 2 months. Just be sure to squeeze as much air out of the bag before sealing it. When it comes time to thaw the marinated chicken, take it out of the freezer and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking.
What’s the minimum amount of time to marinate chicken?
We know: When you want dinner, you want it now. Luckily, the make-ahead factor of these chicken marinades is what makes them so appealing for easy weeknights. If you are just making the marinade fresh today and wondering what’s the shortest amount of time you can marinate chicken? Can you marinate chicken for 30 minutes? Or an hour? Well, that’s a little too short of time for the acid to tenderize the chicken and the flavors to penetrate the chicken meat. We recommend a minimum of 4 hours of marinating time for chicken.
What container should you marinate chicken in?
When choosing the vessel to marinate chicken in, you need to first decide if you’re just going to quickly marinate it in the refrigerator, or if you’re going to store your marinated chicken in the freezer for longer.
In the refrigerator, you can simply put the chicken in a plastic bag, a reusable silicone bag, a large bowl, or a glass container). Pour the marinade over the chicken, making sure it is as submerged in the liquid as possible. You’ll want to turn it over a few times.
In the freezer, you’ll want to use something that you can part with for awhile. All of us here at The Real Food Dietitians try to minimize our use of single-use plastics, which is why we love to use large resealable and freezer-safe silicone containers, such as ZipTop bags or Stasher bags, as well as our favorite stackable glass containers with lids. Both the silicone bags and the glass containers are excellent eco-friendly options, if you’ve got them and can spare them for this use. But you can also use disposable plastic zip-top bags, which don’t have to be a throw-away item after you’re done marinating chicken in them. Plastic bags CAN be reused if you wash them well with hot soapy water. We would just be sure to use them again for the same purpose (marinating chicken, for example) and would recommend storing them (after washing and drying) in the freezer until you need them again to minimize the chances of bad bacteria growing in the event that you didn’t get them ultra-clean.
how long Can You refrigerate Marinated Chicken? And how to Thaw frozen Marinated Chicken?
When you’ve got a stash of marinated chicken on hand, you can get dinner on the table faster. Your marinated chicken will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days before cooking. The minimum amount of time we recommend for marinating is about 4 hours to allow for the acid to tenderize and the flavors to penetrate the meat. But you could let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator in any of these recipes for 2-3 days, covered or sealed in the bag, before cooking. We recommend that you turn the bag over every 12-24 hours (or toss the chicken, if it’s in a bowl).
To thaw frozen marinate chicken, here are two methods:
- Water thawing: Place the marinated frozen chicken (still in the bag or container) in a large bowl and run cool water over it until it is thawed. This can take up to 1 hour.
- Instant Pot thawing: Remove the marinated frozen chicken from the bag and place it inside an Instant Pot along with 1/2 cup of broth or liquid of choice. Use the ‘Poultry’ or High-Pressure setting and cook for 10 minutes. You don’t need to increase the cooking time for frozen chicken unless you have several pounds frozen together in a large block. Cook the thawed chicken as desired (see suggestions below).
- Overnight thawing: Remove the marinated chicken container from the freezer the night before you plan to cook it. Place it in the fridge to thaw overnight. Then remove the chicken from the marinate, discard the marinade, and cook the chicken.
4 ways to cook Marinated Chicken
After your chicken has been marinating in one of these delicious easy chicken marinates, there are several different ways you can cook it. Serve your cooked chicken in a variety of ways, including fresh salads, healthy dinners with a side dish, and bowl style. Here are our chicken cooking suggestions:
- Oven baking: Preheat the oven to 375℉. Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the juices. Place the chicken in a baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Bake the marinated chicken until the juices run clear and chicken is no longer pink in the middle, 15-20 minutes. Make sure the thickest part of the chicken registers 165℉ on an instant-read thermometer.
- Oven broiling: Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the juices. Position the top oven rack 8 inches below your oven’s broiler element. Preheat the broiler to medium-high. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet or in a cast iron pan. Broil on each side, turning once, until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle, 3-5 minutes per side. Make sure the thickest part of the chicken registers 165℉ on an instant-read thermometer. If the chicken is cooking too quickly, move the pan to a lower rack. Note: When broiling chicken, you’ll have the best results if the chicken is an even thickness.
- On the grill (and kebab style): Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the juices. Grill whole marinated chicken breasts, thighs, and legs until the chicken is cooked through. For breasts, grill about 8-10 minutes, 7-8 minutes for thighs, and 5-6 minutes for chicken legs. To make kebabs, cut the marinated chicken into 1-inch chunks and thread onto skewers. Grill until the chicken pieces are cooked through, turning often, about 8 minutes total.
- Sauté on the stovetop: Place a cast iron skillet or another large skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 teaspoon cooking fat of choice (such as avocado oil, ghee, olive oil, etc.). Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the juices. Place the chicken in the skillet and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until the chicken is lightly browned. Place a lid on the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook an additional 8-10 minutes or until juices run clear and chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Make sure the thickest part of the chicken registers 165℉ on an instant-read thermometer. For juicy chicken or if your pan runs hot, add a few tablespoons of water to the skillet before covering with the lid if desired.
Click on any of these recipe titles below to be taken to the easy marinade for chicken recipes. Each post includes detailed information about the ingredients and steps. Within each post, the recipe card includes the complete nutrition information, including calories, carbohydrates, total fat and saturated, sodium, protein, cholesterol, and more.
- Honey Garlic Chicken Marinade
- Basil Pesto Chicken Marinade
- Fajita Chicken Marinade
- Lemon Chicken Marinade with Herbs
- Teriyaki Chicken Marinade
Did you make and love one of these quick chicken marinades?
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