These 10 easy to prepare Chicken Marinade recipes are perfect for spicing up a boring chicken dinner! Freeze them, grill them, oven bake them or slow cook them. They all use 5 ingredients or less and are gluten free.
Summer is here and that means that often, my meal plan goes smack out of the window and I hunt the supermarket aisles for something quick and tasty to fling onto our barbecue (or grill if you’re in the US) that evening.
This year I’ve decided to try and stop my 4pm summer supermarket dashes and get organised by making my own marinaded meats and storing them in the freezer ready for when outside cooking calls.
I hope this post is useful as it has lots of tips and advice about how to make these chicken marinades work for you.
There’s spicy, BBQ, asian style, lemon and herb, piri piri and sticky honey options. Something for everyone. Pick your fave and off you go!
✅ Each marinade has 5 ingredients or less.
✅ Suitable for grilling, oven cooking, barbecue cooking or slow cooking.
✅ Batch prep now, and enjoy later when the sun is shining!
What container do I need to marinate chicken in?
I have previously always used plastic bags for these chicken marinades.
I’m trying to move more towards storing them in reusable containers to cut down the plastic waste, but struggling to fit too many sturdy containers in the freezer PLUS the marinade/freezing works better in a container where you can remove the air (reduces ‘freezer burn’).
So I’m on the hunt for reusable plastic bags to store them in. I’ll update the post when I’ve tested some!
How do you use the Chicken Marinade?
Whichever (sealed) container you use, I usually mix the marinade straight into it until well combined, then coat the chicken breasts.
If using bags, squeeze out the air and seal well and pop into the fridge (at the bottom of the fridge and in a deep bowl – food safety 👌🏻).
How long do you marinate chicken for?
Chicken breasts need to marinate for at least 1 hour in the fridge.
Chicken thighs, I tend to give at least 2 hours in the fridge.
Okay but what if I want to leave them longer?
So, for any marinade that does not contain acid (lemon juice/vinegar) you can safely marinade for up to 36 hours in the fridge (technically food safety says 48 hours, but personally I tend not to go beyond 24 hours). So marinating overnight is fine for the Honey and Mustard, Italian, Pesto, Sticky Soy, and Jerk Chicken recipes contained in this post. (This does not include time in the freezer, when the clock effectively stops.)
Those that do have acid in, if you marinade longer than 2 hours, you can find that the chicken changes texture a little, to become a bit mushy.
Honestly? It’s never bothered me to leave them for longer than 2 hours, but I’m just warning you in case you do leave chicken breasts in an acidic marinade and find this.
How do I freeze the marinating chicken breasts?
Put the chicken and marinade into the plastic bag and squish out all of the air.
Seal the bag (with a clasp or the seal on the top). Label the bags (I use a Sharpie pen).
Leave them in the fridge for an hour (so they’ve done their marinating) OR if you don’t have time for this, freeze immediately. If you do this make a note on the bag, that when they are fully defrosted and you come to use them, they need an hour sitting in the marinade before cooking.
Pop them safely into the freezer.
If you are worried about your bags being thin, breaking, or about freezer burn (that thing when freezing air touches poultry and it looks a bit odd after defrosting), pop inside another bag for an extra layer of protection.
How do I defrost the marinated chicken safely?
I use all of these frozen marinades by defrosting in the fridge overnight or for at least 5 hours. I pull a bag out in the morning, and it’s ready by dinner time.
Don’t leave them to defrost at room temperature as they could become too warm – not good food safety.
There are other ways you can defrost; microwave and in water, but I have to say, I find the texture isn’t quite as good if they’ve been microwaved and I ALWAYS end up over cooking them.
There’s a good BBC article here on different ways to defrost if you do fancy trying the other methods.
Can I cook this marinated chicken from frozen?
Short answer is yes. Long answer is, I don’t. I find that cooked from frozen chicken is so tricky to not overcook trying to be sure that it’s cooked through that it is never quite right.
You would also need to freeze the chicken breasts in such a way that they do not freeze together and can be cooked individually, as in one ‘lump’ the heat would not fully penetrate safely.
Ingredients I used for the Chicken Marinade recipes:
Here’s some notes on the ingredients I’ve used in these Chicken Marinades (in A – Z order!).
All of these Chicken Marinades use less than 5 ingredients (many are 4 ingredient chicken marinades, or even 3!)
Of course you don’t need all of them, just whichever relate to the recipe you choose.
BUT I’ve tried to keep the list to a minimum so that the recipes uses as many regular household ingredients as possible:
Allspice – This is only used in the Jerk Marinade, and it is really needed. It’s the thing that gives that distinctive Jerk flavour. It’s NOT the same as Mixed Spice!
Balsamic Vinegar – Invest in a fairly good quality one and you’ll notice the difference.
Chilli flakes – When this is used in a spicy chicken marinade, you can vary the amounts of this according to your taste. You could also substitute in chilli powder or even sweet chilli sauce if you don’t have them.
Garlic Powder – NOT Garlic Salt! (I once made this mistake – YUK). It’s just a dried, blended garlic. I like using it for marinades as it’s super quick and easy and also doesn’t leave lumps of garlic at the bottom of the bag.
Ginger – Fresh, not dried (dried is the type in a jar that you use in cakes, a very different flavour). But the pastes or frozen preprepared versions are BRILLIANT.
Herbs – For most of these marinades I used a good Italian dried herb mix. You can use fresh if you prefer but I think the dried give a stronger flavour in marinades. I tend to interchange Italian herbs with Oregano as I fancy/depending on what I have.
Honey – I use runny honey in these marinades, just because it’s easier to mix in. Children LOVE a honey chicken marinade I find, as it’s slightly sweet.
Lemon – Please see the notes on using lemons in marinading chicken. It changes the timing recommendations slightly!
Mustard (Dijon and Wholegrain) – Dijon is also called French Mustard (it’s slightly different in the US but not enough to affect the recipe). Wholegrain is important in the Honey and Mustard Marinade as it also adds a little texture.
Olive Oil – This should be regular Olive Oil NOT Extra Virgin Olive Oil. For one, that’s too expensive for this! Plus it will smoke too much when you cook the chicken.
Oil – This means any fairly flavourless oil, like sunflower oil or vegetable oil.
Paprika – There are lots of different types of Paprika, if it’s just ‘Paprika’ this is the regular, dried, slightly spicy, warming, red powder.
Paprika (Sweet Smoked) – Beware, there’s Sweet Smoked and Hot Smoked Paprika, very different! I specify Sweet Smoked, which has a delicious, warming flavour.
Pesto – I use a regular, good quality jar of pesto. You could use fresh or homemade if you prefer.
Soft Brown Sugar – I like using Soft DARK Brown Sugar if possible, if you only have Light that’s okay too.
Soy – I tend to use DARK soy sauce for marinades, as it adds colour and depth, but if you only have light, that’s fine too. Ideally you’d use half and half.
Tandoori powder – Used in an Indian Chicken Marinade, be sure you’re using a fresh jar of this as the flavour goes downhill so quickly when a jar has been open a while.
Tomato puree – A good quality tomato puree is SO different to a lower quality one. I also LOVE this with Sun Dried Tomato Puree if you can find it.
Wine vinegar – For these marinades, red or white wine vinegar is fine. Red wine vinegar will add a little more richness, but I only had white when I made them!
Yoghurt – Natural yoghurt (the slightly runny kind) is best. If you only have Greek yoghurt, thin with a little water or more lemon juice.
7 Tips for Using the Chicken Marinade recipes:
- Don’t omit the oil, chicken breasts are really lean, so in most of these marinades, the oil helps to keep the cooked chicken breast moist (sorry – THAT word!)
- I use free range, boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this. You can use them with skin/bone if you prefer but you may need to adjust cooking times.
- You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs if you prefer, I tend to give these a little longer in the marinade as they are a tougher meat. Say 2 – 4 hours. They are SUPER tasty though.
- Be SCRUPULOUS with hygiene when handling raw chicken. Don’t wash the chicken, handle it as little as possible and wash everything it has come into contact with very thoroughly afterwards.
- I try to roll down the bag opening as I fill them (you can see in a photo above). This mean that the bag sits upright for me to fill and doesn’t get messy.
- If there is leftover marinade in the bag after removing the chicken to cook, DO NOT EAT IT. You can pour it over the chicken and cook with it, yum. But do not eat it uncooked as it’s been with the raw meat.
- I tend to add salt and freshly ground pepper to these just before serving, after cooking. You can add pepper to the marinade, but save the salt until just before serving as it can change the texture of the meat if marinated with salt.
How to cook the chicken after it’s been marinated:
TOP COOKING TIP 1 Buying a meat thermometer is THE best thing you can do to cook chicken well. They are about £7 and they will take all of the guesswork out of cooking meat. Just prod it into the thickest part of the chicken, if it reaches 75C (165F) it’s cooked. No overcooking, no raw chicken – YES! I have this one available on Amazon.
TOP COOKING TIP 2 I sometimes like to bash the fattest part of the chicken breast down with a rolling pin. To do this, I lay the breasts between two sheets of cling film (for food hygiene) and whack them until they are an even thickness all across. The benefit of doing this, is they cook more quickly AND more evenly, no dry overcooked thin end.
TOP COOKING TIP 3 The cooking time will depend heavily on the size of the chicken breasts you are using, this is why I like to use a meat thermometer. If you don’t have one, cut into one of the thickest parts of the breast when you think it’s done, and check that there is no pink left.
Oven Bake – Preheat the oven to 200C (390F), pop onto a baking dish, line with a reusable baking sheet (or drizzle a little oil on the pan so that the chicken doesn’t stick), and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until cooked through.
Barbecue (Grill if you’re in the US) – When a barbecue is ready, cook for about 7 – 8 minutes on each side. Don’t move them about, as you want to keep the pretty grill marks! Be sure to check they are cooked through as this will depend heavily on your barbecue temperature.
Grill (Broil if you’re in the US) – Heat your grill (broiler if you’re in the US) to very hot. Pop your chicken on a grill rack and cook on each side for 10 – 12 minutes. Again, be sure to check it’s cooked through.
Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) – Pop the chicken breasts and all of the marinade in the slow cooker, put the lid on and cook on medium for about 4 hours until cooked through and tender. You can brown them off under the grill (broiler) if you’d like them to have some colour.
Fry – Heat a little oil in a hot frying pan (or a griddle pan for those lovely marks) and cook on each side for 10 – 12 minutes. Putting a lid on the frying pan can help the chicken to steam as it cooks and keep it moist. Again, be sure to check it’s cooked through.
I also tend to add a knob of butter on top after cooking (decadent but DELICIOUS) and allow to rest, covered, for 5 minutes before serving (no need to do this if you cook in the slow cooker as they will still be moist).
What to serve with the cooked marinated chicken:
- Chicken Burger – Cook the breasts and serve in a bun with lettuce and burger sauces.
- Chicken Pasta – Slice up and serve with cooked pasta, veggies and a sauce.
- Nandos Style Feast – Serve with fries, sweetcorn and coleslaw.
- Chicken Stir Fry – Slice up and serve asian style chicken with noodles, vegetables and sauce.
- Chicken Salad – Serve on lettuce/avocado with salad dressing.
- Meal Prep for Lunch – Take to work with some salad or pasta.
- Indian Chicken – Serve spicy chicken with rice, raita and poppadums.
- Chicken Pitta – Serve with pitta bread and salad for a quick dinner.
So many possibilities, but possibly my favourite is any of them, simply barbecued, served with a good old jacket potato and salad. YEEESSSS.
Can I use these marinades on other meats?
Yes! These flavours lend themselves to chicken as it’s needs a lot of flavour. But feel free to use them on pork, lamb, beef or any other meat you fancy. (I love the Piri Piri (Peri Peri?!) as a pork marinade cooked on the barbecue!)
Fancy some more quick chicken meals inspiration? How about…
- Chicken Kebabs
- Pesto Chicken Bake
- One Pan Lemon Asparagus Chicken
Hope you enjoy these recipes, which is your favourite?!
I’d love to know how you got on and what you thought of them. Please rate the recipe using the ⭐️ below!
Also, if you fancy showing me a photo by tagging me on Instagram (@tamingtwins) I LOVE to see your creations and try and share as many of them as I can.
How to make the 10 Marinades:
For more information please see the list of Best chicken marinade for the grill